Charters & Choice

Referring to the Model T, Henry Ford famously said, ?A customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.? It turns out that Dr. Jerry Weast, the superintendent in Montgomery County, Maryland, where I live, feels the same way about school choice ? parents can send their kids to any school they want, as long as it's part of the traditional public school system (or you're wealthy enough to send your child to a private school):

So we look at things about school choice, and there's over 150 private schools in our community. And so there's choices for. [sic] And there's choices in our 200 [district] schools with their thematic approaches. So choice is something that's in abundant supply in Montgomery County.

The background is that the Montgomery County Board of Education recently denied two applications to start public charter schools in the county on Dr. Weast's recommendation. The State Board of Education yesterday overturned both those decisions, citing anti-charter bias, an arbitrary review process that broke the county's own rules, and a made-up standard of ?uniqueness? for new public charter schools.

The mess in Montgomery County cuts across a number of pressing issues in education reform. While the county is one of the wealthiest in the country, it has a stubborn and growing achievement gap by some measures. Complacency about good student achievement on average takes attention away from discussion about moving the...

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Foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Amber M. Winkler

This study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute finds that low-performing public schools—both charter and traditional district schools—are stubbornly resistant to significant change. After identifying more than 2,000 low-performing charter and district schools across ten states, analyst David Stuit tracked them from 2003-04 through 2008-09 to determine how many were turned around, shut down, or remained low-performing. Results were generally dismal. Seventy-two percent of the original low-performing charters remained in operation—and remained low-performing—five years later. So did 80 percent of district schools. Read on to learn more—including results from the ten states.

Press Release

Fordham gives its advice to Governor-elect Kasich and the incoming leaders of the Ohio House and Senate as it relates to the future of K-12 education policy in the Buckeye State. To move Ohio forward in education, while spending less, we outline seven policy recommendations. 1) Strengthen results-based accountability for schools and those who work in them. 2) Replace the so-called “Evidence-Based Model” of school funding with a rational allocation of available resources in ways that empower families, schools, and districts to get the most bang for these bucks. 3) Invest in high-yield programs and activities while pursuing smart savings. 4) Improve teacher quality, reform teacher compensation, and reduce barriers to entering the profession. 5) Expand access to quality schools of choice of every kind. 6) Turn around or close persistently low-performing schools. 7) Develop modern, versatile instructional-delivery systems that both improve and go beyond traditional schools.

This study from the Fordham Institute tackles a key question: Which of thirty major U.S. cities have cultivated a healthy environment for school reform to flourish (and which have not)? Nine reform-friendly locales surged to the front: New Orleans, Washington D.C., New York City, Denver, Jacksonville, Charlotte, Austin, Houston, and Fort Worth. Trailing far behind were San Jose, San Diego, Albany, Philadelphia, Gary, and Detroit. Read on to learn more.

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City Profiles:

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Albany, NY Columbus, OH Gary, IN Milwaukee, WI San Antonio, TX
Austin, TX Dallas, TX Houston, TX New Orleans, LA San Diego, CA
Baltimore, MD

Though it serves the same challenged population as many urban schools, Citizens' Academy in Cleveland boasts an outstanding academic track record. Check out our video to learn what the school's teachers and leaders believe are the keys to the school's extraordinary success.

Citizens' Academy and seven other Ohio schools will be featured in Needles in a Haystack: Lessons from Ohio's high-performing, high-need urban schools, due May 2010 from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

--Eric Ulas

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