Benjamin J. Lindquist

Why is charter school growth slowing?

Greg Richmond at the National Association of Charter School Authorizers recently announced that charter applications have declined 48 percent since 2012. According to his report, the national approval rate has held steady for years, with authorizers approving 35 percent of the applications that they receive. Why are they receiving so many fewer?

This is no trivial matter. “There are still way too many parents waiting for the chance to send their children to a high quality public school of their choice,” writes Susan Aud Pedagrass at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in a recent blog post. Many existing charters have waiting lists. Lottery-based admissions—so memorably depicted in the film Waiting for Superman—still yield tearful faces. Why is this once-so-vibrant movement now struggling to meet the obvious demand?

One key problem is overregulation. This issue may represent the biggest threat to the charter sector today because it undermines its ability to offer distinctive, high-quality options to students and families with differing needs and preferences. If charter entrepreneurs are compelled to deliver the same one-size-fits-all education as other public schools, why start new charters at all? To confront the magnitude of this...

It’s that time of year when many of us are searching desperately for a local Girl Scout troop in order to buy some cookies. (Helpful hint: It’s super easy to find a cookie booth near you.) But the Girl Scouts aren’t just the bearers of thin mint goodness—the organization also has a research arm, which recently published The State of Girls 2017, an examination of national and state-level trends related to the health and well-being of American girls.

The report analyzes several indicators including demographic shifts, economic health, physical and emotional health, education, and participation in extracurricular/out-of-school activities. Data were pulled from a variety of national and governmental sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trends were analyzed from 2007 through 2016.

American girls are growing more racially and ethnically diverse along with the rest of the country’s population. The report notes that the percentage of white school-age girls (ages five to seventeen) decreased from 57 percent in 2007 to 51 percent in 2016. Meanwhile the percentage of Hispanic/Latina girls increased from 20 to 25 percent while the percentage of Black girls decreased from 15 to 14 percent. Approximately 26 percent...

In this report, the authors use administrative data from California to estimate the impact of suspensions on high school graduation rates, as well as the broader social costs of suspension.

According to the authors, the graduation rate for suspended students in California is 60 percent versus 83 percent for non-suspended students. However, as the authors note, much of this difference is likely explained by factors other than suspension. After controlling for several such factors, including GPA and low socio-economic status, the authors estimate that being suspended in high school reduces a student’s odds of graduating by 6.5 percentage points.

Unfortunately, like many similar estimates from previous suspension studies, this one most likely suffers from “omitted variable bias” insofar as the authors are unable to control for all of the factors that might make students both more likely to be suspended and less likely to graduate. And as in many of those prior studies, at least one omitted variable is fairly obvious: the same behavioral challenges (like poor impulse control) that make students more likely to misbehave might also make them less likely to graduate. Yet scholars lack access to data that tells them which students struggle with such challenges.  ...

Timothy Daly

Given what we do at EdNavigator, people often ask us a variation of this question: “What makes parents think a school is good?”

There isn’t a simple e=mc squared formula that defines a good school because, as you might guess, parents aren’t all the same. Each family’s view of schools depends on the family’s own situation and preferences. Families with more than one child often think about school differently for each one.

We’ve written before that four topics about schools tend to come up in our discussions with families again and again:

1.   Overall student performance

Sometimes called “proficiency.” It means, how many of the students in this school can do all the academic stuff that’s expected of them in their current grade level? Parents care about it mostly because it helps them understand how well all the other students their child will be around in school are doing overall

2.   Student learning growth

Regardless of where students were performing when they entered a school, how much are they progressing from one year to the next? After all, a school can’t control whether a student is ahead/behind when she enrolls. It can only ensure that she advances while...

Editor’s note: ESSA accountability regulations were overturned. What now? We know reform advocates will continue their work to support ESSA engagement and implementation at the state level. At the same time, a complicated landscape just became even murkier for those on the front lines. To help navigate through the complexities, the PIE Network recently tapped the expertise of eight federal-facing partners. Our contribution, originally published in a slightly different form on PIE Network's website, is below.

“Taken from us too soon, after a valiant fight with ‘local control.’” So tweeted Morgan Polikoff after the Obama Administration’s ESSA accountability regulations succumbed to the Congressional Review Act. The rules shouldn’t go to heaven alone, however.

We should also allow many of the nation’s lowest performing schools to pass on to a better place—and use the federal law’s 7 percent Title I set-aside to give birth to new schools in their stead.

As education reform advocates know, the Every Student Succeeds Act got rid of the School Improvement Grants program and replaced it with a requirement that states spend 7 percent of their Title I allotment (about $25 million annually for a typical state) on efforts...

The Obama administration’s guidance allowing transgender students to use their preferred bathrooms and locker rooms was in effect for just nine months. But for LGBTQ advocates and progressives, President Trump’s recent revocation feels like turning the clock back to the 1950s.

The rollback sparked a blaze of angst from transgender activists, celebrities, individual school districts, leading Democrats and even some Republicans.

As a supporter of LGBTQ rights, I’m huddling around this dumpster fire with all of you. I, too, feel frustrated and heartbroken. Mostly I keep thinking about all the moms and dads out there with the tough job of validating confused and frightened children. But I’m not here to waste time condemning federal guidance I can’t change, or speculating on whether the president and his cabinet give a damn about protecting marginalized kids.

I’m here to call out the hypocrisy I see from my fellow progressives.

Many of you are hostile to education policies that promise to deliver what you are rightly demanding now for LGBTQ youth: safe, supportive and inclusive schools. It’s not enough to be fired up about transgender bathroom protections as part of your daily Facebook resistance to Trump....

Two of the liveliest and most contentious issues in American education crossed paths in the pages of the Washington Post a couple of Sundays ago.

We’re talking about school choice and transgender students.

The Post Magazine that morning featured an extensive piece on advocates helping to free home-schooled children from stifling parental religious values and other unpleasantness. The would-be rescuers’ intent is to help these youths “escape” their home environs and pursue more mainstream lives. Because most states have been lobbied (by the Home School Legal Defense Association and others) to regulate home-schooling with a very light touch, private efforts have sprung up to assist young people whom their rescuers believe are being subjected to irresponsible or harmful parenting.

The advocates range from individual attorneys—several of them former home-schooled youngsters themselves—to small organizations like the Center for Home Education Policy, the Coalition for Responsible Home Schooling, and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. The story makes quite clear that—no matter how well-intentioned or loving the parents in question believe themselves to be—that what these advocates are doing is noble, necessary, and wholly admirable.

It’s estimated that there are about two million home-schooled kids in the United States today—that’s about two-thirds as many...

Although it’s been almost seven years since many states took the important step of elevating their academic standards by adopting the Common Core, teachers and administrators across the country still bemoan the lack of reliable information about which instructional materials are high-quality and best aligned to the new standards.

One recent survey found that a whopping 90 percent of districts reported having major or minor problems identifying high quality, well-aligned resources. A second study found that the majority of textbooks had substantial alignment problems. In response to these reports, several entities such as EdReports, the Louisiana Department of Education, and the California Curriculum Collaborative have begun providing educators with impartial reviews of core instructional and curricular materials. Yet next to no information exists on the quality and content of resources intended to supplement a full curriculum.

Our recent series, repackaged this past Tuesday in The Right Tool for the Job, fills that void by providing in-depth reviews of several promising digital learning tools. The authors—four all-star educators—focus on English language arts (ELA) resources, as their fellow teachers stress that those are particularly difficult to come by (especially for writing).

Melody Arabo (a third-grade teacher at Keith Elementary...

Research into non-cognitive aspects of human development is all the rage, and this study marries it with our fascination with birth order. It examines how birth order impacts non-cognitive skills, personality traits, and career paths. Analysts use a trove of longitudinal data to address these questions in Sweden, starting with population registry data that include every person born in that country since 1932, specifically data on their birth year, biological or adoptive parents, and biological or adoptive siblings. These data are combined with military enlistment data (until 2010, all Swedish men had to enlist), which include information on non-cognitive as well as cognitive abilities gleaned from a battery of physical, psychological, and intellectual evaluations. They also have data on employment and occupation from 1996 to 2009 for individuals between the ages of 16 and 74 in the labor market and they employ data from the Occupational Information Network (ONET) to generate measures of personality traits (such as conscientiousness, emotional stability, and extraversion) based on their importance to particular jobs. Finally, they include data from a survey of children at age 13 to examine how parental behavior affects kids’ study habits. The final sample includes children whose mothers were...

Local property taxes provide $180 billion for education nationally (29 percent of all funding), which makes the administration’s $20 billion promise seem cheap. A new study by EdBuild looks into the fairness of the local property taxes that raise those funds.

Discussing taxes can be opaque, so let’s start with the end goal: funding schools. Imagine two nearly identical school districts; one, a wealthy suburb, the other, a community with modest homes and incomes. The authors were concerned that the more modest district would have to tax itself more heavily (i.e. at a higher rate) to sufficiently fund its schools. In other words, they were worried that local property taxes are regressive in ways that “overburden low-income households or low-wealth homeowners.”

So they did some digging. They used district-level taxation, income, and property value data from eighteen states and the 2014 American Community Survey to investigate the relationship between a school district’s affluence and local property tax rates. They also closely examined three states (South Dakota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) to write a case study on the interplay between state policy and local taxation. The state-local funding dynamic is critical because, nationally, 90 percent of education money is sourced...