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teaching citizenship in charter schools

Creating capital citizens: Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools and civic education

For our latest case study in the “Teaching Citizenship in Charter Schools” series, Richard Lee Colvin, an education journalist and author of Tilting the Windmills: School Reform, San Diego, and America’s Race to Reform Public Education (out this month from Harvard Education Press), profiles the César Chávez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy in Washington, DC. The mission of the charter network—which has four schools located in the nation’s capital and serves 1,4000 students, nearly all of whom are African Americans or Latinos from low-income families—is to “empower students by helping them both succeed in college and learn to use their knowledge of government, public policy, and effective advocacy techniques to become ‘civic leaders committed to bettering our communities, country, and world.'”

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AEI Report: Creating Capital Citizens: Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy and Civic Education

Creating Capital Citizens: César Chávez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy and Civic Education
By Richard Lee Colvin
(April 10, 2013)

Chukwuma Isebor, an 18-year-old high school student whose father emigrated to the United States from Nigeria for college, says that prior to his senior year he was cynical and distrustful “of the government and the way it treated lower-income citizens and minorities.” Yet, there he was in December, arguing with two classmates before a panel of three judges that the patriotic spirit of the nation’s founders could be revived and the quality of American democracy improved if citizens participated more actively.

Chukwuma, Joseline Barajas, and Chyna Winchester are seniors at the César Chávez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy campus on 12th Street Southeast in Washington, DC, 11 blocks east of the Capitol. They offered up their thoughts on citizenship and democracy as they participated in the annual “We the People” competition at their school. The nationwide competition, sponsored by the Center for Civic Education, tests students’ knowledge of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights in a congressional hearing-style format. Teams research an opening statement that responds to questions on one of the competition’s six themes and then answer queries from a panel of judges. The goal of the competition is to promote knowledge and appreciation of the Constitution as the foundation of democracy in the United States.

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In Service of Citizenship: YES Prep Public Schools and Civic Education

In the latest in a series of in-depth case studies exploring how top-performing charter schools have incorporated civic learning in their school curriculum and school culture, Robert Maranto (University of Arkansas) takes a look at Houston’s YES Prep Public Schools. YES Prep (the “YES” stands for Youth Engaged in Service) began in 1995 as a program at Rusk Elementary School in the Houston Independent School District, then became its own independent charter school in 1998, and currently is home to 10 grade 6–12 campuses serving 6,400 students in the Houston area. From its beginning, Maranto points out, “YES Prep has emphasized citizenship through service to the community.”

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AEI Report: In Service of Citizenship: YES Prep Public Schools and Civic Education

In Service of Citizenship: YES Prep Public Schools and Civic Education
By Robert Maranto
(April 3, 2013)

The “YES” in the name of YES Prep Public Schools stands for Youth Engaged in Service. From its start as a program at Rusk Elementary School in the Houston Independent School District (HISD) in 1995 to its opening as a single independent charter school in 1998 to its current network of 10 grade 6–12 campuses with some 600 teachers serving 6,400 students, YES Prep has emphasized citizenship through service to the community.

YES Prep is often compared to another “no-excuses” network of charter schools: the much touted Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). Like KIPP, YES Prep began in the 1990s in Houston before chartering with the support of then-HISD Superintendent Rod Paige. Both networks were founded by and are still largely staffed by Teach for America (TFA) corps members. (In a survey of YES Prep social studies teachers I conducted, 61 percent reported being trained by an alternative program such as TFA, compared to 17 percent of traditional public school social studies teachers. Both charter networks are highly successful academically; YES Prep boasts a 100 percent college placement rate and high college completion rates for low-income students. Seventy-two percent of YES Prep alumni have completed college or are making progress toward that goal, compared to around 10 percent of disadvantaged students generally.  Like KIPP, YES Prep serves a predominantly minority student population (86 percent Hispanic), 78 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged.

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Common core, social studies, and charter schools

On Monday, March 25, the AEI Education team is hosting an all-day conference to discuss the Common Core State Standards and how they complement (or conflict) with school reform agendas that states are already pursuing. There are many great panel discussions throughout the day, but of particular interest is the third panel, on charter schooling and social studies standards. The Program on American Citizenship has released a number of case studies that examine how different charter schools approach teaching social studies and civic education—and we’ll be publishing a couple more studies in the coming weeks. Indeed, one of our authors, Robin Lake (who coauthored, with Cheryl Miller, Strengthening the Civic Mission of Charter Schoolswill be a discussant on Monday’s panel. She will be joined by Jeanne Allen (Center for Education Reform), Russell Armstrong (Office of the Louisiana Governor), and Peter Meyer (Thomas B. Fordham Institute).

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Civic education and charter schools: current knowledge and future research

The Center on Education Policy at George Washington University has just released a new report that provides a good overview of current research on civic education in charter schools and suggests opportunities for further research. (In regard to this latter point about future research opportunities, as Maria Ferguson, the head of the Center, notes, “The most interesting finding from our analysis is that the research that exists about civic education in any kind of school (charter, traditional public, or private) is limited at best.”)

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School choice week

In celebration of National School Choice Week, we have been highlighting our ongoing case study series “Teaching Citizenship in Charter Schools.” The series explores how top-performing charter schools have incorporated civic learning in their school curriculum and school culture. We have published three case studies so far: Daniel Lautzenheiser and Andrew P. Kelly’s “Charter Schools as Nation Builders: Democracy Prep and Civic Education”; Joanne Jacobs’ “Counting on Character: National Heritage Academies and Civic Education”; and, most recently, David Feith’s “Making Americans: UNO Charter Schools and Civic Education.”

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Making Americans: UNO Charter Schools and Civic Education

In the latest in our case studies series on teaching citizenship in charter schools, David Feith, an editorial features editor at the Wall Street Journal and editor of Teaching America: The Case for Civic Education, takes a look at the way that UNO charter schools in Chicago approach civic education. The UNO Charter School network is one of the two largest charter operators in Illinois, and the nation’s largest with a focus on the Hispanic community.

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Why charters?

The third-annual National School Choice Week officially kicked off earlier this week, with over 3,600 events planned across the United States to bring attention to and advocate for more educational options for students and families. (Click here to see what school choice events are happening near you.) As the nation turns its attention to school choice, it’s  a good time to take a look at how charter schools are approaching civic education.

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Preparing for democracy

Over at the “Rick Hess Straight Up” blog at Education Week, AEI’s Rick Hess highlights our new series of case studies on teaching citizenship in charter schools. Providing some helpful background as to why we think these case studies are important, Hess writes: “Amidst our “achievement-gap” drenched discourse, it’s easy to slight other educational priorities–like, say, the obligation of schools to teach, prepare, and equip students to be good and responsible citizens. As I noted in The Same Thing Over and Over, since our nation’s founding, schools have been asked to inculcate good citizenship with at least as much urgency as they’ve been asked to promote literacy and numeracy.”

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