Over the past twenty years, opponents have charged charter schools with further Balkanizing America’s education system. Give parents a choice, the thinking goes, and many will choose homogenous environments for their children. And there’s certainly evidence that charters in some cities tend to be more racially isolated than traditional public schools.

Capital City Public Charter School
Capital City Public Charter School in Washinton, D.C., has achieved a nearly even racial and socioeconomic balance.

    But could charter schools actually be a solution to segregation—particularly as gentrification brings more white and middle-class families to our urban cores? A growing crop of social entrepreneurs thinks so. In cities across the country, educators and parents are starting charters expressly designed for diversity.

    Charter schools have certain advantages. As start-up schools, they can be strategic about locations, picking spots that are well positioned to draw students from different racial and socioeconomic groups. They can design academic programs that take diversity as a given and make the most of it. And they can be thoughtful about putting...

    The Center for Education Policy recently released a three-part series of reports reviewing the Common Core State standards implementation with focuses on the federal role, state progress and challenges, and teacher preparation, training, and assessments for the new standards. In the second of this series, the progress and challenges of states were reviewed through a survey of distributed to state deputy education superintendents’ offices. Of the 45 states and D.C. adopting Common Core, 39 states and D.C. participated along with Minnesota (adopting only the ELA standards). The CEP surveyed states’ progress by inquiring on the state perceptions of the standards, curriculum alignment,  implementation activities, state collaboration, state funding, challenges, and state education agency (SEA) capacity. The responses are an encouraging sign for many state-level Common Core advocates. The CEP found that all of the survey participants found the Common Core State Standards to be more rigorous than their previous standards. With this higher rigor, “nearly all CCSS-adopting states recognize that implementing the Common Core will require substantial changes in curriculum and instruction in their state.” The report also noted that most have developed statewide professional development for teachers and encouraged district collaboration. Unfortunately, the survey revealed challenges persist for...

    • New York City mayoral candidates look to Cincinnati Public Schools as an example to improve academic performance and provide students with greater opportunities.
    • Ohio lawmakers set out to repeal Common Core with newly introduced legislation that would repeal the rigorous new academic standards and place limits on student data collection.
    • Summer is cut short for some students as school districts set start dates as early as July to prevent the dreaded summer “learning slide.”
    • Movie star Matt Damon brings school choice into the spotlight. In a recent interview, Damon, an outspoken critic of education reform, admits that he sends his four daughters to a private school.

    Many states have found a solution for how to better serve their inner-city students through portfolio districts, urban districts that prescribe to a continuous improvement model based on seven key components. Ohio is no exception to that as Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus all participate in the portfolio district network. In order to become a portfolio district, central offices must learn to give the decision making authority to school leaders.  In transitioning, however, district officials are left wondering how much power to give and who to give it to. Simply giving all schools full autonomy is a bad idea. In a short piece by Paul Hill, creator of the portfolio school district, management strategy provides advice to central offices by determining what authority schools should receive and which ones should be chosen.  Hill delineates between two types of autonomy—basic and advanced. If a school is selected to be autonomous, basic autonomies are those that are “non-negotiables.” The list of basic autonomies include control of spending, control of hiring, control of student grouping, and control of funds for professional development. Advanced autonomies are those that, according to Hill, “ensure that the school is fully in charge of itself and can...

    The Fordham Ohio staff thanks Terry Ryan for his time, energy, and commitment to serving the state of Ohio and its students for twelve years. In case you missed it, the articles linked below contain Terry’s parting thoughts as he leaves the Buckeye State for Idaho, the Gem State (not the “Potato State” as Gadfly suspected). They are food for thought as we at Fordham and other school reformers continue the good work that Terry has started.

    Ohio Gadfly Daily: 12 years; 12 lessons

    Dayton Daily News: “Roundtable Discussion: How Can We Make Our Schools More Effective?”

    * * *

    Terry’s contact information:

    Idaho Charter School Network

    815 W. Washington Street
    Lower Level Suite
    Boise, ID 83702

    Email: [email protected]

    Office: 208-906-1420

    The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently announced two new vice presidents to lead its education-reform efforts in Ohio. Chad Aldis will join the Fordham Institute as vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy and Kathryn Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives. Terry Ryan, Fordham’s current vice president for Ohio programs and policy, will be leaving Fordham to serve as the President of the Idaho Charter School Network.

    Aldis, a longtime advocate for Ohio education reform, most recently served as a program officer in the Systemic K-12 Education Reform Focus Area for the Walton Family Foundation. Prior to joining Walton, he served as the executive director of School Choice Ohio and was the Ohio state director for StudentsFirst. Aldis will join Fordham in October and lead school-reform initiatives throughout Ohio.

    Mullen-Upton has been Fordham’s director of sponsorship since 2005, where she is responsible for the management and oversight of Fordham’s charter-school-authorizing operations. Effective immediately, Mullen-Upton has been promoted to vice president for sponsorship and Dayton initiatives, where she will expand Fordham’s charter sponsorship operations and advance education-reform efforts in Fordham’s home town.

    “Terry Ryan is unique and therefore cannot be ‘replaced,’” said Fordham President Chester...

    New York made education headlines last week, as its public schools reported substantially lower test scores than in previous years. The cause of the drop? This was the first year that New York administered exams aligned to the Common Core—though these were not the “official” Common Core-aligned exams (PARCC or Smarter Balanced assessments). According to Education Week, proficiency rates for English language arts sunk by 24 percentage points, and, for math, proficiency declined by a staggering 34 percentage points. New York’s Commissioner of Education, John King, attempting to reassure the public, remarked that “the changes in scores do not mean that schools have taught less or that students have learned less.”

    In contrast to New York—and earlier, Kentucky—the Buckeye State has not taken the interim step of ratcheting up the rigor of its assessments to prepare its students, educators, and public for the exams aligned to the Common Core. (Ohio is a member of the PARCC consortium of states, which is one of the two organizations that are developing Common Core exams.) And, if the results from New York and Kentucky are a predictor, Ohio should brace itself for a shock, come 2014-15, when the PARCC exams...

    During my travels on Interstate 70, I have discovered Union Local School District. The district is located near the Ohio-West Virginia border, right at exit 208. Its high school isn’t hard to spot—a boxy two-story building that sits atop a knoll overlooking truck-stop fast food joints and gas stations.

    I’ve learned a bit about Union Local and have come to think of it as a quintessential rural district. It enrolls 1,500 or so students, 99 percent of whom are white. A modest portion of its students are impoverished (42 percent). They play football on Fridays, and last I heard on the radio, a local car dealership donates $20 to the football team, if you test-drive their cars. The school district has a nature trail and an American flag etched into its high school lawn, as a reminder of 9/11.

    Union Local is one of Ohio’s 231 rural districts that together serve 280,000 or so K-12 students—roughly equal the student population of Nebraska. But besides serving truck-stop communities and partnering with mom-and-pop car dealerships, what is known about rural schools? Specifically, what about the academics of Union Local and Ohio’s rural schools? Do they effectively prepare their kids to attend college?...

    Despite the tireless marriage-wrecking efforts of Common Core opponents and their acolytes and funders, few states that initially pledged their troth to these rigorous new standards for English and math are in divorce mode. What’s far more fluid, unpredictable, and—frankly—worrying are the two elements of standards-based reform that make a vastly greater difference in the real world than standards themselves: implementation and assessment.

    Don’t get me wrong. Standards are important, because they set forth the desired outcomes of schooling and it’s obviously better to aim for clear, ambitious, and academically worthy goals than at targets that are vague, banal, easy, or trendy. Standards are also supposed to provide the framework that shapes and organizes the rest of the education enterprise: curricula, teacher preparation, promotion and graduation expectations, testing and accountability, and just about everything else. (Kindergarten standards, for example, should affect what happens in preschool just as twelfth-grade standards should synch with what gets taught to college freshmen.)

    But standards are not self-actualizing. Indeed, they can be purely symbolic, even illusory. Unless thoroughly implemented and properly assessed, they have scant traction in schools, classrooms, and the lives—and futures—of students.

    California is the woeful poster child here, as I was reminded...

    With Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on the tip of everybody’s tongue and Common Core–aligned assessments expected to roll out nationally in less than two years, the release of the Center on Education Policy’s most recent implementation update is particularly relevant. First, thirty states (out of forty) reported that Common Core–aligned curricula in both math and ELA are being taught in at least some districts or grade levels. As for full saturation, nine states began implementing CCSS math curriculum throughout their K–12 systems in 2012 or earlier; in ELA, the same is true of twelve states. Second, thirty states report that they are sponsoring specific initiatives to help low-performing schools make the transition to CCSS. Third, a dozen states with cuts or freezes in education spending report eliminating or reducing the scope of CCSS activities due to strained state budgets. For instance, six states have reduced their technology expenditures related to CCSS assessments. Fourth, thirty-seven states are developing and disseminating PD materials and guides; thirty-three report working with higher-ed institutions to align the academic content of their teacher-preparation programs with CCSS. But finally—and most troubling—twenty-six states conveyed that they were finding it difficult to identify and/or develop curriculum materials necessary...