Frequently Asked Questions
We have a great story to tell. It would warm your heart to see a group of first graders of all races and income levels excitedly discussing how they are going to design a new planet, respectfully listening to one another's suggestions, and encouraging participation and consensus - all while learning critical thinking at levels that surpass much older children in other schools. Here is more information on our schools.
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What are Citizens of the World schools?
Citizens of the World Charter Schools are free, high-performing public schools that serve students of all backgrounds in communities across the country.
We believe that in today’s society, children grow into strong critical and creative thinkers when they have the opportunity to learn alongside others with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. We are proud to be the first national school network in the country that focuses on educating economically and racially diverse students.
Within small, safe classrooms, our talented educators inspire students through challenging, meaningful projects that bring learning to life. Our students receive the individual support they need to flourish academically and learn how to work together productively. Knowledge and skill – coupled with resilience and character – enable our students to grow into individuals prepared to thrive in college, a diverse society and a global economy, as Citizens of the World.
Where are Citizens of the World schools located?
CWC schools are located in communities where parents are demanding academically challenging schools that also reflect the full diversity of their neighborhoods. As of the 2013-14 school year, CWC has five schools serving nearly 1,000 students, including:
- Three in Los Angeles serving some 730 children (CWC Hollywood opened in 2010, CWC Silver Lake opened in 2012, and CWC Mar Vista in 2013).
- Two in New York serving some 209 children (CWC Williamsburg and CWC Crown Heights opened in Brooklyn in 2013).
Each CWC school is different because it reflects the interests and needs of its community. Schools typically open serving K-1, and then add a grade each year.
What results have you shown?
Parents have shown strong demand for our Los Angeles schools and our new Crown Heights school in Brooklyn. For the current school year, 1,477 applications were received for the three Los Angeles schools including 750 for kindergarten seats at CWC Hollywood and CWC Silver Lake combined.
Our school model is consistently outperforming other public schools in academics: for example, CWC Hollywood had a state academic performance index score of 912 in 2012-13, putting it in the top 9 percent of all Los Angeles public elementary schools.
We are proud that nearly all of our schools have waiting lists and wish we could accommodate all of the interest.
What is the benefit of a diverse, integrated student learning model?
Studies show that students in diverse, integrated learning environments have been found to have better critical thinking skills, academic achievement, and life opportunities.
Schools must prepare students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in our increasingly diverse society. This requires not just preparing students academically, but also promoting cross-racial understanding and tolerance among groups and improving life opportunities for all students. Schools that promote these skills and opportunities foster social cohesion and reinforce democratic values in our diverse citizenry.
How does the Citizens of the World teaching and learning model work?
Our small classrooms – typically 22-24 students – are led by two adults, one teacher and one teaching assistant.
These talented instructors work to help students learn at high levels and learn how to work productively together, through creative hands-on projects that bring learning to life in a fun, personalized way.
- Learn to think critically at high levels, mastering standards in reading, writing, math and science.
- Learn how to engage respectfully and productively with others. Our students develop life-skills such as debate, conflict resolution, personal self-reflection and independence. They learn to constructively collaborate and solve problems creatively with those who have different perspectives and backgrounds. Our children learn social and emotional tools many adults wish they had at a much earlier stage in life.
- Learn in a personalized, meaningful, fun way. Children learn hands-on through partaking in practical activities that allow them to start thinking and talking about things they already relate to, and then build upon their own emerging theories to learn new skills and content.
Could you provide some examples of what this model looks like in the classroom?
Second graders may work together in small groups as if they are a family living on a farm, negotiating over whether they should stay on the farm, given negative health impacts occurring from pesticides, while weighing family salary needs and other working conditions. As they come to consensus, they learn how to analyze competing considerations, what is required to make change happen, and what is required to come to consensus – while also learning math, science, persuasive communication and writing, and creating art and music.
First graders learning about diversity, interdependence and science may create a “Fishbook” page (akin to Facebook) that allows them to map out various relationships and dependencies among animals in a coral reef in a fun, creative way.
Kindergarteners may learn to develop the skills to become writers (e.g. characters and plot development) by first developing puppets they are excited about and then acting out a play.
When students create their own learning adventures in these ways, they get very invested in and excited about learning.
Who are your teachers? How are they recruited/trained?
- Are talented, caring adults who are given the flexibility to decide how to meet student needs while being expected to help all children learn to high levels.
- Are trained to guide children to develop within appropriate boundaries and treat them respectfully.
- Meet all state and district employment, certification and security check requirements and have passed through a rigorous screening process.
- Regularly assess student progress and improve their teaching along the way.
- Know students have mastered a skill or ability when they have applied that skill or ability in a novel situation.
- Are afforded the room to create a teaching and learning experience that has meaning to them, within the boundaries of best practices.
Our students get the benefit of many teachers’ minds because our teachers work closely together, being accountable to one another for meeting student needs.
How do you balance testing with creativity?
We teach to the student, not to the test.
We strive to create joyful learning experiences that allow students to become critical and creative thinkers. We also regularly track student progress to identify when children need extra help or more challenging work. Children learn and develop along unique paths.
Assessments – like rubrics, diagnostic interviews and tests – help us communicate with parents about their child’s progress and empower students to self-reflect on their own learning.
We believe that standardized tests provide part of the picture in determining student achievements… but students must have the time to experiment, make mistakes, and develop their own deep understanding, even if this means it takes them longer to pass a test.
Are students with special needs welcome at Citizens of the World schools?
Yes. We support children of all needs, including English language learners and those with special needs. Our teaching and learning model is particularly attractive to families of students with special needs because it includes instruction that is hands on and highly differentiated. We have successfully transitioned students who used to attend schools with far more restrictive learning settings to CWC’s general education setting and are proud that they are thriving because of our model.
In many cases, charter schools have been found to be better at serving students with special needs. In a recent report by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and the Manhattan Institute, researchers found that charter schools were more likely to declassify a student as having special needs than a district school. This often creates the illusion that charter schools serve fewer special needs students than traditional schools.
How do you engage and partner with parents?
We greatly value parent and community engagement. All CWC schools encourage parents to be engaged, but participation in the schools is not required. We work to create numerous opportunities for parents to be actively involved in the schools, including volunteer opportunities, parent surveys and community-building events.
Each region decides how to best work with their parents. For example, CWCLA has parent representatives nominated to their regional board, and CWCNY will add a parent representative in 2014. CWC schools engage parents and communities in the schools through a variety of channels, including email and text messages, letters sent home from school, parent meetings and phone calls – and invite parents who are able to be active participants in school-level committees.
How are Citizens of the World schools funded?
Like other public schools, Citizens of the World schools are primarily funded by taxpayer dollars. We are a nonprofit.
However, in states like California, charter schools actually receive less funding than other public schools. (As shown in this report, California public charter schools receive at least seven percent fewer funds than their traditional school counterparts; a gap that can be as high as $1,000 per student for some charter schools. This report did not address facility funding, federal funding or local revenues, which further widen the funding gap. See: http://www.calcharters.org/advocacy/funding/).
In addition, because the funds coming into all schools in California are lower than the rest of the country per pupil, our Los Angeles schools also raise a portion of their funds.
Public school children deserve equal public funding regardless of which public school they attend. Our schools do not compete with other public schools for resources, we instead receive the resources we need, given our number of children, as do all public schools. We seek to complement the work of other great public schools and applaud all schools that are helping a diverse array of children succeed.
Who started the Citizens of the World schools?
Inspired by the potential of high-achieving diverse charter schools to dramatically enhance young people’s lives, a community coalition of parents, educators and philanthropists, including successful film and television producer Mark Gordon and long-time educator Kriste Dragon – an early parent leader and board member of Larchmont Charter School, an integrated school that consistently ranks among the best schools academically in L.A. – came together to create CWC in Hollywood. From there, others, including CWC board members Chris Forman and Cam Starrett – longtime philanthropists and passionate advocates for strong public schools – joined to support the first school and help the model expand to other communities.
What is the Citizens of the World network?
CWC Schools network is a nonprofit organization that 1) enables individual CWC schools to access national resources and knowledge to supplement their good work, and 2) ensures that while nearly all decisions affecting students are made at the local CWC school-level, all schools adhere to fundamental CWC values: all students performing at high levels, children of all backgrounds learning together, and community building.
The CWC network ensures that each CWC school reflects its communities, parents, students and teachers. The network keeps significant decision-making at the school level, like curriculum, staffing, budgeting, school and classroom materials, and professional development. As a result, each Citizens of the World school looks quite different because it reflects the values of its communities, parents, students and teachers.
At the same time, schools receive high-quality national network support and services that help free up local time, energy and resources to be focused on what really matters – educating children, local teachers and leaders have reported.
For example, when new schools are created, the network and the school leaders work together to ensure that the locally-established academic model established meets the high CWC quality bar. The network also provides schools with access to: a national “knowledge network” of CWC teachers and principals who can share best practices with one another, meaningful professional development opportunities and evaluation tools, student assessment tools and help tracking student achievement, training in school operations, interest-free start-up loans to help new schools get off the ground and long-term financial planning assistance, and help resolving outstanding academic issues when requested by the school.
For more on network support and services, see licensing agreement fact sheet.
This structural approach – which is based on best practices and learnings from other networks – allows governance and accountability to be shared and spread organization-wide.
What does the structural relationship look like between the network, the regions and the schools, and how does it function?
When opening new schools, the network writes a charter and organizes the regional board. The regional board, with guidance and support from the network, hires the executive director (ED) and first year principals, who in turn hire their teachers/staff.
Principals report to the ED, and the ED reports to the regional board. CWC schools are accountable to their regional board which is responsible for the financial health of each school within their region.
When it comes time to develop the curriculum for a new school, for example, the network will provide a “road map” for curriculum. Principals and teachers work to tailor the curriculum “road map” to meet their student needs, with the ED providing oversight and direction.
Each CWC school has significant autonomy to make decisions regarding curriculum, staffing, materials and professional development. The schools, the regions and the network all remain directly accountable to the public through official charter authorizing entities.
How does Citizens of the World decide where to expand?
Our parents want excellent public school options where children of all backgrounds learn together at high levels. Since the first CWC school opened in 2010, many families outside the CWC community have also asked for the same option for their children.
Our priority is to run great public schools that serve our students and families. When we receive interest from parents, community leaders and policymakers from other areas, we consider expanding if we believe a new school would: 1) meet the high academic quality bar set by our original schools and 2) adhere with integrity to the fundamental principle that children of all backgrounds learn more and learn better when they learn together. Within those broad parameters, CWC schools have the freedom to develop their own offerings that best meet the interests and needs of their community.
Our website will reflect any specific expansion plans if and when we have news to announce.
How does Citizens of the World recruit a diverse school population?
Our school model embraces diversity of all kinds. Many parents also want a high-quality public education that embraces diversity. CWC works hard to conduct community outreach – through holding meetings, attending community events, visiting community gathering places and distributing information by going door-to-door – to make sure that families from all walks of life in our surrounding communities know that CWC is an available option. This outreach helps to ensure that parents of all backgrounds are aware of our schools and have the opportunity to enroll their children.
In Los Angeles, for example, a case study of our schools showed that our efforts created campuses serving students that better mirrored the community when compared to other local public schools.
When demand exceeds capacity, the law requires that we hold a random lottery to determine which children will attend our schools. In states like California that allow for a percent of seats to be set aside for families qualifying for free and reduced price lunch, we may exercise this right. We believe in diverse classrooms that provide rich learning experiences for all and that reflect the diversity of our neighborhoods, which is often not the case in other schools.
How does your model serve communities?
Our students are being prepared to become future leaders who are able to solve problems and generate peace and prosperity. Our parents and teachers believe that peaceful, prosperous communities start with richly diverse classrooms that value critical thinking, creativity and human connection. We hope our parents and communities unite around the mutual success of their children and seek themselves to be Citizens of the World, such as through our community service learning and beautification projects. As our children learn together, all people can learn to live together.
What are charter schools?
Charter schools are independent, tuition-free public schools that are able to be more autonomous in exchange for agreeing to be held accountable for student achievement. Like traditional schools, charter schools were created by states to serve the public. Charter schools are supervised and directed by as well as accountable to the public through charter authorizing agencies, according to federal regulations under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Charter schools are funded using tax dollars based on the number of children enrolled. The per-pupil funding follows the student, which means that public schools, whether charter or traditional, in most states receive equal resources per child.
Charters are accountable to the public for producing strong student results: 15 out of 16 recent studies show charter school students are outperforming their traditional school peers, and showing the strongest improvement levels for underserved student populations. For more information, check out the most recent study completed by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes.
Charter schools have been shown to be successful throughout the nation. In a recent editorial, The New York Times wrote, “there’s little question that New York has one of the nation’s most successful charter school systems. A study published earlier this year shows that the typical New York City charter student learned more reading and math in a year than his or her public school peers.” As Kyle Smith of the New York Post wrote, “Though there is nothing magical about charter schools that guarantees their success, the good ones have achieved such spectacular results that it would be gross educational malpractice to ignore them.”
We are proud that our school model has a demonstrated track record of academic success.
How do you feel about co-location with other schools?
Space is at a premium in all urban areas. Certain city education authorities have required the co-location of a charter and tradition school so that resources will be used efficiently. Co-location, when successfully implemented, allows both the charter and district to share best practices and collaborate in ways that benefit all students, which was the original intention behind laws creating public charter schools.
We simply want a great public school system that does right by students, families and the community. We want the best for our adjoining schools and all other neighborhood schools, and know our friends in other schools want the same. We are proud to have strong partnerships with our adjoining schools. Here is an example: http://archinect.com/news/article/78224626/on-the-fence-a-colorful-collaboration-at-citizens-of-the-world-hollywood.
Is Citizens of the World financially healthy?
CWC as a network and all of its schools are financially healthy. Here is the most recent audit report for the organization.
LAUSD's charter oversight division has rated the organization fiscally healthy every year. While all public schools in California have faced severe cuts in funding over the past several years CWCLA schools have navigated these cuts through both effective management and significant parent fundraising.
For example, the 2011-2012 audit of CWC Hollywood is available here.
What is your long-term goal?
Our vision is to generate a peaceful and prosperous society in which people are free of prejudice, reactivity and constraints, value the bonds among us, feel a sense of responsibility toward one another and think critically to solve problems. Our students are being prepared to become future leaders capable of generating peace and prosperity and solving problems because they are also skilled in these ways.
What are you doing about CWC Williamsburg’s under-enrollment?
Like many brand new schools, Citizens of the World New York has had a steep hill to climb to make sure that New York parents, some of whom have many school options, are aware of our schools and their benefits. Our unique model is still new to most families.
We are thrilled that we have dramatically increased our enrollment levels since the start of school, up more than 60% as of mid-November, to over 90 students, and still climbing.
We are very heartened that the first families to enroll in our new schools are so excited and involved. They reflect the demand parents throughout Brooklyn have demonstrated for a public school model that provides children with opportunities to grow into strong critical and creative thinkers and learn alongside others with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
We are looking forward to engaging more parents in Brooklyn with information about our schools through our “Drive to 100” students campaign. For example, we have monthly coffee meetings, opportunities to ‘meet a teacher,' school tours and our staff will be available at other community events.
All the key elements that make Citizens of the World Schools strong are in place to serve our existing Williamsburg students:
- We offer our full curriculum, which includes art, music, physical education and social-emotional learning.
- We maintain small class sizes.
- We have highly-qualified and certified teachers in every classroom.
- The transportation, school nurse, breakfast/lunch and custodial services we are able to provide through our co-location partnership are available.
- The after-school programs at Williamsburg and Crown Heights are operating as planned.