Gates Foundation Announces Nine District-Charter Collaboration Cities; Copies of All Compacts Made Available

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Leaders in nine cities have developed agreements to work on collaboration between traditional and charter schools as part of an initiative supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The District-Charter Collaboration Compact cities are Baltimore, Denver, Hartford, Conn., Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, and Rochester, N.Y.

“Districts will commit to replicating high-performing models of traditional and charter public schools while improving or closing down schools that are not serving students well,” according to a Foundation statement. The Compacts -- involving the district superintendent and multiple charter school leaders, with support from other partners in the city, such as the city’s mayor, local teachers’ unions, and school board members -- also address “equity issues” such as “whether both district and public charter school students have access to necessary funding and facilities, and whether charter schools are open to all students, including those with special needs and English Language Learners.”
The Compacts for several cities include commitments among “district and charter partners to jointly develop a shared approach to school enrollment, co-develop measures of effective teaching, align the district’s curriculum to the Common Core State Standards, and share access to school data systems, according to the Foundation.
The cities will be eligible for a “modest investment” from the Foundation to advance the Compact work. A second group of cities developing compacts will be announced in April 2011. Cities will be eligible to compete for “a larger, multi-million dollar grant to work collaboratively to accelerate student achievement,” according to the Foundation.
The Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington “will publish annual reports to measure progress of the cities and outline the steps being taken to ensure proper implementation,” according to the Foundation.
The announcement follows a national conference in September in Columbus, Ohio, that highlighted cooperative practices between charter and traditional schools. The conference was the focus of an E-newsletter from the National Charter School Resource Center.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools applauded the Foundation for promoting the Compacts.
Alliance President and CEO Peter C. Groff called the Compacts “a serious step toward substantive education reform.” “We are thrilled to see this level of partnership, and the willingness to put the needs of children first,” Groff said in a statement. 
A copy of the New Orleans Compact in draft form was provided to the National Charter School Resource Center by Kevin J. Guitterrez, Deputy Superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District, which is administered by the Louisiana Department of Education in an effort to turn around underperforming schools. Created by legislation in 2003, it has worked mainly in New Orleans.
Guitterrez called the Compact an “iterative process” and said that he expects it to evolve as New Orleans goes from “1.0 to 2.0” in its movement toward a “true system of schools.” Part of the evolution, he noted, for example, is development of a comprehensive electronic enrollment system to better track and accommodate students in charter and district schools. About 70 percent of the schools are charter schools.
A copy of the District-Charter Collaboration Compact for New York City and a statement from New York City Charter School Center CEO James Merriman are available on the Center’s website. A letter from Merriman to school leaders notes that almost 90 charter schools have signed the Compact.
“I'm confident it will help ensure the sustainability of NYC's growing charter sector, make it easier for great schools to replicate, and help overcome the facilities, financial and bureaucratic hurdles that have made your work more difficult,” Merriman states in the letter. “Over time, I believe that it can play a major role in ending the charter-district war, and usher in a time when adult preoccupations are put aside for the best interests of all children in the City.”
The letter states that an advisory task force will be formed to “map out our projects and goals for this work.”
Among other plans, the New York City Compact notes the prospect of “accomplished principals within NYC DoE” taking a leave to work in a city charter school for three years and charter schools leveraging district resources, such as common core curriculum materials and teacher recruiting databases.
A description of the Rochester District-Charter Collaboration Compact, along with information about those who signed it, is available on the Rochester City School District website. Denver's Compact, which includes the names of those who signed it, also is available on the city schools website. Copies of the Compacts also are available for Baltimore, Hartford, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Nashville.