Charters & Choice

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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OhioFlypaper

Congratulations to Andrew Boy, the co-director and founder of Columbus Collegiate Academy, one of the six charter schools Fordham authorizes. Andy was just selected as a 2010 recipient of Columbus Business First's highly prestigious ???40 under 40' award. The award recognizes outstanding Columbus area leaders under the age of 40 who have demonstrated a high measure of success and are making a positive contribution to the community.

Andy stands among the few leaders in Ohio urban education committed and able to give disadvantaged students what they deserve ??? a top-notch education that prepares them for success in college. As a young teacher in Cincinnati, Andy improved the science proficiency scores of his fourth and sixth graders by 60 and 80 percentage points in three years, respectively. Today, Columbus Collegiate Academy ranks as one of the top performing schools in Columbus while serving a student body that is 94 percent economically disadvantaged.

Andy has achieved this success despite the serious challenges his charter school faced from the outset (opening in a time of budget cuts to charter schools, encountering obstacles related to school facilities, and dealing with tough student transportation issues). His school's recent selection as a New Leaders for New Schools?? EPIC silver award for dramatic gains in student achievement is evidence that the national charter school community identifies Andy as a nationwide leader from whom other schools can learn.

Additionally, Andy makes the time to serve as a personal and professional mentor...

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Amy Fagan

Checker shared his thoughts in this recent interview, posted on the Economist's blog, Democracy in America. The discussion touched on some key education topics including the education establishment, testing and accountability and charters.

On the DIA blog you'll find similar interviews with Teach For America's Wendy Kopp and other education leaders.

--Amy Fagan

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Charter schools are different from traditional district schools in that they are free of many regulations and operating constraints, but in return for their freedoms they are held accountable for their results. Those charter schools that fail to deliver results over time are closed, the theory holds. Yet, strict charter accountability in the form of closure collides with the efforts of states like Ohio to use federal school improvement dollars to turn around troubled charter schools.

President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Duncan are pushing the school turnaround concept hard through the Race to the Top competition and School Improvement Grants. Andy has written extensively about the many challenges that face turnaround efforts, and has mustered much evidence against the cause. [quote]

Despite Andy's strong case against all turnarounds, I have argued that there are times when the turnaround strategy may have merit for school districts. Of course, we should take on turnarounds with a healthy dose of skepticism and with the understanding that most will fail. But, in cities like Fordham's hometown of Dayton, half of the community's schools perennially receive an F or D on the state's academic report card.

Why would we want to place an ironclad ???????no??????? on a reform-minded superintendent who might seek a portfolio of reforms, including the strategic use of turnarounds? Dayton has been in a perpetual state of reform for 15 years, including launching one of the largest charter sectors in the country, and still most...

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