Charters & Choice

Sounding off on "snobs" and Santorum

Mike and Rick break down the week’s news, from the prospects of John Kline’s ESEA reauthorization proposals to the college-for-all controversy. Amber analyzes the latest report on Milwaukee’s voucher program Chris wonders whether robbing a bank is enough to get a school bus driver fired.

Amber's Research Minute

The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

School bus dispatcher was bank robbery getaway driver - WFTV.com

Five years and thirty-six reports later, the
researchers at the University of Arkansas’s School Choice Demonstration Project
have written their last word on Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program (MPCP)
(some background here
and here).
Largely, the news is good for the nation’s oldest school-voucher enterprise.
Eight new studies—written by Patrick Wolf, John Witte, Anna Jacob, and others—make
plain that voucher students were more likely to graduate high school and enroll
in a four-year college than their counterparts in the Milwaukee Public Schools
(MPS). Voucher pupils also made significantly larger reading gains. Perhaps
most tantalizing, the state’s new school-accountability requirements seem
partly responsible for the progress. In 2010-11, the final year of data
collection, MPCP students made significantly larger reading gains than their
MPS peers—unlike previous years, when voucher students were merely on par with
their public-school counterparts. (Achievement growth in math was about the
same for MPCP and MPS students throughout the studied years.) Interestingly,
the same year saw a host of additional testing and reporting regulations added
to participating voucher schools. For example, voucher-bearing pupils had to
take state assessments and their schools had to adopt formal graduation and
promotion standards. Though analysts couldn’t “determine conclusively how big a
role the accountability policy played,” their findings encourage the view that
voucher programs shouldn’t be ruled...

White Hat Management
has been the Goliath of Ohio’s charter school operators since its first schools
opened in 1999. The company currently operates 33 schools in the Buckeye State.
White Hat’s CEO David Brennan was a pioneer in Ohio’s school-choice movement
and his efforts in this realm have long faced criticism– some deserved and some
not. In recent years White Hat’s schools have faced a series of legal and
academic problems. Among them, the fact that none of White Hat’s schools are
rated above a C on the state report card, increased competition resulting in
lower enrollment, legal action brought against the company by the governing
boards of some of the schools it operates, and a related fight over the
disclosure of certain financial records.

These
issues have made White Hat a fixture in the press, most recently with a report
that the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) rejected four of six White Hat
applications to the department to authorize new schools that were slated to
open in the fall of 2012. (ODE is allowed to sponsor up to five new charter
schools a year as part of a compromise in the biennial budget that made the
department a charter authorizer almost a decade after being forced from that
role by an earlier General Assembly.)

The
rejection of the White Hat applications will come as a surprise to...

Need
a handy nutshell summary of state charter school laws and how they stack up
against the Model Charter School Law developed by the National Alliance for
Public Charter Schools (NAPCS)? Then check out the third edition of NAPCS’s Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Charter School Laws.

The
report highlights the gains and losses of each state’s ranking against the
Model Law, and contains capsule summaries of existing state provisions and how
they measure up (or not). While Ohio made some positive changes to certain
charter school provisions in the most recent budget bill (e.g., improvements to
authorizer accountability, lifting outdated moratoriums, expanding the areas in
which new start-up schools may open), other states made more substantial
changes and, as a result, Ohio ranks 28th out of the 42 states with
charter laws.

According
to the Ohio Department of Education, approximately 106,534 Ohio students attend
charter schools as of February 2012. Regardless of rankings, Ohio policymakers
should continue to seek improvements to Ohio’s charter school program. Removing
the two school limit on board membership for trustees of high performing
schools, scrutinizing transportation funding to ensure that charter schools
that choose to transport their own students are funded fairly, examining
potential conflicts of interest between sponsors (aka authorizers) and updating
existing Ohio law to align with federal language regarding single gender
charter schools would be...

Amanda Young
learning specialist, Noble Charter Schools

Noble Charter Schools in Chicago have gotten a heap
of negative attention
over the past several weeks for a discipline policy
that some call a “dehumanizing system that looks a lot more like reform school
than a college prep.” In
short, the school issues demerits to students who commit infractions, and students
who earn four demerits in two weeks are given detention and charged $5. Critics
claim that such policies amount to “nickel and diming” poor families who are
already struggling to make ends meet. (Last week, Fordham’s own Adam Emerson pointed
out
that Noble is hardly alone—there are many Catholic schools, for
instance, that levy similar fines for student misbehavior.)

Of course, there are different ways to structure
discipline policies, and what works for one school won’t necessarily work for
another. But what’s missing from this discussion is the context necessary to
understand how the policy is used and its impact on the culture, students, and
families.

Below is the response from Amanda Young, a learning
specialist who works at a Noble Charter School
in Chicago, and
who is shocked and dismayed by the attention Noble’s discipline policy has
received. She believes that, taken together, Noble’s policies are designed to
support students and create a culture that helps them succeed. And it’s hard to
argue with the success they’ve had so far. As Emerson noted in his...

The researchers behind the School Choice Demonstration
Project have
given us their last word on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program
, and the
news largely is good for the nation’s oldest school voucher enterprise. A
sample of voucher students made larger reading gains than their counterparts in
Milwaukee Public Schools and voucher students continue to show higher
graduation rates. But more significant may be the implication that higher
standards and accountability are partly responsible for the progress.

By the time the
project gathered data during its final year of study, the schools participating
in the voucher program were required to abide by a number of new regulations.
Besides requirements to adopt curriculum, instructional, and graduation
standards, the participating private schools had to test their voucher students
with the same assessments used in public schools, and each school had to report
the results. At a minimum, these new regulations “played a role” in generating
the achievement gains found in the final year of the study, said Patrick J.
Wolf, the project’s principal investigator and professor at the University of Arkansas.

The results show a need to further
explore the right balance between parental choice and state standards.

“We cannot determine conclusively how big a role the
accountability policy played, however, only that the combination of Choice and
accountability left the MPCP students in our study with significantly higher
levels of...

Ohio’s charter school community has been split into two
camps since the inception of the state’s first charter law in 1997. The first
camp – I’ll call free-market purists – believes that charter schools should be afforded
the same rights as private schools and as such be given maximum freedom of
operations. The free-market purists argue that when it comes to charter schools
the role of the state is little more than to distribute public dollars for a
child’s education. As long as parents decide to send children to a school, no
more “accountability” is necessary for performance.

In short, if there is market demand for a school – and the
school is in compliance with basic regulations like fire and health and safety
codes – then no more evidence is needed to keep the state dollars flowing.
Free-market purists believe that school choice is an end in itself. If public
policy creates a marketplace of school options then issues of school quality
will work themselves out as parents will naturally seek quality and abandon
failure. Free-market purists believe school operators know best what families
and children need and that the state should have no say in matters of school “quality”
and academic performance.

The second camp of school-choice supporters – I’ll call
accountability hawks – believes that market demand for schools is important (no
child should be trapped in a...

The Georgia House this
week took another step
toward exiling last spring’s state Supreme Court
decision prohibiting the state approval of charter schools to the history
books, where it belongs. If the Georgia Senate follows suit, voters will have
an opportunity in November to test whether Chief Justice Carol Hunstein was
correct in her assertion that Georgia
citizens are happy to secure “the now 134-year-old status quo.”

In May, Georgia’s highest court
disbanded the state’s charter school authorizing commission
, ruling that no
publicly funded educational enterprise is permissible unless first engineered
or christened by a local school board. A resolution that passed a supermajority
vote in the House on Wednesday would ask voters to reinstate the commission by
amending the constitution. This is significant, as Hunstein proclaimed that the
constitution limits authority over public education “to that level of
government closest and most responsive to the taxpayers and parents of the
children being educated.”

This resolution puts authority squarely in the hands of the
taxpayer.

This resolution puts authority squarely in the hands of the
taxpayer and recognizes that nothing is more responsive or consequential to a
child’s education than the choice the parent makes on his behalf. The
commission created 16 charter schools before the court ruled it did so in
violation of the constitution, but the commission merely provided families the
lever to make the educational...

White Hat
Management
has been the Goliath of Ohio’s charter school operators
since its first schools opened in 1999. The company currently operates 33
schools in the Buckeye State. White Hat’s CEO David Brennan was a pioneer in Ohio’s
school-choice movement and his efforts in this realm have long faced criticism
– some deserved and some not. In recent years White Hat’s schools have faced a
series of legal and academic problems. Among them, the fact that none of White
Hat’s schools are rated above a C on the state report card, increased
competition resulting in lower enrollment, legal action brought against the
company by the governing boards of some of the schools it operates, and a
related fight over the disclosure of certain financial records.

These issues have made White Hat a fixture in the press, most
recently with a report that the Ohio Department of
Education (ODE) rejected four of six White Hat applications to the department
to authorize new schools that were slated to open in the fall of 2012. (ODE is
allowed to sponsor up to five new charter schools a year as part of a
compromise in the biennial budget that made the department a charter authorizer
almost a decade after being forced from that role by an earlier General
Assembly.)

The rejection of the White Hat applications will come as a
surprise...

Untouchable?

Untouchable?

Mike Petrilli and Ty Eberhardt discuss the soft spots in President Obama's education record.

For a more in depth view at the president's education record, please read the article on Education Next.

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