December 21, 2012

SABIS and founding board members celebrate the approval of International Academy of Camden charter

Camden, NJ: On December 17, 2012, friends, supporters, and founding board members of the recently approved International Academy of Camden joined with staff of SABIS Educational Systems at the Camden Adventure Aquarium to celebrate the charter granting by the NJ Department of Education. The International Academy of Camden was one of two, out forty-nine applicants, to be approved by the Department during the past round of charter approvals. The International Academy intends to open fall 2013.

December 19, 2012

Brockton residents, officials show up to support or oppose charter school

Jenn Pham, a SABIS graduate and freshman at Stonehill College, speaks in support of SABIS

By Alex Bloom
Enterprise Staff Writer

BROCKTON — Many local residents passionately defended the city’s schools as state officials considered both sides of a debate to open a charter school in Brockton.

More than 100 supporters and detractors of a plan to open a 1,200-student charter school turned out for a public hearing to comment on the proposal, which needs the approval of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Brockton High School Senior Lidia DeBarros, 18, was moved to tears defending the high school’s English Language Learner curriculum, which helped her learn English in less than a year-and-a-half after she arrived from Cape Verde.

DeBarros left the program and achieved top scores on MCAS tests, and is now looking at colleges.

“It taught me so much in so little time and these teachers still help me everyday,” DeBarros said.

Mayor Linda Balzotti, chairwoman of the School Committee, spoke passionately against the proposal, saying that it would pull top students out of city schools. She said Brockton is a place where education is a priority and leaders are focused on improving learning at all levels.

“In Brockton, we get it,” Balzotti said. “We know we have challenges to overcome, but we work together to meet those challenges head-on.”

Two board members and the state’s deputy education commissioner listened for two hours to dozens of speakers discussing the charter, which would be managed by the private, for-profit SABIS Educational Systems Inc. Local legislators joined many city councilors and School Committee members at the hearing.

Former Mayor John T. Yunits, who is part of the nine-member board of directors seeking to bring the charter school to Brockton, saw firsthand the achievements of SABIS in its Springfield school. He said the school, which will have students between kindergarten and eighth grade, would serve a population that mirrors the population in city schools.

“They agreed with me that if they came to Brockton it would be a complete lottery,” Yunits said. “There would be no differentiation.”

He had the support of at-large City Councilor Jass Stewart, a two-time mayoral candidate, who talked about his childhood experience in Dallas with mandatory busing that allowed him to get into a talented-and-gifted program.

“Frankly, anytime there is credible choice on the table, I will always be pro-choice,” Stewart said.

In 2008, the state board voted to reject a similar proposal, which also would have been contracted with SABIS.

Jose Afonso, director of U.S. Business Development for SABIS, said that the meeting’s speakers did not accurately describe his company’s record. He said SABIS does good work at schools in Holyoke and Springfield, where at-risk students are learning.

“Closing the achievement gap is an area that we’re very proud of,” Afonso said.

But the majority of speakers spoke out against the charter proposal, including John Condon, the city’s chief financial officer. Condon described how the charter school would impact funding. Condon responded to Afonso, who pointed out that Brockton is the state’s only Gateway City without a traditional charter school.

“I would submit that that is a a credit to the city – not a problem,” Condon said. “The reason it is a credit to the city is I don’t believe a charter school is necessary in Brockton.”

Parent Tammy DeAndrade talked about how the new charter could hurt Cape Verdean students. The city’s schools have recruited staff to specifically help the city’s large Cape Verdean population, she said.

“The services provided by these programs for the Cape Verdean community will not be provided in the SABIS schools,” DeAndrade said.

The board will vote in February on the charter proposal.

The Irrational Fear of For-Profit Education

Opinion, by Frederick M. Hess
Wall Street Journal
December 18, 2012

McGraw-Hill recently announced plans to sell its education publishing division to Apollo Global Management for $2.5 billion. The deal is a reminder that K-12 schooling is a $600 billion-a-year business. In 2008, schools and systems spent $22 billion on transportation, $20 billion on food services and even $1 billion on pencils.

These transactions typically elicit only yawns. Yet angry cries of “privatization” greet the relatively modest number of reform-minded, for-profit providers that offer tutoring or charter-school options to kids trapped in lousy schools. Gallup surveys show that more than 75% of Americans are comfortable with for-profit provision of transportation and facilities. Barely a third are fine with for-profits running schools.

This bias shows up in federal legislation that bans for-profit ventures from competing in the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund. When New York legislators lifted the state’s charter-school cap in 2010, they placated unions by banning for-profit charters. Most recently, the reform-minded group Parent Revolution has pushed for legislation prohibiting parents who have invoked the “parent trigger”—through which they can vote to reconstitute a failing school—from joining with for-profit charter-school operators.

This state of affairs is highly unusual, notes John Bailey, executive director of Digital Learning Now. In areas like health care, clean energy and space exploration, “policymakers do not ask whether they should engage for-profit companies, but how they should.” NASA set aside $6 billion to support the private development of spacecraft. SpaceX built its “Dragon” capsule, capable of transporting humans and cargo into space, for $800 million—less than 10% of the $10 billion NASA had spent trying to build a model.

Critics charge that for-profits are distracted by the demands of investors, while public systems can focus solely on the children. Yet the vast majority of K-12 spending goes to pay employee benefits and salaries. Meanwhile, school boards and superintendents have accepted crippling benefit obligations and dubious policies to placate employees and community interests. In a 2010 national survey by the American Association of School Administrators, 84% of superintendents said that their districts were cash-strapped—but less than one in three said they had considered trimming employee benefits or outsourcing custodial services or maintenance.

The watchful eye of investors can lend for-profits a healthy discipline. The prospect of returns means that promising profit-seeking ventures can offer employees lucrative long-term opportunities and can tap vast sums through the private-equity markets. For-profits have a relentless, selfish imperative to seek out and adopt cost efficiencies.

Nonprofits, by contrast, have little incentive to become “early adopters” of cost-saving tools and techniques such as online instruction. Such shifts upset relationships with vendors and routines for staff. Even enormously successful nonprofits such as Teach for America and the KIPP charter-school network tend to grow far more slowly and show much less interest in squeezing their cost structures than comparable for-profit ventures.

Between 1996 and 2011, the number of for-profit charter schools nationwide increased to 758 (with nearly 400,000 students) from six (with 1,000 students). That’s still less than 1% of the 50 million students enrolled in K-12 schools. In higher education, by comparison, for-profit providers enrolled 2.4 million students in 2010, or more than 10% of total postsecondary enrollment.

The record of private ventures in education, to be sure, is mixed. The incentive to cut costs can translate into a willingness to cut corners. The urge to grow can lead to deceptive marketing. These are legitimate concerns that demand transparency and sensible regulation.

As it happens, McGraw-Hill’s $2.5 billion deal with a deep-pocketed, closely held investor was greeted with cool detachment. That ought to be the norm for the full range of much smaller for-profit ventures in the evolving world of schooling.

What once required a textbook can now be delivered faster, more cheaply and more effectively using new tools and technology. As schools, systems and suppliers respond accordingly, students will be well-served if educators, parents and policy makers recognize that public systems, nonprofits and for-profits all have vital roles to play when it comes to providing great schooling for 50 million children.

Mr. Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of “Cage-Busting Leadership,” out early next year by Harvard Education Press.

December 15, 2012

Dramatic evolution for schools in Lowell

By Kendall Wallace
Lowell Sun
LOWELL -- The new charter school scheduled to open in Lowell this fall will have a dramatic impact on the future of the Lowell public schools as we have known them for more than 100 years.

The city was a leader in securing a good education for all going back to the 1830s. Lowell, as one of the country's first planned industrial cities, has an interesting history in public education.

The city's early school costs were mostly paid for by the mill owners. A major split, however, developed when local community leaders wanted to add a high school to the school system. The mill owners felt an eighth-grade education was adequate for the children of mill workers.

Led by the rector of Saint Anne's Church, who chaired the School Committee, the locals prevailed and voted to move forward with plans for a high school supported by taxpayers.

Thus was born, Lowell High School, an institution that became the first coed and first integrated high school in Massachusetts.

This was a bold step for citizens of that time.

The development of this new charter school, which will be run privately, without a lot of the union and traditional public-school issues that have made change difficult to effect.

The new charter school will open with more than 500 youngsters in grades K-5 and will add a grade each year until it gets to a full high-school level where it will have well over 1,000 students.

The private corporation that will run the school will receive from the state the same per-pupil allocation that the city of Lowell receives. Obviously, as enrollment for the charter school grows, the total funding going to the public schools will decline.

If you read the brochure on the new Lowell Collegiate Charter School, you can't imagine why a parent would not take a serious look at the new facility.

One, its corporate manager, Sabis International, has a proven record of success, particularly in urban areas.

Two, it talks about many of the issues parents care about: college-prep programs, student uniforms, character development, strong math and English focus, longer school days, a strict and clear code of conduct, high expectations/no excuses, parental involvement, before- and after-school programs, a tuition-free public school, run by a board of directors.

I've had the opportunity to know most of the key leaders in public education in Lowell for 50 years. Most have been pretty dedicated folks who have served on a school committee, in the school administration as principals and class-room teachers. I have a sense, however, they don't have a real sense of the dramatic changes about to happen in their lives and in the lives of students and parents in Lowell's public schools.

I also know the local citizens who have spent years looking at this charter-school plan. They, too, are well-meaning people and feel this is the right course to ensure every student has the best possible chance to succeed.

Sabis has worked in nearby Springfield, where last year its 123 graduates earned $9 million in scholarships and all 123 went to college.

With good, well meaning people on both sides of these dramatic changes, I'm not sure why I feel so edgy about the project. Maybe it has come on too fast. Maybe there has not been enough discussion? It certainly sounds like a dream come true for parents looking for an alternative, but where does all this leave the traditional public schools?

Maybe I need to do some more home work.

The Buzz in the Bay State

From Edspresso:

Earlier this week, Edspresso shared how Brockton, MA’s school super is “Trashing Charters on Company Time.” Now Matt Malone is poised to become Massachusetts’ next Ed Chief. Will his opposition to charters continue in his new role, or will he come to see the light as the former Brockton superintendent, Basan “Buzz” Nembirkow did – the man who led the charge against a strong charter application back in 2008?  Check out Buzz’s change of heart on SABIS and for-profit EMOs from a recent Pioneer Institute panel on Oct 8th:

“I think it’s [SABIS] an excellent model for all instruction. We use the word differentiated instruction today, but how can you differentiate instruction if you don’t know where the kids are?”

“Class size is a myth; an absolute myth.”

“When I looked at the SABIS model, the instructional model is sound.”

“It’s a whole lot easier [for districts] to do what has always been done and blame somebody else.”

“SABIS has done a good job of taking what works best and putting it together, dealing with training teachers and administrators so there is a unified system.”

“From my perspective on schools, SABIS is a good model.”

Question from Jim Peyser, former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education: “Given the SABIS school in Springfield was a strong school, why wasn’t that good enough for you [Buzz] to support them coming to Brockton [in 2008]”?

Answer from Buzz: “My title was Superintendent of Brockton Public Schools, so right off the bat there’s an enlightened self-interest involved in that…. Basically, the issue was finance and politics. It had nothing to do, or very little to do with the quality of the [SABIS] program.”

“When SABIS came [to Brockton] we saw it as a financial threat. Simply as a financial threat. It took money away from us, which was about $4-5 million. Based upon that, our progress in BPS would have been substantially affected.”

“So my job defending the Brockton Public Schools, as the Superintendent, was to do whatever I could to stop that particular threat at that time, so we mounted a very good political campaign.”

“Almost 90% finances” was the reason Buzz cited for opposing the SABIS school application.

Peyser asked panelist: “So, for profit charter management: who cares or deal-breaker”? Buzz responded: “I have no issues with that.”

Brockton school leaders debate pros and cons of charter school’s effect on funding

BROCKTON — December 13, 2012
By Alex Bloom

Local educators disagree with charter school supporters on the impact a proposed charter school in Brockton would have on public school students.

Residents can tell the state Board of Education how they feel about the proposal at a 4 p.m. hearing on Tuesday at the main branch of the Brockton Public Library on Main Street.

The proposal to create the International Charter School of Brockton – backed by former Mayor John T. Yunits – has the school opening in 2014 with 500 students and expanding to 1,200 over a few years. Its location has not been determined.

If the charter school gets approved, state funds for education will be redirected from the Brockton Public Schools to the charter school for the students it educates.

“The financial impact on the district is always overstated by the district,” said Dominic Slowey, spokesman for the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association. “The state provides a healthy amount of reimbursement for money that gets transferred to charter.”

School district officials counter that a charter school would peel off Brockton’s top performing regular education students, leaving the district to foot the bill for expensive special education offerings as well as programs for non-English speaking students.

“If we were to have a lottery and they could only get what we gave them, that’s a whole different ball game,” said Aldo Petronio, the school district’s executive director of financial services.

Slowey pointed out that districts do not get money for students who leave for private schools, students who move to other communities, or for students who leave the country.

Brockton spent $12,540 per pupil in 2010-2011, according to the most recent numbers from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. There were no figures immediately available on how much money would be taken from the Brockton public school budget for students who enroll at the proposed charter school.

But by way of comparison, Springfield’s SABIS International Charter, serving kindergarten through 12th grade, has 1,562 Springfield students this year, and receives $15.9 million of the district’s funds.

Here are some issues being debated about the proposal.

Regular education: If a student moves from a school district to a charter school, funding follows the student.

In the first year of the switch, a public school district receives 100 percent reimbursement per student for the money. The district then receives 25 percent reimbursement per student for the following five years.

“For six years the districts are getting money from the state for students they are no longer educating,” Slowey said.

But, Petronio said the slow departure of students to a charter school would not be enough to close an entire public school, meaning there would be less funding to operate the same number of buildings.

Special education: Slowey said that statewide, charters are starting to educate an increased number of special education students. Slowey estimated that about 12-15 percent of the 29,411 charter school students were special education students. Brockton had about 13 percent of its students as part of special education in 2011-2012.

“We’re not that far off from the district,” Slowey said.

Transportation: Depending on the location of the proposed school, Brockton may need to contract buses to transport charter school students. The district contracts buses at about $50,000 per bus.

Reville a hard act to follow in Seceratry of Education post

DECEMBER 14, 2012

EDUCATION secretary Paul Reville, who is stepping down from his cabinet post in the Patrick administration, deftly managed to enlist the state’s largest teachers’ union in pursuit of aggressive education reform, with special attention on upgrading urban schools. Governor Patrick has chosen one of the beneficiaries of Reville’s work — outgoing Brockton school superintendent Matthew Malone — to fill the post. He should be a solid choice, as long as he keeps in mind what made Reville successful.

As an urban superintendent with prior teaching and headmaster experience, Malone should need no tutoring on public-school issues. Most of the education action during Patrick’s final two years in office will take place in urban districts, where the state must do more to close the achievement gap between low-income students and their suburban counterparts. Malone should bring special insights to this challenge.

The job doesn’t stop there, however. The education secretary also guides the administration’s policy in both early childhood and higher education, two areas in which Reville excelled and Malone’s experience appears thin. The administration’s efforts to shift the focus of the state’s 15 community colleges toward courses that align with the needs of local industries wasn’t popular with the presidents of the community colleges. But Reville made a compelling economic case for the strategy. Malone will need to carry that message forward.

Charter school proponents are looking skeptically at the selection of Malone, who has been vocal in his efforts to stop a firm called SABIS from siting a charter school in Brockton. Several large cities, including Boston and Lawrence, are at or near the cap on the number of seats they can offer in charter schools. Raising the cap would keep pressure on district schools to adopt charter school-like reforms, such as the longer school day and more hiring flexibility for school principals. Patrick will have made the wrong choice if Malone obstructs charter school expansion in Massachusetts.
Malone’s experience as a school superintendent in both Swampscott and Brockton could help to break current stalemates at the bargaining table over stricter teacher evaluations. Teachers often say, with some justification, that they are reluctant to put their professional fates in the hands of poor managers. Malone’s selection could point to new policies ensuring that principals and headmasters are wisely chosen and up to the task of running schools.

This is a time of shake-up in the Patrick administration, with four cabinet secretaries announcing their decision to step down midway through the governor’s final term. Some, such as Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby, leave behind agencies in flux, after problems as severe as the meningitis outbreak at a state-regulated compounding pharmacy. Malone, however, is not coming in to clean up a mess. His job is to protect and even quicken the reforms and academic improvements that the public has come to expect from the education secretary.

Proposed SABIS charter school faces oposition in Brockton, led by Schools Superintendent Matt Malone

BROCKTON — Opposition to a charter school proposed for this city of 94,000 is heating up as the date to gather public comment nears.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will conduct a hearing on the proposed International Charter School of Brockton on Dec. 18 at the Brockton Public Library.

Opponents, led by local School Superintendent Matthew Malone, plan to tell state officials the charter school would skim off top performers and drain dollars needed to educate the city’s 16,000 students.

In their 200-page application, the proposed school’s founding members say they aim to offer Brockton students “a highly successful and proven college-preparatory K-12 program of choice in a community in which access to such options is extremely limited.”

But Malone called the proposal “a cherry-picking operation” that will take the public school system’s most motivated students.

“I’m going to tell the Board of Education that we believe in charter schools, but not this charter school,” he said. “It’s a bad idea, and one that should end up on the cutting-room floor.”

The International Charter School of Brockton is one of 11 final applications under state review. The school would be overseen by a nine-member board of trustees, consisting of community members and area business leaders, and run by Sabis Educational Systems Inc. The international for-profit company already operates charter schools in Springfield and Holyoke, and is set to manage one in Lowell when it opens next year.

Kimberly Gibson, president of the Brockton teachers’ union, says the school proposed for Brockton is not needed, and said the union intends to fight the plan.

“We believe Brockton is well known for providing a great education for all its students,” she said. “Charter schools were established to offer choice where there is none, and Brockton offers choice.”

Charter schools, created by the 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act, are tuition-free public schools, open to everyone. The schools operate independent of the local school district but get their funding for student tuitions from the district’s state aid allotments.

The Brockton charter school would open in 2014 with 540 students in grades K–5 and gradually expand to 1,200 students in grades K–12. The school would cost the district about $10,800 per pupil, based on current aid estimates.

“It would strip our limited resources,” Malone said. “We won’t be able to do as much for our children as we do now.”

Former Brockton mayor John T. Yunits, a founding member of the charter school, insisted the proposal is not an attack on local education.

“I have nothing bad to say about the Brockton school system; I think it’s come a long way,” he said. “This would provide an option for parents who want something more for their kids and can’t afford it.”

Yunits said the charter school wouldn’t take money away from educating local students. “It’s transferring money from one school to another, still to be used on education of the kids,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for Brockton to move forward, and it will keep the middle class here.”

Five years ago, a proposal for a Sabis-run charter school to be based in Brockton and serving 13 school districts drew heated opposition from school leaders and was ultimately denied a charter by the state.

“I don’t know why they’re trying again,” Malone said. “This proposal doesn’t offer anything new or innovative that’s better than what we’re doing.”

Jose Afonso, director of US business development for Sabis, said other Massachusetts charter schools run by his company enjoy “tremendous” community support. In Springfield, for example, the charter school has a waiting list of 3,000, he said.

“Charter schools are doing a great job. The fact that we’re still fighting the old fight in Brockton is a paradox to me. It’s like we’re in a time capsule.”

Afonso said he is confident state officials will ultimately approve the Brockton proposal. “I don’t think screaming from those who have a vested interest in the status quo is reason to reject the charter,” he said. “We have a well-established track record in Massachusetts.”

The Dec. 18 hearing, scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m., is simply to gather public reaction.

“Typically, the Board of Education member chairing the hearing makes quick opening remarks, then the public has opportunity to speak,” said J.C. Considine, spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Ultimately, hearing comments will be considered along with written comments, applicant interviews, and a hefty submission package by Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, Considine said. The commissioner will then give a recommendation to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which will vote on the charter applications in February.

Christine Legere can be reached at

October 13, 2012

Video: Panel discussion on October 10 at the Business Roundtable regarding role of private companies operating public schools

Washington, DC (Oct 10, 2012): Business Roundtable was the site on Wednesday, October 10th, for a stimulating discussion of options in K-12 education -- public schools, non-profit schools, and private for-profit schools.

Sponsored by the Center for Education Reform and SABIS, an international for-profit school management company, the program dealt with the topic, "Can Education Be Run as a Profitable Business and Still Be Guided by a Humanitarian Vision?" A description of the program:

Former Michigan Governor John Engler joined Center for Education Reform President Jeanne Allen, and James Tooley, author of From Village School to Global Brand: Changing the World Through Education for an in-depth roundtable discussion exploring the critical issue of the growing role of private companies in American public education.

Professor James Tooley's recent book, From Village School to Global Brand examines the history of global education management organization SABIS. During the event, Jeanne Allen called SABIS President Carl Bistany to join the conversation and add insight to the discussion.

October 4, 2012

Renowned UK Author to Launch New Book at International School of Minnesota

For Immediate Release
Prof James Tooley

Contact: Amy Wesley, 1-952-918-1822,

Professor James Tooley, acclaimed author and UK education policy expert, will launch his latest work From Village School to Global Brand: Changing the World through Education at an event held at The International School of Minnesota in Eden Prairie on Monday, October 8, 2012.

Enjoying a prolonged period in the public spotlight, education and the best way to ensure improved standards is a topic on everyone’s minds from parents to politicians. In his latest book, James Tooley looks at one for-profit education management organization that has been successfully improving education standards in its private and public schools around the world.

With schools in 15 countries on four continents, SABIS® has been running schools for over 125 years and has been delivering astonishing results. Its success rate is impressive, turning around some of the poorest schools in the U.S. and challenging many widespread beliefs about education: that smaller classes are better, that learning through memorization is wrong, that education has to be top-down, from teacher to student, and that deprived kids can’t learn.

The book is a journey through time – tracing the company from its humble origins in 1886 in Lebanon, through a myriad of historical ups and downs to the present day. It also travels across continents, from Kurdistan to Katrina – from the first international schools in war-torn northern Iraq, to one of the first charter schools to reopen after the hurricane devastated inner city New Orleans. It’s a journey into the minds of committed educators, watching as they grapple with the fundamental question of how young people are educated in the virtues that have withstood the test of time, while still enabling them to be prepared for a future of unknown possibilities.

James Tooley is a professor of education policy at Newcastle University in the U.K., where he directs the E.G. West Center. He is currently the chairman of education companies in Ghana and China, creating embryonic chains of low-cost private schools for the very poor. The sought after speaker is author of numerous books on education including The Beautiful Tree published by the US-based CATO Institute.

From Village School to Global Brand is published by U.K.-based Profile Books and is available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon in print and E-book format.

Praise for From Village School to Global Brand: “In this engaging and inspirational book, Professor Tooley presents the story of one of the most enduring and committed players in the education field.” --Harry Patrinos, Lead Education Economist, The World Bank

The book launch event is free and open to the public. For more information about the event at The International School of Minnesota, visit

Brooklyn Ascend Charter School, a SABIS licensee in New York, earns an "A"

1 October 2012
Brooklyn Ascend Charter School earned an "A" on its annual progress report from the New York City Department of Education.  The school is managed and operated by New York-based Ascend Learning, which uses the proprietary SABIS educational program under a license.

The city annually compiles progress reports to help parents, teachers, principals, and school communities understand schools' strengths and weaknesses. The reports grade each school with an A, B, C, D, or F, based on student progress (60 percent), student performance (25 percent), and school environment (15 percent). Scores are determined by comparing results from each school to a peer group of up to 40 schools with the most similar student populations and to all schools citywide. Brooklyn Ascend earned an "A" for both student progress and student performance.

"I am thrilled that the school has received this distinction," said Brandon Sorlie, lower school director of Brooklyn Ascend. "I congratulate our scholars, their families, and our teachers on their success. Their hard work is steadily clearing the path to college."

Having opened in 2008, Brooklyn Ascend is the first school in the Ascend network to receive a letter grade from the city. It currently enrolls 710 students in kindergarten through grade 6, 82% of whom are from low-income families.

The full report is available at

September 28, 2012

Flint's Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields visits SABIS charter school in Flint, MI

The International Academy of Flint, a top performing SABIS K-12 charter school in Flint, Michigan, enrolling over 1,100 Flint students, hosted Flint's own Olympian gold medal winner, Claressa Shields.

Claressa Shields grew up in Flint and began boxing when she was only 11 years old.  By the 2012 Summer Olympics, at age 17, female boxers stepped into the ring for the first time to compete for Olympic gold.  Shields won the Olympic middleweight gold medal, in a 19-12 victory over Russia's Nadezda Torlopova.  She made history by becoming the U.S. fighter to win gold in Olympic women’s boxing.  She's a true pioneer and an excellent ambassador for Flint.

Claressa posing with staff during her visit to the International Academy
Mr. Kendall of the International Academy, who helped train Claressa

September 18, 2012

Springfield's SABIS charter school encouraging early start in college search

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - For students just beginning their freshman year of high school, college may seem like a long way away, but at least one area school thinks that’s the perfect time for students to begin to consider their next step.

At SABIS International Charter School in Springfield , students in all four years of high school attend their annual college fair, which was held Monday morning. School Director Erin Reuter told 22News that they find it important to have students involved at an early stage in the process.

“It is our hope that by having all of our students participate, meet with representatives, that we might be successful in having all of our students achieve their college dream,” she said.

Students met with representatives from the colleges, getting answers to questions about admissions, academics, and campus life.

“We feel it’s important for our freshmen to come and meet with representatives,” Reuter said, “It will allow them to begin early on their college pathway.”

More than 50 colleges and universities from around New England and beyond participated in the fair at SABIS.

Springfield high school encouraging early start in college search

August 26, 2012

SABIS charter school proposed for Brockton, Massachusetts

Boston Globe: August 26, 2012

An international for-profit company that currently operates two charter schools in Massachusetts and six in other states has begun the application process for a charter school in Brockton to open in 2014.

The proposed International Charter School of Brockton would be run by Sabis Educational Systems Inc. and overseen by a nine-member board of trustees consisting of parents and community leaders. Plans call for the school to open with 540 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and expand by one grade level each year until reaching capacity at 1,200 students in grades K-12.

The charter school planned for Brockton would follow the same educational practices used by Sabis in its other schools, offering “a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum, accessible to all students,” according to its state application.

At the Sabis-run Springfield International Charter School, a K-12 system on which the Brockton school would be modeled, every senior for 11 years running has been accepted to a college or university by graduation.

In addition to the Springfield charter school, Sabis manages the Holyoke Community Charter School, and will operate the Lowell Collegiate Charter School when it opens in fall 2013.

Area businesswoman Shawni Littlehale, a founding member of the proposed Brockton charter school, said she wants local students to be given educational options that other urban children now have.

“While the Brockton school district is doing somewhat better than it used to, it remains in the lowest 10th percentile for performance in the state,” Littlehale said. “I’ve seen how charter schools have improved education and are closing the achievement gap between minorities and whites. I’m just interested in getting such results for the students of Brockton.”

The state confirmed Brockton’s position in the lowest 10th percentile. But Thomas Minichiello Jr., vice chairman of the Brockton School Committee, took issue with Littlehale’s characterization of his city’s public school system.

“If you take a look at all the different urban school districts, Brockton public schools, with the population we have, are doing well,” Minichiello said. “We’re not just sitting on our hands. We’ve been recognized by many academic bodies nationally for our high school. The middle school is on the way up, and we’re implementing changes to the curriculum to improve the elementary schools. People who do not recognize that don’t know much about Brockton schools.”

Charter schools, created by the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, are tuition-free public schools open to everyone. The proposed charter school in Brockton, for example, would be open to all Brockton residents and to those outside the district should seats become available. Charter schools are independent of the local school district, but are closely overseen by the state, under five-year charters granted by the Board of Education.

As public schools, charter schools cannot select their students, and if prospective candidates outnumber available seats, a public lottery is held.

Public school districts frequently oppose the opening of charter schools in their midst, since they lose state aid dollars connected to student enrollment. In the first year, the 540 students at the proposed Brockton charter school would represent $5.3 million in state education aid, at about $9,900 per student. The per-student estimate was provided by Jose Afonso, director of US business development for Sabis.

According to Afonso, state officials have tried to ease the loss of aid money to districts where charter schools open by phasing out the funding loss over six years. Still, opposition has continued.

“It’s about power and money: the loss of control and the loss of funds,” he said.

Five years ago, Sabis tried to open a Brockton-based charter school to serve students in 13 area school districts. The Brockton school superintendent at the time, Basan Nembirkow, adamantly opposed the plan, and other district superintendents followed. The Board of Education ultimately denied the charter school application.

“I think we spread the net too wide last time, trying to take in too many school districts,” said Faelton Perkins, a founding board member of the Brockton International Charter School. This time, the proposal is limited to Brockton, Perkins said, adding he still expects “a lot of protest” from Brockton public school officials.

Brockton school district spokeswoman Jocelyn Meek said local administrators weren’t surprised by the charter school proposal, and had expected Sabis or another company to apply.

“We feel like we have one of the best urban school systems there are, with a diverse range of programming,” she said. “We’ll keep a watchful eye on this. We’ll see what it is that they think they can offer that we don’t.”

Critics of Sabis frequently note its for-profit status, but Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokesman Jonathan Considine said the status is irrelevant to the state agency, since education officials award the charter to a school’s board of trustees, not to a school’s management company.

“A charter school’s board of trustees may contract with a for-profit or not-for-profit entity to serve as the school’s educational management organization,” Considine said. “We have no position on the use of a for-profit entity.”

Domenic Slowey, spokesman for the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, said Sabis “has an amazing track record. in Massachusetts.

“Their Springfield school is one of the best in the state, and Holyoke far out-performs the public school district,” Slowey said.

The Brockton charter school proposal is one of 22 undergoing initial review by the state education agency.

Sabis has another proposal in addition to the one in Brockton, for a second charter school in Springfield. Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester will invite some or all to move to the next level, which requires submission of more detailed plans, by November.

The state Board of Education will decide in February which charters will be granted.

August 20, 2012

Milestone SABIS Academy moves from Uptown in New Orleans to Gretna, Louisiana

Catherine Boozer, Principal ofMilestone SABIS
By Helen Williams,

Milestone SABIS Academy of New Orleans has moved from Uptown to Gretna for this school term, leasing the old Kate Middleton School building at 1407 Virgil St. Milestone, in its 10th year of educating young people from kindergarten to eighth grade, will be accepting ninth grade students for the upcoming school year.

The school plans to expand to 10th grade the following school year, adding grade levels until it has a complete high school.

Milestone SABIS Academy is a free public charter school, expecting about 530 students to be enrolled this academic year.

The school provides bus transportation for students to and from school.

The principal of the relocated school is Catherine Boozer, who has been principal for six years, and has been with the SABIS system for 12 years.

An Opelousas native, Boozer lived in Phoenix from 1974 until returning to Louisiana in 2007.

“The distinguishing mark of Milestone is the implementation of the SABIS Educational System, uniquely offering a rigorous, internationally oriented, college-preparatory curriculum for students, focusing primarily on the core subjects of English, mathematics, sciences, and world languages. Spanish is the foreign language taught here,” Boozer said.

“We also offer music, computer, art and physical education. Since now we will have a better gym, we can offer more sports activities. Some of the features of the new location also include a stand-alone library and stand-alone cafeteria.”

Students are taught leadership skills, and are called “prefects,” Boozer said.

Students began class last week.

To apply to Milestone, parents can download the application on the school’s website,, which contains all the information needed for enrollment.

Parents and students are welcome to visit the campus if they prefer to pick up an application form in person.

Forward all documents to: Milestone SABIS Academy of New Orleans, Attn: Registrar, 1407 Virgil St., Gretna, LA 70053.

“All new students will have to undergo diagnostic testing in order to determine their knowledge so that they can be placed in the appropriate levels to maximize their learning,” Boozer said.

Innovators in Milestone is the name of the nonprofit charter board that runs the school.

SABIS is the school’s management organization, a global education firm that operates schools in 15 countries on four continents.

Brandon Armant, through his new firm, BAMM Communications, is partnering with Milestone SABIS Academy for its public relations and marketing services.

“Although charter schools became more popular and grew in numbers in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Milestone SABIS has been educating young people in the New Orleans metro area for the past 10 years, and the school is continuing to excel. Milestone is a Type 2 charter school, which means the school can enroll students from anywhere in the state of Louisiana,” Armant said.

Call the school at 504.894.0557 for more information.

August 9, 2012

The Next 20 Years: Impact and Future of Public Charter Schools

This groundbreaking keynote panel discussion on the impact and future of public charter schools on education is from the 2012 National Charter Schools Conference on June 20, 2012.

Moderated by PBS NewsHour correspondent and Learning Matters President John Merrow, this panel discussed the future of charter schooling.

About our panelists:
Don Shalvey, deputy director for the Gates Foundation's U.S. Programs Education initiative, founded the acclaimed Aspire Schools in California.
Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Howard Fuller, co-chair and co-founder of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, is one of the charter movement's fiercest advocates. He currently directs the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University.
John Danner is the CEO of Rocketship Education. He was honored with the 2010 John P. McNulty Prize for leadership "pioneering a unique hybrid education model" in elementary schools in high-need areas.

August 2, 2012

SABIS students from Holyoke, Massachusetts, visit Washington D.C. and meet their Congressman

Eighth grade students at Holyoke Community Charter School (HCCS), a K-8 SABIS school located in Holyoke, Massachusetts, participated in an educational field trip to Washington D.C.  The aim of the trip was to expose students to some of the nation’s most important historical sites and monuments. The students visited major national landmarks including the National Zoo, Capitol Hill, the White House, and the Washington Monument.

They also visited a number of famous historical places including Arlington National Cemetery, September 11 Memorial, Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, US Force Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial. The students also had the opportunity to visit a few of the world’s most fascinating museums such as the Smithsonian Institution, National Air & Space Museum, and the Natural History Museum.

In addition to experiencing the sights and sounds of D.C., through the various activities offered, students were also able to develop an understanding of the different forms of government, the decision-making process in a democracy, and the role of the legislative body.

The highlight of the trip was the special welcome by Massachusetts Congressman, Richard Neal (2nd District), who spent a considerable amount of time with Holyoke Community's students.

SABIS Holyoke Community Charter School students are welcomed by
Congressman Richard Neal in Washington D.C. on the steps of the Capitol Building
“This trip was a wonderful experience for the students. Not only did they have a lot of fun, they also had the opportunity to consolidate the solid foundation and historical knowledge that is part of the rigorous SABIS® curriculum,” stated Dr. Sonia Correa Pope, School Director. “Our students’ faces, as well as their daily E-mails to parents and myself were precious and rewarding,” stated Correa-Pope.

The trip was paid for with the help of parents, students, and school community members, who participated in many fundraising activities to make the trip possible.  The trip, which was planned and organized by WorldStrides, a company that specializes in experiential student travel, is one of the many educational opportunities available to Holyoke Community's students.   Holyoke Community opened in fall 2005 and currently serves 700 students in grades K-8.  For more information about HCCS, visit

July 31, 2012

SABIS School in Flint Michigan ranked among the state’s best high schools by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Contact Name: Mr. Jose Afonso
Contact Number: (617) 515-6638


Eden Prairie, MN (July 31, 2012) – In a new study published by Michigan think-tank, The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, IAF ranks 4th among ALL city/urban high schools in Michigan. The study, as cited in the July 20 edition of the Flint Journal, revealed that three of Michigan’s top schools were located in Flint, among which the International Academy of Flint (IAF) topped the list.

“This is a wonderful endorsement of what the SABIS program can bring to a city in need through an outstanding school team such as IAF's,” stated George Saad, SABIS Vice President.

The Mackinac study ranked all the state’s high schools based on college-readiness tests such as the ACT and the Michigan Merit Exam. The study also took into consideration factors such as poverty and other demographics in order to account for socioeconomic disparities among the schools. The Mackinac Center findings also indicate that IAF is ranked 8th among all Michigan public high schools and 5th among Michigan’s charter schools.

Since graduating its first class in 2007, IAF has achieved a 100% college-acceptance success rate each year for all its seniors. The school has received numerous awards and recognitions at the state and the national levels, including multiple awards from US News and World Report’s ranking of “America’s Best High Schools”.

IAF was founded in 1999 and is a member of the SABIS School Network, a K-12 college-prep school network, serving students in 15 countries on 4 continents. IAF’s charter is authorized by Central Michigan University. For more information on IAF or on SABIS, please visit or


From Page 6 of The Michigan Public High School Context and Performance Report Card (Click on image to enlarge)

July 27, 2012

New Book About SABIS®, "From Village School to Global Brand: Changing the World through Education," by Professor James Tooley.

New Book About SABIS®, "From Village School to Global Brand: Changing the World through Education," by Professor James Tooley.

Q. Can education be run as a profitable business and still be driven by a humanitarian vision?

A. SABIS® shows the answer is yes.

With eighty schools in fifteen countries and over sixty thousand students, SABIS® is a global education company committed to improving lives. SABIS® has successfully managed schools for 126 years—including the first charter school to reopen after Katrina—and this fascinating history explains the new paradigm it is spearheading and will appeal to anyone interested in education.

About James Tooley
James Tooley is a professor of education policy at Newcastle university, where he directs the E. G. West Centre. He is currently chairman of education companies in Ghana and China creating embryonic chains of low cost private schools. He is the author of numerous books on education including The Beautiful Tree: A personal journey into how the world’s poorest people are educating themselves, and Educational Equality which he co-authored.

From Village School to Global Brand is now available on Amazon and on Kindle.  For more information about SABIS®, visit 

SABIS Among 22 Groups to Submit New Charter School Prospectuses

SABIS, in partnership with two applicant groups located in Brockton and Springfield, Massachusetts, filed charter school applications for the creation of two new Commonwealth charter schools - the International Charter School of Brockton and the Springfield Preparatory Charter School .  

If approved by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in February 2013, both charter schools will open in fall 2014 serving grades K-5 with 540 students, adding one grade level each year until becoming K-12 schools with approximately 1,200.  Both schools will implement the proven SABIS educational program which features a longer school day, student uniforms, and feature weekly assessments to diagnose student learning progress.  For more information about the SABIS system, please visit  Below is a press release from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

MALDEN, Massachusetts (July 27, 2012) - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has received 22 prospectuses from groups seeking to ultimately receive approval to open new charter schools in Massachusetts.

The increase in prospectuses submitted, up from seven last year, follows a decision earlier this spring by the Department to lift a moratorium on new applications for several cities, including Boston and Lawrence. Such a moratorium became necessary as the number of charter seats in those communities were nearing statutory enrollment caps. The Department now projects that at least some seats will be available in most communities over the next four years, prompting the Department to open this year's application cycle to all cities and towns.

"Charter schools provide parents and students with important public school options as they consider the educational program that best meets their needs," said Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester. "I look forward to reviewing these prospectuses and inviting those groups that meet our application criteria to submit final proposals."

Founding groups whose prospectuses show the most promise will be notified by mid-September and invited to submit a full application. Full applications will be due to the Department on November 7, 2012. Those final applications will then be reviewed and evaluated by Department staff and external review panelists with expertise in education, business, legal and organizational structure. Commissioner Chester will then make his recommendations to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which will vote to award new charters at its February 26, 2013 regular meeting.

In January 2010, the Patrick-Murray Administration raised the charter school cap in the lowest performing school districts and made a number of changes to the charter authorizing process. The cap on district net school spending under the Achievement Gap Act is being raised from 9 percent to a maximum of 18 percent through incremental steps. The cap lift only applies to districts with academic performance in the lowest 10 percent as measured by MCAS, and applicants under the cap lift must have a proven track record of success in increasing academic attainment and commit to working with a diverse population of students. Sixteen new charters were awarded in February 2011, and an additional four were approved this past February.

For applicants that must demonstrate that they qualify as proven providers, an invitation to submit a final application is contingent on the Commissioner's granting of proven provider status. The determination of proven provider status will occur when the results of spring 2012 MCAS testing become available and prior to the submission deadline for final applications.

The new proposals for the 2012-2013 application cycle include 21 proposals to open Commonwealth charter schools and one proposal to open a Horace Mann charter school. Commonwealth charter schools are fully autonomous and operate independently of the local school district. Horace Mann charter schools are developed and operated in close cooperation with the host school district, and require approval of the local school committee. Charter schools are open to all Massachusetts students, with enrollment preference given to students in the district or region where the school is located.

The 2012-2013 proposals that were submitted for consideration are:
Commonwealth Charter School ProspectusesDistrict or RegionOpening YearGradesProposed Maximum Enrollment
Argosy Collegiate Charter SchoolFall River20145-12459
Asia Pacific Charter SchoolLynnfield, Peabody, Wakefield, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham, Wilmington20136-12300
BridgeSmart Preparatory Academy Charter SchoolLynn, Revere, Chelsea, Everett, Boston20136-12475
Brooke Charter School 4Boston2014K-8510
City on a Hill Charter Public School IIBoston20139-12280
City on a Hill Charter Public School New BedfordNew Bedford20149-12280
Classical Community Charter SchoolLongmeadow, East Longmeadow, Wilbraham, Agawam2014K-12390
Community through Sustainability Charter School, CS²Worcester20147-12240
Fenix Charter SchoolLynn20135-12600
Heights Academy Charter SchoolBoston2014K-5312
International Charter School of BrocktonBrockton2014K-121200
Match Next Charter Public SchoolBoston20136-8216
Phoenix Charter Academy SpringfieldSpringfield, Holyoke, Chicopee20139-12250
Pioneer Charter School of Science IISaugus, Peabody, Lynn, Danvers, Salem20137-12360
Pioneer Charter School of Science IIILowell, Dracut, Tewksbury, Billerica, Chelmsford, Tyngsborough20147-12360
Pioneer Charter School of Science IVWoburn, Stoneham, Medford, Melrose, Wakefield, Saugus20147-12360
Somerville Progressive Charter SchoolSomerville2013K-8520
Springfield Collegiate Charter School Springfield2014K-8456
Springfield Preparatory Charter SchoolSpringfield2014K-121200
The New Bedford Cheironeum, A Commonwealth Charter SchoolNew Bedford20136-12756
YouthBuild Charter AcademyLawrence20139-12173

Horace Mann Charter School ProspectusesDistrict or RegionOpening YearGradesProposed Maximum Enrollment
UP Academy Charter School of Boston IIBoston 2013K1-5 or K1-8400

SABIS submits charter school application in Brockton, Massachusetts

BROCKTON, Massachusetts (Enterprise News July 25, 2012) — An international for-profit company that runs 80 private and charter schools planned to file an application with the state today to open a charter school in Brockton in 2014.

SABIS Educational Systems Inc. tried to open a charter school in Brockton five years ago, but failed to gain approval from the state board of education. It was the first time the board had voted down a charter school recommended by the commissioner of education.

SABIS submitted a letter to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education last month informing it of the company’s intention to file another application this year.

Preliminary applications to the state are due today, a deadline that Jose Afonso, director of U.S. business development for SABIS, said he is “99 percent certain” the company will meet.

This year’s proposal would be very similar to the one submitted in 2007, calling for a K-5 school to start with about 500 students.

Each year, the school would add another grade level until it reached 12th grade and an enrollment of over 1,000 students.

Faelton Perkins, the Brockton resident who led the charter effort in 2007, is again pushing the effort this year.

He said he wants to see public charter school options for Brockton residents and believes in the SABIS model, which features weekly testing to identify student weaknesses.

“There’s no sense that any one thing is going to change the world or change the city, because it isn’t. But with cooperation, we can make the city more livable and better for all of us,” Perkins said.

Afonso said the other SABIS schools in the state – one each in Springfield and Holyoke – have done well in closing the achievement gap between minority students and white students, which he credits in part to the frequent testing.

“By giving us the ability to pinpoint weaknesses as they’re developing, it allows us to react to them in real time before a students gets stuck, unmotivated and frustrated,” he said.

Afonso said they will learn in November whether the proposal made it to the final application round, which will be decided by the education board in February.

Erik Potter may be reached at

Read more

June 30, 2012

SABIS charter school in Shreveport touts test results, eyes student increase

From Shreveport Times:  Linwood Public Charter School has announced it will open its doors to at least 60 more students this year, raising its fall enrollment target from the current 460 students to 520, officials said Thursday.

Linwood Board President Gard Wayt touted improved LEAP test scores as the impetus for the increase, noting percentages of test improvement convinced the board the education model provided by SABIS, the international education school system that runs Linwood, works.

"Those eighth-graders who have just received their LEAP test results, who have been with us for three years, scored 16 points higher in English Language Arts and 11 points higher in math scores than their counterparts who have been with us only one year," he said.

"We are very proud of our students for their hard work and efforts," Principal Vickie Carroll said.

"They are increasingly taking their work seriously. We are transforming the school's culture, as well as its academic standing."

New students represent about a third of the top class, allowing a valid comparison he said.

He said the increases are despite new sixth-grade students each year coming in with lower test scores than the previous year's sixth-graders.

"Each year, the gap we're dealing with has become bigger," he said.

What that shows, he said, "is there is a value-added component to staying with the SABIS system. We know now that continued engagement in the SABIS system of education produces significant differences in the results."

The system includes biweekly test evaluations and constant monitoring of student performance.

"The SABIS system will not let a child stay behind," he said. "We know every day and every week where every students stands in every subject."

Also, he said, "we are not obliged to keep any teacher who does not get results. That's a big difference. We can thin the herd. "Students also have become more proactive, he said, with the Student Life Department and eighth-graders holding a series of fundraisers this year that allowed a trip to Disney World.

"We're proud of the way they conducted themselves," Wayt said.  "There's talk next year of going to New York, to take in some of the plays on Broadway."

Also in the works: expansion of the student clinic at the school, reflecting a partnership with Christus Schumpert Health and a $100,000 federal grant.

The school plans to pursue renewal of its five-year charter and maintains a long-term goal of adding a ninth grade, he said. But now there are other challenges.

The challenge the first year, he said, was discipline. Putting surveillance cameras in hallways helped curtail most problems, he said.

The second year, the problem was attendance. That was solved by developing a bus system for the school that was not dependent on public school buses.

"Right now, the challenge is we are looking for good teachers," he said.  Incentives include a more robust 401(k) plan for teachers, base pay of between $40,000 and $45,000 a year and recruitment incentives that include moving expenses to help teachers come from out of state.

For the 2012-13 fiscal year, the school's expected enrollment of 520 students, has resulted in an anticipated budget of $4.64 million, based on $8,929 per student per the Minimum Foundation Plan, Wayt said.  "The money follows the child," he said

Efforts to convince students and parents they will benefit from attending the school over a Caddo Parish public school are under way and will continue through the start of the fall session Aug. 13, he said. "We're advertising," he said. "We are putting on community meetings, doing robo-calling and direct mailing. We're doing everything to let people know what results we have and what we offer."