Charters & Choice

Last week, the Ohio Department of Education released school grades for the 2016-17 school year. These report cards offer Buckeye families, community members, and taxpayers an important annual review of the performance of the state’s 3,000 plus schools and 600 districts.

For many years, we at Fordham have kept a close eye on the performance of Ohio’s charter schools. We typically gauge their performance by comparing their results to district schools in the state’s “Big Eight” cities. We do this because most brick-and-mortar charters in Ohio are located in these districts (e.g., Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton).

In 2015-16, my analysis found some promising signs that the charter sector may be modestly outperforming Big Eight district schools on the state’s value-added measure, an indicator of schools’ impact on pupil growth over time.

How about this year? Let’s compare the A-F ratings that the state gives to schools on the two key report card ratings—the performance index (explained below, under Figure 1) and overall value added.

The first chart indicates that both charter and Big Eight district schools receive low ratings on the performance index. Roughly nine in ten schools in each sector receive Ds or Fs, a pattern that is nearly...

It’s no secret that high-quality early childhood education can lead to significant and positive short-term impacts for children, particularly those from disadvantaged circumstances. Unfortunately, much of the current research also points to a troubling “fade out” trend—the gains that students make in preschool gradually decrease until they disappear completely.

A recent study from Mathematica seeks to add to this discussion by investigating whether the pre-K programs offered by some KIPP charter schools produce more lasting impacts. Researchers selected KIPP for several reasons, including the fact that it employs several practices that are considered high quality (such as well-educated teachers and low teacher-child ratios). Most significant, though, is that many KIPP pre-K students continue their education in a KIPP elementary school—increasing the probability that their elementary school experience will align with their pre-K experiences, and thereby potentially lead to longer-lasting impacts.

The study explored three research questions and used slightly different methods to examine each. The samples were relatively small, but the analysts were able to employ experimental methods that allow us to draw stronger conclusions about the effects of KIPP pre-K. A series of standardized tests (like the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement) were used to measure...

  1. Not much to report on today, but let’s not let that get us down. First up, we’ve got a bit more insight into that “final offer” from the Columbus City Schools board to the teacher’s union. Doesn’t sound super promising, especially in terms of the raise on offer, but we’ll see what happens when the rank and file vote on it next week. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/7/17)
     
  2. Lorain City Schools CEO David Hardy made his one-month report to the district’s Academic Distress Commission this week. The main thing of note in the Chronicle report is that the tight timeline for his first 90 days seems to be going well, especially from the standpoint of public input. Additionally, Hardy’s arrival full time in the district has been pushed forward by two weeks. (Elyria Chronicle, 9/8/17) The Morning Journal’s version of the meeting adds some interesting detail to both of these points. To wit: here are the top three concerns the public have reported to CEO Hardy: First is student performance (probably a no-brainer), second is a very high level of “distrust in the organization” (hmmm….), and third is a misalignment between the community’s passion in working with the
  3. ...

Reinventing America's Schools

On this week's podcast, special guest David Osborne, a director at the Progressive Policy Institute, joins Mike Petrilli and Alyssa Schwenk to discuss his new book, Reinventing America’s Schools. During the Research Minute, Amber Northern examines a blockbuster study finding that the over-identification of minority children in special education is a myth.

Amber’s Research Minute

Paul L. Morgan et al., “Replicated Evidence of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Disability Identification in U.S. Schools,” Educational Researcher (August 2017).

Betsy DeVos and accountability for schools of choice

On this week's podcast, special guest Jessica Sutter, founder and president of EdPro Consulting, joins Alyssa Schwenk and Brandon Wright to discuss Secretary DeVos’s thoughts on accountability for schools of choice. During the Research Minute, Amber Northern examines student safety in Detroit charter schools.

Amber’s Research Minute

Daniel Hamlin, “Are Charter Schools Safer in Deindustrialized Cities With High Rates of Crime? Testing Hypotheses in Detroit,” American Educational Research Journal (May 2017).

Charter opponents have long claimed that charter schools siphon resources away from the traditional public school system. The ideological motivation for this line of reasoning is clear when touted by teachers unions and their friends: i.e., calling charters parasitic unless they conform to traditional school practices, including mandatory unionization, makes that bias obvious. There’s also a technical basis for the argument, given how charters are funded in Ohio and in many states. Indirect or pass-through funding inevitably feels like a loss to districts and contributes to hostility toward charter schools for “stealing” students and “draining” the system.

But what impact do charter schools actually have on traditional public schools and the students who remain there? Are such loaded accusations deserved? Or might the presence of charters improve student outcomes through competition or as effective charter practices spill over into district schools?  

Recent research from Temple University professor Sarah Cordes sheds needed light on this question. Cordes examined the impact of charter schools in close proximity to, or even co-located with, traditional public schools (TPS) in New York City over a fourteen-year time span. Her analysis departed from previous research examining charter effects at the district level or...

Charter support plummets, leaving policy wonks flummoxed

On this week's podcast, Mike Petrilli, Brandon Wright, and David Griffith discuss Education Next’s new poll and what might be driving the surprising results regarding charter schools and vouchers. During the Research Minute, Amber Northern examines how dual-enrollment affects college degree attainment.

Amber’s Research Minute

Bob Blankenberger et al., Dual Credit, College Type, and Enhanced Degree Attainment,” Educational Researcher (July 2017).

The big squeeze continues. Ohio’s charter sector shrinks again as reforms enacted in 2012 and 2015 are fully implemented. The Buckeye State will see a record-low number of new charter schools open this fall, a slow-down that persists for the third year in a row. Meanwhile, twenty-two schools shut at the end of the 2016-17 school year, the fourth highest number in Ohio’s almost twenty-year charter history. A handful of law changes essentially have accomplished what decades of “self-policing” among authorizers could not: Authorizers have been forced to act more judiciously when determining who should be allowed to start a school and what it takes to keep a school open.

While we are encouraged to see that Ohio’s charter sector has become more quality focused, contraction of the sector alone won’t deliver great options for kids who desperately need them. These numbers point to a worrisome lack of capacity in the state around launching new schools and replicating high-quality models—a situation that warrants attention and action. Let’s take a quick look at the data.

Closures

Twelve of the twenty-two charter schools that closed their doors this June were overseen by traditional public school districts. This provides further evidence that...

Last month, the Center for Research on Educational Options (CREDO) at Stanford University released a new analysis of the performance of charter management networks, entities that may be engaged to oversee the day-to-day operations of a charter school. (See here for a short review of the report.) As in past CREDO studies, the results showed wide variations in performance depending on several indicators: network type, state, demographics, years spent in charters by pupils, etc.

Despite dozens of analyses and myriad ways to parse the CREDO data, most of the buzz around this study has focused on the analysis of network type, by profit status. Here are four takeaways that venture beyond the flashy headlines.

1) The for-profit versus non-profit discussion needs lots of nuance. CREDO’s comparison of charters based on the profit status of their operators snatched many of the headlines. This was unsurprising, given the current political milieu and much larger rifts within the charter coalition, where “profit” seems to be playing proxy for other issues. Still, it’s simplistic at best and misleading at worst to say—as EdWeek did—“for-profit charter schools show poor academic growth.” In comparison to their nonprofit counterparts, schools overseen by...

At the end of June, Governor John Kasich vetoed a provision in the state budget bill that would have changed school grading calculations for purposes of evaluating the performance of Ohio’s charter school sponsors. Keep in mind that sponsors—as they should be—are evaluated in part on the basis of how well the charter schools in their portfolios are doing on state report card metrics. At issue here was the weight that the Ohio Department of Education places on student growth—or value added—relative to other measures. The General Assembly, seemingly unhappy with the current, bureaucratically derived framework for sponsor evaluations, had wanted to increase the weight on student growth from 20 to 60 percent. That change would have applied to the “summative” (or “overall”) A-F grades of charter schools when applied to the evaluation of their sponsors.[1]  

Transitioning sponsors towards a growth-centered system was a positive move by the legislature, and it’s disappointing that the governor vetoed the provision. Growth measures consider individual students’ academic performance over time and gauge a school’s impact on student achievement. They differ from status measures, such as proficiency rates, which are “snapshots” of student performance at a point...

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