Who Is In Charge

Hyatt named to head Charter Institute

Mark Hyatt, president of The Classical Academy in Colorado Springs and a well-known figure in charter school circles, has been named executive director of the Colorado Charter School Institute.

StockCSILogo122209The institute oversees 17 schools with a combined enrollment of 6,244 students. Hyatt succeeds Randy DeHoff, who resigned earlier this year, as executive director.

Alex Medler, president of the CSI board, said, “Mark has a demonstrated commitment to quality charter schools.  We are very excited because Mark will be able to build partnerships while moving the Charter School Institute into a leading role in education reform during the next phase of its existence.”

Last spring, the Colorado Department of Education and Academy District 20, which charters the academy’s schools, investigated parent complaints about racism, sexual assault and student safety, lack of responsiveness and other issues.

A consultant’s report, issued in May, was critical of how the academy handled complaints about racism and religious intolerance and said the “investigation revealed major areas of concern about management, safety and security of students,” according to a report in the Colorado Springs Gazette. (Full text of investigative report.)

District 20 officials required the academy to submit plans for staff training in reporting of abuse and handling complaints, conflict resolution, revising its board election system, having an audit performed, maintaining open records, ensuring sound financial practices and making reports to the district twice a year.

Classical Academy subsequently created a dean of students position to handle conflict resolution and related issues, improved staff training and created a conflict resolution committee.

Medler said that the situation “came up during the interview process [and] we investigated it some more.” Medler added that Hyatt “probably could have started out more aggressively in responding to it quicker” but did respond appropriately. Medler said that the institute board was satisfied by its conversations with Hyatt that he has the appropriate “philosophy and orientation … to serve all kids” as leader of CSI.

The Classical Academy, with 3,100 students at four campuses in Colorado Springs, is the largest K-12 charter in the state. It also offers a College Pathways program with Pikes Peak Community College and a program for home-schooled students. Hyatt has been president since 2002.

Mark Hyannt, director of Charter School Institute
Mark Hyatt, director of Charter School Institute

Hyatt is a retired colonel and fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. He also served as vice commandant at the Air Force Academy and six years as the director of the academy’s Center for Character Development.

He serves on the governor’s P-20 Education Council and CDE’s School Leadership Academy Board.

In a prepared statement, Hyatt said, “All students in Colorado deserve a great education, and all parents deserve the opportunity to choose the school that’s right for their children.”

The institute board Tuesday also announced that Lee Barratt will be deputy executive director. Barratt has been chief financial officer.

The institute, created in 2004, opened for business in 2006 with two schools. An independent agency within CDE, it is allowed to authorize charters in districts that do not have exclusive chartering authority. It has a nine-member board, seven appointed by the governor and two by the commissioner.

In aggregate, CSAP achievement at institute schools ranged from 64 to 71 percent proficient or above in reading in 2009 (by grade) and from 26 to 59 percent in math. About 32 percent of students at institute schools are eligible for free or reduced lunch, compared to nearly 36 percent statewide (2008 figures).

A legal challenge to the constitutionality of the institute was rejected earlier this year by the Colorado Supreme Court when it declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling.

Efforts to broaden the institute’s powers went nowhere in the 2009 legislative session. But, Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, recently told EdNews that he’s considering 2010 legislation that would give the institute broader authorizing powers, perhaps by allowing school boards to delegate authorization functions to the agency. (King is administrator of Colorado Springs Early Colleges, a school authorized by the institute.)

The Classical Academy’s schools have received a number of awards and generally have high percentages of students scoring proficient or higher in reading and math and average rates of student growth. The schools use the Core Knowledge curriculum and are based on a philosophy grounded in “the seven liberal arts of classical education.” (For more information, see this page on the academy’s website.)

Classical Academy opened in 1997 with 400 students.

Here are snapshots of the Classical Academy schools, taken from CDE data.

  • Elementary: 1,858 students (4.84 percent free and reduced), 87 percent proficient or above in math, 51st median percentile in math growth, 88 percent proficient or above in reading, 55th growth percentile. 2008 School Accountability Report
  • Middle school: 429 students (6.53 percent free and reduced), 47 percent proficient or above in math, 51st growth percentile in math, 87 percent proficient or above in reading, 51st growth percentile. 2008 School Accountability Report
  • High school: 597 students (5.7 percent free and reduced), 64 percent proficient or above in math, 64th growth percentile, 97 proficient or above in reading, 63rd growth percentile. 2008 School Accountability Report

In 2008, 9.45 percent of Academy 20 district students were eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Who's In Charge

Who’s in charge of rethinking Manual High School’s ‘offensive’ mascot?

PHOTO: Scott Elliott/Chalkbeat
Manual High School is one of three Indianapolis schools managed by Charter Schools USA.

As other schools in Indiana and across the nation have renounced controversial team names and mascots in recent years, Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis has held onto the Redskins.

One of the reasons why the school hasn’t given it up, officials said during a state board of education meeting this week, is because it’s unclear whose responsibility it would be to change the disparaging name.

Is it the obligation of the district, Indianapolis Public Schools, which owns the building and granted the nickname more than 100 years ago?

Is it the duty of the charter operator, Charter Schools USA, which currently runs the school?

Or is it the responsibility of the state, which took Manual out of the district’s hands in 2011, assuming control after years of failing grades?

“I don’t care who’s responsible for it,” said Indiana State Board of Education member Gordon Hendry, as he acknowledged the uncertainty. “I think it’s high time that that mascot be retired.”

The mascot debate resurfaced Wednesday as state officials considered the future of Manual and Howe high schools, which are approaching the end of their state takeover. Charter School USA’s contracts to run the schools, in addition to Emma Donnan Middle School, are slated to expire in 2020, so the schools could return to IPS, become charter schools, or close.

Manual is only one of two Indiana schools still holding onto the Redskins name, a slur against Native Americans. In recent years, Goshen High School and North Side High School in Fort Wayne have changed their mascots in painful processes in which some people pushed back against getting rid of a name that they felt was integral to the identity of their communities.

Knox Community High School in northern Indiana also still bears the Redskins name and logo.

“The term Redskins can be absolutely offensive,” said Jon Hage, president and CEO of Charter Schools USA. “We’ve had no power or authority to do anything about that.”

He suggested that the state board needs to start the process, and that the community should have input on the decision.

An Indianapolis Public Schools official told Chalkbeat the district didn’t have clear answers yet on its role in addressing the issue.

Even if the state board initiates conversations, however, member Steve Yager emphasized that he does not want the state to make the decision on the mascot.

“We don’t have to weigh in on that,” Yager said. “I feel like that’s a local decision.”

reaction

Tennesseans reflect on Candice McQueen’s legacy leading the state’s schools

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen speaks with Arlington High School students during a school visit Tuesday that kicked off a statewide tour focused on student voices.

As Candice McQueen prepares to leave her role as Tennessee education commissioner in January, education leaders, advocates, and parents are weighing in on her impact on the state’s schools.

McQueen 44, will become the CEO of National Institute for Excellence in Teaching in mid-January after about four years under the outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam administration.

Her tenure has been highlighted by overhauling the state’s requirements for student learning, increasing transparency about how Tennessee students are doing, and launching a major initiative to improve reading skills in a state that struggles with literacy. But much of the good work has been overshadowed by repeated technical failures in Tennessee’s switch to a computerized standardized test — even forcing McQueen to cancel testing for most students in her second year at the helm. The assessment program continued to struggle this spring, marred by days of technical glitches.

Here are reactions from education leaders and thinkers across the state:

Gini Pupo-Walker, senior director of education policy and programs at Conexión Américas:

“It was her commitment to transparency, equity, and strong accountability that helped create a nationally recognized framework that places students at its center. Commissioner McQueen’s commitment to inclusion and engagement meant that our partners across the state had the opportunity to weigh in, share their experiences, and to ask hard questions and conduct real conversations with policymakers. Tennessee continues to lead the nation in innovation and improvement in K-12 education, and that is due in no small part to Commissioner McQueen’s leadership.”

Shawn Joseph, superintendent of Metro Nashville Public Schools, who in August co-penned a letter declaring “no confidence” in state testing:

“Since joining MNPS just over two years ago, I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Commissioner McQueen and her team. She has been a strong advocate for Tennessee’s children, and I especially want to thank her for her support of the work that is taking place in Nashville. We send her our very best wishes — and our hearty congratulations for accepting her new role.”

JC Bowman, executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee:

“Commissioner Candice McQueen is one of the most visible members of the Haslam Administration. She took over the department during a dark period in public education, and she made a significant difference within the department, particularly in the infrastructure. Those changes are not readily noticeable, as they include systems, processes and human capital. There are some exceptional people within the Department of Education working to make public education a success in our state. It is unfortunate that online testing continues to be a point of contention, but the state is moving in a positive direction. The next Commissioner of Education and the 111th Tennessee General Assembly will need to make adjustments in student assessment as we move forward.   We will always be grateful to Commissioner McQueen for her unwavering support of increasing teacher salaries and commitment to student literacy.”

Sharon Griffin, leader of the state-run Achievement School District:

“I have truly appreciated Dr. McQueen’s leadership and vision for the Department of Education.  From a distance and even closer in recent months, I have clearly seen the integrity and passion she brings to the work of improving student outcomes.  We have absolutely connected around our shared belief in how what’s in the best interest of students should guide our work.”

Jamie Woodson, CEO of SCORE:

“Tennessee students have been served very well by the steady and strong leadership of Commissioner McQueen. Her priorities have been the right ones for our children: improving student achievement, with a specific focus on reading skills; advocating for great teaching and supporting teachers to deliver high-quality instruction; and emphasizing that students and schools with the greatest needs must receive targeted focus and support in order to improve.”

Sarah Carpenter, executive director of parent advocacy group Memphis Lift:

“Memphis parents want decision makers to be accessible, and we appreciate that Commissioner McQueen made a point to build relationships and hear concerns from the entire community. Hopefully, the next education commissioner will bring parents to the table for conversations about our kids’ education.”

Mendell Grinter, leader of Memphis student advocacy group Campaign for School Equity:

“In our collaborative work and position in the educational landscape, we have witnessed firsthand how Commissioner McQueen has served as a tireless advocate for students and families in Tennessee. Over the past two years her leadership has inspired school leaders, and teachers alike to recognize the sense of urgency for improving school equity and academic outcomes for more students.”

Andy Spears, author of Tennessee Education Report and vocal critic of state test, TNReady:

“After what can charitably be called a rocky tenure at the helm of the Tennessee Department of Education, Candice McQueen has miraculously landed another high-level job. This time, she’ll take over as CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, an organization apparently not at all concerned about the track record of new hires or accountability.”

Beth Brown, president of Tennessee Education Association:

“As candidates for the state’s next commissioner of education are considered, it is my hope that serious consideration is given to an individual’s experience in our own Tennessee public schools… Students and educators are struggling with two major issues that must be tackled by the next commissioner: high-stakes standardized tests and a lack of proper funding for all schools. Our schools need a leader who understands that the current test-and-punish system is not helping our students succeed. Governor Bill Haslam has made significant increases in state funding for public education, but there is still much work to be done to ensure every child has the resources needed for a well-rounded public education.”