Charters & Choice

For most of Ohio’s youngsters, school’s out for the summer. But for the girls and boys who have dropped out of school, school may be out for good, with devastating consequences.

In its annual “Diplomas Count” report, Education Week claims that around a million students drop out of school annually. Not surprisingly, these dropouts’ prospects are bleak: diminished earnings potential, greater likelihood of unemployment, and greater likelihood of incarceration. In addition to these jarring facts, EdWeek’s interactive graphic soberingly depicts the journey from “student” to “dropout,” and how dropping out has effects that linger for a lifetime.

The report also provides a handful of examples of states and localities, which have implemented dropout intervention and recovery programs. Ohio is one such state. Since 2011, the Buckeye State has encouraged, through state law, the growth of charter schools that serve mainly students who have either dropped out of school at one point, or are at-risk of dropping out. These “dropout recovery” charter schools, of which there were 76 in 2012-13, enroll approximately 12,500 students statewide.

In accordance with state law, the Ohio Department of Education approves “dropout recovery” charter schools, and under legislation passed last year (House...

Two recent Dayton Daily News articles cast the spotlight on important education reform discussions. As a sponsor of eleven charter schools in Ohio, the Fordham team understands the importance of accountability. This article mentioned financial oversights in some of Ohio’s charter school laws and Terry Ryan, Fordham’s vice president of Ohio programs and policy, said Ohio needs to rewrite charter school law.

The second article focused on retaining Ohio’s graduates. While Ohio had previously experienced a brain drain and lost graduates to other states, a rebounding economy and job opportunities could keep graduates in the state. Ryan said while some larger cities have appeal to graduates, their primary concern is finding employment. Stay tuned for upcoming articles and discussions related to these evolving topics and share your thoughts below!

Ohio has put the welcome mat out for charter schools that provide career technical education. Building on criteria from the federal Carl D. Perkins Act Ohio’s biennial budget (HB59) provides a significant increase in funding for charter schools that provide career technical courses. Table 1, is based on the “Estimated Formula Aid for Community (aka charters) Schools” released by the Senate earlier this month. It shows some of the big winners under the plan.

Table 1: Bumps in Career Technical Funding for Selected Ohio Charter Schools (FY2014 and 2015)

Source: All numbers come from “Comparison of Estimated Formula Aid for Community Schools Under H.B. 59, As Reported by Senate Finance and Actual Aid Under Current Law, FY2012

It is not just charters that benefit from this new emphasis on Career Technical education. The state’s Joint Vocational Education Centers, STEM Schools, and district high schools with career technical programs will see increases in funding comparable to the charters if they meet the Career Technical requirements for Perkins and the Ohio Department of Education.

This increased support for career technical education is not without controversy, especially when it comes to the charters...

It turns out a decision from Ball State University to cut ties with seven badly performing charter schools in Indiana was no death sentence. Four of these seven have been reprieved: Two found new sponsors and two others were born again as campuses of a private Christian school.

All but one of these four previously received F grades on the state’s latest school report card (the fourth received a D), and performance had been getting worse, not better. For eighteen months, Ball State held repeated meetings with these schools but found little hope of a turnaround. In January, the university declined to renew their contracts.

When these schools began to shop around for new sponsors, National Association of Charter School Authorizers president Greg Richmond said they were engaged in a race to the bottom, scouring for patrons with lower standards to stay alive. Two of the schools ultimately found new authorizers in small private colleges that had virtually no experience in authorizing charter schools. Two others operated by Imagine Schools opted to reopen as campuses of the fledgling Horizon Christian Academy and encouraged their families to apply to Indiana’s voucher program.

Their...

Here’s the second half of my compilation of recent publications you might want to read.

  • If you’re interested in the educator-evaluation debate, you ought to take a look at Democrats for Education Reform’s recent report, Culture of Countenance. A number of groups have begun analyzing the consequences of the nation’s rapid overhaul of laws and regulations related to evaluations. DFER’s contribution is giving attention to the most overlooked aspect—observations. An underreported finding of the MET study is that observations may
  • ...

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

I’ve known Mashea Ashton on and off for almost a decade. We’ve done charter school stuff together and crossed paths in various other pursuits. I always liked and respected her a great deal. In my mind she was good people.

Marc Porter Magee 50CAN

But through a fellowship program, I got to know Mashea even better. And for that I’m eternally grateful. Seldom will you come across someone with so much ability and yet so much humility. She is reflective and kind to the core, and she does this work with a quiet passion.

As you’ll see in the questions, Mashea has just about done it all. She’s worked for some of the most influential ed-reform organizations, and she’s currently leading a major effort in one of America’s most prominent ed-reform cities.

But you’ll also see in her answers how she manages to avoid the limelight: by simply being decent and modest and giving others credit.

And that is...

Three years ago, a Fordham report on charter school autonomy highlighted several states that “tie the hands of charters with their overly restrictive statutes.” Maryland was in that Hall of Shame, and the recent action of one charter-sponsoring school district shows that the state has much to do before it can make it out.

Last month, the soon-to-be-opened Frederick Classical Charter School had prepared to offer jobs to nine teachers who met the school’s requirements to provide instruction in the “trivium” of classical education—grammar, logic, and rhetoric. But the Frederick County school district quashed those plans and told the charter that it had to hire at least six district teachers who needed placement because they were either returning from leave or were laid off from under-enrolled schools.

When Frederick Classical president Tom Neumark asked to interview these district employees, he discovered that school board policy prevented him from even learning their names. “It’s not that we don’t want [them],” Neumark told the Frederick News-Post. “It’s that we don’t know them. We want to talk to them and assess if they’re a good fit for the school.”

This trip down the rabbit hole was inevitable given the...

After a judge ruled last year that Los Angeles was in violation of the Stull Act—a forty-year-old state law signed by Governor Ronald Reagan requiring that principal and teacher evaluations include student-achievement measures, and spurred on by Los Angeles’s ongoing attempt at obtaining a district-level NCLB waiver, Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy announced that, as of next year, the district will “fully implement the evaluation changes” tested in an ongoing pilot program.

After three years of failed negotiations and angst galore, New York City has a teacher-evaluation plan. Teachers’ evaluation ratings will be comprised of student-test scores (20 to 25 percent), school-established measures (15 to 20 percent), and in-class or video-recorded observations (55 to 60 percent). But don’t break out the celebratory flan just yet! Some are balking at plans to assess subjects like art, gym, and foreign languages, and at least one mayoral candidate has already come out against the plan.

On Tuesday, D.C. councilmember David Catania announced seven proposals that could reform the District’s public education system dramatically—including a five-year facility plan and a process for handing over surplus buildings to charters. For her part,...

By the Company it Keeps: Tim Daly

Robin Lake is the Director of the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington. I’m personally indebted to her, because for more than a decade, my thinking has been consistently informed, influenced, and improved by CRPE’s work. Robin has been instrumental to CRPE’s most important contributions, including extensive research on charter schooling and hands-on support for districts attempting the groundbreaking “portfolio” concept.

Robin Lake CRPE

She has published on issues as diverse as special education, turnarounds, accountability, innovation, LIFO, SEA reform, and governance. Her counsel is sought by organizations across our field and by policymakers of all stripes.

And she’s just a really good person. Everyone likes and respects Robin, especially those who know her best. I’ve admired her thoughtful, sensible approach to this work and her honest, down-to-earth interactions with friends and colleagues.

Her responses will give you a flavor for her many other strengths. She’s sharp, modest, open, honest, and really funny.

Now she’s TOTALLY...

In both our role as researchers and as a charter school authorizer we have come to appreciate over-and-over again the critical importance of school leaders in making schools great. Yet, there is no harder job than running a successful school building for high-poverty students; nor a more important job. We are fortunate that some of these leaders work in 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.

Today’s Q&A is with Rick Bowman, the superintendent of Sciotoville Community School, located in rural Southern Ohio. Tragically, we recently learned that Quintin Howard, a 17-year-old senior at Sciotoville passed away in a single vehicle accident on May 25th. At a candlelight vigil for Mr. Howard, Bowman led a prayer and encouraged the community saying “This is a family. They’re not going to be alone. They’re going to have all of us, and we’re going to have each other to work together to get through this very difficult time.” This is a reminder that school leaders are not only a school’s chief executive and chief academic officer. Sometimes, they’re a community’s consoler-in-chief.

For...

Pages