About Imagine Schools

  • Who are Imagine Schools?
    • Imagine Schools is a national family of public charter schools that empowers educators in partnership with parents to prepare students for lives of leadership, accomplishment, and character.
    • Imagine Schools operates 72 schools in 12 states and the District of Columbia. We love that our students are from diverse backgrounds. Nationally, 60% of Imagine students are eligible for the free/reduced lunch program. Two-thirds are from minority populations.
    • Imagine is basically a multi-state “school district” educating 37,000 students, which is similar to the size of the Minneapolis or Buffalo school districts.
    • Similar to government-operated public school districts, Imagine operates under the oversight of a Board of Directors. We work in close, voluntary partnership with each local board to successfully operate each school. Each governing board operates independently and transparently.
    • Imagine Schools currently operates through two affiliated organizations: Imagine Schools, Inc. and Imagine Schools Non-Profit, Inc.  Both organizations serve the exclusive purpose of educating children in grades PreK-12.  Subject to favorable rulings from the Internal Revenue Service, the organizations plan for Imagine Schools Non-Profit, Inc. to acquire ownership of Imagine Schools, Inc., after which Imagine Schools, Inc. would convert to nonprofit status.  Once this transition is complete, the entire Imagine Schools system will operate through nonprofit corporations exempt from tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Imagine spends 100% of the money it receives on the students and schools it operates.
  • How are Imagine Schools different from other schools?
    • As charter schools, Imagine’s schools offer parents a choice in the education of their children. We believe that friendly competition will lead to more innovation and better performance in all schools.
    • Imagine’s schools offer a variety of curricula and approaches – freedom within a framework of strong programs and accountability. As charter schools, we have flexibility to find solutions to problems and continually improve.
    • Each Imagine campus is uniquely designed and constantly changing to meet the needs of students in the neighborhoods it serves.
    • Imagine uses five Measures of Excellence to evaluate the effectiveness of each school. The measures are parent choice, shared values, academic achievement, character development, and economic sustainability. Our sixth measure, school development, is used to gauge the overall growth of Imagine Schools. Our work is guided by three shared values: integrity, justice, and fun.
    • Like all charter schools, Imagine is one of the biggest educational bargains for state and local taxpayers. Most charter schools receive NO monies for facilities, so we must use the per student allocation received at each school to pay for everything: textbooks, teachers, administration, and buildings.
    • We believe that a high quality school building is an important ingredient in fulfilling our mission to help parents educate their children. Our school buildings provide safety, stability, a long-term presence, and a high-quality learning environment for children.
  • How are Imagine students doing on standardized tests?
    • Imagine evaluates academic achievement primarily through same student learning gains, similar to the approach used by KIPP and New York City Public Schools and advocated by the Obama Administration.
    • Learning gains is a much fairer way to judge performance of an individual school, especially one that serves students who enter school one or more grade levels behind. Learning gains judge a school on how effectively it helps students learn and grow.
    • Every Imagine school tracks academic gains through pre- and post-testing:
      • In the 2009-20010 school year, 97% of Imagine’s schools that did fall and spring testing exceeded average nationwide public school math and reading learning gains.
      • In the 2009-2010 school year, over two-thirds of Imagine students demonstrated average reading and math learning gains of one year or more.
      • Based on pre-testing, about 70% of students entering Imagine’s new schools are below grade level. Half of all entering students are in the bottom 30% nationally, indicating that their previous learning gains averaged much less than a full grade per year in other schools.
    • Education reformers are emphasizing “high-quality charter schools.” This is appropriate, and learning gains combined with parent choice are the best measures to determine “quality.”
    • Imagine Schools is just as intent on helping students become better brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, citizens, leaders and friends as we are in their academic accomplishments. We recognize that in order for our communities and nation to prosper, we must raise the next generation to be good as well as smart.
  • Are parents satisfied with Imagine?
    • Imagine’s mission is to serve families with high quality public charter schools.  We believe that parents are the best judge of a school that meets their child’s educational needs.  Our average enrollment on our 73 campuses is over 90%, and many schools have waiting lists. 75,000 parents can’t be wrong.
    • According to the Imagine Schools 2010 Family Survey,
      • 88% of parents agreed that the schools offer them opportunities to get involved in their children’s education.
      • 87% of parents stated that the teachers and staff model and teach positive character attributes to students.
      • 85% of parents were satisfied with the quality of education their children were receiving and would likely recommend the school to others.
    • We envision great education much like a three-legged stool: engaged parents, purposeful students, and committed Imagine educators. The three-legged stool reminds us that we teach one child at a time in partnership with parents.
  • How does Imagine compare with other schools and districts in regard to indirect or administrative costs?
    • Imagine Schools provides support services, just as every public school district allocates funding to pay for leadership, support, and administrative expenses.
    • We have yet to find another similarly sized public school district that spends the same as or less on administrative costs.
    • Imagine is well within charter school industry standards regarding administrative costs. For example, a study of 46 charter schools in New York reported that fees charged in 2008-2009 by non-profit charter management organizations (CMO) and for-profit educational management organizations (EMO) ranged from 7% to 17% of the school’s total revenues.  (curious2.typepad.com, Feb. 2010). 
    • Imagine’s indirect or administrative support services include (but are not limited to) accountability, budgeting, finance, legal, marketing, educational services, teacher and staff recruiting, grant applications, compliance, professional development and supervision, lease oversight, procurement assistance, insurance, instructional technology, and assessment scoring and reporting. The administrative services are tailored to the needs of each school.