Newspaper article

Five Minnesota Charter Schools Recognized for Innovations

Newspaper article

Five Minnesota Charter Schools Recognized for Innovations

Article excerpt

In anticipation of the 25th anniversary of chartering, the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools (MACS) decided it was time to get back to its roots by recognizing pockets of innovation worth replicating. Minnesota is, afterall, home to the nation's first charter school law, which was signed into law in 1991. At a current statewide count of 165 public charter schools that are serving roughly 48,000 students, this school sector is full of creative educators. But they don't always have communications staff working to widely disseminate their success stories.

So, MACS put out a call for applications and conducted site visits for the first-ever batch of Innovation Awards. Of the 13 applications received, five winners received recognition and a $1,000 check to support their work at an awards ceremony on Tuesday at a hotel conference room in St. Paul. The five award categories reflected the five charges of innovation outlined in the charter school law.

MACS Executive Director Eugene Piccolo says the awards are about more than offering recognition to charters that are experimenting and getting results. It's also an effort to document the innovation taking place in this public education sector, so advocates have a more comprehensive record of the innovations taking place, rather than anecdotal accounts that aren't widely shared.

Ted Kolderie, a contributor to the original charter-schools law who now serves as co-founder and senior fellow at Education Evolving, teed up the awards presentation on Tuesday by adding a bit of historical context to the awards.

"A lot of us who go back to the beginnings have the notion that the charter sector is basically about innovation, should be about innovation," he said, adding it's a small sector capable of making large-scale contributions when used as "a platform for innovation."

He contends, however, that the charter sector is still largely misunderstood. In response, Education Evolving, a nonpartisan Minnesota-based group of thought leaders in education reform, recently started a blog to provide dedicated, in-depth coverage of the local charter sector. Their newest staffer, Krista Kaput, is the main contributor to the blog.

Innovation Awards

In the area of increased learning opportunities for pupils, the St. Paul-based Community School of Excellence won for the work some of its students are doing with the Linux operating system and other open-source software to help close the technology divide in their community. At this K-8 Hmong language and culture charter school, middle school members of the Asian Penguin Club are refurbishing old computers by installing Linux software and donating them to families in need. The club, which began five years ago under the direction of the school's technology coordinator, Stuart Keroff, has given away more than 60 computers.

The Community of Peace Academy High School, a PreK-12 charter located in East St. Paul, won in the "different and innovative teaching methods" category for its leading efforts in college prep. …

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