Quality Choices

Nationally and in Ohio, we strive to develop policies and practices leading to a lively, accessible marketplace of high-quality education options for every young American (including charter schools, magnet schools, voucher programs, and online courses), as well as families empowered and informed so that they can successfully engage with that marketplace.

Resources:

Our many choice-related blog posts are listed below.


Fordham’s choice experts:


When news broke the other day that LeBron James was starting a school in his home town of Akron, some commentators assumed it was going to be a charter. That’s an understandable mistake, as celebrities and stars of all stripes have gotten in chartering in recent years, from Andre Agassi to P. Diddy to Pitbull and beyond. And why not, given that in most places, the charter model comes with huge advantages for philanthropists wanting to make a difference, among them the freedom from district red tape and teacher union contracts.

LeBron chose to create his school in partnership with the traditional public school district, as a non-charter—likely due to his long-standing relationship with Akron City Schools. There’s no way to know whether he considered the charter route. But if he had, he’d have discovered a challenging charter school terrain suffering from the double whammy of recovering from a long-held poor reputation and inhospitable policies for education entrepreneurs.

First of all, kudos to LeBron, whose efforts to help struggling youth and his partnerships in Akron are nothing new. You can read more about the school plans here, but the gist is that the...

Last week, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) announced that the long-awaited Charter School Program (CSP) grant funds will soon be available. The federal program will provide $32 million in FY 2018 for high-quality charter startups and replications. This is good news for Ohio’s charter sector, as new school growth has sunk to historic lows, and is a breath of fresh air after Ohio nearly lost the grant.
 
Quick refresher on Ohio’s CSP drama
 
Here’s the bad news: Based on the announced criteria, hardly anyone will qualify for the money. Some quick context on CSP’s history: many charter networks wishing to expand or replicate have been able to do so primarily because of this pot of money. Many brand new models also got their start via CSP. But current criteria immediately disqualify many of Ohio’s 362 charter schools. Neither e-schools nor dropout recovery charter schools may access the money (unlike in years past), which slims down the qualifying pool by almost 100. In addition, all CSP applicants must have a preliminary contract with a sponsor that is rated Effective or...

Are you a school choice supporter or just interested in learning more about this issue that is gaining national prominence? Ohio parents, students, schools, and advocates will be holding a rally on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at 11 a.m. on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse. And you’re invited to attend.

The event, supporting school choice in all of its many forms, is happening during National Charter Schools Week.

Image courtesy of School Choice Ohio

You can find more details about the event here. And you can register by clicking here

NOTE: The Senate Education Committee of the Ohio General Assembly is hearing proponent testimony this week on Senate Bill 85, a proposal that would significantly alter Ohio’s voucher programs. Below is the written testimony that Chad Aldis gave before the committee today.

Thank you, Chair Lehner, Vice Chair Huffman, Ranking Member Sykes and Senate Education Committee members for giving me the opportunity today to provide testimony in support of Senate Bill 85.

My name is Chad Aldis, and I am the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Institute is an education-focused nonprofit that conducts research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C.

Fordham has long supported school choice in its many forms, including charter schools, open enrollment, magnet schools, homeschooling, and private school choice. We believe that it’s essential to empower all parents with meaningful, high quality educational options. While supportive of school choice, we’ve been a critical friend at times. Our advocacy work to improve Ohio’s charter sector is a good example of that. We’ve also funded research to study the effectiveness of charter schools, vouchers, and—coming soon—open enrollment. We...

Tom Gunlock

NOTES: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute occasionally publishes guest commentaries on its blogs. The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Fordham.

This piece was originally published in the Dayton Daily News.

When you ask most people, “What should a high school diploma represent?” They’ll tell you, “It means a student has a 12th grade education.” If only that was the truth. Unfortunately, in Ohio, it’s not.

This year’s diploma recipients will have completed 15 required high school courses and at least five elective courses. The required courses include four years of English, four years of math, three years of science, and three years of social studies. In addition, students will have scored proficient on the five sections (reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies) of the Ohio Graduation Test. The dirty little secret, though, is that the Ohio Graduation Test is a test of 8th grade knowledge. Do most students graduate with more than an 8th grade education? Of course. But an 8th grade education is the minimum.

Back in 2010, Ohio made a decision. An eighth grade education isn’t enough. An eighth grade education is not enough for our students to succeed...

E-schools, a.k.a. virtual charter schools, have been so thoroughly mired in controversy that they’ve become radioactive in most education discussions. Or in most discussions, period. The current dispute in Ohio is largely technical and centers on the extent to which e-schools provide learning opportunities to students rather than merely offering them. This is much more than semantics; how to track attendance and student log-ins for funding purposes is at the heart of a year-long lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) by one of the state’s largest and most politically influential e-schools. Hundreds of millions of public dollars are at stake.

There have also been broad concerns about e-schools’ lagging performance in Ohio as well as nationally. Last year, a trio of education groups, including long-time charter advocacy organizations, began to share their concerns more publicly, offering policy recommendations to base funding on performance and consider creating enrollment criteria for students. These bold suggestions were embraced shortly thereafter by Ohio’s Auditor of State, Dave Yost, who recently ordered a statewide examination of how online charters collect learning and log-in data.

So it’s no surprise that Senator Joe Schiavoni, a long-time advocate for...

Ohio’s Gap Closing report card component reports how students in certain subgroups perform on state tests and their schools’ graduation rates compared to the collective performance of all students in the state. The subgroups include racial/ethnic groups, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged pupils. Gap Closing is one of six major report card components and makes up 15 percent of a school district’s rating in Ohio’s current summative grading formula, set to officially begin in 2017-18.

Currently, Gap Closing compares subgroup proficiency on state assessments and graduation rates to a set, statewide standard—also known as an Annual Measureable Objective (AMO). These objectives rise gradually over time, heightening expectations for subgroup performance. When a school’s subgroup meets the AMO, the school receives the full allotment of points (“full credit”). When the subgroup fails to meet the objective, the school receives no credit—unless it makes improvements relative to the prior year. In such cases, the state awards partial credit. Those points are tallied across subgroups and divided by the points possible to compute a component grade reported on an A-F scale. In certain circumstances, schools’ Gap Closing letter grade could be demoted (e.g., A drops to a B).

Without...

Citizens Leadership Academy (CLA) is preparing Cleveland middle schoolers for success in high school, college, and life—and not just academically. CLA, whose population is 79 percent economically disadvantaged and made up almost entirely of students of color, is second among all public schools in the city on student growth. The school’s eighth graders reach and surpass proficiency at a rate that is more than three times that of their peers across the city. Reading and math proficiency rates at CLA are more than double those of Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s.

No matter how you slice the data, CLA is providing academic preparation that would likely be unavailable to them if the schools—and its broader high-performing charter network (Breakthrough Schools)—did not exist. And yet its academic prowess is just the tip of the iceberg.

The school’s model—as captured in its name, Citizens Leadership Academy—prioritizes and cultivates broader attributes and mindsets necessary for long-term success. As you’ll read in this profile about one student, Keith Lazare Jr., CLA asks students to consider what it means to be active, engaged citizens and community members. Students are asked to grapple not...

A report released today outlines the facilities challenges facing Ohio’s public charter schools. The report, “An Analysis of the Charter School Facility Landscape in Ohio,” found that on average, Ohio charter schools spend $785 per pupil  from their foundation funding on facilities—a cost not typically faced by traditional public schools. The report also finds that few Ohio charters are able to locate in unused or underutilized district facilities.

“This study is eye opening,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy. “It provides Ohio policy makers with concrete data, for the first time ever, regarding how extensive the facility challenges are for Ohio’s 370 public charter schools.”

The report is based on a 2015 survey of Ohio charter school principals (representing 81 percent of brick-and-mortar charters in the state). The study was sponsored by the National Charter School Resource Center of the U.S. Department of Education, and conducted by the Colorado League of Charter Schools with the assistance of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

“Charter schools face an uphill battle when it comes to securing a quality facility. Facility expenses of almost $800 per...

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” There's a lot of truth in that cliché, but it doesn't seem to apply to education. When it comes to chronically low-performing schools, in many cases, the better – and more courageous – course is to “quit” and close a school that is simply beyond repair.

In recent years, attempts to turn around failing schools are most closely linked to the Obama Administration’s supercharged School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Between 2010 and 2015, the federal government spent $7 billion in efforts to turnaround low-performing schools. In exchange for these funds, grantee schools pledged to implement prescribed interventions, such as replacing personnel or changing instructional practices.

The returns: Not much—or perhaps not clear—according to a massive study by Mathematica and the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The study examined schools in the 2010 SIG cohort and tracked pupil outcomes through three years of implementation. Using data from twenty-two states, their analysis found that SIG had no significant impact on students’ state math or reading test scores. Nor did they find any evidence that SIG increased pupils’ likelihood of high school graduation or college enrollment. Further, the analysts didn’t even uncover...

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