The Charter Connection - March 2022
A Message from the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter School Programs (CSP) Program Director, Dr. Anna Hinton
Every year as we approach the month of February, I inevitably find myself engaged in discussion and debate with family, friends, and colleagues about Black History Month. As a civil servant at the U.S. Department of Education, these conversations have provoked me to think critically about the impact of Black History Month on advancing racial equity generally, and more specifically, addressing educational inequities within our educational system. These conversations have also forced me to think about the implications of present-day movements like Black Lives Matter on Black History Month.
While I have come to realize that Black History Month means different things to different people, for me, it is not simply a time to honor the achievements of African-Americans. Instead, I have come to rely on this month as a time to reflect on and assess my own actions, biases, stereotypes, and even gaps in knowledge that may be preventing me from fully committing and contributing to the elimination of systemic biases that prevent all students from achieving. Given the sacrifices of African-Americans that paved the way for all of us to thrive, coupled with calls for racial justice under movements like Black Lives Matter, to me today’s Black History Month represents a call to action.
This call to action is unapologetic and bold in advancing educational equity in this country. Specifically, it seeks to address issues of access—ensuring equitable academic resources, programs, and opportunities for students from all backgrounds. As stakeholders in the charter sector, I encourage you to use the unique freedoms and flexibilities afforded charter schools to help ensure the creation of welcoming, diverse environments where all students’ needs are met and they can be their authentic selves, feel valued and accepted, and thrive. This same freedom and flexibility should also be used to ensure that all students have access to a diverse educator workforce. We must provide support for our educators to develop the skills, knowledge, and awareness needed to reach and cultivate authentic connections with all the diverse students they serve.
Black history should be taught and celebrated year-round. February should merely serve as an annual reminder for us all to take stock of our actions that either contribute to or assist with the dismantling of systemic biases, both implicit and explicit, that lead to some of the inequities we see in our education system.
I thank you all for the work you do on the front line every day to improve outcomes for students of all backgrounds.
Here are just three ways charter schools celebrated Black History Month:
Roots Public Charter School founder and principal Dr. Bernida Thompson describes their school as "African-Centered," but the monthlong national recognition of Black history offered the chance for greater community and student engagement.
"For February we celebrate the birthdays of Frederick Douglass, our ancestor, and our living hero, Alice Walker," Thompson says. "We also have a Black Love Skating Party for the students, alumni, and community. One of our classes focuses on a different aspect of Black history each week. Another class is making a documentary on James Baldwin. And one of our teachers organized a kente cloth weaving event for parents."
The Delaware Department of Education, a CSP State Entity grantee, created a specialized curriculum for all schools in the state.
“Students reached out from the Delaware Black Student Union and said that they do not see themselves reflected in the classroom or any of the classroom’s lessons,” said Delaware Representative Sherry Dorsey Walker, D-Wilmington. “That’s when it really started burning inside of me that we need to do something for all students to have an understanding of Black history.”
In Florida, students at Boulware Springs Charter School dressed and posed as historically significant Black Americans as a living "wax museum."
"Their learning of these great African American people that came before them and being able to see them come to life, you know, the outfits, and just the knowledge that the kids were able to retain about the person that they are today," said Crystal Hunger, a parent of a nine-year old student who dressed as Barack Obama.
COVID-19 Resources Updated and Redesigned
NCSRC's page of COVID-19 Resources has been updated and redesigned! The page now categorizes resources based on their applicability to schools, communities, and families, with an additional list of tools for students with disabilities.
COVID-19 has posed significant mental health challenges for students and educators. NCSRC recommends "Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral, and Mental Health Needs," an October 2021 report from the U.S. Department of Education, for any schools or teachers who want additional guidance on the topic.
This page will be updated as new information and resources become available. NCSRC encourages you to revisit as you navigate the COVID landscape.
New Report: SE Grantees and TA Set-Aside Funds
CSP State Entity (SE) grantees are required to use at least 7% of their CSP funding to provide technical assistance (TA) to subgrant applicants and charter school authorizers. SE grantees determine themselves how to allocate these "TA set-aside" funds between support for quality authorizing and TA to applicants.
In a new report, "How 2017-2019 State Entity Grantees Are Using Technical Assistance Set-Aside Funds," NCSRC researchers explore how SE grantees are using or proposed to use this funding. This report also describes SE activities to ensure that subgrantees are equipped to meet the needs of all students, and specifically students with disabilities and English learners (ELs).
Laretha C.P. Odumosu, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Charter School of New Castle
Executive Director, Victory College Prep
What do you do when your reputation precedes you? NCSRC explored that question in its latest event for charter school leaders, hosted February 1, 2022.
Pulling from NCSRC’s research on the indicators of distress in charter schools, attendees explored how reputation impacts everything from enrollment to teacher retention. "When Your Reputation Precedes You" featured LaRetha Odumosu, Ph.D., from Charter School of New Castle Middle School and Ryan Gall from Victory College Prep as they shared their experiences improving their schools’ reputations through thoughtful and deliberate action.
The event featured five key takeaways for managing your school’s reputation, including:
- First, and most importantly, be a good school!
- Foster purposeful engagement with parents through events and communication
- Celebrate what you do well with parents, students, and your community
- Build relationships outside of the school and find champions within your community
- Communicate decisions with stakeholders and have honest dialogue to foster improvement
In 2021, NCSRC added more than 250 grant summaries to our Funding Opportunity Database. Now is a great time to search that resource to see if there are opportunities that could benefit your program.
And if you want to receive upcoming deadlines, new additions to the database, and spotlight opportunities right to your inbox, subscribe to our monthly Funding Opportunity Digest.