Charters & Choice

Amanda Young
learning specialist, Noble Charter Schools

Noble Charter Schools in Chicago have gotten a heap
of negative attention
over the past several weeks for a discipline policy
that some call a “dehumanizing system that looks a lot more like reform school
than a college prep.” In
short, the school issues demerits to students who commit infractions, and students
who earn four demerits in two weeks are given detention and charged $5. Critics
claim that such policies amount to “nickel and diming” poor families who are
already struggling to make ends meet. (Last week, Fordham’s own Adam Emerson pointed
that Noble is hardly alone—there are many Catholic schools, for
instance, that levy similar fines for student misbehavior.)

Of course, there are different ways to structure
discipline policies, and what works for one school won’t necessarily work for
another. But what’s missing from this discussion is the context necessary to
understand how the policy is used and its impact on the culture, students, and

Below is the response from Amanda Young, a learning
specialist who works at a Noble Charter School
in Chicago, and
who is shocked...

The researchers behind the School Choice Demonstration
Project have
given us their last word on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program
, and the
news largely is good for the nation’s oldest school voucher enterprise. A
sample of voucher students made larger reading gains than their counterparts in
Milwaukee Public Schools and voucher students continue to show higher
graduation rates. But more significant may be the implication that higher
standards and accountability are partly responsible for the progress.

By the time the
project gathered data during its final year of study, the schools participating
in the voucher program were required to abide by a number of new regulations.
Besides requirements to adopt curriculum, instructional, and graduation
standards, the participating private schools had to test their voucher students
with the same assessments used in public schools, and each school had to report
the results. At a minimum, these new regulations “played a role” in generating
the achievement gains found in the final year of the study, said Patrick J.
Wolf, the project’s principal investigator and professor at the University of Arkansas.

The results show a need...

Ohio’s charter school community has been split into two
camps since the inception of the state’s first charter law in 1997. The first
camp – I’ll call free-market purists – believes that charter schools should be afforded
the same rights as private schools and as such be given maximum freedom of
operations. The free-market purists argue that when it comes to charter schools
the role of the state is little more than to distribute public dollars for a
child’s education. As long as parents decide to send children to a school, no
more “accountability” is necessary for performance.

In short, if there is market demand for a school – and the
school is in compliance with basic regulations like fire and health and safety
codes – then no more evidence is needed to keep the state dollars flowing.
Free-market purists believe that school choice is an end in itself. If public
policy creates a marketplace of school options then issues of school quality
will work themselves out as parents will naturally seek quality and abandon
failure. Free-market purists believe school operators know best what families

The Georgia House this
week took another step
toward exiling last spring’s state Supreme Court
decision prohibiting the state approval of charter schools to the history
books, where it belongs. If the Georgia Senate follows suit, voters will have
an opportunity in November to test whether Chief Justice Carol Hunstein was
correct in her assertion that Georgia
citizens are happy to secure “the now 134-year-old status quo.”

In May, Georgia’s highest court
disbanded the state’s charter school authorizing commission
, ruling that no
publicly funded educational enterprise is permissible unless first engineered
or christened by a local school board. A resolution that passed a supermajority
vote in the House on Wednesday would ask voters to reinstate the commission by
amending the constitution. This is significant, as Hunstein proclaimed that the
constitution limits authority over public education “to that level of
government closest and most responsive to the taxpayers and parents of the
children being educated.”

This resolution puts authority squarely in the hands of the

This resolution puts authority squarely in the hands of the
taxpayer and recognizes that nothing is more...

White Hat
has been the Goliath of Ohio’s charter school operators
since its first schools opened in 1999. The company currently operates 33
schools in the Buckeye State. White Hat’s CEO David Brennan was a pioneer in Ohio’s
school-choice movement and his efforts in this realm have long faced criticism
– some deserved and some not. In recent years White Hat’s schools have faced a
series of legal and academic problems. Among them, the fact that none of White
Hat’s schools are rated above a C on the state report card, increased
competition resulting in lower enrollment, legal action brought against the
company by the governing boards of some of the schools it operates, and a
related fight over the disclosure of certain financial records.

These issues have made White Hat a fixture in the press, most
recently with a report that the Ohio Department of
Education (ODE) rejected four of six White Hat applications to the department
to authorize new schools that were slated to open in the fall of 2012. (ODE is
allowed to sponsor up to five new charter...



Mike Petrilli and Ty Eberhardt discuss the soft spots in President Obama's education record.

For a more in depth view at the president's education record, please read the article on Education Next.

Supporters of converting an Adelanto, California district
school into a charter had boasted that 70 percent of parents backed the change,
but the Los Angeles Times reported that nearly 100 later
backed out of the petition,
which the school board threw out on Tuesday.
The failure to enact a ‘parent trigger’ and make Desert Trails Elementary a
charter shows how difficult it is to campaign for the sweeping reform the law
allows—just as it should be. As states like Florida and Michigan consider their own trigger laws, they should set
the bar high to make sure that transformational change is possible only with a
supermajority of parents, not the simple
majority necessary in California. A parent trigger is good policy. It brings
families to a bargaining table that has been the exclusive province of teacher
unions and school boards, and it begins to rethink the way we govern public
education—and does so in ways that meet the unique needs of low-performing and
low-income students. The trigger also helps to counteract monopolies, whether
those include strong-arming school boards or ...

The failure to enact a parent trigger in Adelanto,
California, shows how difficult it is to campaign for the sweeping reform the
law allows, as it should be. If the parents at Desert Trails Elementary want to
either replace the instructional and administrative staff or convert the school
into a charter, it had better have the support of an overwhelming majority of
parents. The campaign had boasted that 70 percent of Desert Trails parents
supported pulling the trigger, but
the Los Angeles Times reported that
nearly 100 later backed out of the petition,
which the school board on
Tuesday threw out.

It should be difficult to campaign for the sweeping reform parent trigger
laws allow.

The effort may not have divided the school, as
a Times headline asserted earlier
this week
, but it certainly led a community of parents to splinter into
factions, including those who wanted to see change at a troubled school but not
a wholesale charter conversion. As more states like Florida
and Michigan
consider their own trigger laws, they should set the bar high to make...

Rick Santorum
The GOP presidential hopeful is both a blessing and a curse for home-schooling advocates.
 Photo by Marc Nozell

The spotlight shining on Rick Santorum’s educational
philosophy is both a blessing and a curse for home-schooling parents and their
advocates. As the Los Angeles Times noted over the
weekend, the Republican presidential hopeful has emerged as the most prominent
home schooler in America, a fact that gives momentum to a movement that is
growing in popularity to include, by some estimates, nearly two million people
nationwide. But the same story also identified Santorum as the GOP leader who
“bashes public schools” and disparages the government’s hand in keeping
education mired in the Industrial Age.  

A greater range of home-school practitioners is making it
harder to draw broad conclusions about the movement, but most commentators and
journalists still see it far enough outside the mainstream to develop anything
more than a caricature. Hence, readers end up with nonsense...

A high-performing charter network in Chicago cherished by
Mayor Rahm Emanuel got some lowbrow attention this week. The city’s esteemed
Noble Network of Charter Schools has been charging fees of children who rack up
a sizable share of demerits, and a group that would never be confused as a
friend of charters and choice thought
it would bring some attention to the practice
. The Chicago media have
lapped it up, mocking Emanuel’s previous reference to the school’s “secret
sauce” for student success while pointing now to evidence that Noble is
nickel-and-diming poor kids. But a cursory search through any number of
Catholic school codes of conduct shows that Noble’s policies aren’t so

A cursory search through Catholic school codes of conduct shows that Noble’s policies aren’t so

Let’s set aside the fees for a moment and consider the
“sauce” that makes up this particular charter network. State achievement test
data show that Noble beats the public school test score average. Families have
lined up for entry and the school has a long waiting list, despite – or maybe
because of –...