Charters & Choice

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson told the Columbus Dispatch back in 2007, about his city’s rapidly declining population, that, “Our problem is families with children. People are making their choices based on education, and if I am able to make our school district a district of choice where people want to put their children because of excellence, then I can guarantee you that our population reduction will come to a halt.” In the last decade, Cleveland’s school age population has shrunk by 10,000 children, and those left behind are largely poor, minority, and struggling academically.

On the Corner...
Ensuring a bright future for Cleveland and its education system requires taking chances.
 Photo by Laszlo Ilyes.

It is in the hope of stemming the loss of families and children that the mayor has proposed his bold school-reform plan that seeks to turn the city’s educational fortunes around. There are many worthy parts to his plan (see here for details), and one of the boldest sections calls for changes to how charter schools operate...

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's ambitious school reform plan includes many bold changes to how education works in that city, including the creation of a "Transformation Alliance" empowered to veto proposed start-up charter schools that don’t meet its standards for quality. Today, on the Ohio Gadfly Daily blog, Fordham VP for Ohio Policy and Programs Terry Ryan announced that the organization would be willing to pilot a vetting process led by the Transformation Alliance.

Terry explains,

we have doubts about the proposed Transformation Alliance and the scope of its authority, we fully understand, appreciate, and share Mayor Jackson’s frustration with the current system of charter school quality control in his city, and indeed across the state. We believe the charter community has a responsibility to offer the mayor and the city of Cleveland a workable solution to a real problem.

As a result,

Fordham—which expects to authorize one school in Cleveland in 2012-13—would willingly be the first to go through a vetting process led by the Transformation Alliance. We would see this as an opportunity to partner with the mayor and the Cleveland school district in working to create more and better school options for children and families who badly...

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson told the Columbus Dispatch back in 2007, about his city’s rapidly declining population, that, “Our problem is families with children. People are making their choices based on education, and if I am able to make our school district a district of choice where people want to put their children because of excellence, then I can guarantee you that our population reduction will come to a halt.” In the last decade Cleveland’s school age population has shrunk by 10,000 children, and those left behind are largely poor, minority, and struggling academically.  

It is in the hope of stemming the loss of families and children that the mayor has proposed his bold school reform plan that seeks to turn the city’s educational fortunes around. There are many worthy parts to his plan (see here for details), and one of the boldest sections calls for changes to how charter schools operate and are treated in Cleveland. First, high-performing charters would be welcomed as equals and even be offered a share of local tax-levy revenue. This arrangement would be the first of its kind in America and is truly path breaking. Second, the plan calls for a Transformation...

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson told the Columbus Dispatch back in 2007, about his city’s rapidly declining population, that, “Our problem is families with children. People are making their choices based on education, and if I am able to make our school district a district of choice where people want to put their children because of excellence, then I can guarantee you that our population reduction will come to a halt.” In the last decade Cleveland’s school age population has shrunk by 10,000 children, and those left behind are largely poor, minority, and struggling academically.  

It is in the hope of stemming the loss of families and children that the mayor has proposed his bold school reform plan that seeks to turn the city’s educational fortunes around. There are many worthy parts to his plan (see here for details), and one of the boldest sections calls for changes to how charter schools operate and are treated in Cleveland. First, high-performing charters would be welcomed as equals and even be offered a share of local tax-levy revenue. This arrangement would be the first of its kind in America and is truly path breaking. Second, the plan calls for a Transformation...

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker may have been the bookends that roused the assembly at a school choice policy summit last week in Jersey City, but it was a largely unknown corporate representative who provided some sobering perspective.

Policymakers will initiate change quickly if they design their choice policies smartly.

That’s because it was Erika Aaron’s job to talk about what happens after legislatures win the fight to establish vouchers or tax credit scholarships, which Christie said had “the chance to get the most change, the most quickly.” No doubt, Aaron shared the same sense of urgency with others at the American Federation for Children’s annual summit, but she also reminded the participants that they’ll initiate change quickly if they design their choice policies smartly.

Aaron is the community relations director for Waste Management, Inc., which has contributed $16 million to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program alone as well as millions to similar programs in other states in exchange for a tax credit. But Aaron said the company is particular about where it redirects its tax liability, and a smart private school choice policy to Waste Management may not be the most disruptive....

The Gadfly’s spring line is out!

Janie and Daniela debate designer Kenneth Cole’s foray into education reform and the Department of Education’s CTE overhaul, while Amber examines turnover among charter school principals.

Amber's Research Minute

The State of the NYC Charter School Sector by New York City Charter School Center

There is a student whose needs often go unmet by the schoolhouse and the statehouse—high-achieving, but not quite gifted, one who receives less attention from principals and policymakers focused on bringing the bottom up to proficiency.

High Flyers
For more on this issue read Fordham's study, Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? Performance Trends of Top Students.

So a lawmaker in Florida pushed successfully for a law that makes schools focus more attention on students at or near the top.

This week, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that establishes a minimum number of accelerated learning opportunities while making sure parents and students know how they can take advantage of those options (called Academically Challenging Curriculum to Enhance Learning options, or ACCEL). The measure was championed by state Representative John Legg, who feared that talented students were going through school unchallenged, especially in districts that paid little attention to accelerated learning.

Each of Florida’s sixty-seven school districts largely draft their plans for student progress by stressing expectations for meeting...

It’s primary season in statehouses nationwide, and that means that teacher unions will pit Democrat against Democrat by using the support of school vouchers as a wedge.

Teacher unions will pit Democrat against Democrat by using the support of school vouchers as a wedge.

An unexpected reminder of that came last week in the Wisconsin Democratic recall primary campaign for governor. The Wisconsin Education Association recently distributed a mailer claiming that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wanted to expand the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The union supports Barrett’s opponent in the primary, and is now using a story from seven years ago claiming that Mayor Barrett supported raising the enrollment cap on the voucher program.

Barrett said then that he was willing to back the cap increase in exchange for more money for all public schools, and he has since repeatedly expressed alarm over the voucher program’s cost to local taxpayers. But that’s beside the point for the union and enough to force Barrett to spend energy on the campaign trail defending his support for public education.

This strategy has worked before. A Democratic candidate for Florida Senate named Terry Fields spent weeks addressing his past support for the...

The pineapple and the gadfly

Standardized testing, school closures, and a pineapple: Rick and Janie cover it all this week, while Amber wonders whether weighted-student funding made a difference in Hartford after all.

Amber's Research Minute

Funding a Better Education: conclusions from the first three years of student-based budgeting in hartford

Before the real-estate bubble burst, there was a growing literature on the link between government regulation of housing and home prices. Tougher zoning restrictions, it seemed, drove up the cost of housing. This Brookings Institution report builds off this notion: Restrictive zoning regulations—such as those that limit the construction of high-rise apartments or other multi-family units in certain neighborhoods—not surprisingly create cities that are segregated by income and race. And that, in turn, produces unequal access to quality schools. By loosening or even eliminating restrictive zoning, cities may see housing-cost gaps narrow by as much as 63 percentage points and see school-achievement gaps narrow as a result, Rothwell writes. (In other words, less zoning results in less segregated neighborhoods, and less segregated schools.) In the meantime, district-choice plans, charter schools, and school vouchers can help offset the effects of zoning, the author argues. Unfortunately, in these tough economic times, districts are too often restricting school choice—by drawing tighter attendance zones around specialty schools or by denying bus service to them. That’s a poor way to save money. And if Rothwell teaches us anything, it’s that quality choices...

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