Charters & Choice

In the past year, charter school naysayers have successfully convinced some media outlets to question the actual demand for charters. Take the now-politicized issue of waiting lists. Reporters in Chicago and Boston, for instance, have recently conducted “reviews” of the lists compiled by charter associations or state education departments to determine that some students appear on more than one list. This led to one headline in the Boston Globe that read, “Charter school demand in Mass. disputed.”

Of course these students may appear on multiple waiting lists. Anticipating this skepticism, however, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools this year estimated the number of individual students on waiting lists for the 2012–13 academic year. Its newest survey showed that the names of at least 520,000 kids appeared in nearly one million waiting-list entries across the country.

To put that number in context, consider that 520,000 is nearly double the number of new charter students (276,000) who actually enrolled this year, bringing the total charter sector to 2.3 million pupils.

What else should we expect? There’s been a yawning gap between charter supply and demand a long time coming. In the past five...

Big Ideas Edition

With Mike beaching it in an undisclosed location, Dara and Daniela take on some big topics: If affirmative action were to end, how could colleges maintain diversity? Do teachers need convincing to use technology? All things considered, is college worth it? Amber charts a course to charter quality.

Amber's Research Minute

National Charter School Study 2013,” by Center for Research on Education Outcomes (Stanford, CA: Center for Research on Education Outcomes, June 2013).

In 2009, CREDO released an expansive study of charters that made big waves. It showed that, among the sixteen states studied, there was wide variation in charter quality: Lots of charters were doing well, but even more were underperforming their local district schools. Ever since, charter antagonists have gleefully cited this report to make all types of unflattering claims about chartering.

CREDO's charter quality report
CREDO's expansive study of charters made waves in 2009. 

They should be less buoyant this week.

Four years after the first study’s release, CREDO is out with an update. It includes all of the previous participating states and a slate of new ones. In total, the states covered by the new report educate more than 95 percent of charter students nationwide.

This week has brought lots of articles about the study. But most miss some key findings—both in terms of the sector’s basic descriptive statistics and the quality of its schools.

I encourage you to read the full report, not...

GadflyAn Atlantic article by sociology professor Richard Greenwald examines Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education legacy, concluding that while the Big Apple’s education sector has certainly seen progress (graduation rates have increased 39 percent since 2005, for example, and Bloomberg has made a concerted effort to rebuild the decrepit physical infrastructure), there have also been setbacks (e.g., problems with test administration). Instead, the author suggests that Bloomberg claim the mantle of “recycling mayor”—or perhaps “alternative-transportation mayor” instead.

A survey of 200 Idaho teachers found that most don’t need convincing to bring educational technology into the classroom—they just need training. Eighty-four percent said the pros of ed tech outweighed the cons and that they are currently using or planning to use ed tech in their classrooms. However, 80 percent either didn’t know of social-media technologies like Skype and Twitter or employ them rarely or never—and only 21 percent of those surveyed employ games, simulations, or virtual laboratories in their classrooms on a monthly basis.

After accepting the New York City teacher union’s endorsement, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is carefully constructing his stance on education policy. Due...

Charter opponents have, with some exception, been quiet over today’s release of the newest CREDO study on charter-school performance. The study determined that, in the aggregate, charter school students gained more than a week’s worth of learning each year in reading on their peers in traditional public schools and performed about the same as their traditional public school peers in math (the now-famous 2009 study showed a loss of learning among charter students in both subjects).

The real test, however, will apply to charter school proponents, at least those who call themselves such. For while the overall news is good for charters, it’s clear that some states are not moving fast enough to adopt the lessons this sector of public education has learned about quality control during the past several years.

States such as Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, D.C., all showed outsize academic gains in charter schools while states including Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Texas performed weakly. It’s not for nothing that most of the states with bigger gains have been less tolerant of bad schools and have passed laws giving charter authorizers more tools to shut down the worst performers; gains from...

The Ohio Senate passed legislation (House Bill 167) last week that enables Columbus’ mayor to authorize charter schools. The reform legislation was introduced in response to a cheating scandal that has brought Columbus City Schools to its knees. When Governor Kasich signs the bill into law—we expect he will—Columbus will be one of two cities in America (Indianapolis being the other) that directly empowers the mayor to authorize charter schools.  

The reform legislation has one other major component, in addition to the mayoral authorization of charters. The Columbus City Schools school board will be required to place a levy on the ballot, which will require that the district share the revenue with partnering charter schools. If passed, this could be a considerable boost for Columbus’ charters, who until now have had no access to local revenue. (Cleveland Metropolitan School District is the only other school district in Ohio that is required by law to share local revenue with charter schools.)

As Columbus’ mayor acquires a portfolio of charter schools to authorize, and as he and the district prepare a levy for the November elections, let us suggest that these leaders be choosy about which charter schools they...

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 seventy six 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...

Large or small, urban or rural–many Ohio schools continue to experience the widespread trend of high student mobility. Students may find themselves moving between schools or districts due to the positive initiative of engaged parents choosing a higher achieving school for their children, or unfortunate events like eviction or family instability.

A panel of project partners met to discuss the findings and implications of Fordham’s student mobility study, Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio’s Schools. The study examined student mobility across Ohio’s school buildings and districts between October 2009 and May 2011. The National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) hosted this discussion today at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.  Community Research Partners’ (the study’s lead researcher) Aaron Schill presented the findings to an audience of 100 or so researchers from around the nation.  Fordham staff member Aaron Churchill joined Ann Bischoff of and John Farley of the Education Council to discuss the findings in a moderated panel.

Panelists (from left to right): Ann Bischoff of; John Farley of the Education Council; Aaron Churchill of the Fordham Institute. Moderator: Aaron Schill of CRP

The presentation and ensuing discussion reviewed how CRP, Fordham, and other school...

In which Terry celebrates cheating (sort of)

Terry livens up the airwaves, bantering with Mike about NCTQ’s blockbuster report, the Blaine Amendment, and Philly’s budget woes. Amber waltzes through the dance of the lemons.

Amber's Research Minute

Strategic Involuntary Teacher Transfers and Teacher Performance: Examining Equity and Efficiency,” by Jason A. Grissom, Susanna Loeb, and Nathaniel Nakashima, NBER Working Paper No. 19108 (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, June 2013).

GadflyNew York City’s graduation rate dipped very slightly in 2012—information that was hailed as a win by Mayor Bloomberg, given that the class of 2012 was the first cohort not given the option to graduate with an easier-to-obtain “local diploma.”

The United Federation of Teachers has announced its support for former city comptroller Bill Thompson’s bid for mayor of New York City—the union’s first endorsement in a mayoral election in more than a decade. But have no fear, ye other candidates—Mayor Bloomberg has derisively dubbed the union endorsement a “kiss of death” (to which the union responded by likening Bloomberg’s approval as “worse than a zombie attack”). And Gotham politics continue.

Earlier this week, New Hampshire Superior Court judge John Lewis bucked U.S. Supreme Court precedent and ruled that the state’s tax-credit-scholarship program directed public money to religious schools, in violation of the state constitution’s Blaine Amendment—a provision banning government aid to “sectarian” schools that has its roots in the anti-Catholic bigotry pervasive in the late 1800s....