Charters & Choice

Since the first charter school opened its doors in Minnesota
in 1991, over 6,700 charter schools have set up shop in 40 states and DC.
Unfortunately, not all of these schools have been successful and a number of
them have since closed, in fact charter schools have experienced a 15 percent
closure rate since their inception.

A recent report
by the Center for Education Reform takes a look at why charter schools close
and shows that the number one reason (over 40 percent) for charter closure is
fiscal mismanagement and financial problems driven by low enrollment numbers. Other
issues such as ethical violations make up 24 percent of charter closures.
Furthermore, academic failure makes up 19 percent of all closures. While
academic performance is extremely important, schools tend to close for money problems
rather than academic ones. Ohio is no stranger to the challenges of ensuring
charter schools deliver results while ensuring they function well as
businesses. This report is a useful read for Ohioans interested in better

U.S. economy has shed more than eight million jobs since 2008, and has created
only two million new jobs in that same period of time, resulting in not only a
high number of unemployed people, but also a high number of job vacancies. A
recent report by The Hamilton Project
attributes this contradictory statistic to the nation’s schools doing a poor
job of graduating students who are career-ready. With a lack of qualified
applicants, employers are settling for the cheapest employees rather than the
most qualified employees, or worse, leaving jobs vacant all together. Or, as in
the case of Apple and other great companies, moving the jobs to China where the
labor force is ready, willing, and able to do the work.

order to provide students with skills necessary to obtain decent jobs that pay
a middle class wage, the author argues that students need career counseling in
high school that does not simply herd students toward bachelor’s degrees, but
directs them to career certificates or associate’s degrees, as well. College
dropout rates could be lessened if students were directed toward “key economic
sectors” – career fields with a high number of job vacancies that can provide
high compensation for highly qualified applicants.

a solution, the report proposes the federal government set up a grant program
in which states would apply for money...

Adam Emerson

have generally embraced the premise that choice is good in education, but we
are engaged in a long-lasting war over how to deliver it. This war has many
fronts: We fight over the expansion of charter schools and talk past each other
on questions of their freedom and funding; we enhance the growth of online
education while doing little to change a model of public school governance that
remains rooted in the 19th century; we linger over the political
divide that insists on drawing lines separating “public” and “private,” even as
those words have become less relevant in evolving education systems that defy
traditional labels.

How do we
categorize, or properly finance, the smorgasbord of options available to
today’s student?

How do we
categorize, or properly finance, the smorgasbord of options available to
today’s student? And how do we enhance the debate to rethink how we administer
a public education? The resistance to customized forms of schooling is not new.
Many a well-meaning principal and superintendent fought back-to-basics schools
and International Baccalaureate programs and gifted education for fear they
would dilute other public schools. But too many of today’s well-meaning school
leaders and policymakers remain stuck in those old conversations.

our dialogue remains muddy with assumptions that keep us entangled in old fears
about vouchers, charter schools, virtual education or, more particularly,
homeschooling. And that...

Michael Podgusrky, Stuart Buck, and Renita Thukral

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, hundreds of public
schools were put out of commission and their staff placed on leave. Many
charters schools expanded to absorb the displaced students, and these charter
schools hired teachers from traditional schools to meet the enrollment demand. A
glitch, fixed by state legislation, was to allow the displaced teachers to
remain in the state teacher pension plan since some of the charter schools did
not participate in the state plan. In
2010 this temporary law expired. Many of these transplanted teachers remain
employed in charter schools and wished to continue to participate in the state
teacher plan. Legislation was passed to allow these transplanted teachers to
remain permanently in the state retirement plan, if—and this is a very big if—the
Treasury Department approved.

Are charter schools sufficiently “governmental” that
they can participate in state and local pension plans?

The Treasury Department held off ruling on the Louisiana case while it
worked on regulations that would provide new guidance on what it meant for a
plan to be a "governmental plan." In November, the Treasury
Department issued proposed regulations on the subject, and the news is not good
for charter school teachers in Louisiana,
or anywhere, since these new rules would affect charter
schools in all states.

The legal issues are complex, and in a forthcoming study,
two of us (Buck and...

The Education Gadfly

Writers on the Gadfly Daily blogs analyzed issues from
around the country this week, discussing everything from the lessons that the Louisiana
Recovery School District
has to offer to the tough talk coming from New
York State

School choice was a big theme, with Fordham announcing the new editor of the Choice Words blog, Adam Emerson, who explained the
importance of “subsidiarity”
in education. On Flypaper, Mike argued that charter schools should approach
district collaboration
with caution and from a position of strength, while
Terry noted that Ohio has prime
of getting charter-district relationships wrong on the Ohio Gadfly
Daily blog.

Stretching the School Dollar explained the flaws in a recent
funding court decision
and why paycheck
needs to be a policy priority, while on the Common Core Watch
blog Kathleen argued that having a plan for CCSS implementation is a start—but
just a start

To stay on top of all Fordham’s wit and wisdom, be sure to
subscribe to the combined RSS

The Education Gadfly

Cooperation between charter and district schools has
potential, but Fordham’s bloggers highlighted a few reasons for concern. On the
Flypaper blog Mike argues that, while collaboration is great in theory,
charters must be careful to negotiate
with districts from a position of strength
, while over at the Ohio Gadfly
Daily Terry worries that the Buckeye
State has managed to “take
a worthy concept and turn it completely on its head.

Yesterday, to go along with the release of its annual report on the state of American charter schools, the Center for Reinventing Public Education asked several experts to answer a tricky question: What is the future of district/charter collaboration? Here's my take:

The topic of collaboration between districts and charter
schools inevitably leads to Cold War imagery. Are we talking about appeasement?
Détente? Trust but verify?

Like the ideal of world peace, it’s easy to agree about
cooperation—moving from a “battleground” to “common ground,” as one Gates
Foundation official put it. But how can we ensure that cooperation doesn’t turn
into an excuse to co-opt the charter school movement?

The key, it seems to me, is for charters to come to the
negotiating table as equal powers.

To be sure, some enlightened superintendents and school
boards will welcome charter school engagement for all the right reasons. But
local politics being what they are, let’s not take goodwill as a given. Through
a prism of Realpolitik (!), the key
to making partnerships work is even strength on either side.

What that implies is that long-lasting charter-district
collaborations are only likely to work in locales where charter schools boast
serious market share and significant political power. So before charter schools
sit down to hammer out a deal, they should:

  • Get to
    . If districts are losing twenty or thirty percent of their students
  • ...

D.C.—The Thomas B. Fordham
Institute announced today that Adam Emerson will join the organization as the director
of its new policy program on parental choice, effective February 1, 2012. In
this newly-created position, Emerson will coordinate the Institute’s school
choice-related research projects, policy analyses and commentaries on issues including
vouchers, charter schools, homeschooling, and digital learning. Currently
editor of the redefinED blog, Emerson will now edit and write for Fordham’s new

“We’re thrilled to welcome someone with Adam’s abilities and
track record to the Fordham team,” said Fordham Institute President Chester E.
Finn, Jr. “Few commentators combine his experience, expertise and enthusiasm in
this vital realm of education with his talents as a writer.”

Emerson comes to Fordham from Step Up For Students, where he
served as the assistant director for public and policy affairs. In that role,
Emerson developed and executed communications strategies for an organization
that provides private school tuition assistance to more than 37,000 low-income
children throughout Florida.
Previously, he worked as a journalist for more than nine years, including eight
years as an education reporter for the Tampa
and Lansing (Mich.) State Journal.

Media inquiries should be directed to Fordham’s external
relations manager, Ty Eberhardt at (202) 223-5452 or More
information about the Thomas B.Fordham Institute is available online at its
redesigned website:


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

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