Stanford CREDO Study Finds CMO Charter Schools Have Positive Impact on Student Performance

Stanford CREDO Study Finds CMO Charter Schools Have Positive Impact on Student Performance

CREDO logoA recently released report from CREDO at Stanford University looks at the effects of charter public schools associated with a charter management organization (CMO), a relationship used with Ascent Classical Academies and the recently approved charter school in Douglas County.

The findings show that charter schools partnered with a non-profit CMO using proven models demonstrate improved education outcomes for children.  The study also concludes that CMOs that maintain more direct control over school operations post higher gains than contracting out services to external third-party vendors.  CMOs show their strongest effect with traditionally underserved populations, that include minorities and children living in poverty.

Find the report Executive Summary here.


The High-Level Summary of CREDO Findings

1. On the whole, the analyses in this study show attending a charter school that is part of a larger network of schools is associated with improved educational outcomes for students. The history of CREDO’s research work has shown steady and consistent, even if gradual, improvement in charter school network performance. It is reasonable to expect current policies to result in continued improvement. However, there is still room for charter school authorizers to accelerate the rate of improvement by ensuring only the finest of charter school organizations are given the privilege of expanding their services to multiple schools.


2. The management arrangements of the network provider influence the typical gains that students make. Schools that contract with external vendors for much or all of the school operations post lower results than network operators that maintain direct control over their operations.


3. Charter school operators that hold non-profit status post significantly higher student academic gains than those with a for-profit orientation. For-profit operators have results that are at best equal to the comparison traditional public school students (reading) or worse (math).


4. Charter organizations have their strongest effects with traditionally underserved populations such as black and Hispanic students. This finding is consistent with previous CREDO research that shows minority students and students in poverty have the strongest gains from attending charter schools. Encouraging expansion of networks with a proven track records of success with these students has a strong likelihood of improving the quality of educational outcomes across the nation.


5. The effectiveness of charter school organizations varies across states. Several factors can contribute to these differences. One of the most obvious factors is differences in state policies around charter school practices and authorizing. While studies such as this can identify differences, there is a strong need for more qualitative research around state practices which lead to better out outcomes for students.

Summer Reading Suggestions

Summer Reading Suggestions

Girl Reading in LibraryWith school out for the summer, many parents want to know what kinds of books their children should be reading.  The following suggestions are taken from our sister-school Golden View Classical Academy.

Download the summer reading list

Kindergarten – Second Grade


The most important thing you can do to help your incoming Kindergarteners is to read to and with them. Devote some time every day to reading aloud with your child, and help your child think about the book by asking thoughtful questions as you go. For instance, why do you think a character does what she does? What do you think they are thinking about when they do something interesting or notable? If your child is especially interested in a particular character or passage, ask him or her to repeat part of the story to the rest of your family. Visit the library and explore new subjects. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes, by Robert Frederick Publishers
  • The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother Goose, by Arnold Lobel
  • The Classic Treasury of Aesop’s Fables, by Don Daily

First Grade

As with Kindergarteners, students in the First Grade benefit greatly from reading aloud with parents. At this age, listening to a parent read will expand their vocabulary and broaden their interests. Here are some suggestions that a First Grade student might enjoy:

  • The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss. Other rhyming books are great, since rhymes help students hear, see, understand, and remember the building blocks of words.
  • Aesop’s Fables: The Tortoise and the Hare, The Lion and the Mouse, The Ant and the Grasshopper, etc. (By all means, keep reading fables if your child likes them; doing so will not spoil those read in the next grade.)
  • Curious George books, by H.A. Rey
  • Books by Beatrix Potter, including The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, The Tale of Tom Kitten, and The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck.
  • Fairy tales, including The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Ugly Duckling, etc.

Second Grade

As with Kindergarten and First Grade, students in Second Grade should read aloud with parents and, if they can, take turns reading. At this age, listening to a parent read will continue to expand their vocabulary and broaden their interests. Here are some suggestions that a Second Grade student might enjoy:

  • Aesop’s Fables: The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Dog in the Manger, The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, The Maid and the Milk Pail, The Fox and the Grapes
  • Stories by Hans Christian Andersen (Parents should read these ahead of time to make a good selection, since there are some more adult scenes.)
  • Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling
  • George and Martha series, by James Marshall
  • The Biggest Bear, by Lynd Kendall Ward
  • The Magic School Bus books about weather, magnets, tools, the body, insects, animals, and plants.

Third – Sixth Grade

Beginning in Third Grade, students are assigned one or two particular books as part of their summer reading.

To help students think about these books, here is a list of productive questions for every grade:

  1. Who are the important characters?
  2. What is the story’s setting? In what place and time period does the story occur?
  3. What are the major events of the story, and in what order do they occur?
  4. What conflicts arise, and how are they resolved? Do any remain unresolved?

Third Grade

  • Little House on the Prairie (ISBN: 978-0064400022)

Fourth Grade

  • Guns for General Washington (ISBN: 978-0152164355)

We also recommend the following books:

  • The Reluctant Dragon, by Kenneth Grahame
  • The Sword in the Tree, by Clyde Robert Bulla

Fifth Grade

  • The Shakespeare Stealer (ISBN: 978-0141305950)

We also recommend the following book:

  • Number the Stars (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), by Lois Lowry

Sixth Grade

  • The Golden Fleece (ISBN: 978-0689868849)

We also recommend the following non-fiction books:

  • Herodotus and the Road to History, by Jeanne Bendic
  • Archimedes and the Door of Science, by Jeanne Bendic
  • Augustus Caesar’s World, by Genevieve Foster
  • Up From Slavery (Dover Thrift Edition), by Booker T. Washington

Upper School

In the Upper School, students should make notes in the margins to develop a habit of slow reading. It is good practice to write questions where puzzling passages or ideas arise, when repetitions occur, when characters are introduced and developed, and in general anything that strikes them as important.

To help students think about these books, here is a list of productive questions for every grade:

  1. Who are the important characters?
  2. What is the story’s setting? In what place and time period does the story occur?
  3. What are the major events of the story, and in what order do they occur?
  4. What conflicts arise and how are they resolved? Do any remain unresolved?

In High School, there is a main question paired with each book that students must answer. Each answer must be one page and one-sided, typed, double-spaced, in Times New Roman and 12-point font size. These answers are due on the first day of school in literature class, and will be collected for a grade. The late policy for homework will apply.

Seventh and Eighth Grade students do not have assignments to turn in, but must be prepared to discuss the books on the first day of school.

Seventh Grade

  • Watership Down (ISBN: 978-0743277709)

Eighth Grade

  • The Last of the Mohicans (ISBN: 978-0120000302)

Ninth Grade

  • The Odyssey (ISBN: 978-0140268867) – What kind of man is Odysseus?

Tenth Grade

  • Beowulf (ISBN: 978-0393320978) – What kind of man is Beowulf?

Eleventh Grade

  • My Ántonia (ISBN: 978-0486282404) – What is the American West?

Twelfth Grade

  • Anna Karenina (ISBN: 978-0679783305) – What kind of woman is Anna Karenina?
Latin, Dead or Alive

Latin, Dead or Alive

Thomas Jefferson, in proposing a course of study for the state of Virginia, wrote this of Latin:

I thank on my knees, him who directed my early education, for having put into my possession this rich source of delight, and I would not exchange it for anything which I could then have acquired, & have not since acquired.”
It is of course rare to find a student who, at least at first, calls Latin a delight. Anyone who has ever plodded through their first declension tables will not readily agree with Mr. Jefferson. But practice breeds habits, and habits delight. At first, students think they “have” to take Latin, and do so grudgingly. In the end, though, most or many appreciate its deep and abiding importance for their education, and come to see that they “get” to take Latin.
Still, aren’t there more useful or practical languages with which to equip our children, especially in the era of globalization? When would one ever speak Latin? At Ascent Classical Academy, our students get to take Latin for at least three reasons: to improve their awareness and appreciation of English, to develop habits of precision and beauty in writing, and to open them to the rich tradition of thought and writing in the West.
No other language can rival Latin in these respects.
It is good to focus on that last point – that Latin opens students to western civilization like no other. It has one of the deepest and richest literary traditions of western languages, and was the most dominant language throughout the western world for nearly two millennia. To study Latin is therefore to plumb the foundations of all those ideas and stories that helped build the West. The American Founders were steeped in Latin literature, history, and philosophy, not because they desired to speak it amongst themselves but because, simply, many of the greatest works in literature, history, and philosophy were in Latin.
Knowing just how peculiar and pleasant Shakespeare’s English is shows us how much must be lost in any translation. We must also recognize that in reading translations, even beautiful ones, we will miss something of the original vivacity and nerve. Through the study of Latin, therefore, students are able to recover some of the greatest books, and make them their own.
Students at Ascent Classical will begin to study Latin and Greek roots in 3rd grade, as a natural extension of our early elementary phonics program. In the 6th grade students will begin the formal study of Latin using Wheelock’s Latin, recognized as one of the most complete and rigorous courses of study available. Ascent Classical students will complete 4 years of Latin between 6th and 9th grade. Students enrolled in 9th and 10th grade this year will complete their Latin in 3 years. In the end, all will have a better grasp of English, stronger habits of precision, and a richer experience of the West’s great tradition.
Though we cannot expect that students will grow to thank us on their knees, perhaps some of Thomas Jefferson’s enthusiasm will find its way into their studies, and they will learn the Latin and its influence never died.
-Robert Garrow
Why Kids Should Learn Cursive (and Math Facts and Word Roots)

Why Kids Should Learn Cursive (and Math Facts and Word Roots)

Time Magazine published a piece several years ago about the benefits of classical teaching methods and “old-fashion” skills like penmanship and learning multiplication tables, as many schools today are abandoning these basics.

The article begins with the perspective of a teacher who was told to teach students Greek and Latin root words and approach instruction that emphasized “rote memorization” (the word “memorization” is seldomly used in education these days without the disparaging use of “rote” attached to it), much to her chagrin. To her surprise, learning roots opened a new door and her students eagerly made connections and associations among words in the English language. By expanding their knowledge of our language, they were more effectively able to practice high-level thinking skills.

The article continues talking about the benefits of drilling and memorizing math facts to improve “automacity,” allowing students to more easily engage in higher levels of math.

The basics of traditional education include handwriting, argumentation (at Ascent Classical Academy we call this rhetoric and spend an entire year on this in the 9th grade), and reading aloud, are included in the basics of a classical, liberal arts education. We ground our students in basic knowledge to include knowing facts, figures, dates, people, and places (in classical education this is known as the Grammar phase), believing a quality education needs a strong foundation to allow students to access higher level skills.

Read the entire article as well as their research on

If you’re interested in an excellent education for your child, complete a confidential and non-binding Expression of Interest today, to support our charter application and to stay connected to our progress to replicate a classical, liberal arts school in Douglas County.


Classical Education: The Importance of Literacy in the Early Years

Classical Education: The Importance of Literacy in the Early Years

Many parents look at a classical curriculum and instinctively focus on one or two aspects – high school literature and Latin. Precisely because these two areas of study are so peculiar in a classical school, they garner the most attention. Students in typical public schools rarely read the Iliad or Shakespeare’s tragedies with the care and intellectual energy that we demand of our students, and likewise Latin is almost never seen as useful or beautiful. And, it is true, these two parts of our curriculum will set us apart from and above many other schools. But even more fundamentally, and perhaps more importantly, the great advantage that classical education wields over all other alternatives lies in early elementary. There, students not only form the habits of successful students and learn the virtues required by a republic like ours, but they learn to read.

Don’t all students learn to read? The answer to this simple question must be a resounding no. Students often arrive in 6th and 7th grade unable to read aloud in the class, having developed a shyness that results from never having learned to read properly. Worse yet, they come to have difficulties in every subject they study, since the one ability on which every aspect of education relies is the ability to read. Homework piles up, As become Bs, Bs become Cs, and students learn that school is not only boring but positively uncomfortable and burdensome.

How, then, do our classical schools differ? How do we remedy this glaring shortfall of our education system? We teach students to read by building the two main pillars of literacy – explicit phonics and background knowledge. All future reading rests on these two pillars, which is why the K-3 grades are so crucial to a student’s overall success. The ability to read begins in earnest in Kindergarten, develops at breakneck pace through 1st and 2nd grade, and should be almost completely set in 3rd grade. Parents who have students in any of these grades are therefore in an ideal position to reap the most benefits from a classical education.

What is explicit phonics and how does it work?

riggs_aExplicit phonics means that we teach students the relationship between symbols and sounds in the English language. In typical public schools students learn some blend of incomplete phonics and whole word lists. But, if a student memorizes a spelling list, then at the end of all her hard work she will know no more than the words on the spelling list. The ability to generalize does not develop, since every word is treated as its own unit, rather more like hieroglyphics than our English language. Because English is a mix of many languages – principally Anglo-Saxon, German, French, Latin – trying to generalize spelling rules without learning them explicitly is a recipe for failure. Students who do not do study explicit phonics in the early years can make due for awhile, since students can memorize long lists of things. But at some point, typically in 4th or 5th grade, memorization for spelling no longer suffices, and students are left behind.

At our school, students do not learn whole words in isolation. Rather, they acquire the tools to decode any word in the English language, even words they have never seen before. They learn, for instance, that the letter A has 4 main sounds, and that in certain circumstances A will sound like “glad” and in others like “glade,” in others like “gall” or “walk.” Explicit phonics instruction develops in tandem with handwriting, since students learn to hear, to say, and to write phonemes at the same time. Kindergarteners, whose writing is often illegible, come to express themselves with a care and neatness that rival students 2 or 3 grades above. It isn’t easy, of course, but the hard work in the early years pays dividends later.

Background Knowledge

Along with explicit phonics, we will develop students’ background knowledge, which is the other pillar of solid literacy. What is background knowledge and how do we develop it? Background knowledge is not fancy – it is simply knowing a lot. The end, of course, is not to know a lot of trivia, but to use what one knows to make good judgments, to think independently, and to have access to the rich heritage of pioneering thinkers and writers of the past. No amount of “critical thinking skills” helps a student answer the question, “is America repeating the mistakes of Rome?”, unless the student knows quite a bit about both America and Rome. No one can understand the Gettysburg Address, or the great calamity of the Civil War, without knowing the importance of what happened “four score and seven years ago.”

At our schools we implement a content-rich curriculum called Core Knowledge, not to be confused with Common Core. Core Knowledge teaches real history and geography instead of watered down social studies, has students explore real literature and poetry instead of plodding through dull “readers,” and develops an awareness of scientific concepts, procedures, and ways of thinking. The Core Knowledge curriculum, which cuts no corners in its rigorous content, is simply the best available.

With these two pillars solidly in place, students at our school will have access to the richest tradition of thinking the world has ever known. Our mission is to train the minds and improve the hearts of young people. There is no better place to begin than in the early elementary years with a solid literacy program like ours.

– Dr. Robert Garrow, Principal, Golden View Classical Academy