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:


Last Thursday, Ohio released annual school report cards that offer parents and communities an objective review of the academic performance of its roughly 600 districts and 3,500 public schools. Much of the focus has understandably been on the “bottom line,” as this year’s reports included for the first time overall A through F grades that combine the many separate elements of the report card, much like GPAs do for students. In cities like Dayton and Columbus, the bottom-line F’s assigned to their school systems naturally made for depressing headlines.

Nobody should ignore or excuse the district-level results, as they speak volumes about the leadership and governance of those school systems—and about the often-challenging demographics of the children who fill them. But it’s also important to dive deeper and look at campus-level data. After all, children attend schools where education is actually delivered. It’s doubly important in Ohio’s major cities, as children have many school options—including public charters and district-operated schools—that vary widely in their report-card ratings. These differences are important for families to see and understand, as they should influence parents’ decisions about where to enroll their children. They’re also critical for civic and philanthropic leaders wishing to...

 
 
James V. Shuls

How would you respond if you stumbled across a headline that asked, “How much do farmers markets cost Walmart?” It’s a ridiculous question. It presupposes that the customer belongs to Walmart; that any time the individual chooses to buy cucumbers from a local grower or salsa from an aspiring entrepreneur, he or she is “robbing” the dominant grocer. That’s just absurd. Yet this is the standard frame we use when talking about education. We blithely assume that education is wholly different from any other field.

Consider, for example, a recent headline on the Education Writers Association’s website: “How much do charter schools cost districts?” It’s the same question, and it is just as absurd as when talking about groceries. Worse, it is unethical, because it dehumanizes children, reducing them to economic units. In this formulation, neither they nor their parents are individuals with aspirations, endowed with free will and the ability to act in their own self-interest; they are a mere funding stream for public school districts.

This type of headline is all too common. Most people wouldn’t even bat an eye at it. But this isn’t just semantics. It gets at the heart of the way many...

 
 

Editor’s Note: As Ohioans prepare to elect a new governor this November, and as state leaders look to build upon past education successes, we at the Fordham Institute are developing a set of policy proposals that we believe can lead to increased achievement and greater opportunities for Ohio students. This is the first in our series, under the umbrella of creating transparent and equitable funding systems. You can access all of the entries in the series to date here.

Proposal: For funding purposes, Ohio should decouple the identification of economically disadvantaged (ED) students from eligibility for federal free and reduced-priced lunches (FRPL). Instead, the state should identify low-income students through their family’s participation in other means-tested programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and/or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—a process known as direct certification.

Background: With fewer resources at home, low-income students require more public funds to support their education. Recognizing this, Ohio provides additional state aid to districts serving more ED students (see table 1 above). In FY 2018, the incremental amount is $272 per pupil, with an adjustment that steers more dollars to districts serving the highest proportions of ED students. Ohio generally identifies ED students...

 
 

 

Columbus Dispatch Editorial: Charter schools deserve fair rules for bus rides

The Columbus Dispatch editorialized this week on the transportation challenges facing charter schools. The editorial explains that charter schools and their families have been complaining of unreliable bus service from school districts for years and that a recent conflict between Columbus City Schools and local charter schools suggests that state officials need to address this persistent problem. The Dispatch also recognizes that all schoolchildren, whether attending a district or charter school, should receive the transportation that their parents’ tax dollars pay for.

A response to the popular question: “Do charter schools take districts’ money?”

James V. Shuls, an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, wrote an op-ed in The 74. Shuls argues that you can believe charter schools take districts’ money away only if you think students, and the funding that comes with them, are district property.

Charter schools and unified enrollment systems

In recent years, unified student enrollment systems have become increasingly popular. Unified enrollment allows students to fill out one application, rank their top school choices (often including both district and...

 
 

Children in the state of Connecticut are being denied access to schools that have plenty of room for them because of the color of their skin. Yup, that’s right. Available seats in the magnet schools of Hartford—and beyond—sit empty despite long waitlists for admission.

And this denial of opportunity is happening in the name of integration.

“Those seats just stay empty, no matter what,” Robinson said. “Even if I want Jarod to have a seat, he can’t get in unless kids from the suburbs come in too. It’s like Connecticut says, ‘You have to have a white kid in a classroom for a black kid to be educated.’”

Year after year, LaShawn Robinson entered her son Jarod’s name into the lottery for one of Hartford’s magnet schools and year after year, he was denied admission even though the school had room for him. Now Ms. Robinson and six other plaintiffs are taking their case to federal court.

After a 1996 supreme court ruling in Sheff v. O’Neill that held that racial segregation in Hartford schools violated the state constitution, lawmakers responded by passing a racial quota law. The law required Connecticut school boards to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic...

 
 

 

2018 EdNext Poll shows increased support for charter schools

A new poll from Education Next (EdNext) found growing support for charter schools, particularly amongst Republicans. Forty-four percent of respondents supported the expansion of charter schools (up from thirty-nine percent last year) and thirty-five percent were in opposition. EdNext found consistent support across a variety of groups including fifty-seven percent of Republicans, forty-nine percent of Hispanics, and forty-six percent of African Americans. You can find the National Alliance for Public Charter School’s reaction to the news here.

DeWine Files Lawsuit to Recover Public Funds Related to ECOT

On Tuesday, Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit to recover public funds disbursed by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT). The lawsuit alleges violations of fiduciary duty and seeks to hold the school’s founder and school officers personally liable. Because of the nature of the allegations, all Ohio charters should keep an eye on the suit’s proceedings. More information about the lawsuit can be found on the attorney general's website.

New report examines why independent charters outperform district-operated autonomous schools

The Reinventing America's Schools Project at the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) released a ...

 
 

 

New report on the emergence of non-district authorizers

Over the last five years, a significant shift has occurred within the national charter school landscape: for the first time, most new charter schools are being authorized by entities other than local school districts. If this trend continues, it could have both positive and negative implications for the pace of charter school growth, quality of charter schools, quality of oversight, and attributes of newly approved schools. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers’ (NACSA) new report examines this shift.

 

The myth of Ohio’s “for profit” charter school system

Gallons of ink have been spilled documenting the missteps of a few Ohio for-profit charter operators. Unfortunately, as Aaron Churchill explains, the high-profile controversies surrounding these politically active titans have stoked a narrative that paints all charters as “corporatizers” out to make a buck. Churchill argues that the for-profit narrative is both misleading and not particularly helpful if the true goal is student achievement.

 

Top charter school networks share college completion success tips

Education writer Richard Whitmire explains in an op-ed this week how charter schools have developed a way to help...

 
 

Since the inception of Ohio’s charter school program in 1998, gallons of ink have been spilled documenting the missteps of a few charter operators. The most highly scrutinized have been the for-profit operators White Hat Management (R.I.P.), along with Altair Management and IQ Innovations, the companies with whom the felled ECOT contracted.

Unfortunately, the high-profile controversies surrounding these for-profit (and politically active) titans have stoked a narrative that paints all charters as “corporatizers” out to make a buck. With politicians routinely using this storyline to score political points, this notion has been amplified further. Just this week Ohio Democratic Chair David Pepper released a statement calling the state home to a “corrupt for-profit charter school system.”

There is no excuse for either corporate cronyism or government corruption. But these for-profit tall tales fail to tell the whole truth about charter schools. Let’s review the key points.

First, it’s inaccurate to call charter schools for-profits. Just like most museums, libraries, and hospitals, charter schools are organized as nonprofit organizations. In Ohio, all charter schools are officially considered public benefit corporations, which under state law must be a nonprofit entity. Moreover, charter schools are public schools—and, again,...

 
 

 

Ohio House Education Committee chair voices support for charters

This week, Representative Andrew Brenner, Chairman of the House Education and Career Readiness Committee, penned a blog that’s featured on the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ website. Rep. Brenner explains why he supports charter public schools and how they provide opportunities for students to reach their potentials.

New LGBTQ-affirming charter school to open in Cleveland

The Albert Einstein Academies of Ohio, a group of charter public schools serving students in Cleveland, is opening a LGBTQ-affirming school in grades 9-12 this fall. Superintendent Dr. Bruce Thomas said the idea for the school was created after he and his team of school leaders saw a clear lack of resources for LGBTQ students in the area. The school will include a comprehensive and inclusive curriculum, mental and physical health resources, and tailored social supports.

Match Charter School shares its curriculum

In an effort called Match Fishtank, Match Charter School (a PreK-12 public school in Boston) is sharing the standards-based curriculum that it has developed and refined over the last 15 years. The goal is to share good baseline curriculum and assessments with...

 
 
Van Schoales

“Choice, first and foremost, should be about having a great school in your neighborhood and making sure all of our schools serve all of our kids.”—Tom Boasberg, NPR Ed, 2017

I’ve been an active observer of Denver Public Schools (DPS) for twenty years, through the vantage point of consultant, funder, researcher, charter school operator, critic, and advocate. When I met Tom Boasberg in his role as DPS’s chief operating officer, my first impression was that he was a thoughtful urban education newbie both committed to improving the quality of public education and skeptical of the notion of “one best district system.”

Under his tenure over the past decade, Denver Public Schools has had a remarkable trajectory. He has shepherded a long list of reforms that have elevated DPS from one of the worst large urban school systems to now having academic performance levels on par with Colorado’s average scores. High school graduation, college admittance, and school enrollment have dramatically grown under his leadership.

Through the years he established himself as a thoughtful technocrat—someone far more interesting in person than his khakis, blue button-downs, and Timex runner watches would suggest. He commutes thirty miles each day from...

 
 

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