Shortly after Ohio lawmakers enacted a new voucher program in 2005, the state budget office wrote in its fiscal analysis, “The Educational Choice Scholarships are not only intended to offer another route for student success, but also to impel the administration and teaching staff of a failing school building to improve upon their students’ academic performance.” As economist Milton Friedman had theorized decades earlier, Ohio legislators believed that increased choice and competition would boost education outcomes across the board. “Competition” in the words of Stanford’s Caroline Hoxby, “would be the proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats.”
Today, the EdChoice program provides publicly funded vouchers (or “scholarships”) to more than eighteen thousand Buckeye students, youngsters previously assigned to some of the state’s lowest-performing schools, located primarily in low-income urban communities. That much is known. Yet remarkably little else is known about the program. Which children are using EdChoice when given the opportunity? Is the initiative faithfully working as its founders intended? Are participating students blossoming academically in their private schools of choice? Does the increased competition associated with EdChoice lead to improvements in the public schools that these kids left?
Only 30 students nationwide were chosen to be pages in the U.S. Senate this year. Dayton Early College Academy junior Jocelyn Martin was one of them. She’s just finished her term (which she could not talk about while it was ongoing) and is now allowed to tell all. The work sounds fascinating, and she sounds like a rock star. Awesome! (Dayton Daily News, 7/1/16)
Remember the charter school sponsor evaluations in Ohio from last year? The ones that ended up being rescinded due to questions over online school sponsors? Well, the Ohio Department of Education is still required to evaluate sponsors and the new framework has been in place since around May. The academic portion of those evaluations turned out to be not so great at first blush and now there are questions about the compliance portion. There is a list of 329 state laws and rules that sponsors have to confirm compliance on for every one of their schools. (Number 209: does the school have a flag that is no more than 5’ x 5’ in size?) Some sponsors are complaining already about how hard it is, how ridiculous some of the rules are, and how much freakin’ work it is to document all of this. Worst of all is that sponsors worry they may get dinged for not documenting compliance (due to the complexity) when their schools are actually complying. Fordham’s not complaining, mind you. Our intrepid sponsorship team is soldiering on and our own Chad Aldis is quoted in this piece as well: “I think it's important we probably don't
I remember the exact moment I became a charter school supporter. It was 2006, and I was a few days away from completing my first year of teaching in Camden, New Jersey. The mother of one of my students wanted to speak with me after school. I’ll never forget what she asked me: She wanted to know if she should send her daughter to a nearby charter school for first grade or keep her in our district school. Specifically, she asked, “What would you do if you were me—if this were your child?”
If someone had asked me then my opinion on charter schools, or choice generally, I wouldn’t have had one. But I did have a strong opinion about wanting her child (small for her age, with a tough exterior that could be mistaken for anger if you didn’t know her well) to thrive. The charter up the street was the only one I’d ever heard of, even though the city suffered from a desperate shortage of schools where reading and math proficiency scores weren’t in the single digits. I knew a bit about that particular school. It was safe and orderly, placed high expectations on students, offered...
The entity known as META Solutions, a data and financial services support organization for hundreds of school districts and local governments (aka “The Blob”), will undergo something of a shakeup in the coming months. Board president, CEO, CFO, and assistant CFO all announced retirements or resignations this week. I’m sure this rash of departures has nothing to do with the financial review of The Blob to be undertaken by the Ohio Auditor of State (aka “Yost!”) or the fact that Yost called META a “shadow government”, as we noted on Monday. I can only imagine he meant that in the nicest possible way. (Marion Star, 6/28/16)
On June 22, the Dropout Prevention and Recovery Study Committee met for its first of three meetings this summer. The committee is composed of two Ohio lawmakers (Representative Andrew Brenner and Senator Peggy Lehner) and several community leaders. It was created under a provision in House Bill 2 (Ohio’s charter reform bill) and is tasked with defining school quality and examining competency-based funding for dropout-recovery schools by August 1.
Conducting a rigorous review of state policies on the state’s ninety-four dropout-recovery charter schools is exactly the right thing to do—not only as a legal requirement, but also because these schools now educate roughly sixteen thousand adolescents. The discussion around academic quality is of particular importance. These schools have proven difficult to judge because of the students they serve: young adults who have dropped out or are at risk of doing so. By definition, these kids have experienced academic failure already. So what is fair to expect of their second-chance schools?
Let’s review the status of state accountability for dropout-recovery schools and take a closer look at the results from the 2014–15 report cards. In 2012–13, Ohio began to provide data on the success of its dropout-recovery...
Traditional districts that serve as charter school sponsors are often glossed over in the debate over Ohio’s charter sector. But given their role in two recent reports, it’s an opportune time to take a closer look at their track record.
First, a Know Your Charter report covered the failings of a number of Buckeye charters receiving federal startup funds (either they closed or never opened). Though the report itself didn’t draw attention to it, we pointed out that school districts sponsored more than 40 percent of these closed schools. Meanwhile, the auditor of state released a review of charter school attendance; among the three schools referred for further action because of extraordinarily low attendance, two had district sponsors (the third was sponsored by an educational service center).
With all of the talk about charters being created to privatize education, it might surprise you to learn that Ohio school districts have long had the authority to sponsor (a.k.a. authorize) charters. In fact, the Buckeye State allows districts to sponsor either conversion or startup charters within certain geographic limitations (e.g., a school must be located within a district’s jurisdiction or in a district nearby)....
Maybe THIS will be the final word on this topic. The young man who finished third in the SkillsUSA Ohio masonry competition – but who ended up going to the national competition instead of the young woman who “won” the state contest due to a reported scoring error – placed second in said national masonry competition. Pretty impressive. (Columbus Dispatch, 6/26/16)
School choice advocates have long agreed on the importance of understanding what parents value when selecting a school for their children. A new study from Mathematica seeks to add to that conversation and generally finds the same results as prior research. What makes this study relatively unique, however, is that its analysis is based on parents’ rank-ordered preferences on a centralized school application rather than self-reported surveys.
To analyze preferences, researchers utilized data from Washington, D.C.’s common enrollment system, which includes traditional district schools and nearly all charters. D.C. families that want to send their children to a school other than the one they currently attend (or are zoned to attend) must submit a common application on which they rank their twelve most preferred schools. Students are then matched to available spaces using a random assignment algorithm.
The study tests for five domains of school choice factors: convenience (measured by commute distance from home to school), school demographics (the percentage of students in a school who are the same race or ethnicity as the chooser), academic indicators (including a school’s proficiency rate from the previous year), school neighborhood characteristics (crime rates and measures of...
A short article published this week in the Columbus Dispatch makes serious reporting mistakes that leave readers with a distorted view of school finance. According to the article, a Columbus citizen millage panel recently discussed a state policy known as the funding “cap.” Briefly speaking, this policy limits the year-to-year growth in state revenue for any particular school district. As we’ve stated in the past, funding caps are poor public policy because they shortchange districts of revenue they ought to receive under their funding formulae. State lawmakers should kill the cap; it circumvents the state’s own formula, it’s unfair to districts on the cap, and it ultimately shortchanges kids.
The article would’ve been right to stop there. Yet somehow charter schools got pulled into the discussion, and that is where the coverage went way off track. The Dispatch writes:
But the formula for one class of school [i.e., Columbus district schools] is now capped, while the other [Columbus charters] isn’t.…But today Columbus charters get $142.4 million from the state to teach 18,000 students, while the district is left with $154.4 million to teach the remaining 52,000 kids, many of whom rank among the poorest in the state. ...