The World and Sturgis Charter High School

It truly is a “Small World”

By The Observer

Overthe past month, I have been investigating what the MassachusettsCharter Schools are and what they mean to us out here.  In that time,I’ve diligently worked to report accurate and fair information with outgetting into the specifics about each charter school.  What started outto satisfying my own curiosity has become much more, and in addition,several readers have requested more information about charter schoolsand accountability.  In my last reporting, questions arose aboutSturgis Charter Public School and the numbers reported from the DESE pertaining to their certified teachers.

Shortlyafter reading these comments, I started looking into the what wasbehind the low teacher certification numbers reported at Sturgis. Discovering an article online from 2007 in The International Educatorand also one from Newsweek that gave me a bit more direction.  Thesereally intrigued me about the school, and I continued my search forgreater explanation.  

I contacted Mr.Eric Hieser, the ExecutiveDirector of Sturgis Charter Public School.  I explained the research Ihad conducted and hope he could clarify some questions I had.

  • How many hold Massachusetts or National certification?
  • What percentage of your teachers have international experience?
  • Where do some of them come from?
  • Where is it that you draw your teaching population from?

A Global Influence

All of Sturgis teachers are Highly Qualified under No Child LeftBehind."

Mr.Hieser’s was swift and thorough in his response.  He responded that“all of Sturgis teachers are Highly Qualified under No Child LeftBehind, and as reported Massachusetts charter school teachers are notrequired to gain Massachusetts certification even though  37% of thefaculty do hold state certification .  

They only need to gain HighlyQualified status.”  Upon reading this it again, it brought me back tosome of the comments posted the blog.  Mr. Hieser continued to explainabout the diversity that makes up Sturgis, and my mind continued toponder how the school continues to achieve the success it has achieved. He then mentioned, of the 40 teachers that are at the current school,21 have experience teaching abroad.  Furthermore, “virtually all areAmericans who worked abroad although we have teachers from Wales,Lebanon, Finland, and Colombia.”  

In addition, some of the teacher’shad experiences in  American and International schools that were in thethe following countries:  Netherlands,Belgium, Zambia, Denmark, Niger, Ecuador, Italy, Egypt, Lebanon,France, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatamala, Panama, China, Australia,Russia, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Namibia, Mexico, Korea, Jordan,Wales, Turkey, Northern Marianas, Scotland, Germany, Qatar, & Peru.  Mr. Hieser himself, had worked in schools in Norway, Japan, Switzerland, and Brazil.  AsI became captivated in this geography lesson,  I felt transported backto the Disney World boat ride of  “It’s a Small World”.  Don’t knockit, what pops in your head?  

What a remarkable opportunity for studentsto learn from those who have taught around the world right here on theCape.  Can you imagine learning about the World Wars from someone whohas lived in Germany or Russia?  Learn a foreign language from someonewho taught in the country the language is spoken daily in?  

Thesestudents have an opportunity to learn  from an InternationalBaccalaureate (IB) curriculum taught by those who have internationalexperience.  What a gift!  I only wish I had this opportunity when Iwas much younger.  It’s rather easy to say that now, though I’m notsure a teenager would agree.

Mr.Hieser further explained that none of his teachers have nationalcertification, however he continued to mention some of the faculty’sother credentials at the school:

  • 9 IB examiners on staff  (faculty who grade IB exam papers from students attending IB schools worldwide)
  • 1 IB Consultant
  • 3 IB Workshop Leaders on staff.

Whenasked about how he recruits teachers to fill positions in such adiverse environment, he responded that he advertises positions bothlocally through the Cape Cod Times and the Globe, as well as withinternational recruiting organizations such as: The InternationalEducator and Search Associates.  He also receives many letters andresumes unsolicited.

Ialso discovered some other interesting information which sparked a fewmore questions for Mr. Hieser.  I was unsure about some of the facts Ifound about students attending college, the influence of aninternational program on its students, and  a discrepancy in  thespecial education numbers.  Again in a prompt response, this is what hereported.  

On College:
“Thepercentage attending post secondary education remains in the 95-100%range each year.  This year, one student is attending university inBerlin, one in British Columbia, and one at NYU in Abu Dhabi.  Inaddition, a significant majority of our students also study abroadduring their university years.”

On Special Education:    
Ourspecial education population normally increases from about 10-11% atthe beginning of the school year (what is reported to the DESE onOctober 1 each year) to about 12-13% by the end of the school year. This increase is the result of students with learning differences, whowere not identified at their district public schools, are identifiedonce they experience the challenges and rigor of the Sturgis curriculumand then they are given the support of an Individual Educational Plan. 

We also have 15-20% of our students who come to us from non-publicschools (home schooling or independent schools) and some of themqualify for an IEP. Finally, we have other students who have been onIEP's are taken off their plans prior to coming to Sturgis.  A few ofthese students sometimes find that they are more successful if they goback onto an IEP.  Other schools sometimes have 3-4 levels of the samecourse (college prep 1, college prep 2, honors, and advanced placement)and thus offer students who have learning differences less rigorouscourse options where the learning differences are much less evident.

Students on 504 plans are not part of the special education total that is reported. These were some other facts about the school I found to be notable from their site:

  • Over 60 schools have visited Sturgis and sent teachers, administrators, and board members.
  • Highlighted in Newsweek “Top 100 U.S. High Schools” in 2007, and remained on the list since their debut.  
  • Top MCAS scores on the Cape
  • Significant Graduation requirements: Four years of Math, Science, English and History.

In addition, six credits of Foreign Language and two credits in the Arts.  Courses in grades nine and ten are consider to be IB Prep and heterogeneous in makeup.

PreviouslyI have commented about people and businesses falling on a spectrum.Sturgis is school that stands as an example of what a well-run charterschool can achieve.  To attend such a school is a life-alteringopportunity for a student who takes full advantage of the experience.The rich educational opportunities and global influence are profound atSturgis.  From my interactions with the School’s Director, the DESE,and what was available one the web they are an extraordinary example ofwhat a charter school can achieve.  I hope that what I’ve shared in myblog and in this piece inspires you to find out more about this schooland others.   It’s all a part of making an informed choice. 

~ Just a view from an Observer.

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