Idaho’s top school is not for everyone

The Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy is not a school for everyone. Three of the leader’s own children tried it, but returned to a traditional high school.

Dan Nicklay

Dan Nicklay, leader of the Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy

“It’s a tough program and you better have a good work ethic,” said Dan Nicklay, the principal and president of the public charter located in North Idaho. “The longer they stay here, the farther they surpass their peers.”

The Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy is one of the most successful schools in Idaho, according to national publications and statistics:

  • Newsweek ranked it No. 13 in its Top 20 High Schools in the West in 2012 and No. 59 in its Top 100 schools in the country (the only Idaho school on the list) in 2011.
  • The Washington Post ranked it No. 59 in the High School Challenge of 2013.
  • U.S. New and World Report ranked it among the Top 100 High Schools in the nation.
  • BusinessWeek named it the Best Overall Academic Performance in Idaho.
  •  The 36 graduates in the 2012 class earned $3.5 million in college scholarships and four went to West Point Military Academy.
  •  The 52 graduates in the 2013 class earned $5.7 million in college scholarships.
  •  Nearly 100 percent of the students tested proficient or better on Idaho’s standardized accountability measure called the ISAT.
  •  The charter earned the highest rating of five stars the past two years on Idaho’s five-star rating system and scored 95 and 93 of 100 possible points, respectively.

“We set a high standard,” said teacher Scott MacPhee. “We do everything we can to help students reach that standard, but they still have to reach it.”

While the school that serves 720 kids in grades 6-12 reaches high achievement, it does so with non-conventional and maybe controversial characteristics. Students wear uniforms, use very little technology and read classics such as “Frankenstein,” published in 1818. School leaders are outspoken in asking for autonomy and would prefer no government intervention or help.

“Yes, I’m a rabble-rouser,” Nicklay said.

At least 20 percent of students leave the academy to return to a traditional school, Nicklay said. More than 30 percent transfer after the eighth grade, not wanting to continue in the rigorous high school program. The school has a smaller waiting list of about 100 compared to other Idaho charters that can have double or triple the wait lists.

“You have to study hard or you fail,” said the public charter’s founder Bill Proser, who also is the president of the Northwest Professional Educators Association. “We created a culture where education is a top priority.”

Characteristics of the Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy

Students follow a strict dress code. Male teachers wear ties — every day. No jeans — ever.

“I don’t believe in casual Fridays,” said Nicklay, of a common practice in schools where teachers and students wear jeans or school colors and sweatshirts on the last day of the week. “Our male students started what they call ‘Formal Fridays’ when they, too, wear suits and ties.”

There is no collaboration time or structured professional development for teachers. In contrast, the Coeur d’Alene School District begins an hour late for students on Mondays when teachers use the time to collaborate.

“That’s 40 hours of lost instruction time a year,” Nicklay said. “Although I could probably do more to encourage collaboration, I never want to do anything to take away from class time.”

Coeur d'alene Academy 3

Lockers don’t have locks and students usually use books instead of tablets or laptops.

The academy does not have sports assemblies and it is against school policy to leave early for extracurricular activities.

There are no free lunches, no buses, no locks on the lockers and very little technology.

“The recent emphasis on technology in school is misguided,” Nicklay said. “Technology is best viewed as a tool, not as the focal point.”

Students carry large textbooks, reading materials and three-ring notebooks.

“We offered online-learning models and found it didn’t work and that our best plan is maximizing instruction time,” Nicklay said. “Our model is — direct instruction from master teachers.”

At least 100 students a day spend an hour after school in a quiet study session as they wait for parents to pick them up.

“I came here because I wasn’t being challenged at my other school,” said senior Melonie Wright, who plans to attend Boise State University’s nursing program next year. “The homework load is much harder here.”

Academic standards of Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy

The school’s mission says it is “dedicated to providing a rigorous, content-rich, college preparatory education for any students who are willing to accept the challenge.”

Coeur d'Alene Academy

Students, who wear uniforms, typically spend at least an hour after school in study hall.

Nicklay points out that the mission is preparing students for college, not offering college credits in the form of dual-credit classes.

“We prefer to push AP classes because we can offer a far higher quality education than the junior college here,” Nicklay said. “We promote accelerating intellectually instead accelerating academically.”

All students are required to take Latin followed by two years of foreign language. Other class requirements include ancient history, European history and a year of civics taught by a retired army sergeant.

“We go deep,” said civics teacher Karen Coughenour. “On a test, I don’t ask what happened on a date in history, I ask what was accomplished and what did that mean.”

School leaders want more autonomy

Nicklay said he wishes his charter school had more freedom to innovate or “do things outside the box.”

He’d like to have more freedom in the firing of teachers and says tenure ruins education. He also wants to hire whoever he wants, even though they may not be certificated or college-educated.

“We should be able to follow free-market principles,” he said. “The requirements and reporting we have to do with the state are ridiculous. The charter school movement was supposed to be about innovation and entrepreneurial risk taking.  If we take a risk and fail, we pay the price.  Unfortunately, we’re being forced into the generic mold.”

He’d like to see more charters, flexibility and local control.

“I’d break down these big-box schools into small schools with more choices for parents,” Nicklay said. “To be successful, you have to have a clear mission that defines you and then hire and accept teachers and students who are passionate about that mission.”

  • Ryan McGill

    Charter Schools and School Choice are the new models of American Segregation.

    “At least 20 percent of students leave the academy to return to a traditional school, Nicklay said. More than 30 percent transfer after the eighth grade, not wanting to continue in the rigorous high school program.”

    Quick math: ~50% drop-out rate??

    That is a high drop-out rate. I guess that is what you get when you apply Free-Market principles to kids.

    • http://www.idchartercoalition.org/ Jane Wittmeyer

      Those students didn’t “drop” out–they opted out for a less rigorous program.
      School choice allows parents and students to chose.
      Without school choice in Idaho, students in CDA would not even HAVE the opportunity to choose.

      • Shawn Tiegs

        Jane,
        Thanks for adding to the conversation. I am glad that this post has stirred up the discussion. It is an important and ongoing issue! I wish everyone in Idaho was involved in this discussion and I hope that Idaho Ed News can continue to address the issues that charters, vouchers and traditional public schools face.

        My personal opinion is that with no buses running, it is not really a choice for some students. If a parent believes that they can’t afford to provide a school lunch for their kid, they are eliminated and that is not a choice the kid makes. It also isn’t a choice if some students do not have the necessary support at home that would allow them to be successful at this high performing school. It isn’t a choice for students with severe learning disabilities who are not able to make the cut because they lack support. It would be interesting what the median income was for families at CDA Charter and how it compares to the traditional schools in the district. (Perhaps CDA Charter does provide some of these services, but from my reading of the article they don’t)

        Please understand that I am not anti-charter, I do believe charter schools have the potential to lead with innovations that can improve practices in education. I also believe that ultimately education does come down to the choices that students and their parents make. If choice, however, leads to a separation of the “elite” and “lower class,” I don’t believe this leads to a better society. I fundamentally do not believe that public education serves society if we adopt a “survival of the fittest” mentality. Consider all of the kids at the traditional public schools that will not interact or learn from the higher performing students at CDA charter. As a society, we have decided to pay taxes so that ultimately every student will become a knowledgeable, productive citizen of our republic. We don’t pay taxes so our own kids can go to school. We pay taxes so that all kids can go to school.

        I also think that we always have a choice, we have a choice to demand better from our public schools, we have a choice to get involved in the system and leave our mark. For doing that, I thank you.

      • Kevin S. Wilson

        1. You claim that 50% of Academy students “have opted out for a less rigorous program.” Do you have special insight into the reasons why each of those students left Academy? Or are you basing your claim solely on Mr. Nicklay’s statements about why those students left? It seems to me equally plausible that some of those students were counseled out of attending Academy so their low test scores wouldn’t effect the school’s overall ratings, that some of them had emotional or developmental issues that were not being attended to at Academy, and that some of them were English learners who were falling behind because of a language barrier that wasn’t being accommodated. I have just as much evidence to support those speculative explanations for such a high drop-out rate as you have for your claim that the kids all dropped out because they were lazy and shiftless.

        2. “School choice allows parents and students to choose.” No one is calling for the abolition of charter schools, nor for an end to whatever you might mean by “school choice.” The issue instead is, “At what cost to public schools do we allow charter schools to exist?”

        3. “Without school choice in Idaho, students in CDA would not even HAVE the opportunity to choose.” That’s a self-evident statement that borders on the tautological. I’m not sure if you are purposely begging the question, or are engaging in circular reasoning, but you seem to have missed the point that some of these students appear to be having choices made for them, rather than making choices themselves.

    • Ed DePriest

      They drop out because they don’t want to work hard, and/or don’t want to meet behavior expectations and other rigorous challenges. So, what do the do, they go back to the public school where the staff has to deal with their lack of work ethic and inappropriate behavior.
      The comments about school segregation are correct and it is not the Charter School to blame. It is the legislature for not giving the public schools the tools to eliminate the willful failure, habitually disruptive and disrespectful of the learning environment student who takes valuable teaching and learning time from the student who values the educational opportunity.
      Parents and kids are leaving public schools, not because they can’t receive a great education if they want to work hard, they are leaving to get away from the environment created by disruptive and disrespectful kids, and all of the talk and use of drugs and alcohol, “partying,” profanity, sex, bullying, and other negative activities and behaviors that caring parents want to keep their kids away from.
      We are headed for a three tier system: Private for those who can afford it; Charter for the motivated student and parent, and the public schools are going to be left with the kids who, for the most part, don’t want to be in school and do not value education. Until the legislature gives the schools tools to hold the parent responsible for the effort and behavior of the child, this segregation will continue to sift the kids into these three tiers.

  • Adam Collins

    Typical of NWPE. Trash the traditional schools, deny any form of job security for teachers, seek every opportunity to fire teachers and replace them with non-certified instructors who work for less money, and lead exclusively from the top-down with no thought given to the benefit of seeking input from the staff. If you want more autonomy, you are welcome to stop siphoning off tax dollars to fund your private school cloaked as a public school experiment. The fact that you are tax supported is obviously burdensome to your efforts, so why don’t you simply declare yourself a private school, and really learn how the free market will react to your efforts? To do anything less questions the courage of your convictions.

  • Shawn Tiegs

    It is great to have schools and teachers with high standards, willing push kids to be better. I really like the no casual Friday rule. I would love to hear more in depth information about what they are doing.

    The article had an interesting last quote “…then…accept… students who are passionate about that mission.” I hope it leads to a larger discussion about the role of charter schools in our educational system.

    I do have a few questions that were not covered:

    1) What percentage of students in the schools have Learning Disabilities? English-Language Learners? High Poverty?
    2) The article mentions says that there are “no free lunches or buses.” I am assuming this is literal. Is this because no students qualify or due to school policy? Can a student get transportation if they are not able to get to the school in another manner or are students who aren’t able to transport themselves or have an adult transport them eliminated from eligibility?
    3) Is the attrition of 20% an annual rate or the cumulative rate from 7 to 12? I. would assume annual based on the size of graduating class and the overall school size.
    4) What percentage of low performing students that are accepted via the lottery in 7th grade stick around to graduate? In other words are low performing students improving and staying or leaving the school?
    5) What happens to the kids that leave?
    6) How do the demographics of school compare to the surrounding schools? (I suppose this could be answered by questions 1 and 2)
    7) Is the city of CDA as a whole seeing a spike in extremely high performing students due to the charter school or is the overall number staying the same?

    • Tracy Clifton

      Answer to Question #1 and #6….34% of the students in this district are eligible for free and reduced lunch (see greatschools.org) while this school has 0%.

  • Kevin S. Wilson

    Mr. Nicklay wants his charter school to be free of the “ridiculous” requirements and reporting stipulated by the state and by the federal government, and he wants to hire untrained, uncertificated teachers lacking college degrees.

    Simple solution, Mr. Nicklay: Stop funding your school with taxpayer money, and instead operate an elite private school on your own dime. Problem solved.

  • Bruce Twitchell

    “To be successful, you have to have a clear mission that defines you and then hire and accept teachers and students who are passionate about that mission.”
    This sounds like to me that CDA charter is cherry-picking their students. As a public school that accepts public dollars, shouldn’t they have to accept all? How many special education students do they have at this school? Do they employ a nurse to help out students? Do they serve free lunches to the low socioeconomic students, as other schools are required to do?

    These students that cannot “cut it” in Charter High, where do they go? If they can not cut it at the new school, such as Lake City or Coeur d’Alene High, then what? I guess then it is a black mark on these schools and not Charter.

    This is legal segregation.

    • Emilie White

      Just to give some insight: the school does not pick students at all. The students who can’t (read: will not) meet the requirements leave. There are absolutely no entrance exams, other than a test to determine which level of math you will be placed in. But even that does not determine whether or not you will be accepted. Acceptance is strictly based on timing of application.
      There is no nurse, in the sense of a person who is strictly at the school to provide medical assistance. However, the health teacher, a trained EMT, takes care of any student who has extreme illness and there is a bed and supplies in his office. Instead, ill students are normally picked up quickly by parents.
      As for special education students, I assume you mean students with mental, for lack of better terms, deficiencies or needs. Though I don’t know the exact number, I know of several autistic children in the Junior class alone, ranging from almost unnoticeable to severe. However, they do not have special classes or treatment. Like everyone, they must push themselves to achieve results. Though you might think that they would perform poorly, they often excel. If you mean students who might be considered “less bright”, there are no remedial classes. Most course offer two options, such as Honors or AP, for the same subject, but even those students must push themselves to meet the requirements. The point of this school is not for everyone to get an easy A; the point is to cultivate strong minds and work ethics. It’s not for everyone. Many don’t have the willpower to do it, but even people you might call “dull” succeed through dedication and hard work.
      There is no free lunch system. I can offer no explanation, as I’m not an administrator.
      If students leave, they return to the traditional public schools, are home-schooled, or go to schools such as Bridge. If they can’t “cut it” there, then they go to another school. This, in my opinion, is not a black mark on any of the schools, but on the student. Speaking strictly for Charter, I know for a fact that IF ASKED, teachers are more than pleased to offer remedial help, even in their free time. Students must make an initiative in their education (and in life) if they expect to succeed. Success is not force fed to them.
      I hope I answered some of your questions with enough detail to help you understand the Charter philosophy a little bit more. Feel free to reply if you need more explanation or have further questions.

      • Tracy Clifton

        Emilie, are you really so naive as this, or just choose not to see? Of course students are cherry-picked…if a student cannot get a ride or needs free lunch they will not even be able to attend. The student who is very bright but has a learning disability (“mental” or otherwise) will not be able to attend because there is no one to help them “push themselves”….there is no real differentiation of the curriculum (except for hard and harder). If a student does not have parents who can “help” them with all this hard work, drive them to the library, buy them additional resources and school supplies, and just sit by their side (these kids are NOT doing it all by themselves, I can guarantee you that) they will not succeed there. Your choice of words says volumes…”mental deficiencies”…”dull”…

  • Ginny Drevlow

    I have to wonder how much of the state and federally funded education budget the
    academy accepts with this ‘no government intervention’ philosophy. How can you think a teacher has reached ‘master teacher’ status when you don’t believe a teacher even needs certification to be employable. In addition to things going ” right ” at the charter school, there is just so much that strikes me as wrong with this whole picture…

  • Rick Fletcher

    Mr. Nicklay will ignore any criticism, but his statement about AP classes providing better instruction than the local college is telling. What it seems he must mean is it suits his goals better. I wonder if he uses the AP scores as another reason to push students out of his school.

  • Rick Price

    This is a great and elite school. But the simple truth is they would not exist without the regular ed schools acting as a net catching the kids that can’t hack it there. There is nothing here that is a model for how to teach everyone. They only teach motivated kids. Every regular public school has intentional non learners in their classrooms that also must be educated somehow. I’d like to see charters created to serve these kids.

    • Tracy Clifton

      It is for that very reason that the idea of charter schools was begun in the early ’90s…how to help the kids that needed something different to succeed in school…not as publicly funded elite private schools for the affluent. No bus service or free and reduced lunch service means children living in poverty have no chance of attending. The district has 34% of its students eligible for free or reduced lunch (a commonly used indicator of poverty levels in a school or district) whereas this school has 0%. Enough said! Mr. Nicklay wants out from under state taxpayer control, let him go and fund this privately.

  • Rick Fletcher

    I don’t think you answered any questions I have. It appears you did a fine job of pushing the school’s agenda. There are many points you raised on which to comment. For example, if you believe every mentally challenged student can succeed in your environment, you are not very experienced. My point was about the headmaster’s comment about AP being better for students than the local JC would provide flies in the face about what we know nationally. A college course in science or math almost always serves a student better than AP. Given the austere methods in place I question if the science labs and equipment are sufficient.

  • Sam Wadsworth

    Mr. Nicklay portrays himself as someone who knows something about education. He does not. He has in fact rejected the mandate to leave no child behind. A mandate the rest of us are not allowed to ignore. His way is the easy way. I submit that any school adopting his practices would produce precisely the same results. There is nothing special about this school.

    There is no innovation. He and his school simply reject anyone that becomes inconvenient. Of course they don’t tell anyone to leave. They don’t actually say, “You can’t be here.” They just smugly heap work on the student until he cracks and gives up. Where is the innovation in that? It is one thing for a lazy child to fail but that is not what is going on here. He takes healthy happy kids and makes failures of half of them. One has to wonder what kind of damage this does to a child?

    The, “keep up or get out” philosophy literally means that he does not need professional educators. Teaching is not required. He just needs sycophants who are “passionate” about the school mission. While it may be that the content in the school is more difficult, teaching in this school is much, much easier and his finest teachers probably could not hack it in a truly impressive school.

    If Mr. Nicklay could honestly say that they take all comers and that all students achieve impressive results with few or no dropouts. That would be impressive. In educational terms, Mr. Nicklay and the Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy have contributed nothing, and accomplished nothing.

    It doesn’t bother me that the Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy exists. It bothers me that it is considered by the media and certain powers that be, a successful “public” school.

    In all fairness, I have to say that Mr. Niklay’s approach works. There is a cheaper, better way to educate children. Just educate the ones that are easy to educate. The rest …well, that’s their problem.

    • Tracy Clifton

      Could not agree with you more, Sam. If all schools did this, oh what a wonderful world it would be! Just kick out all the kids that can’t hack it, and let someone else deal with them….oh wait, that would be you and me, the taxpayer! This is just an entitlement program for the affluent. Glad it works for them, just don’t hold it up as any kind of successful “public” school as it can only be replicated by kicking out everyone who doesn’t measure up and forgetting about the rest.

  • Kevin S. Wilson

    Shawn Tiegs, thank you for posting those questions. I, too, would very much like to learn the answers to them.

    What puzzles me is why many of those questions weren’t asked already, as part of Idaho Education News’s coverage of the Charter Academy. Anyone with even the most cursory knowledge of the history of charter schools would realize that claims of uniqueness, academic excellence, equity, and effectiveness are likely these days to be met not only with healthy skepticism, but by the very same questions that you raise. Is the staff of IEN unaware of the issues currently surrounding charter schools? Are they unacquainted with the controversies and debates that have given rise, time and time again, to the questions that you have raised here?

    Or are they uninterested in asking those questions? If they do not wish to ask such questions themselves, then why do they not instead seek out members of the local community who, like you, are willing to ask the questions and provide some answers?

    A half-dozen civilians here have provided a critical appraisal of the Charter Academy’s claims, and have done so by relating those claims to criticisms of charter schools that have been at the forefront of the discussion of education reform for YEARS now. Why does it seem so difficult for Idaho Education News to incorporate such critical appraisal into articles such as this? Is it because the IEN staff don’t know who to ask, or don’t care to ask?

  • Rick Fletcher

    Mr Wilson raised some important questions about the “News” Idaho Education News is presenting about Charter Schools and other issues. Ms Swindell, Mr Richert and IEN, Wilson’s pointed questions deserve straight-forward answers.

  • Travis Manning

    I agree that issues Rick Fletcher and Kevin Wilson have raised here need to be addressed.

    I raised related issues in an op-ed a few months ago. Is IEN doing public relations work or journalism? This is a related, important question that deserves a solid answer because the two endeavors are entirely separate avocations.
    http://www.idahoednews.org/voices/idaho-ed-news-should-broaden-its-content/

    While IEN is admittedly doing some great education reporting, a great service to the state of Idaho, it does so with its own agenda and apparent bias. I have read over 90% of the content on this entire website and too many of the articles blur the lines between legitimate news and feature pieces, often labeled as “News” when in fact they are more feature. News stories are too often one-sided and lacking multiple viewpoints.

    Taking a look at the website right now, for example, by clicking on the top navigation bar on “News” and “Features,” here is what I found:

    Under “News,” the articles that are listed:

    “Task force Responds to Cost Criticisms”
    “Garden Valley Superintendent to Retire”
    “Boise Summit Focuses on Reading”
    “Compass: an Incremental Tech Rollout”
    “Two Superintendents Receive Awards”
    “Monday Morning News Roundup”
    “Lawmakers Study K-12 Budget Scenarios”
    “Trustees Support Idaho Core Standards”
    “CDA Teacher Receives Top State Honor”
    “Report: Idaho Scores Will Drop Sharply”

    Under “Features,” the articles that are listed:

    “Garden Valley Superintendent to Retire” *
    “Compass: An Incremental Tech Rollout” *
    “Trustees Support Idaho Core Standards” *
    “Idaho’s Top School is not for Everyone”
    “K-12 Committee Enters Schoolnet Debate”
    “Big Screens and a Gradual Step”
    “Caldwell Goes Green for School Resources”
    “Committee Discusses Teacher Licenses Pay”
    “In Eastern Idaho, a Collaborative iPad Rollout”
    “Taking a Page from Proposition 3″

    *The first 3 articles under “Featured” are also labeled as “News.”

    ~Note: When clicking on “Features” the articles that come up say “Category Archives for Featured” (notice the ‘d’ after ‘feature’ instead of an ‘s’). Why the distinction here between “Features” and “Featured”? In my mind, the two seem different. Features are different from “featured” news stories, for example. It feels like the reporters/editors here can’t necessarily distinguish themselves the difference between News, Feature and Featured stories.

    Not enough hard questions are asked in way too many of IEN’s pieces and the reason why seems pretty clear: The Albertson Foundation writes the paychecks of “their reporters.” IEN staffers are “their people,” as much as IEN claims otherwise. It’s like Rupert Murdoch owning Fox News. Same thing. Murdoch may tell his company, his editors and staff, to report on the news; nevertheless, news is produced with an inherent bias (this isn’t to knock Fox News necessarily, because MSNBC, on the other side of the spectrum, has a similar problem). There is a built-in viewpoint/perspective/mindset that employees must adhere to or they may lose their jobs, though nothing like this is ever actually said.

    I wonder what would happen if IEN tackled more tough topics, topics dealing with:
    the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), out-of-state monies being funneled into Idaho for ed reform and for GOP candidates running for public office, the privatization of Idaho’s public schools, and many more topics that IEN can’t quite get a bead on…..

  • http://shapiromatic.wordpress.com Matt Sharp

    This sounds like an excellent school….for the year 1912.

  • Kevin S. Wilson

    Mr. Manning,
    In July, in response to a request from Kevin Richert for story ideas about “specific areas or groups [IEN] should cover,” I suggested the following. In an e-mail a few days later, Jennifer Swindell thanked me for the suggestions and noted that they would look into them after completing the usual “back-to-school” articles. So far, that’s all that has become of the suggestions.

    1. Idaho Code 33-5213 was recently revised to alter the membership of the Idaho Public Charter Schools Commission and the manner in which members are appointed. Why were these changes made? What are the implications of the changes? Who benefits, and in what way?

    2. House Speaker Bedke and Senator Nonini are both members of the Education Task Force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Why do Bedke and Nonini belong to ALEC? Who pays for their membership and for their participation in ALEC activities? Why are they relying on ALEC model legislation rather than drafting their own? These and other questions should be asked of Bedke, Nonini, and the other 14 legislators with ties to ALEC.

    3. Charter schools are extremely popular among education reformers. They are also extremely popular with hedge-fund managers and venture capitalists, partly because they can almost double their money through the New Markets Tax Credits Program by financing the construction and operation of charter schools. What connection, if any, exists between Idaho charter schools and the hedge funds and venture capital firms promoting and financing charter schools? What influence, if any, do such investment firms have over legislation governing charter schools? Which hedge funds and venture capital firms are financing the election campaign funds of Idaho legislators?

    4. K12, Inc. has operated Idaho’s largest virtual charter school, the Idaho Virtual Academy, since its inception. How has K12, Inc. managed to avoid in Idaho the complaints, allegations, and lawsuits that plague the company’s operations in Colorado, Ohio, Florida, and elsewhere, ranging from violations of state and federal law to misrepresenting its turnover rate to shareholders, and hiring uncertified teachers responsible for hundreds of students each?

    5. A little over a year ago, the biparisan Joint Legislative Oversight Committee asked the Idaho Office of Performance Evaluations to determine the ways in which charter schools differ from traditional schools and to assess the value added by charter schools to the Idaho K-12 public school system. The findings were that charter schools do not significantly differ from traditional schools, even though they are intended by legislation to differ, and that no one really knows if they add any value. Why does the Legislature keep asking the Office of Performance Evaluation to investigate education matters, then ignore, reject, or belittle the Office’s findings? What do the reports REALLY mean?

  • Kevin S. Wilson

    The Academy does not offer free or reduced-cost lunch. It provides no transportation to school. It requires students to purchase uniforms, including shorts and shirts embroidered with the school’s logo. As part of the admission process, it requires parents to attend individual meetings with the principal to discuss the school’s philosophy. Such meetings are scheduled by the school, not by the parents.

    Remember these things when Mr. Nicklay insists that his school does not cherry pick students poised and primed for academic success. Tell that to the working mothers and fathers of low-income kids who need a subsidized lunch and a ride to school, who don’t have money for monogrammed polo shirts from L. L. Bean (one of the school’s authorized vendors) and who can’t get away from working two jobs whenever it’s convenient for the school to schedule an interview with them.

    BTW, I went uniform shopping for a senior girl at L.L. Bean, using the Academy’s guidelines. I quickly spent over $400 for the following modest collection .

    2 + logo (2.50 ea.) Girls’ Mesh Athletic Shorts 45.00
    2 + logo (2.50 ea.) Girls’ Short Sleeve Basic T-shirt 25.00
    1 + logo (5.50 ea.) Girls’ Crew Sweatshirt 20.50
    2 + logo (5.50 ea.) Girls’ V-neck Drifter Sweater 59.00
    1 + logo (5.50 ea.) Girls’ Pleat Front Blend Chino Shorts 29.98
    2 Girls’ Plain Front Iron Knee® Blend Chino Pants 60.00
    5 + logo (5.50 ea.) Women’s Regular Short Sleeve Performance Interlock Polo 127.50
    1 Girls’ Solid Pleated Skirt 35.00

    • Ximena McKenna

      I think you are missinformed here. I am a working mom and new to Charter (and Idaho). The initial meeting with Mr. Nicklay was set by me, at my convenience, and it was to learn about the school. This is a minimal involvement required by any parent regardless of the school your kid goes to. I have had phone meetings with the teachers, and I have constant communication with the school via email. As a working parent, you just have to use your imagination to be involved.
      Carpooling is available and the school makes requests (to other parents) via Daily Announcements for those kids needing transportation.
      The school gives you many options as to where to purchase uniforms from, it is up to the parent (again, to use imagination) to keep the cost low. We bought the polo shirts from JCPenney and Aeropostale (on line) for under $13. The sweaters are optional and so are the plead skirts. The pants can be found at Target for $15. This is A LOT less than buying street clothes, which you would have to buy any way if they’re in regular school.

      • Rick Fletcher

        Ms McKenna,
        Students who go to public schools do not have to purchase new clothing to go to school. If you visit a public school, you will see students wearing clothes that appear to be years old. This is one sign of poverty and the way the CdA Charter is structured, a sign that student will not qualify at the Charter School. Any additional cost eliminates many students and public schools are structured to address these issues. Charters also address the issue but often in an exclusionary way.

  • Holly Rae

    If a principal sets the tone for an entire school, I would be pulling my kids out if Mr. Nicklay’s influence ASAP.
    “If we take a risk… We fail.. We pay the price?” Seriously? Applying that to kids?

    No, Mr. Nicklay, the kids pay the price. And a few generations later, society will pay the price. What values are you instilling into these kids?

    Your calculated, disrespectful attitude towards your teacher? To the process of how teachers qualify? Really?

    If I were a teacher, I would never want to work for you. As a parent, I would never want my kids to be be influenced by your intolerant means of educating. No thank you. Take your “accolades” as you will. I am not impressed.

    To think I scolded my niece when she said something disrespectful towards you while she attended your institution? I wonder if I would have after seeing what you have to say about her grandmother’s profession?

    My nephew attends your school. I most certainly make sure his father sees what Mr. Nicklay has to say about his kids’ teachers.

    Sheesh!

  • Richard A Evensen

    “no free lunches, no buses” , Dan Nicklay

    Understood. Answer: no public funds.

  • Jeff Nitcy

    It sounds as though Dan Nicklay is doing some things correctly, and it’s producing results. We teachers in the public school system have many students who won’t work, extra-curricular activities are constantly removing students from class when those students aren’t performing well academically, and using technology is chic. Public schools seem to conform to what is popular (participation trophies, sports, and tech), rather than do what produces results.