Charters & Choice

Here's the "Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 471 - Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act."

While the Administration appreciates that H.R. 471 would provide Federal support for improving public schools in the District of Columbia (D.C.), including expanding and improving high-quality D.C. public charter schools, the Administration opposes the creation or expansion of private school voucher programs that are authorized by this bill. The Federal Government should focus its attention and available resources on improving the quality of public schools for all students. Private school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement. The Administration strongly opposes expanding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and opening it to new students.

Rigorous evaluation over several years demonstrates that the D.C. program has not yielded improved student achievement by its scholarship recipients compared to other students in D.C. While the President's FY 2012 Budget requests funding to improve D.C. public schools and expand high-quality public charter schools, the Administration opposes targeting resources to help a small number of individuals attend private schools rather than creating access to great public schools for every child.

A few quick thoughts:

1. The path to ESEA reauthorization just got a lot steeper, as many Republicans will refuse to play ball with an Administration not willing to compromise on a top GOP priority.

2. The Administration is being dishonest about the evaluation data, which show strong positive effects for the recipients of the DC vouchers. In fact, if anything, the current...

Well, it's official.? According to Sam Dillon in the NYT, Steve Barr and the charter organization he founded, Green Dot, are going their separate ways.? In fact, the separation has been long in coming.? Barr stepped down as chairman of Green Dot, which runs 16 charter schools in Los Angeles, in 2009. It's a little vague what happens next ? Barr is changing his New York Green Dot America operation to Future is Now Schools -- but Alexander Russo, whose Stray Dogs, Saints, and Saviors: Fighting for the Soul of America's Toughest High School, which tells the story of Barr's greatest achievement and will be out in a couple of weeks, probably has it about right. As he tells Dillon:? ?Steve is a hard-charging visionary, as many founders are, and as Green Dot got bigger, people struggled to find an appropriate place for him in the organization.?

Going to scale may not be for everyone.? But let's hope we can always find places for visionaries.?

--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

Ever since their creation two decades ago, charter schools have been defined by three fundamental?if somewhat contradictory?ideas: accountability for results, school-level autonomy, and meaningful parental choice. That the charter notion has stood the test of time is a testament to the power of these three ideas. Charter schools remain at the center of the school reform conversation because they are the node that connects these disparate reform instincts with one another.

Consider parental choice. When charter schools were first proposed, back in the early 1990s, fervor for ?school choice? was running high. Milwaukee had just created the nation's first large-scale voucher program, and prominent scholars (like John Chubb and Terry Moe) and politicians (like Lamar Alexander) were calling for many more. But private school vouchers raised the specter of public support for religious schools; charters offered a secular alternative.

[pullquote]The debate is not whether parents should have choices but how broad those choices should be.[/pullquote]

Demand for ?autonomy? was reaching fever pitch, too. This was the era of ?reinventing government,? of Chicago's ?local school councils,? of enthusiasm for decentralization and ?site-based management.? Reformers saw stifling bureaucracies and hidebound teacher union contracts as anathema to the breakthrough innovations they craved. They viewed the magnet schools of the 1970s and 80s as a step in the right direction?at least in terms of offering parents distinct choices?but as far too timid in tackling the underlying malaise of ?the system.? At the least, charter schools would offer educators the chance to...


The bickering between the Baltimore Teachers Union and the KIPP charter network involving overtime pay for teachers in two KIPP schools has come to a close.? Education Week reported earlier this week that KIPP officials and the Baltimore Teachers Union were in conflict over the pay that teachers receive for working hours beyond the normal school day.? The BTU has negotiated agreements with the Baltimore city school district outlining provisions on how to compensate teachers who work overtime.? The problem, however, was that KIPP could not afford to pay their teachers the amount outlined in the provision since every teacher works over time every week ? and this is part of what makes their model successful.? Last year KIPP and the BTU negotiated an agreement that allowed them to pay their teachers only 20.5 percent of the overtime amount in the union contract.?

The BTU criticized KIPP for making public threats that they would have to shut down their schools if an agreement could not be reached rather than negotiating their concerns with the union.? KIPP tried to bypass the union through lobbying the state legislature to amend existing laws involving teaching contracts. The BTU and KIPP recently have come to a ten-year agreement that will pay teachers 20 percent of the overtime amount outlined in the union contract. Jay Matthews has been closely following the situation on his Class Struggle blog, and he reported that an agreement had been reached on Thursday.

I applaud the...


A big congratulations to KIPP Journey Academy students McKeala Hudson and Michael Robinson, who were recently accepted into the KIPP STEP Summer Program at Deerfield Academy! Yes, that Deerfield Academy ? the prestigious prep school in Massachusetts whose students consistently populate the campuses of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.

The students are examples of the remarkable results that KIPP, which primarily serves economically disadvantaged students, has produced since it opened its doors in 2008. (Fordham authorizes KIPP Journey, Ohio's first and only KIPP school.) Already its students are scoring higher than the district average on the state mathematics assessment and higher than the state-wide community school average on the state science assessment. The STEP program is taught by a team of KIPP and Deerfield teachers, and includes three weeks of fully paid Deerfield courses focused on science and language arts.

After being accepted to the STEP program, McKeala and Michael each wrote an essay about their life goals and reasons for applying to the program. McKeala writes:

My goal is to become a News Reporter, to go to college at Spellman or the University of North Carolina (UNC), and to go to Columbus Academy for high school. I also want and to meet new teachers so they can inform me about how to be a better person. I will take this Deerfield experience as an honor since I am learning new...

Yesterday Fordham's Kathryn Mullen Upton, director of charter school sponsorship for the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, testified before the Ohio Senate Education Committee in support of SB 86.

The bill would enable the creation of a charter school that would ?serve adults of school age who are incarcerated or who have been released from the custody of the Department of Youth Services? (Gongwer News Service ? subscription required). The proposed school would be called WinWin Academy and would serve youths ages 18-22, and initially would be located at the Pickaway Correctional Institution. A second campus would open at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. Unlike current educational arrangements for incarcerated youth, the charter school/s would continue serving students after their release from prison and thus would provide continuity and assist them in their transition back to society.

In her testimony, Kathryn noted that:

While there are other programs that provide incarcerated persons the opportunity to complete basic courses and earn a GED or diploma, WinWin Academy stands alone in that it provides educational and mentoring continuity to students during the critical time when they leave prison and attempt to re-enter society.

The proposed model for WinWin Academy is exactly the kind of innovative educational program that Ohio's charter school mechanism was designed to incubate, and, if successful, help replicate. Ohio's charter school program is almost 15 years old and during that time it seems that there has been a shift away from conceptualizing and implementing something


Columbus Collegiate Academy, a Fordham-authorized charter school in one of Columbus's poorest neighborhoods (Weinland Park), has just been awarded the Gold-Gain EPIC award by New Leaders for New Schools for dramatic gains in student achievement.?

This award is an incredible accomplishment on the part of CCA school leader Andy Boy and his dedicated staff. Only four charter schools in the entire country earned the Gold award. CCA won EPIC's silver award last year ? and was the only charter school in the whole state of Ohio to win. The school's ability to continue making tremendous gains with students ? 94 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged ? propelled it into the very top tier for student growth, among the ranks of some of the most impressive charter schools in the country.

CCA Executive Director and Founder Andy Boy explained the school's keys to success in a press release:

We are so proud of our students and staff.? Our teachers and staff share the belief that all students can and will learn when provided the right environment for academic success.? Through high expectations, a structured school day, and an uncompromising focus on academics our students are outpacing students from around the country.

Kathryn Mullen Upton, director of charter school sponsorship at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, noted:

We are thrilled that Columbus Collegiate Academy is a 2011 EPIC Gold Gain School. This award recognizes the exceptional quality of the academic program at Columbus Collegiate, the