Charters & Choice

Advanced Placement Podcasting

Andy Smarick and Kathleen Porter-Magee rock this week’s podcast. Find out why AP Calculus has such high pass rates, why being overwhelmed with choices can be a good thing, and why rising grad rates may be a red herring. Amber is hip to KIPP.

Amber's Research Minute

KIPP Middle Schools: Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes by Christina Clark Tuttle, et al. (Washington, D.C.: Mathematica Policy Research, February 2013).

This extensive evaluation of KIPP charter schools, conducted by Mathematica, will impress even the staunchest KIPP skeptics. The study employed two study designs: The researchers compared the cohorts of forty-one KIPP middle schools (more than half of the total KIPP schools) to students in local non-KIPP schools. They also compared KIPP lottery winners in thirteen oversubscribed schools to non-winners. The upshot? Over a three- to four-year span, KIPP students achieved between eight and fourteen months of additional learning growth compared to their non-KIPP-attending peers. These findings hold across all four core subjects for both state tests and a nationally normed, low-stakes exam (meant to test higher-order thinking skills). What’s more, the researchers included students who left their KIPP schools prior to eighth grade, making these effects a valid measure of anyone who has ever enrolled in these middle schools. But while the academic gains of KIPPsters are unimpeachable, the schools’ affects on student attitudes may not be. Apparently, KIPP increases students’ likelihood of arguing, lying to their parents, and losing their temper, according to student surveys—though one has to wonder if KIPP students are simply more likely than non-KIPPsters to own up to such behaviors.

SOURCE: Christina Clark...

GadflyWith just a few hours left before automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts take effect, the odds seem slim that Congress will pull a rabbit out of this hat. But despite the Obama administration’s doomsday rhetoric (40,000 teacher layoffs, a huge blow to Head Start, and seven of the ten plagues), the reality seems—if not optimal—manageable. School nutrition programs, Pell Grants, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families won’t be cut, and most school districts won’t feel the pinch until the beginning of the 2013–14 school year. And when they do, it will be minor (perhaps 2 percent of their budgets in most cases). In other words, it’s a great opportunity to stretch the school dollar.

On Monday, President Enrique Peña-Nieto signed Mexico’s most sweeping ed-reform bill in seven decades into law. Mexico will now use uniform standards for hiring teachers, require merit-based promotions, and enjoy the ability to draw the first census of Mexico’s education system (because the 1.5 million-member-strong teacher union controlled the system, no one knew exactly how many schools, teachers, or students existed). One day later, police arrested...

When then-Governor Ted Strickland issued his Evidence-Based Model (EBM) of school funding reform in 2009 we engaged Professor Paul Hill to provide an analysis of the proposals. We couldn’t think of anyone better to do the work than Professor Hill. His credentials are impeccable. He is founder and recently retired director of the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, and a former Senior Fellow at Brookings and RAND. Further, Professor Hill has roots in Ohio as a graduate of Ohio State University. He also has family in Dayton.
Professor Hill’s analysis of Strickland’s plan was largely informed by the research project he led, Facing the Future: Financing Productive Schools. That six-year effort, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted. It concluded that America’s public-school finance systems are burdened by rules and narrow policies that hold local officials accountable for compliance but not for results. Facing the Future was the work of more than 40 economists, lawyers, financial specialists, and education policy makers. It included more than 30 separate studies, including in-depth looks at Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington.

Dayton panelists from left: Bob Taft, Rusty Clifford and Lori Ward

The word churn is used within a variety of industries.  Just as customers leave businesses and migrate to competitors for other products or pricing options, students transfer between school districts and buildings. Churn is a reality within Ohio schools.  But what are the reasons for this cycle? School leaders, parents, community members and others gathered yesterday in Dayton and Cincinnati to discuss student churn, what it means for their schools and what might be done about it. A crowd of about 100 gathered for each event.

In November, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Columbus-based Community Research Partners (CRP), and nine other funders released a statewide study of student mobility in Ohio. This substantial report was the basis of the conversations hosted by Learn to Earn in Dayton and The Strive Partnership in Cincinnati. 

“Today’s event in Dayton was very eye opening,” said Chatoya Hayes, an audience member who joined the discussion from the United Way of the Greater Dayton Area.  “I think the issue of student mobility is directly altering student success...

My son is a student in the Columbus City School District. Thus, what transpires per education in Ohio’s largest district impacts me personally, not just professionally. Last evening I was pleased on both fronts by Mayor Michael Coleman’s State of the City address. It was his 14th such speech but it was a “first” in one regard: Coleman tackled the issue of improving public schools in his city head-on. This speech comes as the mayor’s education commission is meeting regularly to develop a plan to help right the city’s schools. (Terry and Ethan Gray from CEE-Trust presented to the committee just a few days ago). Terry's presentation can be viewed here and Ethan's can be viewed here.

The entire speech was promising and demonstrated the mayor’s strong intent to provide better education options to his city’s children. Perhaps most striking, though, was his unabashed support for good charter schools (which is rare from an Ohio Democrat—though we’ve seen tides shift among other urban Dems). Here is the charter school portion of the speech:

And finally: Every child deserves to go to a good school, and the schools that consistently fail our children must...

The Education Gadfly Show: Interview with John Kirtley

The Education Gadfly Show: Interview with John Kirtley

Following the release of Fordham's report, School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring?, Mike Petrilli and Adam Emerson sat down with John Kirtley of Step Up for Students to talk about when private schools choose to participate in choice programs. While Fordham found that Catholic schools were less likely to be deterred by accountability regulations, Kirtley took a slightly different tack.

Watch to find out more!

Gifted students and not-so-gifted lawmaking

Mike and Checker talk about the ethics of prepping kids for gifted tests, charter selectivity, and overpriced congressionally mandated commissions, and Dara gives fresh ammunition to helicopter parents.

Amber's Research Minute

Spread of Academic Success in a High School Social Network by Deanna Blansky, Christina Kavanaugh, Cara Boothroyd, Brianna Benson, Julie Gallagher, John Endress, Hiroki Sayama

GadflyIn a futile effort to counter the influence of test-preparation companies, New York City’s education department changed part of the test it administers to four-year-olds to determine whether or not they are gifted and talented. For parents who cannot afford to send their child to one of the city’s myriad private schools, a coveted and scarce seat in a public school gifted program is the best start they could give to their children. While many lament the unjust advantage that students with access to test-prep programs obtain, the true tragedy is the dearth of suitable options for all of the gifted children. For more, listen to this week’s Gadfly Show.

Eliciting a keen sense of deja vu, this year's AP Report to the Nation—College Board's tracking of AP course-taking patterns and exam pass rates—offers the same three takeaways as last year's report: Participation rates in the AP are fast on the rise (up 2 percentage points since last year and 14 since last decade). So are AP exam passing rates: up 1.5 percentage points since 2011 and 7 points since 2002. Still,...

Education reformers often tout that school choice will create more competition, leading to better performance in both traditional and non-traditional schools. In spite of this, researchers have been unable to consistently show a correlation between competition and school performance, creating ammunition for those who oppose school choice. A part of the problem is how the topic is researched. In their report, Susanna Loeb and Matthew Kasman explain that researchers focus on specific aspects of competition (i.e. school density in an area, the transfer rates of students) without factoring the perceptions of the school leaders who are responsible for changing curriculum and instruction. Loeb and Kasman analyzed data and surveys from Milwaukee Public Schools to determine what affect a principal’s perception of competition and how those school leaders respond. 

The results are surprising- the researchers reported that the number of schools in an area had little correlation with the perception of competition.  Conversely, the principals did report a greater sense of competition when their student transfer rates were higher and when they taught low and high achieving students. One potential reason for this is that schools specifically designed to serve these students such as charters succeeded in drawing students from...