Charters & Choice

The reform royalty edition

On this week's podcast, special guest Lisa Graham Keegan, executive director of A for Arizona, joins Mike Petrilli and Alyssa Schwenk to discuss the pros and cons of a big federal push on school choice. On the Research Minute, David Griffith teams up with Matthew Ladner, Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, to examine the effects of teacher turnover on instructional quality.

David's Research Minute

Eric A. Hanushek, Steven G. Rivkin, and Jeffrey C. Schiman, “Dynamic Effects of Teacher Turnover on the Quality of Instruction,” CALDER (November 2016).

 

It would be an understatement to say that the 2015–16 school year was one of transition. Indeed, over the past twelve months, we lived through the implementation of the third state assessment in three years, the rollout of Ohio’s revised sponsor evaluation, and the introduction of a new state superintendent at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). Change is reverberating throughout the system, and change is hard. As Charles Kettering once said, “The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.”

Charles Kettering was right. Lest we lose sight of the endgame, it is important to remember that the developments of the last twelve months have their roots in policy decisions designed to improve Ohio’s academic standards overall and its charter school sector—one that many viewed as rife with poorly performing schools and controlled by special interests—in particular.

Toward that end, in 2015–16 Ohio implemented assessments developed by the ODE and American Institutes of Research (AIR). AIR is the third assessment administered in Ohio’s public schools in three years and follows administration of the Ohio Achievement Assessments in 2013–14 and the politically charged and ultimately doomed PARCC tests in 2014–15. At the same time, the...

KIPP Columbus achieves extraordinary outcomes for its students, predominantly students in poverty and students of color—a fact worth celebrating by itself. In 2015-16 in Ohio’s Urban Eight cities, KIPP Columbus was in the top five percent of all schools (district and charter) on student growth and among the very best (top 3 percent) in Columbus. But it’s not just KIPP’s academic data that are impressive. KIPP Columbus, led by Hannah Powell and a visionary board, has a rare knack for forging powerful partnerships at every turn—ones that strengthen KIPP students, their families, and the entire community near its campus. This year, KIPP launched an early learning center in partnership with the YMCA of Central Ohio to serve infants, toddlers, and pre-school aged youngsters. In a neighborhood lacking high-quality childcare and early learning opportunities, it’s an investment not just for KIPP students, but for the community at large. KIPP Columbus also partners with the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus, Battelle Memorial Institute, and other community organizations.

This profile is about KIPP graduate Steve Antwi-Boasiako, an immigrant and first-generation college student now attending Vanderbilt University, whose entire family has been uplifted by the school. His story illustrates the depth...

Hopes are high for a new kind of school in Indianapolis. Purdue Polytechnic High School will open in the 2017-18 school year, admitting its first class of 150 ninth graders on the near Eastside. It is a STEM-focused charter school authorized by Purdue University that will utilize a project-based multidisciplinary curriculum intended to give graduates “deep knowledge, applied skills, and experiences in the workplace.”

The location of the school in the Englewood neighborhood is a deliberate step for Purdue, which is aiming to develop a direct feeder for low-income students and students of color into Purdue Polytechnic Institute in West Lafayette. To that end, the high school will teach to mastery—each student moving on to the next level in a subject once they have demonstrated mastery at the current level. If that requires remediation of work, so be it. The school model is designed to keep students engaged, challenge them to reach their maximum potential, and meet high expectations. More importantly, a high school diploma will be “considered a milestone rather than an end goal,” according to the school’s website. College is the expected next step for all Purdue Polytechnic High School graduates. In fact, the high school’s curriculum...

The State Of D.C. Charter Schools: Where We’ve Been And Where We’re Going

The State Of D.C. Charter Schools: Where We’ve Been And Where We’re Going

A quarter-century ago, Minnesota passed America’s first charter school law. While charters have veered from the expectation that they would act as “incubators of innovation,” they have become a transformative force in education that has racked up notable successes when serving disadvantaged inner-city kids. Although state policy and local support have been indispensable, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that private philanthropy has driven much of the charter sector’s growth.

That funding has been especially significant in the nation’s capital, which now boasts one of the largest, best funded, and most successful charter environments in the nation. The sector’s strength wouldn’t be possible without the many local and national philanthropies that have invested generously in excellent schools (particularly “no-excuses” models). Charter Schools at the Crossroads: Predicaments, Paradoxes, Possibilities, the new book co-authored by Chester E. Finn, Jr., Bruno Manno, and Brandon Wright, takes a close look at how this philanthropic investment has driven the sector’s evolution—for better or worse.

What exactly has been philanthropy’s role in the District’s success? Has it been enough? Where should it go as we move into the next twenty-five years? How far can we push the “no-excuses” practice to maintain its record of high performance? And what else, besides more and better no-excuses schools, could chartering do for D.C. and the country?

On October 26, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Hoover Institution hosted the second event in an occasional series of in-depth discussions about the past, present and future of charter schools in Washington, D.C.

Continue the conversation online with @educationgadfly and @HooverInst at #ChartersAt25.

MODERATOR

Katherine Haley
Senior Director of K-12 Education Programs
The Philanthropy Roundtable
 @katherinehaley

PANELISTS

   Chester E. Finn, Jr. 
   Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus
   The Thomas B. Fordham Institute
    @educationgadfly
   Katherine Bradley
   President
   CityBridge Foundation
    @KBBDC
   Scott Pearson
   Executive Director
   DC Public Charter School Board
    @SDPearson
   Russ Williams
   President and CEO
   Center City PCS
    @russewilliamsjr

 

The charter crossroads edition

On this week’s podcast, Alyssa Schwenk talks to Checker Finn and Brandon Wright about their new book, written with Bruno Manno, Charter Schools at the Crossroads. On the Research Minute, Amber Northern examines the effects of content-intensive professional development for teachers. 

Amber's Research Minute

Michael S. Garet, Jessica B. Heppen, Kirk Walters, Julia Parkinson, Toni M. Smith, Mengli Song, Rachel Garrett, Rui Yang, Geoffrey D. Borman, and Thomas E. Wei, "Focusing on Mathematical Knowledge: The Impact of Content-Intensive Teacher Professional Development," U.S. Department of Education (September 2016). 

Over the past quarter-century, charter schools have gone from an upstart education experiment to a prominent, promising, and disruptive innovation in K–12 education. Indeed, few observers present at the creation of the first charter schools could have predicted how rapidly this movement would spread or how thoroughly it would come to dominate the education-reform agenda. In Charter Schools at the Crossroads, authors Chester E. Finn, Jr., Bruno V. Manno, and Brandon L. Wright take stock of what chartering has (and hasn’t) accomplished thus far, how to address its present challenges, and what an ambitious and boldly different course for the next twenty-five years would look like. 

From the role of philanthropy to the rise of no-excuses charter schools, they frankly examine the positive and negative consequences of policies and programs, and push sector leaders to do more, do better, and do it differently. They counter the often-oversimplified narrative of the movement’s origins, showing how multiple agendas and intentions led to a cacophony of results. And they address chartering’s many current dilemmas, including the roles of authorizers and operators, challenges in facilities and funding, and the balance between freedom and regulation. Informative and provocative, this book shows the tremendous work accomplished...

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) recently released the results of its revised sponsor evaluation, including new ratings for all of the state’s charter-school sponsors. Called “authorizers” in most other states, sponsors are the entities responsible for monitoring and oversight of charter schools. Under the current rating system, sponsors are evaluated in three areas—compliance, quality practice, and school academic outcomes—and receive overall ratings of “Exemplary,” “Effective,” “Ineffective,” or “Poor.” Of the sixty-five Buckeye State sponsors evaluated, five were rated “Effective,” thirty-nine “Ineffective,” and twenty-one “Poor.” Incentives are built into the system for sponsors rated “Effective” or “Exemplary” (for instance, only having to be evaluated on the quality practice component every three years); however, sponsors rated “Ineffective” are prohibited from sponsoring new schools, and sponsors rated “Poor” have their sponsorship revoked.

Number of charter schools by sponsor rating

Evaluating sponsors is a key step in the direction of accountability and quality control, especially in Ohio, where the charter sector has been beset with performance challenges. Indeed, the point of implementing the evaluation was two-fold. First, the existence of the evaluation system and its...

Charter Schools at Twenty-Five: Humdrum or Revolutionary?

Charter Schools at Twenty-Five: Humdrum or Revolutionary?

It’s been twenty-five years since Minnesota introduced chartering to America. In that time, the charter sector has gone from a disruptive innovation to the source of school choice for more than three million kids in over forty states. As we celebrate chartering’s silver anniversary, prominent thinkers are reflecting on what has been accomplished, what has been learned, and what the future may hold.    

Richard Whitmire, author of the recently published The Founders: Inside the Revolution to Invent (and Reinvent) America’s Best Charter Schools, and Chester E. Finn, Jr., co-author of the forthcoming Charter Schools at the Crossroads: Predicaments, Paradoxes, Possibilities, came together for a lively, invigorating discussion of these key questions on October 12. What features have allowed some charter networks to produce breakthrough results while others have fallen short? How can we bring their success to scale and serve even more needy and deserving students? Is the success of the “no-excuses” model blinding us to other areas that might benefit from chartering, such as schools for high achievers, schools for the middle class, and schools focused on career and technical education? And will the foes of charter schools ever relent?

Continue the conversation online with @educationgadfly and @The74 at #ChartersAt25

DISCUSSANTS

Chester E. Finn, Jr. 
Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
 @educationgadfly
Richard Whitmire
Education Author
 @richardwhitmir

 

Ohio Charter Accountability Takes Big Leap Forward with First Sponsor Evaluation Ratings

Today the Ohio Department of Education released results for the state’s new comprehensive sponsor evaluation system. The ratings resulted in 5 sponsors being deemed effective, 39 ineffective, and 21 poor. No sponsors were rated exemplary.

“Completion of the first sponsor performance review is a critical step forward in Ohio’s goal to improve its charter sector,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “Sponsors provide critical oversight for charters schools, determining when to intervene, non-renew, or close schools—and just as importantly, when and where to allow charters to open in the first place. Given this tremendous responsibility, they are essential to our accountability system.”

Ohio’s sponsor evaluation system—initially put in place by HB 555—was revised last fall by a Department task force. The evaluations grade sponsors on three equally weighted categories: compliance—how well they follow applicable rules and laws and ensure their sponsored schools do the same; quality practices—whether they are adhering to general principles of quality authorizing; and academic performance—how well their schools performed on a variety of report card metrics.

“The Department of Education deserves...

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