Quality Choices

Nationally and in Ohio, we strive to develop policies and practices leading to a lively, accessible marketplace of high-quality education options for every young American (including charter schools, magnet schools, voucher programs, and online courses), as well as families empowered and informed so that they can successfully engage with that marketplace.

Resources:

Our many choice-related blog posts are listed below.


Fordham’s choice experts:


As my Fordham colleague David Griffith wrote late last year in a post accompanying the release of The Best (and Worst) Cities for School Choice, resistance to the spread of parental choice in education is futile. The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no going back. That’s not to say that political resistance from some quarters will simply die down, or that we’ll proceed without setbacks. Far from it. But as choice in general and charter schooling in particular continue to grow, they build formidable constituencies. Nobody is marching across the Brooklyn Bridge to defend Common Core or standardized testing. But parents whose children benefit from choice are not going to surrender it without a fight.

The most important questions about school choice are no longer “whether,” but “how” and “where” and “which kinds” and “how many.” And the most interesting debates are no longer waged between choice advocates and opponents, but within the school choice movement itself. Just like the raging family feuds within each of our political parties, the divisions are real. And they run deep. That’s because the movement’s “big tent” now has factions in its various folds and corners that agree on parental choice but little...

Education Cities is a nonprofit network of thirty-one city-based organizations in twenty-four cities that works to “dramatically increase the number of great public schools across the country.” As a practical matter, that means they champion, convene, and court high-quality charter schools to open or come to their respective burgs. They call the local folks who do the courting “harbormasters.” Like their nautical namesakes, these figures “facilitate safe and cooperative navigation in a challenging space.” Thus, this report functions as advice. It seeks to answer a few questions: “What do operators want? What roles and activities of local harbormasters are most, and least, helpful to those running great schools?” The answers, although not particularly surprising, are worthwhile. Good charter operators want to go where there’s a need, where they are wanted (e.g., a pro-charter political climate), and where they can reliably attract talent in the form of both teachers and leaders. Funding support, either directly or through opened doors, doesn’t hurt either.

So what does an education harbormaster do, exactly? One or more of the following: They invest in high-quality school growth, strengthen talent pipelines, advocate for choice-friendly policies, and/or rally community support. The report is based on interviews with eighteen...

I’ve dedicated a big part of my career to expanding school choice. I think it’s the right thing to do for kids, families, educators, neighborhoods, civil society, and much else. In fact, I’m convinced that years from now, students of history will be scandalized to learn that we used to have a K–12 system defined by one government provider in each geographic area.

“Do you mean,” they’ll ask, “that kids were actually assigned to schools based on home address, even if those schools were persistently underperforming?”

But probably the most important lesson I’ve learned over the last fifteen years—the reason why school choice progress moves so slowly—is this: An education system without school choice makes perfect sense from the point of view of central administrators.

In fact, the district-based system (a single public sector operator of schools) that we’ve had for the last century is extraordinarily rational when viewed from above. A city has lots of kids, and those kids need to be educated. A central schooling authority will take care of it.

The central authority looks at a map and partitions the city into similarly populated sections, each with its own “neighborhood school.” For simplicity’s sake, those schools can be named...

Penny Wohlstetter and her coauthors have delivered a terrific new Fordham study, “America’s Best (and Worst) Cities for School Choice.” It finds a creative, concrete, and unusually useful way to get under the hood and delve into messy questions about the availability of choice, quality control, political support, and the effects of policy environment. The result is exceptionally useful for understanding what individual cities are doing and contemplating how they might do better.

Wohlstetter has powerfully extended an earlier study that I did with Fordham back in 2010, “The Nation’s Best (and Worst) Cities for School Reform.” That study looked at education ecosystems, examining a broad set of variables that included philanthropic support, political leadership, bureaucratic burden, and the talent pool. Here, Wohlstetter looks specifically at the issue of choice, which allows her to go deeper and get more granular. She examines the entire picture of choice in thirty cities, including charter, magnet, and private schools. She finds that New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Denver lead the pack; that New York City is becoming less hospitable to choice under Mayor de Blasio; and that some southern cities are surprisingly strong on choice.

This kind of analysis is invaluable...

Fordham Ohio’s latest report will be released on Wednesday, January 27, and will detail the results of a survey of leaders of some of the state’s highest-performing charter schools.

What do those leaders think of Ohio’s overall support for charter schools, closing failing charters, and criticism of the sector? These questions and more will be answered in this important new report.

Quality in Adversity: Lessons from Ohio’s best charter schools will be available Wednesday, January 27, by clicking here.

 

A few years ago, a couple of my Fordham colleagues coined the phrase “public private” schools to describe schools that educate virtually no low-income students. In the report, they suggested the following notion: Though “public” in name, high-wealth schools are, in practice, pretty much equivalent to private ones. Families wanting to enroll their children in such schools effectively pay “tuition” through higher real-estate taxes and/or paying a fortune on housing. Low-income families are functionally excluded from sending their children to these schools.

But when an affluent district enacts an open enrollment policy, students outside its jurisdiction can attend. This suggests that they’re acting more in their public than private nature. Since 1989, Ohio has permitted such inter-district open enrollment, and today, most (though not all) districts participate. For the 2015–16 year, 81 percent of districts allowed some degree of open enrollment.[1]

So what about Ohio’s public private school districts? Do any of them open their doors for all comers? Or are they adhering more closely to their “private” identity by denying non-resident students the opportunity to enroll? Let’s take a look at the data.

When my colleagues examined public private schools in 2010, they identified...

Ohio has been included in lots of national rankings and scorecards lately. The latest comes from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which ranks the Buckeye State at number twenty-three (out of forty-three states) for its charter school law. At first blush, twenty-third doesn’t seem like much to laud (after all, we just lamented Ohio’s fall to twenty-third in Education Week’sQuality Counts” ranking). But there’s more to Ohio’s modest slot than meets the eye.

For starters, Ohio improved five slots from last year. In fact, it was the third-most-improved state in terms of rankings, next to Oklahoma and Massachusetts. More important than its rise in the rankings (which could occur for a host of reasons, including other states’ charter climates getting worse) is the reason why. The report notes that Ohio’s improvement occurred because “it enacted legislation that improved its authorizer funding provisions and strengthened its charter monitoring processes.” They went further, praising other aspects of House Bill 2: “It is important to note that the legislation enacted in Ohio made a lot of other positive changes to the state’s law; it dealt with some specific challenges that have emerged...

In recent weeks, two national publications have assigned Ohio grades for its education policies and outcomes. The first, “Quality Counts,” came courtesy of Education Week. It revealed that Ohio’s grades have fallen from previous years, moving the state down in national rankings. The second was a group of report cards that rated states on their support for public higher education. These grades were furnished by the Young Invincibles (YI), a national organization that seeks to represent the millennial generation. At first glance, the reports don’t share much in common. Quality Counts examines K–12 education and, despite lower rankings, still grades Ohio as middle-of-the-pack. The Young Invincibles report, on the other hand, examines higher education and gives Ohio a giant red F.

Closer inspection reveals that the reports both examine the connection between education and money. “Quality Counts,” for example, points out rising poverty gaps on Ohio’s NAEP results. Ohio’s gaps between poor and non-poor kids aren’t just large, they’re getting larger—the opposite of the national trend. The YI report, meanwhile, focuses on the financial difficulty of attending college in Ohio. While Ohio has seen some of the smallest tuition hikes since...

Urban school governance is a moving target, in part because it’s pretty clear that there’s no best way to handle it and in part because no change in a city’s arrangements ever works as well as its promoters hoped. This inevitably leads to a down-the-road push to change it again or change it back or…well, do something different because we’re not getting the results we need and a lot of people are unhappy.

This short issue brief from analysts at the Pew Charitable Trusts is meant to help the powers that be in their home town of Philadelphia consider the governance options ahead by examining those presently in use in fifteen urban districts.

It seems to have been prompted by the fact that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter are pushing for an end to the fifteen-year-old state takeover of the School District of Philadelphia and a return to some form of local control. It’s not clear that new Mayor Jim Kenney has staked out a position on this issue yet, but citizens indicated in a (non-binding) referendum vote last year that they generally agree with Messrs. Wolf and Nutter.

The most interesting factoid in the...

Ohio has exemplary charter schools – beacons of quality that are helping students reach their full potential. Who are these high flyers and what can we learn from them? How can Ohio replicate, expand, and support great charters in every part of the state? Fordham partnered with Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett of the FDR Group to survey the leaders of these exemplary schools to capture their thoughts on charter policy, hear what makes their schools tick, and learn what we can do to make sure that good schools flourish and expand.

Quality in Adversity: Lessons from Ohio’s best charter schools will be released on Wednesday, January 27, 2016, in conjunction with this event. A fitting way to celebrate National School Choice Week!

PRESENTER

Ann Duffett, Ph.D., the FDR Group

PANELISTS

Andrew Boy, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, United Schools Network

Hannah D. Powell, Executive Director, KIPP Columbus

David Taylor, Chief Academic Officer, Dayton Early College Academy

MODERATOR

Steve Farkas, the FDR Group

DATE/TIME

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Coffee and pastries will be available

Program begins at 8:30 am

Program concludes at 9:45 am

 

LOCATION:

Chase...

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