Profiles of charter schools in Kansas
This page, a work in progress, will give information about charter schools that exist in Kansas.
Here’s a list of charter schools that were authorized during the 2009-2010 school year, according to the Kansas State Department of Education. See also a list from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the Center for Education Reform. (Numbers in parenthesis represent enrollment, in FTE, of the district in the 2008-2009 school year.)
Erie High Charter School, USD 101 Erie (506)
The district says that its high school is a charter school: “Our district is comprised of Erie High Charter School, Galesburg Middle School and Erie Elementary.” There’s no indication of what makes it a charter school, however. “Erie High School is a Charter School and has implemented Project Based Learning (PBL). Project Based Learning enables our students to explore and achieve academic excellence.” While some charter schools use project-based learning, not all do, and the presence or absence of PBL does not define a charter school.
Greely County Junior and Senior High School, USD 200 Greeley (214)
The county website says of the junior high, “Designed to offer a variety of approaches to teaching and to reach students of various learning styles, Greeley County’s Junior High Charter School concept offers a contemporary, active education where students experience one-day, two-day and week-long field studies integrating subjects from across the curriculum.” (As of 6/2010, the district website is minimal.) It’s not clear how, or even whether, the junior or senior high is a charter school. For one thing, this page from KSDE shows there is only one junior high and one senior high in the county–and charter schools are usually supplementary schools in a county, not the only ones. The same page also mentions that the charter school closed on 8/1/2005. (More here.)
Hugoton Learning Academy USD, 210 Hugoton (998)
This is a junior/senior high school for children as well as for adults who would like to complete their high school education. The school is for “Students who have found that the traditional middle and high school structures do not meet their needs.” It’s also for students “who are interested in learning about a career before they enter the workforce, vocational school, military, or college.” Students, in their program, also follow an employability curriculum (4-6 units during grades 9-12). Parents must sign a contract with the school. It is one of 34 schools in the state that is part of the Kansas Career Pipeline.
Ulysses Career Learning Academy [UCLA], USD 214 Ulysses (1,616)
The academy says that it is for students “who have found that the traditional high school setting does not meet their needs” and who “are interested in learning about a vocation.” It adds that a charter school “cannot charge tuition or discriminate by residency” or several other factors. [Compare this with the residency requirement of West Franklin Learning Center.] The school has one of the more extensive and informative web sites of the schools on this list. Students can participate in one of 8 career pathways.
Point Rock Academy, USD 218 Elkhart (643)
The USD 218 web site calls the academy “an alternative program of USD 218,” a statement that captures well the nature of charter schools in Kansas: Not independent organizations (as is the case in most states), but alternative schools or programs within a school district. This isn’t to say that these kinds of schools can’t be useful to some students, just that they’re not really charter schools.
The USD 218 web site has this to say: “Point Rock Academy is a non-traditional high school that offers extended school hours and flexible scheduling for adults who would like to earn a high school diploma. We have a highly qualified and caring staff that works with students in small group settings and provides individualized instruction to all students. Point Rock Academy’s environment is also well-suited for high school aged students who are behind in earning credits for graduation or need an alternative to the traditional high school settings.” It lists a separate website–http://www.pointrockacademy.org–that was not functional when this list was compiled.
Insight School of Kansas at Hilltop Education Center, USD 230 Spring Hill (2,834)
This is a virtual school offering a high-school diploma. Insight Schools operates in eight states. What’s an Insight class look like? You can take an online demo and see for yourself. It’s not clear what role USD 230 plays; as an online school, Insight School of Kansas should be able to enroll students from around the state.
Turning Point Learning Center, USD 253 Emporia (4,338)
This program has both a virtual-schooling option and an on-site option that includes project-based learning.
Humboldt Elementary Charter School, USD 258 Humboldt (528)
It’s not clear in what way this charter school is actually a charter school. The “About Us” page from the district says, in part, “The district operates a 4-year-old pre-school program, all day kindergarten, 1 – 5 charter elementary school, 6 – 8 middle school and a comprehensive high school, grades 9 through 12.” While it’s theoretically possible for a traditional public school to become a charter school (it’s called a “conversion”), it rarely happens. In this case, USD 258 gives no indication about what, if anything, is different at the school due to its charter status. The staff page of the district lists employees of the various schools–and doesn’t even mention “charter” in its list for the elementary school. Likewise, the student handbook for the elementary school reads like a handbook for any public school.
Learning by Design, USD 261 Haysville (4,780)
This virtual charter high school has its own web site (no surprise), and says, “If you need another option for your high school education, for whatever reason, we’ve got your solution!” There are three components of the school: A virtual school, an on-campus program, and a diploma-completion program. The on-campus program has a limited enrollment. The school uses a curriculum from Apex Learning, and offers core, honors, and AP courses.
Mulvane Academy, USD 263 Mulvane (1,855)
Unlike some districts (USD 101 Erie, USD 200 Greeley, etc.), USD offers a separate facility for its charter school. Like many charter schools, it proclaims that the school’s mission is to help students who are not succeeding in a traditional school setting. It does not have much of an effect on the district, however, since it is limited to 20 students (total) for grades 9-12. In some ways it’s not much of a charter school since it has the same curriculum and operational hours as the traditional high school. So how does it differ? “Our small numbers also enable each student to have an Individualized Learning Plan, or ILP. This plan is created by the student. It involves goal setting, action plans for each goal, and personal conferencing with teachers. Our classes are a mixture of direct instruction and computerized curriculum, thus addressing a variety of learning styles.” Aside from the ILP however, it’s not clear how different this school is from the regular high school.
St. Mark’s Charter School, USD 267 Renwick (1,946)
This is one of three elementary schools in the district.
West Franklin Learning Center High Charter, USD 287 West Franklin (702)
Though it is a public charter school, the districts says the school has “admissions requirements,” which include: The student must reside within the district. The student must be referred to the school by another school. A student must “have an open file with Franklin County Mental Health Center.” Finally, “Students are not achieving success in a traditional educational setting.”
Yoder Charter Elementary School, USD 312 Haven Public Schools (1,002)
“The mission of Yoder Charter School is to teach our students how to learn, producing responsible citizens who will be lifelong learners.” No other information is available.
Pleasantview Charter Academy Elementary, USD 312 Haven Public Schools (1,002)
This is a virtual school that uses OddesseyWare from the company K12, open to students in grades 3 and up.
Pleasantview Charter Academy High School, USD 312 Haven Public Schools (1,002)
This is a virtual school that uses OddesseyWare from the company K12, open to students in grades 3 and up.
Thomas County Academy, USD 315 Colby (919)
The district web site has minimal information about the academy, but a letter from the superintendent (April 16, 2010), says the district has closed the academy in a budget-cutting move. This is a powerful but unfortunate demonstration of the fact that charter schools do not have financial independence in Kansas.
Kinsley Junior / Senior High School, USD 347 Kinsley-Offerle (358)
Information about the charter school options is sparse. A web page on staffing shows two people involved with the charter school: Marcy Sommerfled and Kitrina Craft. Total district enrollment is 375 students.
Stafford Middle / High Charter School, USD 349 Stafford County (269)
“Our high school offers a charter school for students interested in entrepreneurship. It is the Stafford Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (SEED) Center. Students start their own business and become business owners through this program.”
Walton Elementary School, USD 373 Newton (3,408)
The web site of the school district gives no clue to this school being unusual in any way. The only difference is that the school is listed as “Walton Rural Life Center.” It is one of five elementary schools in the district. A video mentions project-based learning with an emphasis on agricultural technology, as well as an advisory council of parents. Kudos to the school for putting together a video to give people an idea of what school is about. But the description from the principal suggests that the most important part of being a charter school is that it let her tap into federal funding. Having extra money is always nice, especially if it comes from someone else, but is Walton a charter school or a magnet school?
Sterling Academy, USD 376 Sterling (531)
This elementary school has a college partner in Sterling College. Judith Best, a professor in the college’s education department, is also head of the school. The link helps Sterling College education majors gain real experience. The school teaches in thematic units and uses a character-education program from the Boy Scouts.
Walden Center, USD 382 Pratt (1,109)
From the district website: “The Walden Center is a successful Charter School which offers an alternative setting with flexible scheduling for students wishing to complete requirements for high school graduation. Instruction is provided by certified instructors and expectations for graduation meet Pratt High School standards. The Walden Center is located at 123 N. Oak. Call 620-672-4555 for more information.” The site does not describe the offerings (for example, who provided the curriculum), size of enrollment, or much else. The school is open to any resident of Kansas who has not earned a high school diploma. Students will need to periodically travel to Pratt to take tests on site.
Smoky Valley Virtual Charter School, USD 400 Smoky Valley (998)
“SVVCS offers a new program tailored to students who need to complete and gain credits to graduate from high school. While SVVCS still offers traditional courses it is providing additional flexibility in regaining credits while students also work on courses needed to complete the requirements of Smoky Valley, USD 400 and the State of Kansas to receive a high school diploma.”
21st Century Learning Academy Elementary and 21st Century Learning Academy High School, USD 424 Mullinville (2,231)
These are virtual schools, with on-site facilities in Mullinville and Haviland. The district site offers little other information.
Dickinson County Virtual School, USD 435 Abilene (1,535)
The web site has biographical information for staff. It also describes the service projects that students have undertaken.
Caney Valley Charter Academy, USD 436 Caney Valley (829)
According to the school website, “The Caney Valley Charter Academy is to provide the best educational experience possible by developing individualized achievement plans based on student interests, abilities and aspirations. Students will take personal ownership of his/her learning and be encouraged to follow their own vision for the future.” The web site has buttons for further information (such as “career clusters”), but none of them work.
Kansas Career and Technical Virtual School, USD 444 Little River (320)
No information found online at this time.
Extend High School, USD 490 El Dorado (1,995)
“The USD 490 Board of Education took action Monday night to make Extend High School a program within El Dorado High School, rather than a charter school, next year.
This was necessary because the federal charter school funding the district had received for Extend ends this year.
“We believe the charter school has been an excellent investment for our district,” said Superintendent Sue Givens. “By making it a program of EHS, it will remain at the same location, have the same goals and operate the same.” — El Dorado Times, May 13, 2010
Lawrence Virtual School, USD 497 Lawrence Public Schools (10,669)
“It combines the best elements of home-schooling – flexibility and individual instruction by the parent – with the guidance, support and accountability of certified teachers using a high-quality, standards-and Web-based curriculum. At present, 1079 students in grades K-8 from across the state of Kansas are enrolled.”
Cornerstone Alternative Charter High School, USD 499 Galena (757)
“Cornerstone High School is an ‘alternative’ high school in the extreme southeast corner of Kansas. The school was founded in 1993 as a collaborative effort between the Cherokee County School districts – Baxter Springs, Columbus, Galena, and Riverton. The school serves students ages 15 to 21 with programs for adult students as well.”
Maurice R. Holman Academy of Excellence, USD 500 Kansas City (18,941)
According to this web page, “The purpose of the Charter School is to offer a unique curricular instructional approach with high academic standards for all students. The school utilizes the Core Knowledge Curriculum as well as other approaches to accelerate outcomes for children. In addition, the school offers foreign languages, character development, entrepreneurial opportunities and training.”
Hope Street Charter Academy, USD 501 Topeka Public Schools (13,292)
From the application page of the school’s web site, the school appears to focus on credit recovery as well as distance learning.
Parsons Health Careers Academy Charter School, USD 503 Parsons (1,231)
According to the web page, “Parsons Health Careers Academy (PHCA) provides a comprehensive college preparatory education for 10th-12th grade students, with an emphasis on preparing our students for a career in health sciences. PHCA will accomplish this mission by educating students to the diverse opportunities offered by the health science field. Students will learn through a specialized curriculum, laboratory-based research and internships at area colleges and health centers. PHCA will be a local public school of choice that is open to all students and that does not charge tuition.” The school has an extensive amount of information on its website, giving interested families an opportunity learn more.
Service Valley Charter Academy, USD 504 Oswego (465)
Focus on livestock, from the way the page looks at the moment. A Facebook page for the school says “At Service Valley Charter Academy our students will experience a well-rounded curricula that includes core academics as well as project-based learning.’
Comments and analysis
Where are the big districts?
In Kansas, charter schools are part and parcel of school districts. Did you notice anything about the school districts listed on this page? They’re on the smaller size. In fact, of the top 10 districts in terms of enrollment, only 500 (Kansas City), 501 (Topeka), and 497 (Lawrence) are represented. There are no charter schools in the four biggest districts USD 259 (Wichita), USD 512 (Shawnee Mission), USD 233 (Olathe), or USD 229 (Blue Valley). Neither are there any charter schools in USD 475 (Geary County Schools), 305 (Salina) or USD 457 (Garden) city, which occupy slots 8 through 10 on the list of the 10 largest districts.
Are magnet schools substitutes for charter schools?
While USD 259 Wichita does not have charter schools, it has a number of magnet schools.
Here’s how the U.S. Department of Education defines magnet schools:
Magnet schools are designed to attract students from diverse social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. They focus on a specific subject, such as science or the arts; follow specific themes, such as business/technology or communications/humanities/law; or operate according to certain models, such as career academies or a school-within-a-school. Some magnet schools require students to take an exam or demonstrate knowledge or skill in the specialty to qualify to go to the school, while others are open to students who express an interest in that area.
And on charter schools:
Charter schools are public schools that operate with freedom from many of the local and state regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Charter schools allow parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs, and others the flexibility to innovate and provide students with increased educational options within the public school system. Charter schools are sponsored by local, state, or other organizations that monitor their quality while holding them accountable for academic results and responsible fiscal practices.
In other words, magnet schools are not a substitute for charter schools.
Is everyone in a charter school?
It’s not clear, at least from the websites of various districts, what makes the “charter school” a charter school. To begin with, no charter school in Kansas (by law) has a governing body that is independent of the local board of education. That’s in stark contrast with the record of most states.
The confusion of whether Kansas charter schools are indeed charter schools continues when you consider that some districts. For example, USD 101 Erie calls its one high school a charter school. The county government calls USD’s one junior high a charter school as well. A similar story can be told about USD 258 Humboldt.