Charters & Choice

One of the most important developments in urban education over the last two decades has been the rapid expansion of school choice.

To some, this represents the happy, if unexpected, marriage of public education and free enterprise thinking—diversification of providers, growth of school options, and empowerment of parents.

But an underappreciated and counterintuitive contributor to this progress has been the reform-oriented technocrat. Indeed, in the years to come, if civil society and families are to make more decisions and the government is to make fewer, policymakers have a critical role to play.

For a century, we relied on the district system to deliver urban public education. There was a single government provider, it controlled all aspects of its schools, and students’ school assignments were based on home addresses. Countless policies and practices (related to facilities, transportation, accountability, and much more) evolved with that particular system in mind.

But as that system is slowly replaced by one marked by an array of nongovernmental school providers, parental choice, and the “portfolio management” mindset, new policies (undergirded by a new understanding of the government’s role in public schooling) are needed. That requires new government activity, much like the transition from a state-controlled to a private enterprise economy requires new rules related to property rights, lending, contracts, and currency.

Though the excellent new CRPE report “How Parents Experience Public School Choice” focuses on how families navigate choice-based systems, the new role of government is front and center.

Four examples are illustrative. First,...

The half-naked Neal edition

ESEA reauthorization, the op-out movement, Indiana vouchers, and college access. Featuring a guest appearance by the Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey.

Amber's Research Minute

SOURCE: Joshua Goodman, Michael Hurwitz, Jonathan Smith, "College Access, Initial College Choice and Degree Completion," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 20996 (February 2015). 


Mike:            Hello. This is your host Mike Petrilli at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. I'm here at the Education Gadfly Show and online at Now, please join me welcoming my co-host the Neil Patrick Harris of Education Reform, Neal McCluskey.

Neal:            You just call me Duke. It's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Mike:            I've never seen you in your tidy whities unlike Neil Patrick Harris but I can only imagine that you are just as ripped as he is.

Neal:            You’d be better off not to think about me in my tidy whities.

Mike:            Before I started sporting the goatee but after I shaved the head following in your example Neal, people were telling me that I look a lot like Vladimir Putin and I always think if only you saw me without my shirt and on horse back.

Neal:            You see, Neil Patrick Harris isn't the only one who can do comedy.

Mike:            Nice. You're good Neil. Neil, what's your title over at Cato? You're chief provocateur?

Neal:            I should have such a lefty title. I'm also the associate director of the Center for Education Freedom at the Cato Institute.

Mike:            There it is, very good. Neil and I have spent the last ... God, it feels like forever sparring over first, the idea of national standards and then what is now known as the common core. We do it in a friendly way, in respectful way.

Neal:            You only punched me twice.

Mike:            Exactly. Yeah.

Neal:            It didn't even hurt.

Mike:            It's only that one strangling incident. Okay. We are going to talk about to many things. There is going to be a common core question here. Don't worry, we'll get to talk about that but that's not it because the big news is of course ESEA. Let's get started Ellen with pardon the Gadfly.

Ellen:            It appears the conservatives in the House have succeeded in killing the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. That means two more years of Arne Duncan as waver in chief. Was this smart of them?

Mike:            Neal?

Neal:            The first thing I'd say is certainly people on the right had a lot to do with this not going through. But I think it's worth remembering a lot of Democrats didn't like it either. It's not just people on the right. We're in a very bad position. I don't think there's any question that we don't want the secretary of education essentially dictating by giving out wavers. The same token, I think if you looked at legislation, there were things we should be concerned about.

                        In particular that the secretary could still kick back state plan if he said, well, if it wasn't scientifically supported. Of course,  there's no definition of that. The regulation writing would be very important. I think there is a good reason to be concerned and the fact of the matter is we're in quicksand and somebody pulling you from the left, somebody pulling you from the right, not pulling very hard.

Mike:            No, no. I know. Look, I am sympathetic to those conservatives. I mean I would at this point after that everything that's transpired over the last decade, pretty much be happy just giving it all back to the states including the money. All right, I mean I have a strong love for a strong federal role of education at this point. The problem is, there's nothing to vote for that. It's a tactical question. It's saying, all right, the conservatives are not going to get precisely the policy that they want so is it better to hold out for that?

                        In some hope that I don't know what, what that maybe with the Republican president, maybe with 60 Republicans in the senate, I mean I guess that's one strategy but the downside is we just keep waiting as long as now like seven years overdue for re-authorization and we're still living with it. There's no doubt that any bill that could pass Congress at this would strength the federal role compared to what we have right now.

Neal:            Yeah, I mean I think it was probably move in the right direction at least you get rid of NYP and all of that other stuff. Maybe there are some hope. I don't know what it's based on but maybe there's some hope that the senate version will be more palatable to the people in the right.

Mike:            It does not seem likely.

Neal:            It doesn't. I'm just ... This is conjecture at this point but I do think that what you've seen is what you've seen in the whole lot of issues. Which is people on the right is saying we're not going to accept this really piece-meal differences. You know you'll get what of NYP. I think in particular the fact that the secretary still have a lot of power it seem under this legislation to tell states what was or what's not acceptable. Look, that's not a big enough difference. Maybe we'll see some compromise come out of it, maybe.

Mike:            All right. It's topic number two.

Ellen:            There's a growing movement for parents to opt out of the standardized test linked to the common core standards. Is this a legitimate form of protest?

Mike:            Neal, this is driving me crazy. All right, I totally agree that parents have every right to opt out. That's called a home school. I think they can send their kids to private schools. I think that's totally legitimate, right? If you're going to send your kid to public school like I do and have the public, the tax payers pay the bills, here's the deal, I mean you say what the public wants is just wants to know how kids are performing, right? It just wants that transparency.

                        You might not want little Billy to have to spend a couple of days in marsh taking the PARCC test, okay? It's not just about little Billy. It's about saying, this is the deal. The public just wants transparency around results. You don't allow that to happen, you're not fulfilling your side of the bargain.

Neal:            I wish I had time to answer everything that you said. I'll start by saying of course these parents are tax payers. I don't know that they have less right to get what they want in the school than other tax payers. If you choose home school and you choose private school, you're essentially saying I'm going to give up that money. That's a big problem for people. The next thing is part, it's not just two days. I mean PARCC testing, most places are set up 10 days. Now, you may not be testing that whole time but that is a big imprint.

Mike:            It is. There are definitely stories that are being very destructive in that. That is a legitimate problem that needs to be fixed.

Neal:            Ultimately, I mean this comes down to a very philosophical question about what ... First of all, you say, when the public wants that, when I meet somebody who's name is the public and that person makes decisions on their own, then I'll accept that. When we know that the public is just consisting of millions of individuals who all want different things, the public wants something ceases to be particularly moving to me. The fact of the matter is, this is the country that's supposed to be based on individual liberty, individual desires.

                        Not forced uniformity so I think that the opt out move is a good one. This is how people say, I am not happy with the status quote.

Mike:            Look ... That they are ... I think it's fine to have protest, it's fine. If they want a petition in their legislatures to dump the PARCC test, I would disagree to that but that is the right. I do worry though that we are using children as pawns in this thing. Here's the problem Neal in a very practical way. You get a lot of kids opting out, right? Now, you're the principal of John Q. Elementary School and you start thinking to yourself, Billy is not going to do so well in this test.

                        Because he is way behind. Maybe I'll encourage Billy's parents to quote opt out, right? It would be ... It just raises the possibility for the gaming that we try to put an end to 15 years ago because we knew if you're going to hold schools accountable for test core results, they have a huge incentive to encourage certain kids to stay home untested.

Neal:            Yeah, unless I'm wrong though. I mean it's still the requirement is 95% of people can test it.

Mike:            Yeah, but what if the parents opt out?

Neal:            You've already got the impetus to say why don't you margin out 5% not show up on test day so this isn't something new and I think that it is much more important that we always recognize and support the understanding in this country that it is about individuals. It is not about government deciding you all do X, Y, or Z so that we can get the public whoever that is can get whatever outcome it is the "Public" meaning government desire.

Mike:            I took the bus yesterday and I really want to opt out on some of those bus stops on the way in. It's going so freaking slow. Okay, topic number three.

Neal:            That's why we have cars.

Mike:            Yeah, exactly. That's the ... That's exactly my point. You pay for the car yourself. You take public transportation, it's subsidized by the government. You have to suck it up a little bit.

Neal:            I know which is why public transportation is a whole other subject to bet. Bad effects ...

Mike:            This is why whenever Neal advise me to the Cato Institute to speak, I always take a bus just to rub it in. Go ahead, Ellen. Number three.

Ellen:            Indiana saw large increase in voucher use last year and its Department of Education just expanded the program. Does this mean that fears about the testing requirement in Indiana were overblown?

Mike:            A little back around here Neal, there's been some debate in the choice world about whether the fact that voucher schools in Indiana have to have their kids take the state test and report those results whether that is dampening the interest of private schools in participating in this program versus other states that do not have those testing requirements. At Fordham, we've been in favor of those testing and transparency requirements. The more Libertarians generally have not been so what do you think? We're seeing the Indiana program grow? Does that mean that some of these original concerns were overblown?

Neal:            Yeah, the first thing. I'm maybe wrong on this one. This I haven't to call on my recollection but I think there was a study that came out recently that suggested their schools ... I think it's New Orleans, I could have the wrong place that are choosing not to participate because of regulations. I may have the wrong place.

Mike:            In Indiana, I mean Freedman was looking at Indiana as well. Now, it's a little unclear which regulations were bothering them.

Neal:            Maybe, I'm thinking Freedman's report on Indiana. Regardless, that actually isn't my fear. My fear is not that schools will choose not to participate. Although, that would be a bad thing. My fear is that they will participate because they want the money and then we reduce how meaningful the choice is because we'd say what you choose has to be very similar to the other schools. Let's say we'll hold them accountable to particular test, state case.

                        In some cases nationally norm but regardless what the test is, you have now set up a situation where if you want again to take money that is also your tax dollars to your school of your choosing. It has to be more like the schools you don't want. I'm really worried that you were taxing some vouchers and you lose the power of choice because schools want the money. They need the money so they take the regulation.

Mike:            Let me ask you about this. I understand that argument and I certainly understand that you're putting the primary value and it's an important value on what the parent wants, make education more like other goods and services in our economy and make schools more responsive to parents. If there is any public funding at use and you say there is a public interest in a well-educated citizenry, how do you square that? Is there anything that you think the public has a right to demand from those kinds of schools?

Neal:            I think that generally there's no problem if you say look, you need to have an outside audit show that there's some financial malefficiency. As soon as you start to say though well, you must choose these particular test, you have greatly reduced choice and of course the choice is ...

Mike:            No, I understand that but what's the alternative? I mean like, are you willing to say that anything that calls itself a school and has the kids in school for 180 days a year, you have no ... You don't care at all what they do during that time. They could be ... It would be a super, super lefty progressive school where the kids come in and do basically whatever they want, you're fine with that?

Neal:            It depends on how you define that. I think people should be able to choose super, super lefty schools because I think you need to have lots of different ways to deliver education. Compete with each other and understanding kids are different people, have different values and things like that. I think the way that you get the accountability I mean ideally as people ultimately pay with their own money for the school they choose and they really have skin in the game but there are tax credit programs.

                        Ideally tax credit programs not just where you get a tax credit for your own choice but where donors give the scholarship granting organizations and they can choose among different scholarship granting organizations. In that case, one, you have a choice where to donate to begin with. Then two, if you don't like what donor one does. Say, they give to crazy lefty schools or whatever you want to call them, you choose another one. Then you'll have a lot of that accountability built in without the stultifying regulation that comes with vouchers.

                        One of those regulations just saying well, this is the test or here's your choice of test on which you'll be held accountable.

Mike:            All right. Very good. All right, that is all the time we've got for part in the Gadfly. I'll let you have the last word on that Neal. Now, it's time for everyone's favorite. Amber's Research Minute. Amber, welcome back to the show.

Amber:            Thank you Mike.

Mike:            What do you think of Neil Patrick Harris at the Oscars?

Amber:            I mean coming on your underwear? Come on.

Mike:            You don't like that? [Crosstalk 00:13:22] Of course it is. It's entertainment.

Amber:            That's just weird. I don't know and he has no body hair. It's just a little ... It made me uncomfortable. Did not make everybody uncomfortable? Maybe ...

Mike:            Amber is now coming from the perspective of ... Now that she lives in the south. You are maybe have more southern manners about those things.

Amber:            Right. We don't walk around publicly in our underwear.

Mike:            Amber has been a resident of Richmond for about five days now.

Amber:            Five days. I'm already loving it.

Mike:            Yes, good. The accent coming back?

Amber:            I mean it did never left, right?

Mike:            That's right. Okay, what you got for us?

Amber:            All right. We got a new NBR study, well you know all of these. Attempts to parse whether the low degree completion rate of US college students is attributable to the students themselves or their choice of college? Interesting question. Problem is you can't go random assignment on college selection.

Mike:            You could but it would not have a lot of support.

Amber:            It would not be supportive. They attempt to solve this problem by studying all of the SAT test takers in the state of Georgia since they have a minimum SAT requirement for admission to their 4 year public universities in that state. That serves as external or what be called exogenous variable that impacts initial college choice so analyst can compare the relatively low skilled students just above and below that required threshold. The students end up comprising about the 20th to the 20th percentile of the skill distribution.

                        These are fairly low skilled kids. On each side of the cut off, they're virtually identical on their key demographics and their academic skills so that's neat. The student level data for the graduating high school classes of 2004 to 2007, they use college board data, National Student Clearing House. They have demographic data, SAT scores, post secondary enrollment. Transfer and degree completion so that's a rich data.

                        They construct a measure of college quality based on what that college's students average scores were on the PSAT so you have a little college quality indicator in there. Four key findings. Number one, access to four year public colleges divert students largely away from tier colleges. We'd expect that. Even though some who have attended other four year colleges or no colleges at all, most of them were swayed away from the two years. Number two, I'm calling them bubble kids.

                        That's what we call them I used to go to high school. The estimate for the bubble kids access to the four year sector increases the probability of enrollment in a four year college by 77% points. That's a lot. Further they show that one quarter of low income bubble kids would go nowhere if they were denied access but the non-low income bubble kids denied access do tend to go elsewhere. Number three, enrollment in four year colleges instead of other alternatives substantially increases bachelor degree completion rates by over 30 percentage points.

                        Again, even more or so for low income students so about 50 percentage points. Starting at a two year college and we've heard this before, starting in a two year college actually can reduce the probability of earning a bachelor's degree. Fourth and finally, they find that enrolling in a college where in a substantially less academically skilled than their peers is actually beneficial at least in terms of degree completion. In other words we hear some of those about over matching and how that's harmful.

                        They found no events of that at least in terms of this degree completion. They end up saying, the fact that these really small test score differences make a huge difference in college choice and degree completion is somewhat concerning. They have to use these recommendations. They basically say, these kids at least in Georgia need to take the entrance exam and they need to keep their options open as much as they possibly can.

Mike:            It's interesting. It's almost similar to the peer effects findings that keep finding that if you are almost always better to be in class with higher achieving peers, right? The problem is that, that's for high achievers too and so that gets into these difficult moral dilemmas but yeah. You're better off going to places where you're going to get pulled up by the quality of your peers. That's very interesting. Does this at all get into questions around just preparedness and remediation? I mean these are for kids who are already to take credit bearing courses at these four year colleges?

Amber:            Right. Yeah, they don't ask about their remediation tangle.

Mike:            I mean, but the bubble kids they're saying you're still ... You're better off going on a four year than a two year.

Amber:            Right, exactly.

Mike:            Bubble does not mean maybe you're not quite ready for credit bearing courses.

Amber:            Right. It just means you're right above in that threshold. Above or below the threshold of what you have to get in SAT to get gain entry, access to a four year college. Yeah, I mean it's just by bubble I just mean you are right and you're right there what you need to have to get into college in Georgia.

Mike:            Yeah, what are you thinking?

Neal:            I mean I'm always hesitant to talk about any study until I've read the study. You see how they [Crosstalk 00:18:04]. This is my advice. A lot of these are interesting but you'd really want to see the methods that they use. How much can we apply this outside of the state that it was in. It also gets in the higher ed which unfortunately we spent time on that too. I think anything that we can see that suggest that we could increase completion rates would be good with the proviso that of course completion doesn't necessarily mean more learning or more useful learning.

Mike:            Yeah, but it does seem to indicate is that the president's free community college plan is big, big zero. I mean come on. The full point here is that these kids do better if they don't go to community college so why are we preferencing these things called community college?

Amber:            There's a section in the paper that discusses that but I chose not to summarize because yeah, that's a quagmire but that's right. That's one implication you can take away from the study.

Neal:            Yeah. I'm not going to defend that community college proposal. It is possible though that one of the things you want people to go to school for learning discreet skills, maybe that's still something community colleges do. That wasn't part of the proposal.

Mike:            Absolutely and I think community colleges can do a great job on things like post-secondary credentials, employment, these credentials that employers value that are not necessarily two year or four year degrees that the technical side of community college as in many cases do great work and are well aligned with the needs of employers. What I don't we should be doing is warehousing kids in these remedial classes that they're unlikely to ever get out of.

Neal:            I mean it's indisputable that you have a whole lot of people go to community college. It's like 80% say their ultimate goal can be four year program and it's like 10% that ends up doing it. There are clearly huge problems. I mean ultimately the problem though is if you look at all that the outcomes data at the work force requirements is we're frankly sending too many people to college as you well know Mike. Even if we get people to four year schools, there's so many big questions about what does that degree signify?

                        What do they do with it? How much debt do they incur for maybe degree that actually doesn't help them in the work force? There's a whole lot that needs to be discussed.

Amber:            It's not the four year folks fault, right? Because they make the pipeline so easy like I know in the government college you can go directly into MC.

Mike:            All you need is a high school diploma or a GED.

Amber:            Yeah, so I mean I think the four years have done as much as they can to get these two year kids to like come in the door but that wasn't ... That wasn't the problem.

Mike:            All right. That is all the time that we've got for this week. Until next week.

Neal:            I'm Neal McCluskey.

Mike:            I'm Mike Petrilli at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute signing off.

Scott Pearson

When we talk about high standards, accountability, and school choice, one essential element is often overlooked: giving parents and education leaders information they can actually use. It’s one thing to produce data, but quite another to make it useful—easily understood, comparable, and actionable.

The District of Columbia has reaffirmed its commitment to making good data available in its second annual publication of Equity Reports. These reports provide unprecedented levels of information on how well each public and public charter school in the District of Columbia serves all students. By providing apples-to-apples comparisons of schools and presenting the results in a format that is easy to understand, the reports signal potential problems, help school leaders focus on areas where schools need to improve, and guide parents as they make decisions about their child’s education.

This is an important step in addressing some of the most critical issues about equity in public education: How successfully are we closing the achievement gap between black and white students, and between low-income and more affluent students? Are we suspending children of color at higher rates than white students? How well are we serving students with disabilities? These data will lead to tough and important conversations at schools and around the District as we dig into the underlying causes of the results we now are able to see.

Moreover, our Equity Reports tackle perennial charter school pain points head-on: Do charter schools push students out mid-year? Do they accept students all year, in all grades?...

Followers of Fordham’s work know that we are obsessed with charter school quality, both nationally and in our home state of Ohio. We are also a charter school authorizer, responsible for overseeing a portfolio of eleven schools in the Buckeye State—a job we take very seriously.

So when we learned that our colleagues at Ed Trust Midwest were giving charter quality—and especially authorizer quality—a hard look in our neighboring state of Michigan, we took notice.

Its new report, Accountability for All: The Need for Real Charter School Authorizer Accountability in Michigan, is an important contribution. It rightfully focuses on authorizers as the lynchpin of charter quality; they are, after all, the entities that screen and approve new charter schools and then hold them accountable for results (or—as is sometimes the case—do not).

And the group’s ranking of Michigan’s charter school authorizers—based on the test scores of the schools they oversee—is a good conversation starter. (Among big authorizers [thirty-plus schools], four get Bs, one gets a C, and one gets a D.)

Still, I have some quibbles. First, I can’t quite tell if Ed Trust Midwest calculated schools’ growth scores appropriately. The methodology says that schools’ growth was compared to “the average student growth of the state and the local school district where most of its students live.” That doesn’t sound as precise as CREDO’s methodology, which compares each student’s growth to a “virtual twin”—a more robust way of controlling for demographic differences.

That matters because, according to CREDO’s ...

Thank you Chairman Hayes, Vice Chair Brenner, Ranking Member Fedor, and members of the House Education Committee, for allowing me to testify in support of House Bill 2.

My name is Chad Aldis. I am the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit research and policy organization with offices in Columbus and Dayton. Worth noting given the subject matter of HB 2, Fordham’s Dayton office is also a charter school sponsor.

I’d like to start by commending the House for taking a leadership role on the issue of charter school reform. Despite bipartisan support for charter schools in much of the nation, they remain a deeply divisive issue in Ohio. My hope is that this bill could start to change that. Early reaction to the bill suggests that bipartisan support is possible. This would be a significant step forward as we work to ensure students are being well served regardless of the type of school that they attend.

Fordham has long focused on the need to improve accountability and performance in all Ohio schools. Last year, seeing an onslaught of troubling stories about charter schools, we commissioned research to learn more about the problems that the charter sector was facing.

Getting to the bottom of the issue was important to us because Fordham has long been a supporter of school choice—including charter schools. We believe that it’s critical for parents to have a variety of high quality educational choices.

Our research...

Ohio Gadfly readers won’t be surprised to know that we were thrilled to see Governor John Kasich strongly endorse charter school reforms that are similar to those we proposed in December—and have been seeking for years before that. We were particularly encouraged that governor wants to combine significantly stronger charter school oversight with greater funding for high-performing schools. His is exactly the right equation.

That’s because lax quality control and paltry funding are the underlying causes of Ohio’s relatively weak charter sector. Quality has lagged in large part because Ohio charter law too vaguely defines the powers and responsibilities of...

Like Moses in the wilderness, state policymakers have to cope with incessant grumbling—in their case over standardized testing. Last year, Ohio legislators compromised on testing and accountability, including delaying the implementation of Ohio’s new school report cards, waiving the consequences for poor performance in the 2014–15 school year, ditching the Algebra II end-of-course exam, and tweaking the teacher evaluation system by allowing schools to reduce the weight of the test-based accountability measure.

As the new General Assembly gears up in 2015, lawmakers will face even greater pressure to water down testing and accountability. Already, two high-priority bills...

The 2015 legislative session is gearing up, and Common Core will again feature prominently in the education agenda. Longtime Core opponent Representative Andy Thompson told the Plain Dealer to "count on" another repeal attempt, and new House education committee chair Bill Hayes has said that he expects Common Core to continue to be a source of debate. Hayes has acknowledged the importance of high standards and local control and has pledged to “have an open ear and give everyone a fair hearing.” While the prospect of even more testimony may leave many wary of another months-long ...

New York City’s Independent Budget Office (IBO) has released an updated Schools Brief which makes a few important tweaks to an earlier analysis of attrition rates for charters and traditional public schools. The original study followed students from kindergarten through third grade, ending in 2012–13; the additional data is for 2013–14, when most of the students were in fourth grade. Two of the major findings in the original report have not changed significantly: 1) On average, charter school students remain at their schools at a higher rate than their traditional school counterparts (64 percent vs. 56 percent after...

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has produced a three-minute video looking at the purpose of assessments. With the ongoing debate about testing (even in this issue of Gadfly), it’s easy to forget why it’s important.



Cheers to State Representatives Mike Dovilla and Kristina Roegner. They are the sponsors of House Bill 2, a high-priority bill introduced early in the 131st General Assembly that would remedy long-neglected deficiencies in Ohio’s charter school law, including in transparency, sponsor/school relationships, board roles, and accountability.

Cheers to Governor John Kasich, whose FY 2016–17 state budget also includes important charter school reforms, especially in the area of sponsor quality (which you can read about elsewhere in this issue of Ohio Gadfly). While there are incentives being proffered for achieving higher quality, it should not be overlooked just...

Ohio Gadfly readers won’t be surprised to know that we were thrilled to see Governor John Kasich strongly endorse charter school reforms that are similar to those we proposed in December—and have been seeking for years before that. We were particularly encouraged that governor wants to combine significantly stronger charter school oversight with greater funding for high-performing schools. His is exactly the right equation.

That’s because lax quality control and paltry funding are the underlying causes of Ohio’s relatively weak charter sector. Quality has lagged in large part because Ohio charter law too vaguely defines the powers and responsibilities of each actor in the charter-governing system. It also treats charters as second-class public schools. They receive less overall taxpayer funding and garner scant facilities support.

Kasich’s solution is to tie greater consequences and incentives to the state’s new Quality Sponsor Practices Review (QSPR). In particular, he would empower the Ohio Department of Education to shut down sponsors (i.e., authorizers) that receive low ratings on the QSPR; meanwhile, he would make charters overseen by high-ranking sponsors (yes, including Fordham) eligible for $25 million in additional facilities funding.

So what is the QSPR? Developed over several years, it is based on the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) Principles & Standards—widely considered the gold standard for authorizing practices. It has three components:

  • Academic performance of a sponsor’s schools
  • Compliance with applicable laws and rules
  • Adherence to quality sponsoring practices prescribed by the department (and
  • ...

New York City’s Independent Budget Office (IBO) has released an updated Schools Brief which makes a few important tweaks to an earlier analysis of attrition rates for charters and traditional public schools. The original study followed students from kindergarten through third grade, ending in 2012–13; the additional data is for 2013–14, when most of the students were in fourth grade. Two of the major findings in the original report have not changed significantly: 1) On average, charter school students remain at their schools at a higher rate than their traditional school counterparts (64 percent vs. 56 percent after four years); and 2) students at charters and traditional schools leave the New York City public school system at the same rate. The first finding is good news to charter school advocates in New York, since recent research suggests that student retention is one factor in overall charter improvement. But the second finding should worry public-education supporters and city officials alike. Between transient populations whose needs (both educational and otherwise) are not being met and families leaving the city’s public schools entirely for parts unknown, it is clear that many students are simply not staying in New York City public schools. It could even be argued that the “retention rate” numbers IBO reports are simply those students who haven’t left yet. As we discovered here in Ohio not too long ago, the causes of student mobility often have little to do with education, but its consequences affect the...

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Princess Lyles and Dan Clark, the executive director and lead organizer of the school-choice group Democracy Builders, argue that states and/or authorizers should require charter schools to “back-fill” their “empty seats” when they lose students to attrition. This is a terrible idea.

Their argument in favor of requiring charters to backfill is twofold. First, they say it’s unfair to compare schools that backfill to those that don’t, because those that don’t (like Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies*) almost certainly end up with a more motivated, higher-performing population over time as weaker, less engaged students depart for less challenging environments. It’s especially unfair, they say, if the comparisons are made on proficiency rates—the percentage of students passing state tests—instead of individual student growth. (I agree that such comparisons are unfair. More on that below.)

Second, they argue that, by not backfilling seats, schools like Success Academy are limiting opportunity. As a result of this policy, parents only have a shot at getting their kids into schools at designated entry points (like kindergarten or sixth grade). If families lose the charter school lottery for those specific grades, they are out of luck forever.

It’s a reasonable point, and I respect schools like Democracy Prep that welcome in students at any grade when space opens up. But whether to do this should remain the prerogative of the school, not the state or its regulators.

Why? Because there are strong instructional arguments...

So, it’s all about that budget today? No trouble.

  1. First up, the Beacon Journal. They equate the traditional district and charter school proposals in their headline, but definitely spend most of their column inches “spotlighting” those related to charter schools. How much so? So much that Chad is quoted and the Fordham-sponsored CREDO report on charter school quality in Ohio gets a name-check. Nice. (Akron Beacon Journal)
  2. Next, the Big D. They separate various budget strands in separate stories. Their K-12 education piece begins by noting, “more than half of Ohio school districts would see their state funding reduced” under the new budget. There is some mention of charter school oversight and funding changes along with some bullet points on the return of Straight A Grant funding and a proposed increase in EdChoice voucher amounts. (Columbus Dispatch)
  3. In the Blade, they combine K-12 and higher ed coverage. Their K-12 section begins by noting, “Increased revenue would go to Ohio schools,” under the new budget, but that district-by-district changes depend on “multiple factors”. There is a tiny notation of charter school oversight and funding changes. (Toledo Blade)
  4. There really is just one “factor” that’s most at play in the district funding changes proposed in the new budget. And that is the buzzword of “capacity”, by which is most simply meant the ability of localities to tax themselves to support local education and other stuff besides. It is a more complex calculation in reality, based
  5. ...