NCSRC Newsletter: Community Engagement at the Native American Community Academy

Deep Community Engagement at the Native American Community Academy

“You really learn more when it’s connected to yourself as indigenous people,” reflects Summer, a high school student who attends the Native American Community Academy (NACA) in Albuquerque, NM. NACA was founded in response to community demand for a school that addresses the identity, wellness, and college preparation of Native American and indigenous students.

NACA’s students demonstrate academic achievement, proficiency, retention, graduation, and college attendance rates that far outpace their Native American peers at the district, state, and national levels. This is just one proof point that NACA is delivering on its mission.

NACA grew into the NACA Inspired Schools Network (NISN) charter management organization (CMO) to expand its culturally-responsive, community-led model. NISN received funding in 2016 from the Charter Schools Program Grants for Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools. The six NISN schools currently serve families from 50 tribes and 18 ethnicities.

NACA leaders consider it their duty to have an ongoing dialogue with families and the community about their needs and bring in many perspectives to shape the NISN schools. Given the historical context and trauma of Native Americans being educated in boarding schools that aimed to remove their cultural identity, NISN schools make identity development and cultural instruction and preservation a core value. Other schools designed to serve a particular culture or group of students to address historical or systematic trauma are also likely to emphasize family and community engagement as a core element of their work.

To learn more about community engagement and culturally-responsive education at NACA, view the full case study here.

Studying the Politics When Districts and Charters Collaborate

How do political issues affect district and charter collaboration? In its new report, the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) examines why some collaborations enjoy wide support while others get derailed. The report also proposes strategies that charter and district leaders can use to improve their chances of success.

CRPE interviewed charter, district, and community leaders in 23 cities. These leaders shared observations about political difficulties within the education sector and in bringing charters and districts together. CRPE studied why people and organizations came together for the common good to better understand how politics constrained or created opportunities for people to work together.

This report finds that district-charter collaborations are inherently political, and the efforts can only succeed if both sides believe it is in their advantage to work together. CRPE also found that not every city was politically poised for district-charter collaboration. Declining enrollment, weak charter sectors, and politics that are not complementary in the surrounding community could all undermine collaboration.

Click here to read the full report.

NCSRC Resources

  • District-Charter Collaboration: A User's Guide: In this guide, we propose a framework and guiding questions to help leaders think about district-charter collaboration. The study, based on interviews with district and charter leaders working in seven districts, recommends that collaborators identify what motivates collaboration; identify and articulate a theory of change; identify desired outcomes from the start; create conditions for success; anticipate and plan for potential challenges; and go for a quick win early.
  • Webinar: Exploring the Role of the SEA in Promoting Local District Charter CollaborationThis webinar shares information from CRPE and the NCSRC on ways that state education leaders and state education agencies can leverage the state’s role to create supportive environments in which district-charter collaboration can succeed. In the webinar, experts and participants discussed national trends in district-charter collaboration; notable local efforts to work across sectors; and ways states have already supported local collaboration.
  • District-Charter Collaboration: Aldine ISD & YES Prep: Aldine Independent School District and YES Prep Public Schools could have viewed one another as competitors in a single community. Instead, the district, which was experiencing a decline in enrollment, and the successful CMO opening a new school in the area both chose to build strong relationships that set the stage for deeper collaboration. Ultimately, this resulted in community support and school success for both partners. Before working on logistics or pressing challenges of opening new schools, the leaders in this video share their thoughts on the importance of getting everybody to really know and understand each other first.

Recent NCSRC Partner Resources

  • Lights Off: Practice and Impact of Closing Low-Performing Schools: The possibility of closing is a key component of the charter concept. This report by the Center for Education on Research Outcomes (CREDO) examines charter schools that have closed and the impact of closure on their students. The study provides a much-needed empirical analysis of the closure issues, including patterns in which schools are more likely to be closed, and the conditions in the local area that are related to negative or positive academic effects on the students in the closed school. CREDO found that closure is more likely to be applied to schools with high proportions of black and Hispanic students, and the quality among the alternative schools affected whether closure helped or hurt students.

  • Financial Management: In this resource, Charter School Tools provides a comprehensive set of resources on financial management, including audit checklists, sample expense reports, and sample finance guidelines.

  • Shining a Spotlight on Promising Practices for Students with Disabilities in the Charter Sector: The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) released a case study as part of a four-part series that showcases how charter schools leverage their autonomy to benefit students with disabilities. This case study features Cole High School, which is part of the network of schools operated by the Denver School of Science and Technology. The entire team at Cole designed innovative programs and classes, while providing supportive coaching. Ultimately, the effort changed the way the school helps all its students learn and built a more successful and inclusive school for students with disabilities.

  • Special Education Toolkit: Guidance for Charter School Authorizers: The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) collaborated with NCSECS to create this essential resource. The toolkit highlights key decision points within the charter life cycle, from application to renewal, to help authorizers understand how well an applicant or school can serve all students, including students with disabilities.

  • Beyond the Fringe: Charter Authorizing as Enrollment Grows: This report from NACSA describes how authorizers in two cities with significant charter enrollment tackle—together with other change agents—the challenges of transportation, enrollment, equity, accountability, and communication. Learn how these leaders are finding new ways to address emerging challenges that affect all public schools.

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