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High-Performing Charter Schools Get Wooed Hardcore

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 6:00 PM


Like the prettiest girl in a room full of ugly ducklings, charter schools that get a reputation for being high-performing get wooed hardcore. Districts and states looking for schools that have solved the puzzle of educating low-income, non-white students want these high-performing charter schools bad.

Cincinnati is the latest successful suitor in the dance of charter-school recruitment. The Cincinnati school board has agreed to sponsor a new charter school as part of a push to bring more "high-performing" charter schools into the district, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports:

The partnership between CPS and Carpe Diem [the charter school] also marks a significant step forward for efforts by the region’s largest school district to bring in more high-performing charter schools. The Carpe Diem schools, which until now have not been located in Ohio, focus on a learn-at-your-own-pace model and are heavy on using digital technology to enrich the curriculum.

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Carpe Diem currently operates an Arizona charter school that has gotten loads of good press for its high test scores and "blended learning" model. Under that model, students spend most of their time working at computers with a handful of teachers ready to step in and help.

Carpe Diem's Arizona school has about 5 teachers and 4 aides for about 200 students in grades 6-12, MSNBC reports:

“We’re going against hundreds of years of ‘That’s the way it’s always been done,’ ” says Chet Crain, the school’s dean of students.

Carpe Diem also operates an online school where students work online mostly from home.

Carpe Diem's Arizona charter school has also had its test scores flagged for having an unusually high number of erasures on student answer sheets in 2010, the Arizona Republic reports. The school's founder says a later analysis showed it was unlikely cheating took place.

However, the school's performance on state tests improved significiantly in the years leading up to 2010. Since 2010, the school's performance has trended downwards. Carpe Diem got a B from the state of Arizona for 2012.

Carpe Diem is expanding rapidly. It opened a similar charter school in Indiana this year and plans to open five more in Indiana over the next four years. It plans to open additional locations in Arizona.

Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas and Washington, D.C., have all approached the charter school.

School founder Rick Ogston told the Yuma Sun his schools are being wooed:

"I didn't start with the desire to scale up and start making a national presence, but Carpe Diem has been very effective and successful. We're very unique in the kind of blended learning environment that we have here and it has caught national attention. We now have states literally asking us to replicate it in those various other places."

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