15 Reasons to join us at the 2019 Independent charter school symposium

Updated: Aug 15, 2019

1. Making the progressive case for charter schools

The education debate has grown increasingly polarized. There is not one of us in the charter sector who hasn’t felt the backlash—nationally, locally or personally.

In the midst of the noise, it’s easy to lose sight of the values that brought us into this field in the first place.

But we can remind each other and together we can deliver our message. We’ve witnessed the potential of schools that are intentionally conceived and supported alongside their communities. We’ve facilitated the development of creative, progressive and socially responsible programs seen the growth of our students. These insights are meant to be shared—and you can share them.

Together, we can advocate for education that works. Let’s reclaim the narrative.

2. Healing our communities; Healing the World

Our schools are focal points of our communities and, ideally, the lessons of our classrooms extend beyond the walls and the lessons of our communities find their way into our classrooms. #ICSS19 will honor the contributions our schools have made towards community wellbeing and towards addressing critical issues of our times.

A principal theme of ICSS19 is Healing our Communities; Healing the World. This strand is being curated by our friends from the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC), sponsors of the National Service Learning Conference. Over two days we will devote one of our breakout rooms to presentations from charter schools that have integrated service learning into their programs and to sessions led by NYLC on developing and implementing your own service-learning programs. Learn about the awesome “Water Warriors” of The STAR School on the edge of the Navajo Nation and the kids from Academia Avance in Los Angeles who flew to Puerto Rico to work for a week rebuilding the still badly-damaged island.

In a time of national divisiveness, we need to see more of this and we need to do more of this. Come to Albuquerque and see how our friends are doing it!

3. Saving the Teaching Profession

The teaching profession is imperiled. Teachers are leaving or retiring and fewer young people are entering the profession. The vanishing talent pipeline is a crisis-in-the-making. Why is this happening? What needs to be done to turn this around? What can we do?

Join us at ICSS19, where our Saving the Teaching Profession strand will be the space to share stories of what our schools are doing to attract and retain talented professionals. Learn from school leaders who have thought deeply about these issues and have worked with their staff on shared leadership, innovative programming, compensation structures, PD and school culture to create vibrant places of learning that inspire teachers to come and stay.

We’ve all heard the popular and ill-informed criticisms of charter schools being burnout factories for teachers. Not our schools! 

Please come -- and bring a few of your teachers as well!

4. Race, Diversity, and School Culture

How can we best ensure diversity throughout our schools including leadership and governance? How does school culture reflect diversity? What about schools that choose self esteem via cultural identity rather than diversity?

65 years after Brown v. Board of Education, segregation and racial inequality are still pervasive in our schools and candid talk about addressing the dynamics behind it is in short supply. But not at #ICSS19!

Join us at the Independent Charter School Symposium in Old Town, Albuquerque where we will have two days of discussions, panels and workshops on Race, Diversity, and School Culture. Learn from organizations like the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition, that understand how “diverse by design” charter schools have the potential to transform the landscape of education. And join us for what will surely be a fantastic keynote by professor Nancy Lopez, the Director of the Institute for the Study of Race and Social Justice at the University of New Mexico.

Bring a team from your school. It’s going to be awesome.

5. Innovation and Multiple Measures

We put ourselves here because we thought we could create better schools. We bought the bedrock principle behind charter schools—Autonomy in exchange for Accountability—and many of us thought that if we just got the innovative and engaging pieces right the Accountability thing would take care of itself—that kids would do just fine on the tests. Then came the reality: outcomes were below what our authorizers expected. Fingers were wagged, boards got antsy, and our schools started to regress towards more traditional programming. DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?

It’s hard for innovation to flourish in an outcomes-obsessed environment. We have to defend our values and approach and we have to measure the success of what we are doing. We need to demonstrate to our authorizers the importance of what we do and the validity of our metrics. These are no small tasks. Innovation and Multiple Measures go hand in hand and are the centerpiece of a very important strand at #ICSS19.

The programming we've planned for this strand is a bit long to detail here—but it is super. And it’s being curated by our friend, Jeremy Cavallaro the ED of Community Roots Charter School in Laguna Niguel, CA—a school with a flourishing and phenomenal PBL program. We’ll publish all the workshops and sessions in this strand shortly but it will be a two-day treat for those who want to see how other schools are successfully integrating highly creative programming in their schools AND how they are making the case to their authorizers.

6. Reaching All Learners

Our schools welcome kids of every background and with every imaginable challenge and talent. That’s what democratic public schooling is about. Through our doors walk students who are over-age and under-credited, English language learners, blossoming musicians, and those dealing with difficult life circumstances. How do we reach them all?

In our Reaching All Learners strand, we’re going to learn from schools that take a culturally responsive/student centered approach and from those that rely on more traditional intervention programs. Christine Nick from the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation will talk about the teaching platform they’ve developed that rocks! Folks from the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy will show how they’re using sign language to create a common culture between speaking and non-speaking children. And our friends from the Native American Community Academy and their students will talk about their programs and lead us in an opening ceremony to set the tone for the Symposium.

7. Startup Bootcamp

Our culture fetishizes the the work of tech startups and heaps endless praise upon them.

Humbug! That’s a day at the beach compared to the first 5+ years of getting an independent charter school off the ground. Whether you’re a founder, community leader, teacher, board member or the guy who’s out shoveling snow and overseeing the recycling (who most likely is one of the aforementioned) there is nothing that can really prepare you for what’s to come. We don’t have network resources to fall back on. No premade talent pipeline, teaching scripts or deep pockets. It’s a wild ride and it’s great, community-building work. 

The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. 

Come join us at the Independent Charter School Symposium in Albuquerque and dive into the nuts and bolts in our Startup Bootcamp. We’re going to hear from folks with expert knowledge of governance, finance, facilities and accountability. And we’ll hear great stories from the trenches of those who have fought every conceivable battle to get their school to excellence and sustainability. Do you have a tale to tell?

Reason 8: We are the answer to the madness

I’m out of words to express the indignities and pain of the last few weeks. Read whom you like and weep.

There are answers to the darkness and madness. We are one of them. 

Our schools have been described as “laboratories of innovation” created for the improvement of all public education. That is fine and good. But we must be more. Our schools must be beacons of democracy at a time when the greater institutions around us are shaking. 

We are self-governing public charter schools. I love my local district schools, but they are tied to leashes that restrict the agency of their school leaders and staff. I respect the work and the outcomes from the well-established network charter schools but they, too, limit democratic action in their schools with their own top-down hierarchies.

It is within our schools—community-informed, self-managed, independent public charter schools—where democracy in education has the most promise. 

Let’s make John Dewey proud. Come to Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico—la Tierra del encanto—and let’s talk about how we can collectively leverage our work so that we are not just islands of sanity, but a growing movement ready to take the lessons we’ve learned and help spread true democatic reform to all public education. 

If you think the time is ripe, you’re a click away from being part of the solution. -SZ

9. Listen to what our kids are saying: student activism across the U.S.

Demographers and economists say that we’re looking at the first generation who will not do better financially than their parents. If that is so, it certainly casts an ominous light on the American Dream. But we’re leaving more than economic uncertainty to the rising generation: we’re leaving a world of increasing inequality, growing nationalism and environmental chaos.

But in the midst of these troubles, a movement that has harnessed the hopes as well as the fears of our kids is spreading swiftly across the nation. Student-led activism in response to gun violence, climate crisis and racial and gender inequalities is becoming a powerful force, powered by their expertise in digital media. The torch has been passed, or perhaps taken, by young people around the globe who are tired of watching their world fall apart. 

We need to listen to these voices and we will at the Virtual Student Activist Meetup which we will be hosting at #ICSSS19. Led by groups such as Zero Hour, the national youth collective that organized the Youth Climate Summit in Miami last month, and New Mexico-based Fight For our Lives, we will take a two-day virtual trip across the country to see what different student-led groups are doing to address the immense challenges we all are facing.

10. The best way to support CPICS is to come to #ICSS19

If you support the work we do in promoting self-managed, community-based charter schools, then please come to Old Town Albuquerque this fall for the 2019 Independent Charter School Symposium.

If the hyper-polarized political environment around education is undermining the work you’re doing -- then join us.

If you want to help build a movement that has the power to improve ALL public education -- then join us.

There are a lot of meetups and conferences begging for your time. And we know that time is your most valuable commodity. This conference is really worth your time.

11. Our Schedule & Programming

From Saving the Teaching Profession to Reaching All Learners, you’ve seen the first 10 reasons to join us at the 2019 Independent Charter School Symposium this November. We have sessions tackling civil rights, social activism, progressive pedagogy and everything in between.

Join us in Albuquerque for 4 action packed days of important discussion, networking and cultural exploration. We have wonderful guest speakers and are working on some pretty incredible programming with a number of schools and organizations. However, it won’t be all work. We will have a brilliant art installation, Flamenco dancing, a mariachi band from a local school and a happy hour at a nearby science museum.

Take a look at our Schedule At A Glance to help you plan your trip to the Land of Enchantment.

With attendees from all across the country already registered, why not join us?

12. Ending the Polarization

We are living through the most trying times most of us have ever seen and we are subjected daily to a level of discourse that none of us could have imagined. In our corner of the world—the place inhabited by educators and the young people under their trust—polarization has reached the point where the words “public,” “privatization” and “charter schools” are weaponized. It makes conversation difficult and it undermines our work.

Educators have a common language and everyone who works in this business, whether they’re in a charter school or district-run school, or whether or not they are in a union, share common goals and common aspirations for young people. 

If you believe that we can work together as a counterforce to the polarization that’s tearing us apart, then come to ICSS19 in Albuquerque and listen to some of the many voices of reason that are invited there.

Be one of those voices. Share what you’ve learned.

13. The place, the people, the setting

There is no other place in our country where the land and the people have a deeper spiritual connection than in New Mexico. This connection is not something that most of us experience in our lives but it is woven into the tapestry of the entire state, even beyond the 19 pueblos where many Native Americans maintain centuries-old traditions. We hope to bring that spirit to our own gathering as well through art, performance, workshops and appreciation of the people and the place. Staff and students from the Native American Community Academy, a charter school in Albuquerque, will help lead us on that journey.

The Hotel Albuquerque is located just steps away from Old Town and its charming adobe houses, galleries and restaurants. The hotel grounds are beautiful, the large outdoor swimming pool is heated, there are Flamenco shows in the Tablao, and the Mexican food at Garduños inside the hotel will knock your socks off.

We are all leaders and actors in a larger movement that is fractured. Come to Albuquerque and let’s start the process of putting it back together.

14. Keynote by Nancy López: Who Counts?/¿Quién cuenta?

We are excited to announce that Dr. Nancy López will be with us on November 18th to deliver a keynote: 

¿Quién cuenta? / Who Counts?  The urgency of using our schools to ensure an accurate 2020 census and the consequences if we fail

Our schools are filled with children of immigrants and many of our families are scared. Perhaps too scared to fill out census reports. Yet our schools must be safe places and beacons of democracy.

Nancy López is Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico, Director/Co-founder of the Institute for the Study of Race & Social Justice, and Coordinator of the NM Statewide Race, Gender, Class Data Policy Consortium. Dr. López is a distinguished author, lecturer/social activist and an inspiration to all who get to know her.

¿Quién cuenta? Nosotros Contamos Who counts? We count.

Can we count on you?

Need we really say more?

Register today and stay tuned for more reasons to join us at the 2019 Independent Charter School Symposium.


© 2020 Coalition of Public Independent Charter Schools

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