Sunday, February 07, 2010

Charter First Fridays

Today "Charter First Fridays" launched in Texas and we're looking to expand it to dozens of cities nationwide.  The idea is simple: in each city with at least a handful of high-performing charter schools, have an open house at a different school each month on the same day, at the same time each month (we've picked 8-9am on the first Friday of every month).  In this way, board members, funders and supporters can easily remember the details and invite their friends, politicians, media, etc. to see a great charter school in action.


The idea is rooted in my 10+ years of dragging many of my friends and acquaintances to visit KIPP and other high-performing charter schools.  I have found, over and over again, that I can talk to someone about this topic until I'm blue in the face and they don't get it – but 5 minutes after setting foot in a KIPP or KIPP-like school, they're inspired and fired-up to donate money, join a board, etc.


In my visits to 100+ schools across the country, I've only found a handful of schools that have regularly scheduled open houses, and it really works for them.  After a little bit of up-front organization, it requires very little ongoing effort and the pay-off is immense.


If you'd like your school or city to participate, please email (cc'ing me) Sarah Johnson at – she's spearheading this for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (which I'm on the board of).  Here's the press release from today's launch:

'Charter First Fridays' Bring a Whole New Meaning to Happy Hour
Open House at SER-Niños Public Charter School Launches Statewide Series of Tours

Houston, Texas - State Representative Scott Hochberg spent the first hour of his day with students from SER-Niños Public Charter School, the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) announced today. Together, they kicked-off a new statewide school tour initiative called Charter First Fridays. This series of monthly charter school open houses, created by TCSA and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, invites community members to tour and learn about public charter schools.

TCSA Executive Director David Dunn said, "The more people know about charters, the more they like them. We're honored to begin Charter First Fridays in Texas. Today, the spotlight is on Ser-Niños and their leader, Charmaine Constantine. Ser-Niños is a terrific example of an effective and quality-driven charter school. Throughout the rest of this year, Charter First Fridays will help create regular opportunities for members of the public to visit charter schools and get involved in the national movement."

"Across the nation, high-quality charter schools are providing families and children with an education that was not available to them 18 years ago. In cities like Houston, Dallas, and Austin, charter schools are working to close the achievement gap and transform children's lives. Still, most people have never seen these inspiring public schools in action," said National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nelson Smith.

Today's event at SER-Niños Public Charter School is the first of a series to be held on the first Friday of each month at public charter schools across Texas. Charter schools are independent public schools that are free to be more innovative, and are held accountable for improved student achievement.

Established in 1996, SER-Niños provides an academically rigorous, dual-language (English-Spanish) program to its Pre-K through 8th-grade students, regardless of ethnicity or background. Ninety-four percent of the student population is designated "at risk". In spite of this, SER-Niños Charter School has earned the coveted Texas Education Agency Recognized Campus status two years in a row and the Governor's Educator Excellence Award for the last three years in a row.  

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