On July 5th, we met with Professor Kavita Matsko, director of UTEP and primary contact for interdisciplinary educational studies at the college. Similar to Dr. Bayat, Professor Matsko helped us to bring the idea of starting a school to the ground. She opened by reminding us that charters are very hard to come by: at least in the state of Illinois, the process is very competitive. Through careful discussion, we came away with the following steps we would need to take before applying for a charter.
2. Philosophy and Mission
3. Administrative structure (ie, principals, attendance secretaries, teachers, etc)
4. Geographical location and building considerations –different areas of the country have different regulations
Additionally, Matsko reminded us that unions had constraints in public schools, concerning areas such as working hours, pay limits, and teachers available for hire. A preliminary step to applying for a charter would be to weigh these facts as compared to private schools.
Professor Matsko raised the point that legitimacy, experience, let alone strength in all of these categories are difficult to come by. To make our goal more easily attainable, Matsko advised us to seriously consider partnerships. She had several suggestions on this front. Broadly, she recommended that we become familiar with the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INC). A few specific charters she suggested were KIPP, CIVITAS, and LEARN in Chicago, as well as High Tech High on the West Coast. Matsko suggested that we look into their missions, curricula, and structure, and evaluate whether or not they aligned with our goals. Her other suggestion was a group of UTEP teachers who also hope to open a charter school. In fact, they had been through the process of applying for a charter once already. Though they were rejected, they were asked to reapply. We could hope to learn a lot through their process and the grounds for rejection. They might even be people to collaborate with in the future. But whether we chose to partner or not, Matsko stressed that at the very least, we needed experience inside a classroom.
Professor Matsko also recommended several means for evaluating teaching and learning for the future, including Strategic learning and Evaluation of Progress (STEP), a tool used in the Urban Education Institute (UEI), and her research report, Rethinking Teacher Evaluation in Chicago.