Newark Charter Schools Sign First-of-its-Kind Agreement
Charter School Compact Affirms Commitment to Transparency, Accountability and Equity
NEWARK, NJ – October 24, 2011 – Thirteen Newark charter schools have signed a groundbreaking agreement to ensure they are upholding the highest principles of transparency and public accountability, serving an unmet need in Newark, striving for educational excellence, and fulfilling their missions to educate all students in the most equitable manner possible.
The Newark Charter School Compact was developed by the Newark Charter School Fund, a three-year- old organization committed to increasing the number of high-quality schools in Newark by improving charter schools, expanding successful schools, and developing promising new schools. Newark currently has 18 charter schools serving about 7,600 students.
This is believed to be the first urban charter school compact in the United States. “Newark’s charter school sector is leading the nation in this important area,” said Mashea Ashton, CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund.
As part of the compact, Newark’s major philanthropic groups have signed an addendum endorsing the compact. Any charter that is unable or unwilling to fulfill the terms and spirit of the compact could face the loss of support from these critical funders.
Ashton said the charter compact is a first step toward developing a charter-district compact, which will specify the ways in which both charter and the district schools can work together to improve educational opportunities for all Newark students.
“Our primary objective is to ensure that every child in Newark has the opportunity to enroll in a great public school, regardless of whether it is operated by the district or under a charter,” Ashton said. “We also support the underlying premise of the charter school law - chronically low-performing charter schools should be fixed or closed.”
Under the compact, the charter schools, funders and stakeholders would commit to serving all students in the city, especially the highest need students requiring special education services, students who are English Language Learners, students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and other underserved or at-risk populations.
Schools would also commit to recruiting and advertising in the widest and most inclusive manner possible and eliminate any unnecessary steps or requirements of parents before the charter application and lotteries are completed. School leaders are also agreeing to correct misinformation about any application or lottery requirements for parents.
“As part of this agreement, charters will not be allowed to require families or students to attend information sessions to apply to their schools or enter the lottery,” Ashton said. “Charters could offer those informational sessions as an option, but not a requirement.”
Charters would also agree to provide multiple ways for charter parents and students to complete an application, including a web-based application, a mail-in application, and in-person drop off at the schools.
As part of the compact, charters would also agree to provide transparent data in full compliance with state Department of Education policies. Reports will be provided regarding all students served by city charter schools.
In addition, the compact calls for schools to post data from annual reports to the state Department of Education on each charter’s website regarding the number and percentage of students served who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, students with special education needs, and students who are English Language Learners.
“We believe this compact will go a long way toward erasing the false perception that Newark’s charter schools are somehow different from public schools in terms of accountability, transparency and equity,” Ashton said. “Charter schools are public schools that serve students across the city regardless of economic status or learning difficulties. This agreement reaffirms that.”
Schools that have signed the compact to date are: Great Oaks Charter School, Lady Liberty Academy Charter School, Marion P. Thomas, Newark Legacy, North Star Academy, People's Preparatory Charter High School, Robert Treat Academy, TEAM Academy, University Heights and Visions Academy. Adelaide L. Sanford, Discovery and Roseville have endorsed the compact in principle, but are awaiting approval from their board of trustees before signing.
“The Newark Charter School Fund will continue to reach out to the remaining charters to seek their participating in the compact,” said Ashton.
Organizations from Newark’s philanthropic community who have signed the addendum endorsing the compact are: The Foundation for Newark’s Future, The MCJ Amelior Foundation, The Newark Charter School Fund, The Prudential Foundation and Startup: Education. The Victoria Foundation supports the compact, but it is their policy to abstain from signing such documents.
- Tags: Adelaide L Sanford, charter school compact, Great Oaks Charter School, Lady Liberty Academy Charter School, Marion P_ Thomas Charter School, Mashea Ashton, Newark Legacy Charter School, North Star Academy Charter School, People's Prep Charter School, Robert Treat Academy, Roseville Community Charter School, TEAM Academy, University Heights Charter School, Visions Academy