Charters & Choice

Red Tape or Red Herring?

Many proponents of private school choice—both the voucher and tax credit scholarship versions—take for granted that schools won’t participate (or shouldn’t participate) if government asks too much of them, regulates their practices, requires them to reveal closely held information and—above all—demands that they be publicly accountable for student achievement. A recent Friedman Foundation report, for example, bemoaned testing requirements that “may force all participating schools to move in the direction of a single, monopolistic curriculum and pedagogy...” And analysts at the Cato Institute went so far as to send letters to Indiana private schools urging them not to participate in the state’s new voucher program, which it called a “strategic defeat” for school reform, in part because of its testing and transparency requirements.

But is this assumption justified? It’s surely plausible on paper. Part of what’s distinctive and valuable—and often educationally effective—about private schools is their autonomy, their freedom to be different, their escape from the heavy regulatory regime that characterizes most of public education. Insofar as...

and Sy Doan

Do regulations and accountability requirements deter private schools from participating in choice programs? How important are such requirements compared to other factors, such as voucher amounts? Are certain types of regulations stronger deterrents than others? Do certain types of schools shy away from regulation more than others? All of this matters, because if private schools decide not to participate, private school choice programs become unworkable.

Chart 1

It turns out that private schools are not vehemently opposed to academic accountability (including state testing and reporting requirements), according to a new Fordham report out today.

Authored by David Stuit and Sy Doan of Basis Policy Research, School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring? found that testing and reporting requirements ranked among the least important considerations for school leaders, with just 25 percent citing state assessment rules as very important when deciding whether or not to participate (and only 17 percent said the same about public reporting of testing results).

While 3 percent of non-participating schools cited governmental regulations as...

Red Tape or Red Herring?

Will private schools avoid voucher and tax credit scholarship programs if they’re overregulated? Many friends of private school choice insist that they will, particularly if these schools are required to participate in testing and accountability mandates. But the findings from a new study released today by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute indicate these friends might need an intervention.

In their report, School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring?, researchers David Stuit and Sy Doan find little evidence that policymakers should avoid testing requirements for fear that private schools will avoid voucher and tax credit scholarship programs altogether. In fact, in a survey of school leaders who qualify for four existing private school choice programs, just 25 percent said that state assessment rules figured “very importantly” into their decision on whether to participate.

Of greater concern to these school leaders were laws that forced them to revise their admissions criteria or restricted their religious practices, indicating that private schools were allergic to policies that made...

There is no harder job than running a successful school building for high-poverty students; nor a more important job. Yet, there are school leaders across the state and the nation who do it day-in and day-out, and too few get recognized for their great work. We are fortunate that some of these leaders work in the charter schools that Fordham sponsors and it is our privilege to tell a little bit of their stories and the impact they are having on students in Ohio. This Q&A with Judy Hennessey, the superintendent of Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) and DECA Prep, is the third of our seven-part series on school leadership. (Please see our previous Q&As with Dr. Glenda Brown and Andy Boy.) Hennessey leads two high-performing charter schools in Dayton, one a high school, the other an elementary school. Together, these schools serve over 600 inner-city students from Dayton. We featured DECA in our high school edition of Needles in a Haystack, released earlier this month.

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There isn’t much Judy Hennessey hasn’t done at Dayton Early College Academy or the newly created DECA Prep elementary school. She is the superintendent and CEO of the...

Earlier this month, Policy Matters Ohio released a short report examining how some charter schools evade Ohio’s academic accountability sanctions.  Ohio has an academic “death penalty” for charter schools – if a school performs too poorly for too long, the state mandates its closure.  The law is heralded as the toughest of its kind in the nation.

Since the law took effect in 2008, twenty charter schools have been subject to automatic closure. Yet, as Avoiding Accountability: How charter operators evade Ohio’s automatic closure law reveals, eight of these schools closed only on paper and soon after merged with other schools or reopened under new names, retaining the same physical address, much of the same staff, and the same operator. Two of the schools were closed for one year before reopening; six closed in May or June, at the end of a school year, and reopened in time for the start of the following school year. The report details the cases of each school’s “closure” and rebirth and provides information about their sponsors, operators, and academic performance.

Charter schools avoiding accountability is absolutely not okay, and Policy Matters is right to shed light on the issue. Many...

Inaugurations and graduations

Mike and Kathleen are skeptical about the President’s education agenda and newly released high school graduation rate data. Amber thinks about low-income high-flyers.

Amber's Research Minute

The Missing "One-Offs": The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low Income Students by Caroline M. Hoxby and Christopher Avery, The National Bureau of Economic Research

Indiana’s Ball State University has delivered on its pledge to end contracts with the worst-performing charter schools in its portfolio, and its action will strengthen the charter movement overall.

For it was Ball State’s charters that erased many of the learning gains Indiana charters made in the past five years, according to Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes. Statewide, charter students gained what amounted to an additional month and a half of learning on their district school peers, and CREDO’s Macke Raymond concluded that such strong gains would have been even better were it not for Ball State–authorized schools. “They’re not helping,” Raymond told the Indianapolis Star. “The responsibility is pretty clearly on the authorizer.”

Credit ought to go to Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools for recognizing the problem. Bob Marra, the office’s executive director, has visibly grown frustrated with the performance of the schools the university has authorized. And this week, he and his team opted to end contracts with seven of their schools and offer contract extensions of just three years to seven others, provided they meet certain performance conditions. Two other charters withdrew their own requests for renewals.

All of these...

Many proponents of private school choice take for granted that schools won’t participate if government asks too much of them, especially if it demands that they be publicly accountable for student achievement. Were such school refusals to be widespread, the programs themselves could not serve many kids. But is this assumption justified?

A new Fordham Institute study provides empirical answers. Do regulations and accountability requirements deter private schools from participating in choice programs? How important are such requirements compared to other factors, such as voucher amounts? Are certain types of regulations stronger deterrents than others? Do certain types schools shy away from regulation more than others?

Among the study’s major findings:

  • Regulations that restrict student admissions and schools’ religious practices are more likely to deter school participation than are requirements pertaining to academic standards, testing, and public disclosure of achievement results;
  • Curriculum and testing requirements ranked among the least important considerations for school leaders, with just 25 percent citing state assessment rules as very important in their decision to participate or not;
  • Only 3 percent of non-participating schools cited governmental regulations as the most important reason to opt out;
  • The reasons most cited
  • ...

There is no harder job than running a successful school building for high-poverty students; nor a more important job. Yet, there are school leaders across the state and the nation who do it day-in and day-out, and too few get recognized for their great work. We are fortunate that some of these leaders work in the charter schools that Fordham sponsors and it is our privilege to tell a little bit of their stories and the impact they are having on students in Ohio. This Q&A with Judy Hennessey, the superintendent of Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) and DECA Prep, is the third of our seven-part series on school leadership. (Please see our previous Q&As with Dr. Glenda Brown and Andy Boy.) Hennessey leads two high-performing charter schools in Dayton, one a high school, the other an elementary school. Together, these schools serve over 600 inner-city students from Dayton. We featured DECA in our high school edition of Needles in a Haystack, released earlier this month.

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There isn’t much Judy Hennessey hasn’t done at Dayton Early College Academy or the newly created DECA Prep elementary school. She is the superintendent and...

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Special Ed Connection.

Charter school operators treasure their autonomy from the regular public school system. Thus, one might suppose that charter school officials in Ohio were glad that the state board of education's new policy on restraint and seclusion does not apply to them.

The policy was adopted January 15 by a vote of 12-4. An accompanying rule is now being reviewed by a legislative committee.

In fact, charter schools didn't ask to be exempted and were surprised the board left them out, according to Stephanie Klupinski, vice president for legislative and legal affairs at the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

"It's not entirely clear to me why charters were not included in the policy," she said. "It could be just an oversight."

Charter schools weren't looking for an out, agreed Terry Ryan, vice president for Ohio programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

The institute is a supporter of the charter schools movement and a sponsor, i.e., authorizer, of several Ohio charters.

Adopting limits on the use of restraint and seclusion by districts "was the proper and appropriate move for the state board to make," Ryan said, and "as a matter of...

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