Charters & Choice

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Columbus Preparatory Academy, a K-8 Mosaica-run
charter school on Columbus’s west side that is a poster child for the
successful turnaround of a troubled school.

In 2008, the school was rated F by the state and student
performance on state assessments was abysmal. Today the school is rated
A+
(aka, Excellent with Distinction) and boasts achievement levels that best
that of nearly all of the area’s top-performing schools (and are leaps and
bounds above the state’s definition of “proficiency”). This transformation was
achieved while the school continued serving a challenged student population – about
72 percent of students are economically disadvantaged and eligible for free or
reduced-price lunch – and retained nearly all of the same teachers and staff
members who were working in the school when it was failing (in a school that
now employs 30 teachers, the principal said just seven or eight teachers have
left during his four-year tenure).

So what are the keys to CPA’s success? Two things
immediately stand out:

Leadership. Principal
Chad Carr (who has led the turnaround...

This annual report from the union-funded National
Education Policy Center (NEPC) profiles the nation’s Education Management Organizations—defined
here as both nonprofit and for-profit entities that manage public schools, both
district and charter. The NEPC offers trends in EMO growth and achievement, as
well as profiles of almost 300 such entities. 
A few interesting tidbits: Enrollment in schools managed by nonprofit
EMOs significantly trumps that of the for-profit kind, yet for-profits have
squeezed into more states (thirty-three vs. nonprofits’ twenty-nine).
For-profit entities disproportionately manage elementary schools (56 percent of
their schools are K-5 compared to 37 percent of nonprofits’). And district
schools managed by nonprofit EMOs fare significantly worse than their charter counterparts on measures of AYP (14
percent of district schools met AYP compared to 56 percent of charters).
Interesting stuff, but beware of simplistic conclusions. These descriptive data
are helpful, but can’t begin to tell us about the effectiveness of these
respective organizations. For that, at least on the nonprofit side, see the
Center on Reinventing Education’s pioneering work on
CMOs instead.

Gary Miron, Jessica Urschel,
Mayra A. Yat Aguilar, and...

What
does online learning really cost? Can it, in fact, be both better in terms of
improving student achievement and overall less expensive than traditional
bricks and mortar schools? These fundamental questions are what the Fordham
Institute’s new paper, “The Cost of Online Learning”, gamely tries to tackle. In
short, paper shows that online learning has the potential to save education
money while also improving the quality of instruction available to students.

The
Parthenon Group
(the national research firm that helped craft Ohio’s
winning Race to the Top application) provided the research. They conducted more
than 50 interviews with entrepreneurs, policy experts and school leaders across
the country to come up with “an informed set of estimates regarding the cost of
virtual and blended schools” across five categories – labor (teacher and
administrators), content acquisition, technology and infrastructure, school
operations, and student support.

Using
these five categories as the basis of comparison the researchers compared a
“typical” traditional model (brick and mortar school where instruction is
delivered by teachers), a “typical” blended model (students attend brick and
...

STEM education in Ohio is a growing
component of the state’s K-12 system. Metro Early College High School opened as
a STEM school in Columbus in 2007, and since then STEM schools have opened
their doors in metro regions like Dayton, Cincinnati, Akron, and Cleveland. The
schools have drawn millions of dollars in support from state government, local
school districts, the private sector and philanthropy (see here
for details).

So far, however, the state’s STEM
network has not yet opened a school that is aimed at the state’s dynamic
agricultural sector and all that supports it. Senator Chris Widener (a
Republican from Springfield who chairs the Senate Finance Committee) hopes to
tackle this void in the state’s STEM sector. There is a whole lot of merit to
this effort.

As I learned (somewhat surprisingly) in
talking with Sen. Widener, one in seven jobs in Ohio is connected to the “AgBioscience”
sector. This sector comprises food, agriculture, environmental, and bio-based
products industries. As a whole the sector employs about a million workers
statewide with an annual economic impact of over $100 billion a...

Last
month, the District of Columbia’s
CFO discovered
a nice chunk of unexpected revenue
, some $42 million, had come the city’s
way. The mayor promptly called for half of the money to go to the District’s
public schools. In apparent disregard of the law, however, the mayor wants to
give the whole $21M windfall to DCPS, bailing them out for a loss of federal funding
and mismanagement of the district’s food service and merit pay programs. See
Bill Turque’s characterization of the budget holes this bailout will fill:

DCPS said the extra $21.4 million budgeted by Gray is needed to address
several issues: Congressional cuts in federal payments ($4.5 million); overruns
in food service caused by higher labor and food costs and lower federal
reimbursements ($10.7 million); mandated merit-based salary increases for
teachers ($2.8 million); and the rising cost of excessed non-instructional
employees who were removed from school budgets but are being carried on the
central office books.
Privately, senior Gray administration officials said DCPS finances have
historically been plagued by cost overruns, attributable to persistent
overspending by school...

Everyone’s a winner!

The podcast kicks off the new year in style, with special guest commentary from Diane Ravitch on what 2012 will bring. Amber sees charter-school closures as a glass half empty and Chris loves up some celebrations.

Amber's Research Minute Poll

Help us name Amber's weekly poll, pop quiz, whatever you want to call it. Leave a comment with your idea. Extra points given for using Amber's name!

Chris Irvine's What's Up With That?

The controversial Cathedral High School touchdown Chris talks about in this week's episode.



walking feet photo

These feet were made for votin', and that's just what they'll do.
Photo by Josiah Lau Photography

Close on two years after Gary Orfield’s Civil Rights Project
released its influential—and controversial—Choice Without Equality report, another of the Orfield clan is
chastising charters for their level of racial segregation. According to Brother
Myron, charter schools in his home state of Minnesota resemble “the Deep South
in the days of Jim Crow segregation,” as these schools cater to niche student
markets—often of the same race. At Dugsi Academy, for example, the school’s
all-black student population studies Arabic and Somali: The school has a
mission of educating East African children in the Twin Cities. A few miles down
the road, students at the Twin Cities German Immersion School, who are 90
percent white, are immersed in German language and cultural studies. Myron is
right that these “boutique” charters are racially homogeneous. But Orfield is
missing a few...

STEM education in Ohio is a growing component of
the state’s K-12 system. Metro Early College High School opened as a STEM
school in Columbus in 2007, and since then STEM schools have opened their doors
in metro regions like Dayton, Cincinnati, Akron, and Cleveland. The schools have
drawn millions of dollars in support from state government, local school
districts, the private sector and philanthropy (see here for details).

So far, however, the state’s STEM network has
not yet opened a school that is aimed at the state’s dynamic agricultural
sector and all that supports it. Senator Chris Widener (a Republican from
Springfield who chairs the Senate Finance Committee) hopes to tackle this void
in the state’s STEM sector. There is a whole lot of merit to this effort.

As I learned (somewhat surprisingly) in talking
with Sen. Widener, one in seven jobs in Ohio is connected to the “AgBioscience”
sector. This sector comprises food, agriculture, environmental, and bio-based
products industries. As a whole the sector employs about a million workers statewide
with an annual economic impact of over $100 billion a year. It...

The Education Gadfly

Few topics in education polarize policymakers, educators,
parents, and the American people in general as consistently as school choice.
Charter school advocates often shy from vouchers; homeschooling proponents don’t
necessarily support digital learning. Fordham’s new Choice Words blog will
explore America’s diversity of schooling options and the controversies that
often surround them, featuring guest blog posts from experts and commentary
from several Fordham authors. Be sure to check out past articles and keep an
eye on this blog for the introduction of Fordham’s newest...

Okay, it's not exactly what Rupert might condone, but since he and his crew are preoccupied and because our News Nuggets shop has plenty to do, I offer some education highlights from my weekend reading:

Charter Fights Move to the Suburbs Winnie Hu had a front-page story in the Sunday New York Times documenting a small trend in the charter movement to open more of the independent public schools in suburbs: about one in five of the nation's 5,000 charters are now in the ?burbs.? Not surprisingly, the story raises some existential questions about public education. ?Mike calls attention to the article in his Myth of the ?good? school post this morning, pointing out that ?One person's `good school' is another person's `bad fit.'? ?But there is also a ?financial question here, which is whether we can afford a good school, or even a good fit, for everyone. Is the computer the answer? Just as we citizens and taxpayers pool our resources to build common roads and ?provide for the common defense,? our ?public school system? has traditionally supposed that we get better education by having common schools. Traditionally, that has meant a central location. But if...

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