CharterFolk Contributors Khalique Rogers and Joe Nathan – A Possible Triple-Win Summer

Good day, CharterFolk.

Today we are delighted to share a Contributor Column from Khalique Rogers and Joe Nathan from the Center for School Change.

Khalique and Joe share this brief note about their backgrounds below.

Khalique Rogers and Joe Nathan are co-directors of the Center for School Change. Khalique was a student at both district and charter public schools and is an advocate for cross-sector collaborations to enhance student and family outcomes. Joe helped write and advocate for the nation’s first charter law and similar laws in 30 states. He also served for many years as a K-12 public school teacher and made service-learning an important part of many of the courses he taught. Both Khalique and Joe would welcome opportunities to discuss with others the ideas presented in this column. You may contact them at and  at

A Possible Triple-Win Summer

Here’s how charter folk can have a possible triple winner this summer.  You can spend time on something that will be good for students, good for your school (or state association), and good for the charter movement. We’ll give specific examples below (as well as discuss this on July 3 at the national charter conference in Boston.

What’s “this?”

Seeking out opportunities for youngsters – ages 5-18, to help solve local problems as part of their class work.  This is called service-learning, and the benefits can be huge (more on this below).   This approach also builds on the insights, interests, concerns and energy of youngsters – very consistent with the charter movement’s principles of building on hope, possibility and progress. 

There are countless examples.  Here are two.  Khalique Rogers, one of the co-authors of this piece, helped lead a student run effort when he was a student that converted a vacant, trash filled lot near his school into a beautiful playground. 

Khalique Rogers and Ramsey County Board Chair Toni Carter

Youngsters at the K-12 Community of Peace charter worked with Target employees to create a beautiful playground near their school. 

In both cases, students did not just build a playground.  They studied area, perimeter.  They read about what features might be included in the playground.  In other words, they improve reading and research skills.

These projects, and strong research has had a huge impact on policymakers in Minnesota, also the first place to adopt chartering.

Professor Andrew Furco compiled this one page summary of service-learning research several years ago.

Over the last several years, we helped share this research with Minnesota policymakers.  The results:

Legislators allocated $1 million to help charter and district public schools start service-learning projects, Each of the $50,000 grants had to be based on students’ ideas.  25% of the 16 grants went to charters.  We helped two charters win grants, including High School for Recording Arts. That school will build on its long success of student research/ produced you-tube videos).  They’ll produce videos for example on why it’s vital to pay attention to the number of youth experiencing homelessness, and how to increase social/emotional learning for students.  Here’s a wonderful, funny hip-hop example of a previous HSRA student produced that encourages high school students to earn free college credits.

Paladin Career Technical High School will create an outdoor classroom in a wooded area near their school.

Legislators also allocated millions of dollars to help schools teach students construction skills as they build homes for low-income families. Several states have Youth Build Charter public schools. New legislation allows district and charter public schools to apply for up to $100,000 to create or expand student home building projects. 

Impressed by the research on service-learning, Minnesota decided to require ALL prospective teachers to learn the value of, and implementation of service-earning, as part of new teacher preparation requirements.  (See Standard 5.2)

Minnesota Department of Education asked the National Youth Leadership Council to help grant winning schools deepen their understanding of service-learning. NYLC shared this slide, which points out critical elements of this idea.

NYLC points out that this is NOT just a service-project, like collecting food for low- income people at Thanksgiving.  Real, powerful service-learning projects, of the kind cited in Andrew Furco’s research, has to include, among things, as mentioned above, a link to curriculum that students are studying, opportunities for students to help develop refine and evaluate the project, partnerships with some other groups and opportunities to explore diverse viewpoints. 

News media and political leaders love to learn about programs and projects where young people are doing something helpful and constructive as part of their classwork.  The media often is interested, whether it’s a local newspaper or tv station – or this National Public Radio’s story about a Colorado charter school service-learning project.

This is a way to help not only youngsters, but also your school and chartering in your state.  And the array of service-learning projects is almost endless.  NYLC has great ideas.  So does the great website,  whatkidscando

This brings us back to YOU.   This summer can be a great time to explore possible service-learning projects and partnerships.

Might elementary and middle school students read to and with senior citizens?  Might middle and high school students interview them and produce oral histories?

How can students as part of classwork, improve the environment? How can they help consumers solve their problems (one of the co-authors taught a class, “Protect Your Rights and Money” in which students studied consumer issues and help solve hundreds of real consumer problems.)

Might math or science students tutor younger students, create games illustrating key ideas or show they “magic” that comes from principles in these fields?

The possibilities are endless.  And the results are – win, win, win.