Charters & Choice

Like other states, half of Ohio's $200 to $400 million in potential Race to the Top (RttT) winnings will be distributed to participating LEAs via the Title I formula. That $100 to $200 million pot may seem like a lot of money at first blush, but in reality it represents no more than about one percent of what the state will spend on education this biennium and roughly $55 to $110 per public school student. If not targeted toward spurring real reform, the risk is great that the money will do little more than provide a small, temporary boost to district bank accounts. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that's exactly what will happen here.

Ohio LEAs have until January 8 to sign on to the state's RttT application. At this point (and I must note that nothing is final and that the state still has a full month to work on its application), because of the political capital spent on his school reform plan in the last state budget, Ohio's RttT approach revolves around Governor Strickland's education vision and the changes he signed into law in July. While that bill contained reform-minded provisions in areas like teacher tenure and preparation, its hallmark was mandating a statewide, prescriptive, one-size-fits-all, inputs-based method for funding education--one that is far removed from student or school-based performance.???? Far from the type of reforms we hear Secretary Duncan pushing.

If Ohio's plan is built largely on already-mandated reforms and doesn't require heavy lifting...

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Anybody who thinks charter schools are plateauing or reaching some sort of natural limit had better think again.??The Texas Public Policy Foundation has just released the number of young Texans who were on waiting lists for charter schools in that state during the last school year (2008-9)--and it's north of 40,000, more than twice as many as the year before. This in a state with about 130,000 youngsters currently enrolled in charters. In other words, current demand in Texas would fill eighty more schools of 500 students each.??The state should make that happen--provided, of course, that they're all great schools!??If the??Texas pattern holds nationally, it would also mean that about half a million boys and girls wanted to attend charters last year but could not do so due to enrollment constraints.

-Chester E. Finn, Jr.

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One of the great canards in public education is that no one should profit from the public schools. For example, cries of "corporate takeover of public schools" and "profits come before the needs of children" have been part of the anti-charter school rhetoric in Ohio and elsewhere since the first for-profit charters opened in the early 1990s.

In 2007, for example, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Federation of Teachers called Ohio's charter schools a "franchise system of corporate-run schools." Ohio Governor Ted Strickland sought to outlaw all forms of "for-profit" charter operators in the Buckeye State in his budget proposals in both 2007 and 2009. In 2006, then gubernatorial candidate Strickland got great applause from the teacher unions and allies when he called charters "a rip-off." He even threw out the applause line that "There are people operating these schools getting rich and they're doing so on the backs of our children."

Yet, despite such political rhetoric every penny spent on education profits someone - teachers, administrators, text book publishers, computer companies, food service providers, bus drivers, school consultants, et al. Some, however, profit far more than others.

According to????a recent article in Education Week one of the organizations currently profiting nicely from public education is e-Luminate, a marketing and communications-consulting firm that was set up by Ken Kay. Ken Kay is the prophet of 21st Century Skills and according to Education Week his private consulting firm e-Luminate made...

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OhioFlypaper

Fordham's annual charter school accountability report, "Seeking Quality in the Face of Adversity," is now out! As many of you know, Fordham authorizes (called "sponsoring" in Ohio) six charter schools in Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Springfield. Each year we release a report outlining how Fordham-sponsored schools are doing, and contrasting them with charter schools statewide and schools within their home districts. The report also weighs in on timely political and legislative developments impacting charter schools in the Buckeye State. Highlights include:

  • - A recap on why Ohio charters faced such a tough year in 2008-09 (politically, legislatively, financially, you name it)
  • - A look at charter school growth since caps were placed on sponsors (unsurprisingly, fewer charter schools opened during 2007-09 than during 2005-07 period, and the sector as a whole is growing at a slower rate)
  • - A summary of the financial predicaments faced by charters in Ohio, including dwindling state and federal start-up dollars, and funding inequities between districts and charter schools that amount to charters receiving roughly $2000 less per pupil (see graph below)
  • - A brief narrative on Fordham's youngest charter schools, KIPP: Journey Academy and Columbus Collegiate Academy (a Building Excellent Schools affiliate)
  • - An academic snapshot of Fordham-sponsored schools, including the good (almost 70 percent of students in Fordham-sponsored schools achieved "above expected growth" on Ohio's value-added measure) and the bad (students in Fordham-sponsored schools still don't make the state proficiency goal of 75 percent in reading and math, similar to their district
  • ...
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As a charter school sponsor (authorizer), Fordham submits an accountability report to the Ohio Department of Education at the end of November each year. The report includes profiles of each Fordham-sponsored school, as well as graphics comparing the achievement data of our schools, their home districts, and statewide averages. You’ll also find pertinent information on Ohio charter school spending over the last decade, and in the introduction, a timely analysis of the political and legislative environment impacting Ohio charters in 2008-09 that explains why the title, “Seeking Quality in the Face of Adversity,” is befitting.

One week from today shoppers across the nation will prepare for the madness known as Black Friday. Consumers will ready themselves for a labyrinth of lines, often queuing up at odd hours of the night to be among the first to stampede toward special bargains and giveaways. Such is the American way.

This week the Cincinnati Enquirer highlighted another unique American phenomenon involving long lines and midnight campers - parents lining up as far as two and a half days in advance in order to win their child a spot in one of the city's elite public magnet schools. The Enquirer writes:

"Despite attempts from Cincinnati Public Schools to discourage camping, parents once again formed a long queue outside Fairview Clifton German Language School - the earliest will wait for more than 2.5 days before submitting their applications.

The first parents arrived by about 10 a.m. Sunday morning, and the crowd quickly grew. By 5 p.m. Monday, about six dozen people stood in line and some were erecting tents on school property."

And

"In Clifton, Winton Hills parent Carmen Pitts had the No. 1 spot in line and on a list parents hope will be enforced Tuesday night. Her daughter is currently in preschool at Winton Hills Academy, a school in Academic Watch. Fairview is rated Excellent, one of just a few CPS schools to earn that rating.

??"To make sure that my...

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OhioFlypaper

By guest blogger and Fordham's Director of Charter School Sponsorship Kathryn Mullen Upton

The Columbus Dispatch writes today that "the truth about Columbus middle schools is brutal." More than 70 percent of the district's middle schools are rated "D" or "F" by the state and none of them met federal Adequate Yearly Progress targets.

A bright spot in this urban education landscape is the new Columbus Collegiate Academy (which the Fordham Foundation authorizes ). In 2008-09 (the school's first year), CCA was the highest performing middle school in Columbus. Of its inaugural class of sixth graders, most of who were performing well below grade level when school started in August 2008, 74 percent met reading proficiency and 82 percent met math proficiency on the state achievement tests. These are amazing results, especially for a first year start-up, ??and are not an aberration: NWEA MAP data (a nationally-norm referenced assessment) corroborate CCA's stellar state test results. (You can watch a video about Columbus Collegiate Academy's first official day of school in 2009.)

But it's been a brutal ride for CCA and other start-up charter schools in Ohio, including the Buckeye State's first KIPP school, KIPP Journey Academy (which is also authorized by Fordham). On top of the usual charter school start-up challenges, both CCA and KIPP have faced serious external challenges.

Ohio's charter schools only receive about 70 percent of the funding of district schools, yet the governor and House Democrats...

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This conversation about churches authorizing charter schools has raised my hackles. Not because it deals with religious organizations overseeing public schools and ensuring that public dollars are spent well (a conversation absolutely worth having), but because the conversation is happening in Ohio, where we already have too many charter school authorizers (70+ sponsors serving about 310 schools) - especially if the goal of authorizing is to birth and oversee great schools.

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has been sponsoring (as authorizing is called here) charter schools in the Buckeye State since 2005, and as such we have learned a ton about the business. First and foremost, that providing high-quality oversight of public charter schools is costly and time-consuming, and this is if things go well. Being a sponsor in Ohio means not only holding schools accountable for their results (and ultimately making life or death decisions about schools), but also helping schools navigate a myriad of regulatory and legal issues.

Our base sponsorship agreement with schools is more than 30 pages long - and this doesn't include dozens of pages of attachments - and deals with issues ranging from responsibilities of parties to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. Quality sponsorship requires serious legal expertise.

In Ohio, many sponsors make their economics work by not only sponsoring schools (for this you can charge up...

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I'll take??Emmy's bait. I have no objection to churches working as authorizers, if they can do it well. Many of course run schools themselves-and some good ones, ones that we (Fordham) have been urging ed reformers to find ways to support and sustain. I haven't read Brookwood's application, so all I know is what google serves up, which includes this nice story about the church's work serving 54 special ed students "in grades seven through 12, including those with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder and/or an autistic diagnosis." It certainly sounds like they're "education oriented," contrary to ODE, and (perhaps) that they've had some success.

So to me the question isn't whether they're a church, a tutoring program, a university, or a nonprofit think tank-it's simply whether they have the competence and the commitment to hold charter schools to a high standard, educationally, fiscally, and organizationally. I think ODE needs to have high standards for its authorizers, but it's distressing, if true, that Brookwood was rejected not on any of those grounds, but because they're a church.

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A central Ohio church has appealed the Ohio Department of Education's denial of its application to become a charter school authorizer (more on the story here, subscription required):

Brookwood [Presbyterian Church], doing business as Brookwood Community Learning Center, submitted a 49-page application to the ODE in November 2007 for approval as a charter school sponsor.

The church said that instead of reviewing application materials, the ODE determined that "neither the national Presbyterian church nor Brookwood Presbyterian Church is eligible to apply to become a sponsor" because they are not "education oriented" entities as required under state law.

"Despite the fact that nothing in the Ohio Revised Code prohibits a religious organization as such from ... being approved as a sponsor of community schools in Ohio, ODE's decision made it clear that the applicant's status as a church alone was a disqualifying fact in the eyes of ODE: 'also please know that no church has been approved as a sponsor,'" the church told justices.

It is true that no churches serve as authorizers in Ohio, but church-related organizations are certainly active in the charter sector with the knowledge and approval of the state.????Educational Resource Consultants of Ohio (ERCO) authorizes more than twenty charter schools in the Buckeye State.???? It was founded by Christ Tabernacle Ministries and the church still retains the rights to ERCO's trade name.???? Another state-approved authorizer, St. Aloysius Orphanage, oversees more than 30 schools and has deep roots...

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