Charter wins federal grant to share learning strategy

October 18, 2011

Perspectives Charter School Network is preparing to take its signature curriculum on the road next year, making good on an oft-forgotten selling point of charter schools: to innovate and share what they’ve learned.The Perspectives network is one of three charter school networks nationwide to receive what are called federal dissemination grants, to share best practices with other schools. With $200,000 this year and an expected $200,000 next year, Perspectives will evaluate the curriculum, called A Disciplined Life, to see how it can market key components.

A Disciplined Life focuses on social and emotional learning and is guided by 26 principles that emphasize things like resiliency and peaceful conflict resolution. The curriculum is embedded in the five schools run by the network.

“Our motto is, we educate students for college and prepare them for life,” says Perspectives Executive Director Rhonda Hopps.

Hopps says the outreach might bring in extra cash for the network, which, like most networks, depends in part on private fundraising.

Another seven Chicago charter schools were awarded a total of $1.2 million in federal grants to help with start-up. Some of them are eligible for continuation grants next year.

The grants were announced by the Illinois State Board of Education on Monday. They are part of $250 million distributed this year by the U.S. Department of Education for the planning and creation of new charter schools.

The award winners were in the planning stage, scheduled to open next fall or were newly opened.

“It shows how strong our charter school network is,” says Andrew Broy, executive director of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. He says the boost of federal money is especially important for these charters.

At the moment, CPS doesn’t provide money for charter school facilities, and this makes opening up a charter school expensive. Also, New Schools for Chicago, formerly the Renaissance Schools Fund, is focusing its money on replicating successful charter school networks; previously, it provided start-up grants to most new schools.

Rose Nolan, executive director of the Montessori Network, says the grant will allow her to hire a community outreach person to set up a community advisory committee. She also plans to buy classroom equipment.  This spending will free up money for renovating the old Englewood church school where the school is set to open in September 2012.  

The smallest grant, $55,000, was awarded to Be The Change Charter School. According to its website, the school is being developed by current CPS teachers, all of whom are graduates of the Urban Teacher Education Program at the University of Chicago. The school is to be located in Bridgeport.

Be The Change submitted an application this year to CPS this year but withdrew it to extend planning time, according to CPS. Its federal grant is for planning.