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Aspire Public Schools: Winner's Statement

Social Capitalists

Aspire Public Schools

Aspire Public Schools is a pioneer and leader in California public education. In five years, Aspire has opened 11 high-quality, small, college-preparatory schools throughout northern California, and demonstrated the important role charter schools play in providing positive education opportunities for California's diverse youth. Aspire is widely regarded as one of the leading not-for-profit charter management organizations in the country.

The need for change in California's public school system is unquestionable. Less than half of its fourth graders have basic reading skills and only two-thirds have acquired basic math skills; schools in urban areas are woefully overcrowded; and the shortage of teachers has brought the system to a breaking point.

Aspire and other charter organizations have already begun to shift the landscape of California education. Educators, parents, and legislators increasingly recognize the value of providing public school choices to families -- particularly those who historically have not had access to high quality alternatives.

In its first five years, Aspire developed its education model, navigated the challenges of finding and financing facilities, cultivated relationships with districts, and created 11 high performing schools in 5 districts that serve over 3,600 students from kindergarten to 12th grade. In the process, Aspire has established itself as a premier provider of public school choice in California: Its schools have had strong academic results, with most doubling or tripling the state targets for student academic growth. Parents are highly satisfied, and waitlists for many Aspire schools are as large as the school's enrollment.

Each Aspire school is supported by a strong, enthusiastic parent community. Frequent communication between parents and teachers is the norm, and occasional "Saturday Schools" create opportunities for families to learn together and parents to better understand what happens in the classroom. Comments from last spring's parent satisfaction survey are representative: "I appreciate the way the faculty communicates with the parents about everything all the time;" "The Saturday Schools are awesome! As a working parent, I enjoy the opportunity to share my child's learning experience;" "We have a fair and caring principal who is accessible and builds relationships with families."

The hallmark of Aspire's environment for educators is a strong sense of collaboration. Grade level or subject matter teams meet regularly to plan lessons and projects, analyze data, look at student work, and share ideas. One educator commented, "I appreciate that I am able to ask for help and help others, and that we see working together as a way to improve, not a chore." Another observed, "It's a team effort at Aspire, including other teachers, parents, students and the community. I never feel that I'm alone."

Aspire has also already seen evidence that its strategy of working collaboratively rather than competitively with districts can create change. From opening their own charter schools to building new schools for Aspire to run, districts are beginning to experiment with new ways to provide quality education and choice in their communities in ways that were not considered possible just five years ago.

Aspire's longer-term vision is to do more than serve its own students well; Aspire aims to improve public education statewide, by influencing changes in districts, building the capacity of other charter organizations, and advocating for educational reforms. Aspire plans to grow significantly over the next decade, primarily in four strategic geographies: Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, and Stockton, CA.

Although Aspire's business model enables each school to be self-sustaining based solely on state per pupil revenues; philanthropy is required grow and start new schools. Donations to the organization are highly leveraged and efficiently used; each dollar donated to Aspire to start a school generates twenty dollars of government funding during the first five years of the charter.

Aspire has set a vision to change the future for tens of thousands of students, build stronger and safer urban communities by providing a high-quality schools of choice, catalyze positive change in districts, and make a fundamental difference in the future of public education.

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The above information was provided by the profiled organization.