Charters & Choice

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.


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...

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 of the...

Diverse Schools Dilemma

Mike’s new book, The Diverse Schools Dilemma: A Parent’s Guide to Socioeconomically Mixed Public Schools, continues to garner attention. Here are some recent articles and interviews worth checking out. (And if you haven’t yet, buy the book now!)

  • Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and author of All Together Now, reviewed Mike’s book in the Washington Monthly: “… This book may be a significant—and hopeful—harbinger that the center-right school reform community, battered down by the humbling experience of trying to make separate schools for rich and poor work, may be willing to take a new look at how to reinvent Brown v. Board of Education for the twenty-first century.” (1/13–2/13)
  • In Education Next, Michael Thomas Duffy called Diverse Schools “nifty” and unflinchingly honest: “The strength of The Diverse Schools Dilemma as a handbook for urban middle-class parents is borne of Petrilli’s willingness to steer clear of cant. No pious lectures from him, and once he finishes making the case for enrolling
  • ...
Education Next

This week, Ed Next’s Mike Petrilli was a guest on "What’s the Big Idea?," a podcast hosted by Josh Starr, superintendent of schools in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Starr has been in the limelight because he has criticized the amount of standardized testing taking place in schools, arguing that there should be a three-year moratorium on testing while we put the new Common Core standards in place. Montgomery County is currently rolling out a new curriculum that is aligned with the Common Core standards.

Some parents in Montgomery County are unhappy that the county is hoping to limit tracking under the new curriculum. In the past, many students in the wealthy county were offered accelerated instruction in math, but Starr believes that because the new curriculum is more challenging, it should not be necessary to accelerate so many students. He also suggested (in the podcast) that some parents push for their children to receive accelerated math instruction for the wrong reasons.

In the podcast, Petrilli challenged Starr’s claim that students with a wide range of abilities (in math in particular) will be able to be taught effectively in the same classroom using the new curriculum. (The issue...


Mike and emerging scholar Morgan Polikoff discuss accusations of discrimination in gifted-and-talented programs, Quality Counts, and lightning rod/tiger mom Michelle Rhee. Amber contemplates whether multiple-choice tests lead students to learn or forget.

Amber's Research Minute

Genna Angello, Elizabeth Bjork, Robert Bjork, and Jeri Little, “Multiple-Choice Tests Exonerated, At Least Some of the Charges: Forgetting Test-Induced Learning and Avoiding Test-Induced Forgetting,”

Chicago Mathematics and Science Academy teachers
Two years ago, teachers at the Chicago Mathematics and Science Academy voted to form a union by card check.
Photo from ACTS Michigan.

(Updated January 17, 2013 for the Education Gadfly Weekly)

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools should be careful what it wishes for. Although a recent case before the National Labor Relations Board was decided in the direction favored by the Alliance, by vacillating opportunistically on the issue of whether charters are public or private the organization has weakened the charter movement’s long game.

Here’s what happened: Two years back, teachers at the Chicago Mathematics and Science Academy voted to form a union via card check—a power granted to public employees under Illinois labor law. In response, the charter school asked the NLRB to intervene, arguing that it was a privately run institution, not a “political subdivision” of the state—and, therefore, that attempts to organize its employees should fall under federal law...