Charters & Choice

Who wants to be Tim Tebow now?

Fresh off his South American adventure (seriously!), Rick reunites with Mike to catch up on what he missed: NCLB reauthorization, tough talk in New York, and the fall of Tim Tebow. Amber explains why the latest value-added study really is a big deal and Chris describes a teacher scandal that really will leave you asking, “What’s up with that?”

Amber's Research Minute

The Long-term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

Teacher masturbates in classroom over 10 years! via NBCChicago.com

Two months ago, Mathematica and the Center on
Reinventing Public Education offered
preliminary findings
from their four-year study on charter-management
organizations. The upshot: When it comes to student achievement, CMO
performance varies widely. Two weeks ago, analysts put out a revised and
extended version of their interim report, adding analyses on graduation and
postsecondary enrollment rates (and school-level, as opposed to CMO-level,
middle school impacts). The results are again mixed. Data were much scarcer for
these graduation and post-secondary enrollment components (in part because
fewer CMOs run high schools): Six CMOs had sufficient data to investigate their
graduation rates and four had sufficient data to investigate post-secondary
enrollment. Of these, two had significantly positive effects when compared to similar
district schools, raising both graduation and postsecondary enrollment rates by
about 20 percent. And one CMO had a significant negative impact (22 percent) on
graduation rates. Meager data aside, one frustrating thread continues through
each of these published preliminary reports: Which CMOs raise college enrollment rates by 20 percent? And which
lowers graduation rates by that same amount? Mathematica and CRPE never say.
The project’s culminating report is due out in March. We wait with bated breath
for the authors to name names.

Melissa Bowen, et al., Charter-School
Management Organizations: Diverse Strategies and Diverse Student Impacts

(Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research; Seattle, WA: Center on Reinventing
Public...

Like the Hatfields and McCoys or the Montagues and Capulets,
charter and district schools have a tradition of feuding. Districts have been
known to waylay charters’ funding; charter leaders to wage legal battles
against their local districts. Yet this sixth edition of Hopes, Fears & Reality (which depicts the status of the charter
movement annually, with a pause in 2010) argues that a truce may be near. These
nine chapters offer examples of districts and charters that have already begun
to collaborate through the “portfolio management model” (PMM) of schooling—and
explains how to tackle the philosophical and technical issues that stand in the
way of further implementation of this new (and radically different) model of
organizing districts. (In the PMM set-up, a central district office oversees a
diverse portfolio of schools, instead of a group of cookie-cutter neighborhood
schools; more
background on PMM here
and
here
). One chapter, for example, details how Baltimore enacted its city-wide choice
program, which allows students to choose one of about thirty district or
charter schools in their area. Another discusses how charters and the district
came to share facilities in Denver.
The authors note mutual benefits for strategic collaboration: Districts can
exploit charters’ flexibility to leverage
greater equity
and higher student achievement; charters can partner with
districts to (finally) ensure equitable funding. Portfolio districts are a
fresh and intriguing prospect...

Adam Emerson

Guest blogger Adam Emerson is editor of the redefinED blog, where this post was first published.

Subsidiarity is an organizing principle rarely discussed
outside the Catholic Church and the European Union, and it’s a shame so few
academics and advocates of school choice in the United States talk about it. It
is a principle that is skeptical about the ability of large bureaucracies to
trump smaller units' capacities to function for the common good. At this past weekend’s
inaugural international school choice conference in Fort Lauderdale, an Italian researcher
introduced the concept to describe why a stubborn region in his country could
not accept the government’s insistence that public education must be centrally
administered. A sympathetic audience nodded in approval, but there was no
obvious sign that the conference understood that its mission was just given
political order.

Subsidiarity is a principle that is skeptical about the ability of large bureaucracies to
trump smaller units' capacities to function for the common good.

If there was, it could have better informed the rhetorical
jousting match that happened minutes later between Stanford University
political scientist and union scourge Terry Moe and United Federation of
Teachers vice president Leo Casey. For Moe, author of Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools, the
problem of public education is one of structure, organization. “Nobody has a
coherent vision of the whole, and no one...

More
than ten years ago, in what now seems like another life, I lived and studied in
the former Soviet Union. I was an exchange
student in Krasnodar, Russia,
not far from Ukraine and Georgia. Krasnodar is the
heartland of the “red belt,” where nostalgia for the Communist era still runs
high – despite all the dysfunction caused by that system, especially in its
death throes in the 1980s and 90s.

More democracy, not less, is what this movement is about.

Given
my own experiences, I read Deborah Meier’s recent
column
comparing today’s education reformers in America to Boris Yeltsin (of all
people!) with some trepidation. Meier is right that well-connected “new
Russians” did a bang-up job buying state-owned property for a song in the 90s
(really stealing it), creating billionaires overnight while leaving most
ordinary citizens impoverished. She’s wrong, however, in thinking that “the
people” ever controlled that property in the Soviet era, or that oligarchs and ed
reformers both “smell property like a beast after prey.”

Despite
Meier’s claims about Yeltsin doing away with “inconvenient” ownership of the
state’s wealth by “the people,” wealth in the USSR was owned and controlled (in
fact, if not in name) by the nomenklatura who ran industry, agriculture,
and education for the socialist state. It goes without saying that party
officials didn’t suffer from the food shortages that hit...

Is it time for Ohio to consider new forms of governance and
management for its most troubled schools and districts, and, if so, what might
alternatives look like? The question of what to do with long-suffering public
schools has driven many of the country’s most significant education reforms.
Both the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top competition addressed
failing schools and sought to force dramatic changes within them. States have
also taken up the challenge. According to the Education Commission of the
States there are at least 29 states that permit state takeovers of school
districts for academic bankruptcy, fiscal mismanagement, and other problems, while
at least 23 states provide for takeovers of school buildings.

But, despite both federal and state legislation and millions
of dollars in things like “school improvement grants” there are still far too
many schools that seem impervious to improvement efforts. Consider Cleveland
where there are 15 elementary schools that have been rated Academic Emergency
(F) by the state for at least the last four consecutive years. Collectively,
these schools serve about 6,000 children and in 2010-11 they met a total of
just eight state performance indicators out of a possible 225. In these schools
fewer than half of the children attain basic proficiency in reading and
mathematics by the time they leave eighth grade. Yet, these schools, and many
others across the...

In this post, originally published on our new Ohio Gadfly Daily blog, Terry Ryan explains the implications of Fordham's latest publication, The Louisiana Recovery School District: Lessons for the Buckeye State.

Is it time for Ohio to consider new forms of governance and
management for its most troubled schools and districts, and, if so, what might
alternatives look like? The question of what to do with long-suffering public
schools has driven many of the country’s most significant education reforms.
Both the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top competition addressed
failing schools and sought to force dramatic changes within them. States have
also taken up the challenge. According to the Education Commission of the
States there are at least 29 states that permit state takeovers of school
districts for academic bankruptcy, fiscal mismanagement, and other problems, while
at least 23 states provide for takeovers of school buildings.

But, despite both federal and state legislation and millions
of dollars in things like “school improvement grants” there are still far too
many schools that seem impervious to improvement efforts. Consider Cleveland
where there are 15 elementary schools that have been rated Academic Emergency
(F) by the state for at least the last four consecutive years. Collectively,
these schools serve about 6,000 children and in 2010-11 they met a total of
just eight state performance indicators out of a possible 225. In...

Adam Emerson
Editor of redefinED

Guest blogger Adam Emerson is editor of the redefinED blog, where this post was first published.

School voucher critics generally approach their job reviewing the research
on school choice with unfair assumptions, and otherwise insightful commentators
risk recycling old canards. This is true with Thomas Toch’s critique
of vouchers in the newest edition of Kappan
, which concludes that voucher
programs haven’t shown enough impact to justify their position in a large-scale
reform effort. Questions of scale can lead to legitimate debate, but we’ll get
nowhere until we acknowledge what’s in the literature.

Questions of scale can lead to legitimate debate, but we’ll get
nowhere until we acknowledge what’s in the literature.

Toch grounds what he calls “the underwhelming record of voucher schools”
first with an anecdotal report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,
which determined that America’s first voucher program “is very much like a
teenager: heart-warmingly good at times, disturbingly bad at others.” The
problem is that this newspaper report is nearly seven years old. We’ve learned
so much since then, and at no time has the peer-reviewed science on the subject
shown the back-and-forth swing from good to bad that the Journal Sentinel
implied in 2005.

John Witte and Patrick Wolf, for instance, gave us
a glimpse this year into their evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice
Program
. Among other findings, they conclude that the competitive pressure
...

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Columbus Preparatory Academy, a K-8 Mosaica-run
charter school on Columbus’s west side that is a poster child for the
successful turnaround of a troubled school.

In 2008, the school was rated F by the state and student
performance on state assessments was abysmal. Today the school is rated
A+
(aka, Excellent with Distinction) and boasts achievement levels that best
that of nearly all of the area’s top-performing schools (and are leaps and
bounds above the state’s definition of “proficiency”). This transformation was
achieved while the school continued serving a challenged student population – about
72 percent of students are economically disadvantaged and eligible for free or
reduced-price lunch – and retained nearly all of the same teachers and staff
members who were working in the school when it was failing (in a school that
now employs 30 teachers, the principal said just seven or eight teachers have
left during his four-year tenure).

So what are the keys to CPA’s success? Two things
immediately stand out:

Leadership. Principal
Chad Carr (who has led the turnaround since taking over the school four years
ago) is committed to the success of his students, staff, and school like few
others in his field. I don’t say that lightly as I know a lot of absolutely
terrific school leaders, but spend five minutes with Carr and...

This annual report from the union-funded National
Education Policy Center (NEPC) profiles the nation’s Education Management Organizations—defined
here as both nonprofit and for-profit entities that manage public schools, both
district and charter. The NEPC offers trends in EMO growth and achievement, as
well as profiles of almost 300 such entities. 
A few interesting tidbits: Enrollment in schools managed by nonprofit
EMOs significantly trumps that of the for-profit kind, yet for-profits have
squeezed into more states (thirty-three vs. nonprofits’ twenty-nine).
For-profit entities disproportionately manage elementary schools (56 percent of
their schools are K-5 compared to 37 percent of nonprofits’). And district
schools managed by nonprofit EMOs fare significantly worse than their charter counterparts on measures of AYP (14
percent of district schools met AYP compared to 56 percent of charters).
Interesting stuff, but beware of simplistic conclusions. These descriptive data
are helpful, but can’t begin to tell us about the effectiveness of these
respective organizations. For that, at least on the nonprofit side, see the
Center on Reinventing Education’s pioneering work on
CMOs instead.

Gary Miron, Jessica Urschel,
Mayra A. Yat Aguilar, and Breanna Dailey, “Profiles of
For-Profit and Nonprofit Education Management Organizations: Thirteenth Annual
Report
” (Boulder, CO:
National Education Policy
Center, January 2012).

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