Charters & Choice

Private School Choice: How Do Programs Nationwide Stack Up?

Private School Choice: How Do Programs Nationwide Stack up?

Educational choice is a strategy to provide children with opportunities to receive the education that works best for them. In recent years, private-school-choice programs have blossomed, doubling (since 2010) both the number of such initiatives and the number of children benefiting from them.

But how well designed are they when it comes to student eligibility, scholarship amounts and enrollment growth, and transparency and accountability? The American Federation for Children (AFC) and the AFC Growth Fund set out to answer those questions by analyzing and ranking all active general-education, private-school-choice programs in the country. Their report will reveal whether any private-school-choice program checks all the boxes—and which ones are falling short.  

Continue the conversation on Twitter with @educationgadfly and @SchoolChoiceNow at #RankingChoices.

*Click here to download AFC's report card*

*Click here to download the presentation slides*

MODERATOR

Michael Petrilli
President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
@MichaelPetrilli

PANELISTS

   Whitney Marcavage
   Policy Director, American Federation for Children
   @SchoolChoiceNow
   Robert Behning
   Indiana State Representative
   @rbehning
   Max Eden
   Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute
   @maxeden99
   Derrell Bradford

   Executive Vice President, 50CAN 
   Executive Director, NYCAN
   @Dyrnwyn

 

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther is passionately outspoken about Columbus City Schools. He is an alumnus of the district, and his first experience as an elected official came as a member of its board of education. He has regularly praised Columbus City Schools and publicly bemoaned those who have spoken negatively about them. "I was tired of listening to people talk poorly about Columbus schools," Ginther said in a 2011 interview with ThisWeek Community News, explaining why he initially ran for school board. "As a matter of fact, I had a great experience in Columbus City Schools."

So strong is his belief in the district that Ginther is a major proponent of the levy this November that would authorize a 18 percent tax increase on residents to provide an influx of cash to Columbus City Schools.

However, when facing the decision of where to send his own daughter for kindergarten, Ginther chose a different path than the one he acclaims for the rest of the city's children. It is Ginther’s long-term support of Columbus City Schools that made last week’s announcement both surprising and noteworthy. The family’s assigned district school is a shining star that has been ranked as...

A new policy paper from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) explores how state education agencies (SEAs) can take advantage of their unique position to foster improved district-charter collaboration.

The authors lament, as did we in a recent report, that district and charter leaders are too often tearing chunks out of one another rather than finding ways to work together. Whether the endgame should be an all-charter system, as in New Orleans, or some kind of side-by-side system, as in Washington, D.C., most cities will have to find a working balance between the two sectors.

The paper makes a series of policy recommendations for how SEAs could facilitate this balance and act on the increased authority granted to them by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). They could, for example, use their unique position to tie financial and accountability incentives to collaboration efforts, provide cover for school districts in places where local politics are toxic, and remove state legal impediments to district-charter collaboration. ESSA also gives states the more flexibility to allot funding, design accountability systems, and adopt other constructive policies (like unified enrollment or facilities sharing) that promote district-charter collaboration.

The authors then point to examples like Florida’s...

Dear Mark and Priscilla,

Apologies for again interrupting your summer peace, but my respected friend Marc Tucker—in his open letter to you taking issue with my earlier missive—sorely misinterpreted or misstated one of my central points. I must at least try to set the record straight (I’ll also take the liberty of demurring from Marc’s well-intended advice in a couple of other areas).

First, to correct the record: Marc has me “urg[ing] you [and Chan Zuckerberg] to provide scholarships, supplemental learning opportunities, and great summer programs for poor kids from low-income communities.”

Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Marc’s a smart guy who is deeply informed about many things and often right about them. But he should have read my piece more closely, Common Core-style. Here’s what I wrote:

If a philanthropist wants simply to “do good” in the education space, none of this matters. It’s a no-brainer to underwrite a building, a professorship, a scholarship, a summer program, a lecture series, a roomful of laptops, a field trip, or a gala recognition dinner. You can get thanked, praised, photographed, tweeted about, or liked on Facebook…. All those sorts of things are easy and generally without controversy, much less rancor.

But it wasn’t—and...

Columbus Collegiate Academy (CCA) epitomizes the relentlessness and vision necessary to close achievement gaps in urban education. Started in the basement of a church with 57 students in 2008, CCA evolved into one of the city’s top-performing middle schools. It earned national awards for the gains achieved by students who are overwhelmingly disadvantaged, and grew into a network of schools serving 600 students. I visited CCA in its original location in 2009. Despite its unassuming surroundings, I knew right away this school was different. It was the type of place that inspires you the moment you step through the door. Its hallways echoed with the sound of students engaged in learning. College banners and motivational posters reminded students—and visitors—of why they were there. Teachers buzzed with energy, motivated by a combination of urgency and optimism—all students can and will learn. Its founder and visionary leader, Andrew Boy, spoke deliberately and matter of factly about the success CCA would help each student achieve. He...

Today, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission announced eight winners in the state’s inaugural round of funding to charter schools to purchase, construct, or renovate classroom facilities. The $25 million competitive grant was created through last year’s budget bill (HB 64) to enable high-performing charter schools to access funds for growth and expansion, and ultimately serve more students in Ohio’s neediest communities. Nineteen charter schools and eleven charter networks were eligible for the award, and thirteen applications were submitted. The winners are as follows:

The announcement can be found here.

The winners include two Fordham-authorized charter schools/networks, DECA Prep in Dayton and the United Schools Network (USN) in Columbus. Fordham’s Vice President for Sponsorship and Dayton Initiatives, Kathryn Mullen Upton, said, “We are thrilled that DECA Prep and United Schools have secured much-deserved facilities dollars. Families and students in some of Dayton’s and Columbus’ most challenged communities who will have new school opportunities are the true winners.”

Ohio’s public charter schools receive, on average, 28 percent fewer taxpayer dollars (federal, state, and local combined) than do traditional public schools. These inequities are exacerbated by the...

Charter school performance is a mixed bag: some charters outdo their neighborhood district schools, others show no difference, and some do worse. A new Mathematica meta-analysis attempts to identify the characteristics common to each of these groups. What, in other words, makes a high-performing charter schools so effective?

As author Phillip Gleason notes, it is difficult to carry out studies of this nature. Much of the data are based on observation, so determining causation is essentially impossible. Observation also takes time and costs money, which usually necessitates small sample sizes. And many of the “practices” being studied are abstract concepts, such as principal quality, that are difficult to measure quantitatively and objectively.

To mitigate these impediments, Gleason compiled seven studies that used different methods—including observational study, survey administration, and lottery-based designs (comparing students who won a spot via charter lotteries to those who did not)—to study charters schools around the country. The sample sizes in each of these studies range from twenty-nine to seventy-six schools.  

Three charter characteristics were found to be linked to high student achievement in many studies (therefore showing a ‘strong association,” according to Gleason—a term he never defines quantitatively): longer school days and/or school years; a...

Catherine Worth

During my tenure as a teacher, I would inevitably listen to at least one of my colleagues explain their decision to leave the classroom at the end of each school year. When explaining their choice to throw in the towel, novice and veteran teachers alike would cite reasons along the lines of “This work is just too hard” or “I’m burned out and can’t do it anymore.” These teachers became part of a statistic we hear about often—the teacher turnover rate. Eventually, I joined them myself. Yet if my three years of teaching in a high-performing, majority-minority, urban charter school taught me anything, it’s that this revolving door can be a positive thing for schools and their students.

Teacher turnover is a buzzy concept typically used in conversations regarding school effectiveness and the issues plaguing urban schools. The 2012–13 Teacher Follow-up Survey to the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), commissioned by the National Center for Education and Statistics (NCES), found that 15.7 percent of public school teachers either moved schools or left the profession between 2011–12 and 2012–13. In charter schools, this number is slightly higher at 18.4 percent. Despite this meager difference, charter schools typically receive the most flack when...

The National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC) has produced a “toolkit” to provide charter schools with alternative systems of discipline that—the authors claim—will foster positive school environments.

The report begins by reviewing more punitive disciplinary practices (e.g., suspension and expulsion) and noting that they are correlated with poor student outcomes. (They make no claim of causality.) They then assert that charters have higher rates of out-of-school suspensions than traditional public schools (a somewhat misleading claim; more on that below) and that these punishments are disproportionately felt by students of color, those with disabilities, and those identifying as LGBTQ.

The toolkit goes on to outline five rather self-evident “enabling factors” for charter schools undertaking discipline reform, such as a deep dive into behavior data to target areas for improvement and the development of alternative discipline models based on schools’ needs. It also describes some non-traditional systems of discipline—such as restorative practices (relationship building), structural interventions, “emotional literacy,” and culturally-responsive approaches—and provides sample practices and evidence of prior implementation.

The toolkit identifies possible benefits of discipline models that forego exclusionary practices, but it doesn’t begin to present a comprehensive picture of today’s policy discussions regarding charter school discipline. For example, Fordham President...

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously quipped, but they are not entitled to their own facts. This idea animates "The Learning Landscape," a new, accessible, and engaging effort by Bellwether Education Partners to ground contemporary education debates in, well, facts.

A robust document, it’s divided into six “chapters” on student achievement; accountability, standards, and assessment; school finance; teacher effectiveness; charter schools; and philanthropy in K–12 education. Data on these topics can be found elsewhere, of course. Where this report shines is in offering critical context behind current debates, and doing so in an admirably even-handed fashion. For example, the section on charter schools tracks the sector’s growth and student demographics and offers state-by-state data on charter school adoption and market share (among many other topics). But it also takes a clear-eyed look at for-profit operators, the mixed performance of charters, and other thorny issues weighing on charter effectiveness. (Online charters are a hot-button topic that could have used more discussion). Sidebars on “Why Some Charters Fail” and case studies on issues facing individual cities lend the report heft and authority, along with discussions on authorizing, accountability, and funding. In similar fashion, the chapter on standards and...

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