2018-2019 Annual Report

Education is transformative and improving every day

Here’s something we know about education: It’s transformative and improving every day. That’s why our team at the National Charter Schools Institute is hopeful for the future. And it’s why you should be too.

Far too often we only hear about what’s wrong. We see headlines about bad actors putting their interests ahead of students, taxpayers and the public good. And we read stories that leave us shaking our heads. What we don’t see though, are the untold stories of everyday heroes.

Our team at the Institute goes beyond the headlines. We love being on the frontlines with the doers. We love helping people achieve more than they thought was possible. We love supporting people and equipping them with the ideas and tools they need to democratize excellence in education. And we’re proud to report that our efforts are making a difference.

We hope these stories inspire you, just as they inspire us, to look beyond the headlines, be optimistic about the future, and know that our collective efforts are making a difference for our kids and our country!

“A star does not compete with other stars around it;
it just SHINES.”


Shining Bright for Kids

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” DR. SEUSS


We believe greatness lies within each person. We love people and are passionate about helping them grow and discover their gifts.

This is one reason why we are fans of the award-winning book by Dr. Todd Rose, The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness. It’s full of insightful stories and profound truths like, “The hardest part of learning something new is not embracing new ideas, but letting go of old ones.”

At the National Charter Schools Institute, our goal is to spread what works and help people let go of the things that do not. We’ve come to see how “demanding accountability” is sometimes counterproductive to achieving excellence and fostering the kinds of schools we want and need. Thanks to Dr. Rose, we better understand the implications of “when you design for the average, you design for no one.”

As we move forward, we are going to do even more to advance excellence and inspire, equip, and support people and organizations to achieve breakthrough performance.

Please know our team is ever grateful for your continued support and encouragement. Together, we are making a dierence for our kids and our country!

With best wishes,

W. Sidney ("Sid") Smith, Board Chair, and James N. Goenner, Ph.D., President & CEO

Our National Impact

Our core purpose is to inspire and democratize excellence in education. We want all students to have the opportunity to discover their gifts and experience the joy of learning. That’s why we are so passionate about our mission.

Through our hands-on coaching and consulting work, we are able to share powerful ideas, strategies, tactics and tools that people can put into action. Our work has taken us across the nation - from Washington D.C. to Wisconsin to Hawaii and from Florida to the State of Washington.

And wherever we go, we never miss an opportunity to educate and remind people that “chartering” is fundamentally about reimagining and redesigning public education so it works better for our kids and our country.

“The Institute has proven to be a knowledgable and trusted partner for our own organization as well as for the schools throughout the state. They truly get the authorizer-board-school relationship and go the extra mile to help achieve our goals.”

SARAH HACKETT | Director | Wisconsin Resource Center for Charter Schools

Advocates & Implementers

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 1.44.16 PM

We love shining the spotlight on outstanding leaders. People willing to speak up and take action. We admire their courage, their ideas, and their willingness to toil in the trenches and get the work done. That’s why we annually host our “Advocates & Implementers” event in conjunction with the National Charter Schools Conference. It’s our way of honoring these individuals and providing inspiration to others. And we can never say thank you enough to Dr. Howard Fuller for blessing us each year with his heartfelt rendition of Frederick Douglass’ 1857 speech, “If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress.”

“I am profoundly grateful to the Institute for their leadership and for allowing me to share my “insider’s account” with their national following of Advocates & Implementers.”

SARAH TANTILLO | Author of Hit the Drum

“I love how the Institute’s events always focus on ideas and possibilities…they make you think and aspire to do more!”

KURT AEY | Director of Community Schools | Lake Erie West Educational Service Center

Authorizers on Their “A-GAME”


The proud winner of a three-year U.S. Department of Education grant, the Institute is working with leading authorizers across America to develop and disseminate models for supporting and evaluating the performance of alternative schools serving students with the greatest needs.

“Students across the country who need high-quality educational opportunities are going to benefit from the forward-thinking strategies, models and tools this grant is developing for authorizers.”

DAVID FRANK | Executive Director | Charter School Oce | New York State Department of Education

"This grant aims to move beyond one-size-fits-all accountability models by equipping authorizers with the strategies and tools they need to oversee and support schools serving students with the greatest needs.”

NAOMI RUBIN DEVEAUX | Vice President for Authorizing & Accountability | National Charter Schools Institute

Ideas Worth Spreading


The Institute’s Jim Goenner and Ray O’Laughlin delivered compelling and thought-provoking talks at a TEDx event themed - MINDSET SHIFT - hosted by Bowling Green State University.

TED is a global community of learners seeking to better understand the world. Like the mission of TED, the Institute “believes passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives, and ultimately the world.”

You can view Jim’s talk called Changing the Game in Education, and Ray’s talk Taking Personal Responsibility, at

If you’re looking for more inspiration, a few of our favorite TED talks are:

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 1.40.26 PM

Working Together to Advance Quality


Michigan’s Department of Education won a five-year $47 million federal charter schools program grant from the U.S. Department of Education. These funds are awarded at the state level through a competitive process to applicants seeking to open, replicate, or expand high-quality charter public schools.

In partnership with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), the Institute brought together a team of state and national experts to conduct a risk-assessment of each application. Constructive feedback is given to each applicant and their authorizer, so that they can reflect, revise and strengthen their proposal.

The grant also made it possible for the Institute to facilitate four Authorizer Roundtables in different regions of the state. These outreach efforts were a collaborative eort with the MDE and the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers to share best practices and improve quality.

“Engaging the Institute has strengthened our coordination and communication with Michigan’s authorizers. Together, we are raising the bar and focusing on quality.”

TAMMY HATFIELD | Manager | Public School Academies Unit | Michigan Department of Education

When Michigan’s policymakers adopted charter school legislation in 1993, they put in motion a bold strategy for advancing public education.

Now, a strong group of authorizers are guiding Michigan’s charter strategy forward. Together, they form the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers and are at the forefront of fostering change and advancing excellence, while balancing school autonomy with public accountability.

The Institute has been privileged to work with the Council over the last year to refine its strategic plan and adopt a set of guiding principles. And with grant funding from the state, the Institute and the Council joined forces to publish Advancing Excellence: Michigan’s Model for Authorizer Accountability, along with two board orientation videos designed to help new charter school board members hit the ground running.

View these videos at and

“The Institute is helping our Council become more strategic, more proactive, and more focused on our principles and priorities.”

DR. ROBERT KIMBALL | Board Chair | Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers | Associate Vice President for Charter Schools | Grand Valley State University

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 1.38.15 PM

Supporting Authorizers

“Authorizers face a paradox: They are being encouraged to take chances and charter more schools, while being pressured to raise standards and close schools that don’t measure up.”

DR. JIM GOENNER | President and CEO | National Charter Schools Institute

Great authorizers are change agents. They create the conditions for innovation and excellence to thrive. They empower and encourage. They protect students and taxpayers. And they ensure results are achieved.

We love working with authorizers at the Institute, and we recognize how important their role is to the success and sustainability of the charter schools movement.

We understand charter laws vary by state – and these variances greatly impact the work of America’s 1,015 active authorizers. The Institute always seeks to understand an authorizer’s context. That way we oer real solutions that are both strategic and doable.

“The Institute’s team is first-class. They contextualized their content and experiences to meet the needs of Hawaii’s unique and diverse culture. And they earned the respect of our commissioners, our authorizing team, and the governing board members and leaders of the schools we charter.”

SIONE THOMPSON | Executive Director | Hawaii State Public Charter Schools Commission


Powering Performance & Productivity


Epicenter is our cloud-based platform that leading authorizers, boards, schools and networks are using to expand their capacity and increase their productivity. It streamlines compliance and reporting, puts data and documents at your fingertips 24/7/365, and shares information in a way that creates synergy and fosters collaboration.


Schools and boards want to know if they are in good standing with their authorizer. Authorizers need to demonstrate they are overseeing and holding their schools and boards accountable. Everyone wants the standards to be clear and transparent.


Epicenter moves you beyond one-size-fits-all approaches, so you can create an environment of shared responsibility. With Epicenter’s Scorecard, you can ensure performance conversations stay focused on the facts and keep everyone striving for continuous improvement.

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 1.08.24 PM
Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 1.02.45 PM

The National Charter Schools Founders Library

One of the earliest and most influential thinkers and writers on the idea of chartering was Minnesota’s Ted Kolderie. From encouraging people to “challenge the givens,” to showing policymakers why it was essential for them to “withdraw the districts’ exclusive franchise,” Ted’s ideas have had a big impact.

We are proud to say that the National Charter Schools Founders Library is now home to Ted’s work – and the work of many other key leaders. The Founders Library is housing and making the records and oral histories from our movements’ founders digitally accessible to all.

Teaming up with Ember Reichgott Junge - former Minnesota State Senator and sponsor of the nation’s first charter school law - we are on a quest to capture and share the origins and growth of chartering so we can learn from the past and chart an even brighter course for our children’s future.

This past year we focused on capturing the stories from key founders in California and Colorado, along with national leaders like Howard Fuller and Joe Nathan. You can watch their oral histories at We’re sure you’ll agree that the wisdom, insights and lessons they share are for the ages.

Developing Boards


Governing boards play a vital role in the success and sustainability of charter schools. They serve as guardians of the public trust, which is a big responsibility.

We know board members freely give their time and talents. And we want everyone who serves to have a meaningful and rewarding experience. That’s why we specialize in helping boards effectively govern and win for kids.

Our newest book, Leading for Greatness, will be released this fall. It will provide school leaders and board members with a roadmap for modeling excellence and creating a win-win working relationship.

“Boards that govern for greatness ask wise questions and measure things that truly matter.”

MARK WEINBERG | Vice President for Leadership & Learning | National Charter Schools Institute

“Engaging the Institute to facilitate our Board’s strategic planning process was a great decision. They helped us confront issues, gave us honest and candid feedback, and helped us unify as a team.”

ANDY ALT | Board President | West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics

To order a copy of our newest book, Leading for Greatness, visit

Strengthening Schools

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 1.17.42 PM

Working hands-on with schools brings us great joy. Schools are where the real teaching and learning occurs. We know education transforms lives. That’s why it’s magical for us to see the light bulb of learning turn on for a student.

We understand running a school and leading a classroom is hard work. But it’s where the real action is. And it’s why we are so passionate about supporting schools. Whether you’re looking for assistance with strategy or operations, problem solving or capacity building, our team of experienced experts are ready to help you succeed.

“The coaching and support I’ve received from the Institute’s team of experts has been a game changer for my leadership, professional growth, and the Academy as a whole. Their team has been instrumental in the developing of organizational and operational systems that are positively impacting what is happening for Abney’s scholars and families. Through our partnership, I know their expertise, support and advice is only a phone call away.”

PAUL ADAMS | School Leader | William C. Abney Academy

Coaching Teachers


Our friends at The Institute for Excellence in Education (IEE), are pros at coaching teachers and school leaders. They understand schools are complex human systems that require dynamic solutions. And they specialize in helping leaders build ownership and engagement with both students and teachers.

Teachers especially love working with IEE because they truly understand the challenges of the classroom. They are capacity builders. Always current with the latest research, they know how to listen and learn about your vision and goals. Then they work alongside you to craft real solutions that will foster a culture of learning, lift up students, and improve outcomes.

To learn more, visit

“Engaging. Practical. Mind Changing. That’s how I’d describe IEE’s professional development and coaching!”

DAVID PATTERSON | Superintendent | Charlton Heston Academy

Encouraging Students

We want all kids to DREAM BIG! And we want them prepared to go achieve their dreams. That’s why we annually sponsor art and essay contests, so students can practice sharing their gifts and telling their stories. Honoring and showcasing their work always brings us great joy! Visit  Essay Contest  |  Art Contest  to view the complete collection of winning artwork and essays.

Screen Shot 2020-01-22 at 12.28.49 PM
Screen Shot 2020-01-22 at 12.29.30 PM

Meet the Institute’s Newest Board Members

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 1.33.18 PM


Carolyn McKanders began her career as a teacher in Detroit. Now she travels the world sharing her wisdom and expertise.

Carolyn is an internationally recognized expert in Adaptive Schools, Cognitive Coaching, and Polarity Management. Passionate about the unlimited capacity of the human spirit, Carolyn helps cultivate stronger human relationships through better communication, collaboration and skills development.

Carolyn earned two master’s degrees – one from Eastern Michigan University and one from the University of Michigan. She and her husband Ken reside in Arizona. They have four children and were recently blessed with a beautiful granddaughter.

“Carolyn McKanders has a heart for kids. She is a people builder…and her influence can be seen in classrooms around the world.”

SHERRY LAMBERTSON | Executive Director | The Institute for Excellence in Education

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 1.33.28 PM


Bob Davies hit the ground running when the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees unanimously appointed him to serve as the University’s 15th President. As a believer in the transformative power of education, Bob is more than willing to challenge the status quo. His outgoing leadership style and enthusiasm for CMU is contagious.

With his wife Cindy, and daughter Katie, the Davies’ personify CMU’s core values: wisdom, virtue, and friendship. Before coming to CMU, Bob served as president of Murray State University and Eastern Oregon University. His Ph.D. in higher education administration is from The State University of New York at Buffalo.

“Bob Davies is a difference maker. His energy is contagious… and his love for students and education makes him a perfect addition to the Institute’s Board.”

W. SIDNEY SMITH | Board Chair, National Charter Schools Institute

“We must commit to an aggressive agenda that advances academic rigor and excellence in everything we do.”

DR. ROBERT DAVIES | President | Central Michigan University

Download our
2018-2019 Annual Report!