Charters & Choice

Are you a school choice supporter or just interested in learning more about this issue that is gaining national prominence? Ohio parents, students, schools, and advocates will be holding a rally on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at 11 a.m. on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse. And you’re invited to attend.

The event, supporting school choice in all of its many forms, is happening during National Charter Schools Week.

Image courtesy of School Choice Ohio

You can find more details about the event here. And you can register by clicking here

Charters come to the Bluegrass State

On this week's podcast, Kentucky State Senator Mike Wilson joins Mike Petrilli and Alyssa Schwenk to discuss charter schools in the Bluegrass State, which recently passed its first charter law. During the Research Minute, Amber Northern examines efforts to improve content knowledge and comprehension for English language learners.

Amber's Research Minute


NOTE: The Senate Education Committee of the Ohio General Assembly is hearing proponent testimony this week on Senate Bill 85, a proposal that would significantly alter Ohio’s voucher programs. Below is the written testimony that Chad Aldis gave before the committee today.

Thank you, Chair Lehner, Vice Chair Huffman, Ranking Member Sykes and Senate Education Committee members for giving me the opportunity today to provide testimony in support of Senate Bill 85.

My name is Chad Aldis, and I am the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Institute is an education-focused nonprofit that conducts research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C.

Fordham has long supported school choice in its many forms, including charter schools, open enrollment, magnet schools, homeschooling, and private school choice. We believe that it’s essential to empower all parents with meaningful, high quality educational options. While supportive of school choice, we’ve been a critical friend at times. Our advocacy work to improve Ohio’s charter sector is a good example of that. We’ve also funded research to study the effectiveness of charter schools, vouchers, and—coming soon—open enrollment. We...

  1. The Dayton Daily News announced this week – with something akin to relief, or maybe glee? – that there are no changes to Ohio’s testing regimen for the first time in three years. Not for lack of trying, I’m sure. (Dayton Daily News, 4/4/17) I jest, of course. Obviously there were plenty of efforts to change things in regard to testing this year; just like there was when everyone and their brother ganged up to retire the OGT and to nuke the PARCC tests in previous years. And the efforts continue unabated. To wit: the state supe’s panel on assessments. This piece is ostensibly a look at one panel member – the director of CTE at a local high school – and what he plans to bring to the table. What is more interesting to me is the full list of panelists and the organizations or groups that each person represents (hint: none of them appear to be representing students or parents). A “stacked” panel, indeed, Aaron. (Canton Repository, 4/4/17) Like the Dispatch editorial board before it, editors in Toledo opined today in favor of a diploma that is more than a certificate for showing up 93
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  1. At the risk of diluting the cool factor of my kids’ current favorite word, reporter Patrick O’Donnell appears to be “nettled” over the possible expansion of private school vouchers in Ohio. If building a case against such an expansion is indeed his goal, he’s got his work cut out for him since such an expansion has been mooted from both the state and the federal level. Thorough as O’Donnell always is, he makes sure to note the limitations in data and generalizability of our 2016 study on the EdChoice Scholarship program, quoting Chad thoroughly on their nature. Nevertheless, he appears to be launching a one-man campaign to bring that data to light, despite the limitations. First up, Cleveland Metropolitan School District in general vs. voucher schools in general in reading and math. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/26/17) Part two of the campaign is more specific: CMSD’s magnet schools vs. St. Ignatius and several other well-known private high schools. Wonder if it’s just a coincidence that O’Donnell took an in-depth look at those magnet schools in profiles published a few weeks ago? Guess we’ll find out, if this current series continues. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/26/17)
  2. So, it appears to
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E-schools, a.k.a. virtual charter schools, have been so thoroughly mired in controversy that they’ve become radioactive in most education discussions. Or in most discussions, period. The current dispute in Ohio is largely technical and centers on the extent to which e-schools provide learning opportunities to students rather than merely offering them. This is much more than semantics; how to track attendance and student log-ins for funding purposes is at the heart of a year-long lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) by one of the state’s largest and most politically influential e-schools. Hundreds of millions of public dollars are at stake.

There have also been broad concerns about e-schools’ lagging performance in Ohio as well as nationally. Last year, a trio of education groups, including long-time charter advocacy organizations, began to share their concerns more publicly, offering policy recommendations to base funding on performance and consider creating enrollment criteria for students. These bold suggestions were embraced shortly thereafter by Ohio’s Auditor of State, Dave Yost, who recently ordered a statewide examination of how online charters collect learning and log-in data.

So it’s no surprise that Senator Joe Schiavoni, a long-time advocate for...

Fordham Ohio Panel Discussion: Strengthening school funding in Ohio

Fordham Ohio Panel Discussion: Strengthening School Funding in Ohio

Ohio’s current approach to school funding (K-12) has several strengths, including its ability to drive more state aid to disadvantaged districts and to add dollars for students with greater educational needs. But in a time when Ohio’s budget – like that of many other states – is stretched thin, policy makers need to ensure that every dollar is being well spent. As state lawmakers debate Ohio’s biennial budget, thoughtful analysis is more important than ever.

This event coincides with the release of Fordham’s latest research report, A Formula That Works. Conducted by national education policy experts at Bellwether Education Partners, this analysis is a deep dive into Ohio’s education funding policies and includes several recommendations for improvement. The study touches on questions such as: How well does Ohio’s funding system promote fairness and efficiency to all schools and districts? How can policy makers better ensure that all students have the resources needed to reach their goals? And what are the most critical policy issues that legislators should concentrate on as the budget debate proceeds this spring?



Jennifer O’Neal Schiess
Associate Partner and report co-author
Bellwether Education Partners



The Honorable Ryan Smith
Ohio House of Representatives
Chair, House Finance Committee
The Honorable Matt Huffman
Ohio Senate
Member, Senate Education Committee
Timothy Keen
Ohio Office of Budget and Management
Howard Fleeter
Howard Fleeter & Associates
Barbara Mattei-Smith
Director of Performance and Accountability
Cincinnati City Schools


Chad L. Aldis
Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy
Thomas B. Fordham Institute


Citizens Leadership Academy (CLA) is preparing Cleveland middle schoolers for success in high school, college, and life—and not just academically. CLA, whose population is 79 percent economically disadvantaged and made up almost entirely of students of color, is second among all public schools in the city on student growth. The school’s eighth graders reach and surpass proficiency at a rate that is more than three times that of their peers across the city. Reading and math proficiency rates at CLA are more than double those of Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s.

No matter how you slice the data, CLA is providing academic preparation that would likely be unavailable to them if the schools—and its broader high-performing charter network (Breakthrough Schools)—did not exist. And yet its academic prowess is just the tip of the iceberg.

The school’s model—as captured in its name, Citizens Leadership Academy—prioritizes and cultivates broader attributes and mindsets necessary for long-term success. As you’ll read in this profile about one student, Keith Lazare Jr., CLA asks students to consider what it means to be active, engaged citizens and community members. Students are asked to grapple not...

A report released today outlines the facilities challenges facing Ohio’s public charter schools. The report, “An Analysis of the Charter School Facility Landscape in Ohio,” found that on average, Ohio charter schools spend $785 per pupil  from their foundation funding on facilities—a cost not typically faced by traditional public schools. The report also finds that few Ohio charters are able to locate in unused or underutilized district facilities.

“This study is eye opening,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy. “It provides Ohio policy makers with concrete data, for the first time ever, regarding how extensive the facility challenges are for Ohio’s 370 public charter schools.”

The report is based on a 2015 survey of Ohio charter school principals (representing 81 percent of brick-and-mortar charters in the state). The study was sponsored by the National Charter School Resource Center of the U.S. Department of Education, and conducted by the Colorado League of Charter Schools with the assistance of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

“Charter schools face an uphill battle when it comes to securing a quality facility. Facility expenses of almost $800 per...

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” There's a lot of truth in that cliché, but it doesn't seem to apply to education. When it comes to chronically low-performing schools, in many cases, the better – and more courageous – course is to “quit” and close a school that is simply beyond repair.

In recent years, attempts to turn around failing schools are most closely linked to the Obama Administration’s supercharged School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Between 2010 and 2015, the federal government spent $7 billion in efforts to turnaround low-performing schools. In exchange for these funds, grantee schools pledged to implement prescribed interventions, such as replacing personnel or changing instructional practices.

The returns: Not much—or perhaps not clear—according to a massive study by Mathematica and the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The study examined schools in the 2010 SIG cohort and tracked pupil outcomes through three years of implementation. Using data from twenty-two states, their analysis found that SIG had no significant impact on students’ state math or reading test scores. Nor did they find any evidence that SIG increased pupils’ likelihood of high school graduation or college enrollment. Further, the analysts didn’t even uncover...