A charter school reading roundup

A national view, focused on the Panhandle: Education Week published an in-depth look at the challenges facing rural charter schools — focusing extensively on the North Idaho STEM Charter Academy in Rathdrum.

The K-8 school  had a fall 2013 enrollment of 312, and received four stars in the state’s most recent five-star ratings. The school opened  in the fall of 2012 after a three-year process of finding a four-acre site, said co-founder Scott Thomson.

“Facilities is a huge issue, especially for a rural school,” he told Education Week.

The takeaway, from Katie Ash’s article:

“Rural charters face a host of challenges that set them apart from their urban counterparts, charter experts say. Besides a lack of suitable facilities, they have smaller budgets and fewer support services than urban charters; a smaller pool of students, teachers, and administrators to draw from; and, often, particularly tense relationships with their local school districts as they compete for limited resources and relatively few students.

“Such difficulties may help explain why the proportion of charters serving rural communities, though growing, is still small: Rural charters make up about 16 percent — 785 schools — of the total number of charter schools across the United States. And only 111 of those schools operate in remote rural areas.”

A view from Burley: Charter school advocates held an informational meeting in Burley recently to tout the state’s leading online charter, Idaho Virtual Academy, and the new Idaho College & Career Readiness Academy.

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Both receive their curricula from K12 Inc., a national provider of online curricula and materials.

Parents and K12’s local development manager Heidi Higgins touted the virtual academy experience, according to a Twin Falls Times-News account of the meeting. The virtual academy received three stars in the state’s latest five-star ratings.

But the article also points out some of the controversies surrounding K12 — including the NCAA’s recent announcement that it will no longer accept academic credits from two dozen K12 schools. No Idaho schools are on that list.

To look up school star ratings, and access other school data, go to our Idaho Ed Trends site.

Disclosure: North Idaho STEM Charter School received a startup grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, which also funds Idaho Education News.

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