August 28, 2020


As part of our NCSCvirtual conference wrap-up, we will be sharing a series of blog posts highlighting sessions and topics that are of great interest to our community. Whether or not you attended the conference, we think this information will be useful to you in your immediate and future planning. 

 In our first installment of the conference wrap-up series, we are breaking down education and philanthropy in the age of COVID-19 and beyond.  

The COVID-19 pandemic altered every aspect of American life and forced every organization to adjust its strategies and operations on the fly. The philanthropic community was no exception. Various institutional and individual funders made rapid changes to how and where they gave. In education philanthropy, donors had to balance providing immediate support with continuing to give towards their long-term goals. And as various issues, such as the digital divide, lack of cleaning supplies, and budget shortfalls, began to be a prominent component of the K-12 discourse, philanthropy emerged as a means to provide the additional capital to address these gaps. 

On July 23, the National Alliance brought together five experienced foundation officers and executives to recap their experiences and analyze the future of educational philanthropy. Moderated by Katherine Haley from the Philanthropy Roundtable, "Philanthropy, COVID-19, and Education in 2020" featured Dakarai Aarons from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Melanie Brown from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ash Solar from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and Kristin Todd from the Daniels Fund. 

Philanthropic Response to COVID-19

The philanthropic sector has been building the plane as they fly it, with the educational future of millions of children at stake. Kristin Todd highlighted how the Daniels Fund supports individual schools in their portfolio through a rapid response fund where they gave grants to help schools prepare for the possibility of distance learning in the fall. This support includes investing in new learning platforms, instructional support, professional development for teachers, and technology for students. She advised anyone seeking to start a charter school should engage their state association and local allies to explore opportunities and support. Ash Solar added that the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation has been supporting work to create resources for schools centered on reopening. Schools can obtain these resources through an application process. 

Along with academic-related challenges, philanthropy is also assessing the external factors that can present barriers to students' successful remote learning experience. Various external factors can impact whether a student's experience with distance learning is fruitful. As Melanie Brown touched on, recent polling conducted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation highlighted that factors, such as internet connectivity and food insecurity, can harm a student's in-home learning experience during this time. Dakarai Aarons also stressed how critical it is to address the "whole child" and make sure that children are healthy enough from a physical, mental, and social-emotional perspective to succeed. They have been working on creating resources and supporting districts and school leaders to engage children during these unprecedented times and bring out the best and healthiest versions of themselves. 

Equity and the Future of Educational Philanthropy

The digital divide has always been a core area of interest for the philanthropic sector. And now more than ever, the need to close the digital divide is top of mind. The lack of internet connectivity perpetuates economic and racial inequities within our educational system, and many of the panelists spoke about implementing new tactics to address this issue, including supporting state governments, engaging with schools directly, and creating resources. From a broader equity perspective, the panel stressed the need to ensure that their grantees are diverse and that their access to funding is equitable. By supporting more leaders of color and single-site schools, the philanthropic sector can ensure that they are empowering diverse voices. 

As education adjusted to the pandemic, the philanthropic community followed suit. Philanthropists have served as valuable partners, from data collection, direct technical assistance, and committing to equitable changes, the philanthropic sector will continue to engage, listen, and seek solutions.

You can watch "Philanthropy, COVID-19, and Education in 2020" on-demand in the NCSCvirtual Engagement Hub. Please use the email that you used to register for the conference to access the session. If you are not registered for NCSCvirtual and would like to watch the session, please click here. 

Kyle Breckenridge is the senior manager of strategic initiatives at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

August 18, 2020


Day three of the Virtual National Charter School Conference struck a much-needed optimistic note as the keynote and featured speakers focused on reimagining education.

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush shared their vision for public education in America, focusing on innovation and ensuring that all students have resources they need to learn outside the classroom.

The Senator from New Jersey began his remarks by highlighting the need for high-quality schools for all children, regardless of their zip code. He shared his personal story of his parents' fight to move to a neighborhood with well-funded public schools and during his time as Mayor of Newark New Jersey, the personal pleas from parents to help their students in failing schools. He noted that while charter schools have contributed significantly to the education sector, more work is needed to ensure equity, inclusion, and transparency. Senator Booker ended his talk with words of encouragement, noting that the charter community has fought through many obstacles and challenges and would surely overcome the current crisis with even better results for the students they serve.

Senator Cory Booker
Senator Cory Booker, D-NJ

Next, Governor Jeb Bush, in a conversation with NewSchools Venture Fund CEO Stacey Childress, struck a similar tone suggesting that a culture of action and creative problem solving was needed in public education. Some of the proposed solutions discussed included creating a national plan to ensure that all students have the resources they need to learn outside the classroom. Governor Bush also spoke about Congressman John Lewis's legacy and his incredible bias towards action when it came to addressing racial inequalities and the lack of economic opportunities. "We need more people like John Lewis," he said passionately.

Jeb Bush
Governor Jeb Bush

The featured sessions for the day carried on the problem-solving mindset with in-depth conversations on how schools can safely and successfully reopen and understanding how embracing social-emotional learning can ultimately lead to a better classroom environment and more equitable outcomes for students. Marc Brackett, founder and director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, gave a compelling presentation on the importance of cultural competency and emotional intelligence. One of the most powerful moments in the presentation was when Dr. Brackett noted that misreading students' emotions led to miscommunication and inequity, which can harm students. Trying to adjust the behavior without understanding the feeling often leads to a suppression of their feelings and worse behavior.

At the other featured session on reopening schools, school leaders from DSST Public Schools, Statesmen College Preparatory Academy for Boys, Summit Public Schools, and STEM Preparatory Schools convened to discuss the complex factors involved reopening strategies. The school leaders shared insightful tips and tricks on how to provide counseling for children and adults, developing school culture online, maintaining academic standards, and engaging thoughtfully with students and parents. The consensus among the leaders was that schools should focus not on recreating the physical school environment but instead nurture relationships with students, create community, and provide the best remote learning experience for students. One of the highlights for me came from Diane Tavenner of Summit Public schools, who noted that her team does not refer to online learning as distance learning because she never wants students or teachers to feel distant from one another. Instead, Summit refers to their online learning as homeschool and has developed a comprehensive strategy to make sure students feel that they are part of a community.

In many ways, the school leaders, professors, and speakers that lead sessions on day three of NCSCvirtual embodied the very optimism and can-do attitude that both Senator Booker and Governor Bush attributed to the charter sector. Attendees were able to attend sessions that will help them adapt policies to address the digital divide and inequity and deep-dive into Google applications that have helped teachers with remote instruction.

The 2020-21 school year is sure to be filled with challenges, and charter schools are sure to create new and innovative ways to meet the needs of students.

Jamison White is the senior manager of data and research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

July 28, 2020


The Virtual Charter Schools Conference (NCSCvirtual) entered day two of the event on Thursday, July 23. The conference schedule was filled with engaging sessions packed with content. The content focused on three main areas: remote learning, reopening schools, and reimagining education. 

The day began with homerooms, which focused on career tracks this week. The homeroom theme allowed participants to connect with other attendees serving in similar capacities. 

In keeping with our commitment to elevating black voices and addressing race and equity issues, DeRay Mckesson, civil rights activist and co-founder of Campaign Zero, and Tre Johnson from Catalyst: Ed opened with a powerful keynote address focused on understanding the Black Lives Matter movement. The session focused on the role of charter schools in advancing educational equity and engaging in meaningful conversations that bring about change and understanding. Artemisio Romero y Carver, a student activist and rising senior at New Mexico School of Arts, also spoke during the opening keynote on his activism in the community and encouraged us to stand with students. 

DeRay McKesson, civil rights activist
DeRay McKesson, civil rights activist 

After a brief break, breakout sessions began with a featured session on equity in education, moderated by Afrika Owes from the Center for Constitutional Rights and a KIPP STAR NYC alumna. This session featured a rockstar group of panelists: Margaret Fortune (president & CEO, Fortune Schools), Shaver Jefferies (president, Democrats for Educator Reform), and Layla Avila (CEO, Education Leaders of Color) came together to discuss the inequity within education that has plagued the American school system for years. Each panelist offered strategies that charter school organizations can implement to take steps toward eradicating inequality within education.

On day two of NCSCvirtual, registrants had the opportunity to participate in over ten engaging sessions related to reopening schools, remote learning, and reimagining schools. These sessions ranged from topics like social-emotional learning, navigating teaching during remote learning, and charter school finance. Participants walked away with newfound knowledge and insight. 

Day three is sure to provide even more opportunities for our participants. We are excited to hear from our keynote speakers who are sure to ‘bring us home’ on the final day of NCSCVirtual. We cannot wait to see you there! 

There is still time to join us live for the final day of our conference and access all content on-demand. Register here

Zoie Jones is a 2020 Walton-UNCF K-12 Education Fellow serving with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. She is a rising senior at Spelman College, a historically black college and university in Atlanta, majoring in Elementary Education. After graduation, Zoie aspires to become a teacher focusing her efforts on educating and inspiring children from low-income communities.

July 21, 2020


The Virtual National Charter Schools Conference (NCSCvirtual) kicked off on Thursday, July 16th, for the first of three content-packed days. The content focused on three main areas-remote learning, reopening schools, and reimagining education. The event kicked off with our popular homerooms, which focused this week on affinity groups. There was a little something for everyone, and our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion homeroom had nearly 200 participants. 

National Alliance President and CEO Nina Rees kicked off the conference with powerful opening remarks addressing the challenges that schools are facing in the wake of COVID-19 and the racial justice issues stemming from the protest surrounding the death of George Floyd. She stressed that the challenges we are facing must be addressed head-on, as 68% of the student population in charter schools are students of color. 

Nina Rees
National Alliance President and CEO Nina Rees

After a brief break, the breakout sessions began with a featured session by Arizona State University President Dr. Michael Crow, discussing the future of education. In his session, Dr. Crow explained how Arizona State University is taking the lead in a student-focused approach to learning and reimagining their classrooms for the future. 

Michael Crow
Arizona State University President Dr. Michael Crow

We had over 2,300 registrants participate in 9 breakout sessions with thoughtful discussions. Session topics ranged from budgeting and procurement, teacher retention, best practice for remote learning, and many others. There is no doubt that our attendees came away with tons of great information that they will be able to utilize in their schools and organizations. 

Kairos Academies
Kairos Academies presentation on preparing your model for remote learning

The virtual conference was not just keynotes and breakout sessions. We had a much-needed stretch break with Daniel Hatcher, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, as part of our Moving More Challenge. We also had over 40 exhibitors sharing valuable information and products to reopen schools safely, manage the college application process, curriculums that are student-driven, and so much more through the Virtual Solutions Center

Day two is sure to provide so much more for our attendees, and we cannot wait to hear from our great speakers. There is still time to join us live for the remaining days of the conference and access the content on-demand, register here

Patricia Guidetti is the director of programs at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

July 8, 2020


As the 2019-20 school year winds down and state legislatures issue warnings of more budget cuts, it's hard not to think about what that means for the financial picture for the next school year. We've curated four sessions for the Virtual National Charter Schools Conference to help you successfully lead your school through economic uncertainty.

Led by finance experts and charter school leaders, these sessions will prepare you with the knowledge and strategies you need to recession-proof your school:

Philanthropy, COVID-19, and Education
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact and re-shape the world, philanthropy has been keeping pace to mitigate the devastating consequences. Join Kristin Todd (Daniels Fund), Ash Solar (Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation), Dakarai Aarons (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative), Melanie Brown (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), and Katherine Haley (Philanthropy Roundtable) for a session on the impact of the pandemic on philanthropy and adjustments funders have made to better support schools. 

Charter School Finances During a Fiscal Downturn 
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a tremendous amount of economic uncertainty around the world. The effect on school budgets is yet to be fully understood, but we know that a sizable reduction in revenues is likely over the next several years. In this session, Nathan Barrett, Ph.D., (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools) will help leaders understand fiscal risk indicators, prepare a flexible budget, and plan for uncertainty by taking what we know from the Great Recession and applying it to today's crisis. 

Budgeting and Procurement in the Time of COVID 
Charter schools will face unprecedented challenges as they seek to procure products and services necessary to reopen schools safely. Leading this session is a panel of charter school and finance leaders—Ellen Lin (Green Dot Public Schools), Stephen Parmer (Uplift Education), Cameron Mascoll (Colorado Early Colleges), Catherine Sanwo (Friendship Public Charter School) and Marco Rafanelli (BuyQ)—sharing strategies and their school's approach to meeting COVID-related operations challenges with significant budget cuts. 

Planning for the Unplanned: Tools and Essential Questions for Strategic Leadership
Over the last several months, school leaders have worked to meet students' needs through the challenges presented by the coronavirus. And with multiple scenarios possible in the 2020-2021 academic school year, they'll likely need to continue to plan through uncertainty. In this session, Jessica Naioukas (Mott Haven Academy), Nnenna Ude (Match Education), and Tresha Ward (Bellwether Education Partners) will share best practices and tools for decision making when much is unknown. 

NCSCvirtual is your chance to get ahead of the curve and protect your school against the recession fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Register today for access to these sessions and more.

Sindy Pierre-Noel is the senior manager of programs at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

July 6, 2020


The NCSC Exhibit Hall is the heart of our annual conference. Each year, attendees tell us that one of their favorite things to do is to walk down the aisles checking out the booths, chat with exhibitors, and cuddle with therapy puppies. Although there is no in-person event this year, some of our sponsors and exhibitors have joined in to share resources to meet your most pressing needs.

Our all-new NCSC Virtual Solutions Center is an online directory and information platform that allows you to connect with organizations that can help you find solutions and products for your school's needs, including the new essentials created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you are looking for remote learning services or reimagining your curriculum, we've got you covered.

Visit our exhibitors and sponsors in the Virtual Solutions Center to find the resources, products, and services you need to support your work. You may even find a game, a giveaway, or a prize drawing or two!

Virtual Solutions Center

Sindy Pierre-Noel is the senior manager of programs at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.