August 18, 2011 Since 2005, the California Charter School Association has welcomed graduate students each summer from the Education Pioneers Fellowship program to provide their expertise, perspectives and elbow grease to some of the pressing challenges that charter schools face. This year, three Ed Pioneers have been working out of CCSA's Los Angeles office, focusing on issues in special education, facilities and school district politics.
Meet Mary LaiheeUniversity of Southern California
Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
Mary has been working with CCSA's special education team to produce a funding guide for charter school operators and educators on the federal and state resources available for providing quality and compliant services to students with special needs.
What are you interested in doing after graduate school?
What drew you to the Ed Pioneer program?
I became an Education Pioneers Fellow to connect and collaborate with other visionaries who are advancing education reform in Los Angeles.
What has been the most surprising thing you've learned in the course of your work this summer?
I was surprised to learn that the funding rates for Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are based upon 1979-80(!) reported expenditures, which helps to explain some of the funding inequities that still exist today.
What was your familiarity with charter schools before working at CCSA? How has your view of charter schools changed?
I have worked in charter schools, so the piece of data that excites me is that the impact of family income on charter schools' API performance is four times less than the impact of family income on non-charters' performance. Charters are finding ways to meet the academic and social needs of historically underserved students.
What changes would you like to see in our public education system?
I would like to see even more school systems that are methodically and positively recognizing and responding to diverse learners. Every student should be able to participate in a rigorous and supportive learning environment, as well as have access to institutional resources and opportunities.
The mission of Education Pioneers is to identify, train, connect, and inspire a new generation of leaders dedicated to transforming the educational system so that all students receive a quality education. The program placed 44 graduate students at non-profit partner organizations in Los Angeles this summer.