May 21, 2012

Viewpoint: Sabis deserves second school in Springfield


Everyone is probably familiar with the quote, “Success breeds success.”

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to apply to Sabis International Charter School, the charter school in Springfield, with respect to an important issue that impacts thousands of patient families and students.

Recently, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education denied a proposal by SABIS to establish a new charter for a second school, the Springfield Preparatory Charter School, for the second year in a row.

If results matter, then Sabis Education Systems, Inc. has earned the right to open a second school in Springfield.

Let’s review the results of Springfield’s existing Sabis International Charter School over the last few years and see if you agree.

For the 11th straight year since graduating its first class in 2001, 100 percent of Sabis seniors have been accepted to a two or four year college or university.

A key Sabis goal is to qualify every student into colleges and universities around the world. The graduating class of 2012 with 115 graduates has received $8 million so far of scholarship awards. These same students were accepted to such top performing schools as Harvard, Amherst, Bay Path, Fairfield, George Washington, Holy Cross, Smith, St. John’s University, University of Massachusetts, Western New England, Westfield State, Williams and American International College, to name a few.

Furthermore, 70 percent of the seniors received the John and Abigail Adams scholarship award, a performance-based four-year full academic scholarship to a state supported undergraduate program.

To win the award, a student must score in the Advanced category in either the Mathematics or the English language arts section of the grade 10 MCAS test and score in the Proficient or Advanced category on the second subject (Mathematics or English language arts) and they must have a combined MCAS score that ranks in the top 25 percent in their school district.

The 2012 U.S. News & World Report’s Ranking of the Nation’s Best High Schools awarded Sabis International Charter School with a bronze medal placing it in the top 25 percent of the state’s high schools. Massachusetts has 351 operating high schools and 87 of those schools received the U.S. News gold, silver or bronze medal. Two schools were from Western Massachusetts, one of which was SABIS International Charter School.

It is widely known that there is a substantial gap between the educational achievement of the white and the black population in our nation. The Massachusetts Department of Education measures this gap for Massachusetts and while Massachusetts is reporting a statewide gap of 30 percentage points, Sabis has reduced that gap to 15 percentage points. With 66 percent minority students at SABIS as compared to 32 percent for the state and 46 percent low-income students, compared to 32 percent statewide, SABIS has made it a priority to close the achievement gap for all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or income levels.

Charter schools are public schools and open to all students free of charge. If there are more students than seats, then a random public lottery, governed by strict regulations, is held to determine who will attend.

Right now, Sabis International Charter School has a waiting list of more than 2900 students. The time has come for the wait to end. These facts speak for themselves. The community needs – and wants – this second charter school.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education needs to reconsider – and approve – the proposal for a second SABIS charter school during the upcoming application round.

For more information on Charter schools, log on to

Anne Kandilis is a Board Trustee of Sabis International Charter School in Springfield.

May 14, 2012

Lowell Sun Editorial: "Charter schools provide more options"

May 14: Public charter schools are making their presence felt throughout Massachusetts, especially in urban school districts where families want educational choices for their children.

Last Wednesday, the Lowell Collegiate Charter School received its official charter from state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester and Education Secretary Paul Reville. (Note: see related post) It was a proud day for the new school's board of directors, all of whom live in Lowell, Dracut and neighboring communities. These are people dedicated to seeing that Lowell parents and their children are no longer under-served.

There are now three public school choices: Lowell Public School System, Lowell Community Public Charter School, and Lowell Collegiate.

We believe it is time for administrators from all the schools to form alliances and strengthen the city's educational objectives and goals for its students. Such a collaborative effort would be a powerful testament to educational excellence and would serve to attract new families to the city.

For too long, in-district schools and charter schools have acted like neither existed, except at state budget hearings.

Charter schools are here to stay. We need a positive dialogue that puts kids first.

Sabis International, a for-profit group, will run Lowell's new charter school and has had outstanding success in urban settings. Its Springfield charter school, where 100 percent of its graduating students will attend college, recently received a Bronze medal ranking in the 2012 U.S. News and World Report's edition of the Nation's Best High Schools (22,000 public schools were covered).

The 600-student Innovation Academy Charter School in Tyngsboro has reported similar graduation results with all members of its 2012 class headed to a four-year college. According to Director Walter Landsberg, 18 of 41 graduating seniors are first generation; 10 of the 41 are from Lowell; four Lowell students were accepted to top tier colleges; and two Lowell students were accepted to Ivy League schools with full tuition paid for four years. Quite impressive.

It's easy to see why there are 45,000 students on public charter-school waiting lists across the state.

The Patrick administration won our praise in 2010 when it lifted restrictions on charter-school expansion, but political pressure kept the reforms to a minimum. It is apparent now that limiting expansion to the lowest-performing school districts was a compromise for the moment, not a vision for the future. Patrick needs to reassert his commitment to charter schools and expand the options for our neediest children.

There should be an unfettered public-school system where the best charter-school proposals gain certification, without being phased in over time (seven years!).

Commissioner Chester says he thinks it's time to speed up the process. We think it's time to kill the cap.

KIPP and other non-profit charter management organizations spend more per pupil, raising questions about scalability

A new report concludes that many well-known charter school networks spend more money per pupil than regular public schools serving comparable populations.

Released by the National Education Policy Center, at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the analysis examines charter schools' 990 filings through the Internal Revenue Service, and state and local data, focusing on charter school spending in three states: New York, Ohio, and Texas.

From NEPC Press Release: "We find that in New York City, KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools charter schools spend substantially more ($2,000 to $4,300 per pupil) than similar district schools. Given that the average spending per pupil was around $12,000 to $14,000 citywide, a nearly $4,000 difference in spending amounts to an increase of some 30%. In Ohio, charters across the board spend less than district schools in the same city. And in Texas, some charter chains such as KIPP spend substantially more per pupil than district schools in the same city and serving similar populations, around 30 to 50% more in some cities (and at the middle school level) based on state reported current expenditures, and 50 to 100% more based on IRS filings."

It concludes that the charter school networks studied in New York spend more per pupil than nearby traditional public schools serving similar populations and grade levels. Schools in the Achievement First charter network spent about $660, or 5 percent, more than the regular public schools. Green Dot spent as much as $1,500, or 11 percent, more; and KIPP spending was significantly higher—33 percent, or $4,300, more per pupil than the neighborhood public schools.

The findings for charter spending were similar in Texas. In Ohio, however, charters consistently spent less than traditional public schools—anywhere between 10 percent and 30 percent less per pupil, the report found.

But officials for KIPP, or Knowledge Is Power, were highly critical of the report. They said it includes nonschool costs for KIPP charters in New York, and does not account for the rapid growth at the time for the charter schools studied in Texas—growth that would have driven up per-pupil costs—and did not consistently offer comparable figures for regular public schools. (Source: Education Week)

May 9, 2012

Lowell Collegiate Charter School formally receives its "Charter" in a ceremony held today

Framingham, MA: Today was the annual charter granting ceremony in which state education officials formally award the actual "charter" document to new charter schools as well as to those whose charter has been renewed.  This year's ceremony was hosted by McAuliffe Regional Charter Public School in Framingham. 

Pictured below are four board members of the Lowell Collegiate Charter School, the newest SABIS charter school in Massachusetts, along with the three top education officials of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

Pictured left to right are: Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester, Lowell Collegiate board members Pravin Patel, Raquel Bauman, Walter McGrail, and Alan Miller, followed by the Secretary of Education Paul Reville, State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Chairwoman Maura Banta.
Lowell Collegiate Charter School Board Members Receive the "Charter" from State Education Officials
(Photo: Courtesy of Lee DeLorenzo)

Press Release from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
For immediate release
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Charters Awarded to 4 New Schools
7 Additional Schools Receive Renewed Charters

FRAMINGHAM – State education officials today presented the founders of four new schools and the leaders of seven existing schools with their charters at a charter granting ceremony held at Christa McAuliffe Regional Charter Public School in Framingham.

Secretary of Education Paul Reville, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Chair Maura Banta presented charters to the founders of four new schools: Baystate Academy Charter Public School; Lowell Collegiate Charter School; Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School; and Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School.

“I am pleased to present four new charters today and continue the state’s commitment to expanding high quality, public school options for students,” said Commissioner Chester. “We expect great things from charter schools in Massachusetts and hold them accountable for results. I am eager to see these schools open successfully, deliver outstanding instruction, and prepare students for their future.”

“We are proud to welcome these new charters to Massachusetts, and look forward to seeing the innovative ways in which they will help provide their students with the tools needed to succeed,” said Secretary Reville.

“The Board takes its responsibility to grant new charters very seriously,” said Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Chair Maura Banta. “I look forward to watching these four new schools open and provide the same level of excellence as other Massachusetts charter schools.”

Charter schools are open to all Massachusetts students, with enrollment preference given to students in the district or region where the school is located. All charter schools are chartered for a period of 5 years. At the end of that period, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education reviews the school’s performance in detail before making a decision on whether to renew the charter.

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.

The Patrick-Murray Administration's Achievement Gap Act of 2010 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 charter schools were approved last year after the cap was raised.

The four schools that received charters today were:

Commonwealth charter schools:
· Baystate Academy Charter School in Springfield (grades 6-12; opening in fall 2013)
· Lowell Collegiate Charter School in Lowell (grades K-12; opening in fall 2013)
· Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School in Holyoke (grades 9-12; opening in fall 2012)

Horace Mann charter schools:
· Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School in Boston (grades K1-5; opening in fall 2012)

In addition, the following seven Commonwealth Charter Schools received renewed charters:

· Academy of the Pacific Rim in Boston (grades 5-12)
· Christa McAuliffe Regional Charter Public School in Framingham (grades 6-8)
· Edward W. Brooke Charter School in Boston (grades K-8)
· Global Learning Charter Public School in New Bedford (grades 5-12)
· North Central Charter Essential School in Fitchburg (grades 7-12)
· Pioneer Charter School of Science in Everett (grades 7-12)
· Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley (grades K-8)

May 8, 2012

U.S. News ranks two SABIS schools among the Nation's Best High Schools, both earning Bronze medals

Two SABIS charter high schools earn a Bronze ranking in the U.S. News Ranking of the Nation's Best High Schools in 2012

Two SABIS charter schools, the International Academy of Flint, in Flint, Michigan, and the SABIS International Charter School, of Springfield, Massachusetts, both earned a Bronze ranking in the 2012 U.S. News and World Report's edition of the Nation's Best High Schools.  The 2012 edition includes data on nearly 22,000 public schools, 500 of which received gold medals.  U.S. News awarded more than 4,850 gold, silver, and bronze medals to the top-performing schools.

In the U.S. News Best High Schools 2012 rankings, Michigan has 6 schools with gold medals, 49 with silver medals, and 149 with bronze medals. There are 826 high schools currently operating in Michigan. The bronze medal earned by the International Academy of Flint places it the top 25% of the state's high schools.

Among Michigan's 78 charter high schools, 1 earned gold and 10 received a bronze ranking, thus placing the International Academy of Flint as one of Michigan's top tier charter high schools. Click here to view the full ranking of Michigan's charter high schools.

The International Academy of Flint was founded in 1999 and currently enrolls 1,180 students in grades K-12, 80% of which are minority and 82% are economically disadvantaged.

Massachusetts has 351 operating high schools. Among the many Massachusetts schools in the 2012 rankings of U.S. News Best High Schools, 27 were awarded gold medals, 37 earned silver medals, and 23 received bronze medals. Many of Massachusetts's Best High Schools are located in the Boston area. SABIS International's bronze medal places it in the top 25% of the state's high schools. Among the 31 charter high schools in Massachusetts, 2 earned gold, 2 silver and 9 a bronze ranking. Click here to view the full ranking of Massachusetts charter high schools.

SABIS International, founded in 1995, is the largest charter school in Massachusetts with 1,574 in grades K-12, 66% of which are minority and 46% are economically disadvantaged.

U.S. News calculation of student performance on state exit exams and internationally available exams on college-level coursework (AP®/IB exams), SABIS International outperforms the State of Massachusetts in English (96% proficient) and Math (95% proficient). Click here for additional test score information.

May 7, 2012

National Charter Schools Week Kicks Off Today – Celebration Runs through May 12, 2012

From the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS)....

Advocates and Families Across Nation Celebrate 20 Years of Public Charter Schools in America

Washington, D.C. – The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) leads the nation in celebrating the single largest and most impactful education reform effort of the past two decades: public charter schools.

National Charter Schools Week celebrates the many benefits of public charter schools, which includes providing parents with better public school options, innovative teaching and learning methods, and autonomy to create real time school improvements as a means of improving student achievement. Parents, teachers, students and advocates will recognize the successes of these innovative and effective schools while stressing to lawmakers in states across the country to do more to expand access to high-quality public charter schools.

According to the NAPCS, which organizes National Charter Schools Week, advocates have significant reason to celebrate in 2012. The number of students attending public charter schools has increased by an estimated 76 percent over the past five school years, while the number of schools has grown 40 percent (from 3,999 to an estimated 5,627). These schools are serving more than two million students across the country, while more than 400,000 students sit on waiting lists to be able to attend the high-quality public charter school of their choosing.

“Over the past 20 years, Americans from all backgrounds have experienced the transformational benefits of high-quality public charter schools, and National Charter Schools Week raises awareness of the continued need to expand access to these schools for millions of additional children,” said Ursula Wright, interim president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “Despite significant progress in recent years, a great deal of work remains if we are to ensure that every state in the country allows effective and accountable charter schools for children.”

What started as an experiment in Minnesota in 1991 has now swept the country, with 41 states and the District of Columbia offering high-quality public charter school options and enrolling five percent of the nation’s public school students. With this growth, public charter schools have achieved bipartisan support over the years.

Charter schools are independent, tuition-free public schools allowed freedom to be more innovative, while being held accountable for improved student achievement. These open enrollment schools foster a partnership between parents, teachers and students that lead to improved academic results.

Studies indicate that effective public charter schools are making a significant impact on student achievement. Research from a RAND study, as well as a Betts and Tang meta-analysis indicates that public charter schools increase high school graduation and college acceptance rates, and provide significant benefits to students from low-income neighborhoods or students who are struggling in traditional public schools.

For more information about public charter schools, or about National Charter Schools Week, please visit

May 6, 2012

Standard & Poor's gives SABIS International Charter School a high credit rating

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services published a report on May 03, 2012 affirming its 'BBB' long-term rating on Massachusetts Development Finance Agency's series 2009 revenue bonds issued for SABIS International Charter School (SICS).  The report states that the outlook on the rating is stable.

Abstract: The rating affirmation reflects our view of SICS' continued positive operating performance, solid demand profile, and strong management team, combined with liquidity and coverage metrics for fiscal 2011 that are adequate for the rating category. More specifically, the 'BBB' rating reflects our view of the school's: Strong demand profile, including good enrollment history and demand for services; Historically stable financial operations, with consistent surpluses recorded; Good maximum annual debt service (MADS) coverage of 1.5x as of June 30, 2011 (audited fiscal year-end); Standardized test scores that...

The Standard & Poor's rating scale is as follows, from excellent to poor: AAA, AA+, AA, AA-, A+, A, A-, BBB+, BBB, BBB-, BB+, BB, BB-, B+, B, B-, CCC+, CCC, CCC-, CC, C, D. Anything lower than a BBB- rating is considered a speculative or junk bond.