Charters & Choice

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

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

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...

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.

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
). 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

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...

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.

my own experiences, I read Deborah Meier’s recent
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.”

Meier’s claims about Yeltsin doing away with “inconvenient” ownership of the