• by Bradley Scott, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • August 2002 • Dr. Bradley Scott

Publicly-funded charter schools are one of the public school options (along with traditional public schools and magnet schools) supported by the U.S. Department of Education under the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. The 10 equity assistance centers, including the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity, have developed a nationwide network of technical assistance and training for charter schools.

This network has created a national plan for technical assistance and training that was approved by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of School Improvement Programs. The plan has three goals:

  • Hold regional meetings and focus groups to equip charter school stakeholders with strategies and resources;
  • Establish national and local networks to support charter schools and their operation through focused technical assistance and training; and
  • Provide technical assistance and training to increase the enrollment of diverse students in charter schools using equitable recruitment, admission, and retention policies and procedures.

Several powerful outcomes are expected to occur after implementing this national plan. There will be increased opportunities for information sharing regarding matters of civil rights, equal educational opportunity, equity and excellence; safe schools; and parent involvement and engagement, particularly as these issues impact the national agenda for leaving no child behind.

A list of materials and resources will be available online and in print for charter schools. There will be timely delivery of streamlined and up-to-date technical assistance and training through the use of surveys administered by the equity centers to charter schools.

A network of support and collaboration will be built and strengthened through online services, conferences, and regional meetings held for charter schools.

There will be improved opportunities for the equity assistance centers to build an appropriate baseline of data reflecting the impact of services and support to charter schools in a given year and over time. Finally, there will be an increased ability of the network to determine the critical issues faced by charter schools that can be appropriately supported through assistance from the centers.

Each of the equity assistance centers has an individualized regional strategy, based on this national plan, and made specific to the needs of the states in each region. The plan for IDRA’s center (which serves schools in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas) has been in place since July 2000. It has been expanded each year to include some of the following activities.

Regional Meetings and Focus Groups

The IDRA SCCE has included selected charter school representatives in its annual regional focus group and work session. This activity enables IDRA to update its regional needs assessment of equity issues and concerns by equity area, by state, and by type of public school entity (i.e., traditional public school, charter school, and magnet school).

The SCCE distributes a regionwide needs assessment that addresses more than 26 areas of educational excellence, student achievement, literacy development, parent engagement, civil rights, disciplinary actions and other areas of equal educational opportunity for all students regardless of race, gender, and national origin. This needs assessment is distributed to charter schools throughout the region since, being public schools, they are also eligible for services provided by the SCCE.

National and Local Networks

The SCCE distributes the IDRA Newsletter to charter schools throughout the region to keep them informed about educational issues and trends as well as effective classroom practices.

Charter school personnel can regularly access the IDRA web site for information, training materials, online assistance, and contacts to support their activities at their local level. The networking and learning opportunities are endless, and the center is able to track the increasing level of use of this type of technical assistance.

Technical Assistance and Training

The SCCE has reached an agreement with the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory to provide charter school leadership training.

Part One will be a trainer of trainers institute that will train IDRA SCCE staff members to implement the Charter Starters curriculum that was developed by the laboratory. Part Two will provide several training sessions across the region to give information and support to those who have charter schools or who are contemplating establishing charter schools.

The IDRA SCCE is steadily building a powerful record of support to all types of public schools in support of learners no matter where they are. The goal is to help every child to achieve excellence and to reach high standards regardless of race, gender, or national origin. Whether they are traditional public schools or publicly-funded charter schools, the goal is the same: excellent, equitable schooling for all children.

Bradley Scott, Ph.D., is a senior education associate in the IDRA Division of Professional Development and director of the equity assistance center (South Central Collaborative for Equity). Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2002, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the August 2002 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]