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:


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...

Parents make choices about their child’s schooling based on a variety of factors: location, safety, convenience, academics, extracurriculars, support services, and more. Many families choose their school by moving to the neighborhood of their preference, thus exercising “choice” when making homeownership decisions. It’s important to recognize that not all families have the same luxury. In fact, many don’t. For the most part, parents living in poverty can’t just up and move themselves to a neighborhood with higher-performing, better-programmed, safer schools. Yet their children deserve high-quality educational opportunities, too, in schools that work for them based on their unique learning styles, interests, and needs.

If we believe that parents of all income levels and backgrounds deserve the same choices we exercise for ourselves and our own children, then Ohio’s high-performing charter schools deserve our unwavering support. The 21,000+ events held across the nation last week for National School Choice Week demonstrate the pressing need—and support for—quality school options. Columbus Collegiate Academy (Dana Avenue campus), one of the city’s highest-performing middle schools, helps its eighth graders achieve math and science proficiency at a rate that’s more than double what the district achieves. Meanwhile, its eighth-grade reading proficiency rate is thirty-seven...

The American Federation for Children (AFC) recently released its third annual poll on school choice. The national poll surveyed just over 1,000 likely November 2018 voters early this January via phone calls.

To determine general support and opposition, AFC posed the following question: “Generally speaking, would you say you favor or oppose the concept of school choice? School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars associated with their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which better serves their needs.” By and large, the findings indicate broad support for school choice—68 percent of those surveyed support school choice compared to 28 percent who oppose it. These numbers are similar to AFC results from previous years: 69 and 70 percent of likely voters who expressed support for school choice in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

In addition to overall percentages, AFC broke out the survey numbers by specific demographic groups. Seventy-five percent of Latinos and 72 percent of African Americans support school choice compared to 65 percent of Whites. In terms of political affiliation, 84 percent of Republicans support school choice (up slightly from 80 percent in 2016), compared to 55 percent of...

McKenzie Snow

Editor’s note: Last week, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Hoover Institution hosted a timely event, “A New Federal Push on Private School Choice? Three Options to Consider.” We are running guest posts by the event’s panelists, offering their advice for the new Administration and Congress. Below is an article by McKenzie Snow, a policy analyst in education choice at the Foundation for Excellence in Education. These posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

The recent inauguration of President Donald Trump and nomination of Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos has engendered an unprecedented opportunity for the federal government to support the success of school choice in the states. Among other major education policy changes, this could mean allowing states to innovate in their distribution of federal Title I dollars, so that funds are more transparent, student-centered, and targeted to make a meaningful impact on the disadvantaged students served.

Despite almost $15 billion appropriated for Title I grants to districts in FY 2016 alone, Title I has had a negligible impact on the disadvantaged students the program was intended to serve (see here, here, here, and here). Furthermore, since Title...

When President Donald Trump stopped by a Cleveland charter school in September, he promised to “establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty.” Although he initially pitched the idea of a $20 billion school choice program, the details on how that would work—and what other policy changes he might pursue—were a bit murky.

Trump’s nomination of school choice supporter Betsy DeVos for education secretary affirmed his commitment to expanding school choice, but the nomination also brought a bit more clarity to Trump’s agenda (or at least made it easier to speculate). DeVos has a widely cited history with vouchers, and the media immediately zeroed in on the possibility that the new administration would champion not just public charter schools, but private school choice as well.

As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat—and there are plenty of ways that the new administration could push for private school choice. On Wednesday, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Hoover Institution hosted an event aimed at exploring three specific options: a new competitive grant program, Title I portability, and revisions to the tax code.

Representative Luke...

Joanne Weiss

Editor’s note: On Wednesday, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Hoover Institution are hosting a timely event, “A New Federal Push on Private School Choice? Three Options to Consider.” This week we are running guest posts by the event’s panelists, offering their advice for the new Administration and Congress. Below is the second of a two-part series by former Obama Administration official Joanne Weiss. These posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Competitive programs are particularly good vehicles for empowering those closest to the work to bring forward good ideas that are tailored to the needs and circumstances of particular places. And despite the handful of cities that are working today toward the principles outlined in my previous post, there is still much to be learned about designing successful choice policies—and it’s no secret that what succeeds in one place may be different in key details from what works somewhere else. A policy targeted at creating successful citywide or regional proof-points would significantly contribute to the field’s knowledge and evidence base.1 Competitions, when well designed and executed, can be strong mechanisms for seeding models and advancing learning because:

  • They identify the
  • ...
Joanne Weiss

Editor’s note: On Wednesday, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Hoover Institution are hosting a timely event, “A New Federal Push on Private School Choice? Three Options to Consider.” This week we are running guest posts by the event’s panelists, offering their advice for the new Administration and Congress. Below is the first of a two-part series by former Obama Administration official Joanne Weiss. These posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

The incoming Trump administration’s early policy announcements promise to spur renewed conversation on the meaning, goals, and mechanisms of school choice. For the past two decades, I have worked on issues related to choice with teachers and principals, charter school and district leaders, school board members, and city and state leaders. Based on all I have learned from them, I suggest a set of principles to ensure that policy aims are clear, guardrails support success, and implementation is coherent. I will also propose, in tomorrow’s post, a new competition—mounted by a large foundation, a city, a state, or the federal government—that’s designed to encourage locales to develop approaches to school choice that put families first.

School choice, in a variety...

More than sixty years after Brown v. Board, traditional district schools are more often than not still havens of homogeneity. Static land use guidelines, assignment zones, feeder patterns, and transportation monopolies reinforce boundaries that functionally segregate schools and give rise to the adage that ZIP code means destiny for K-12 students. Asserting that student diversity is an object of increasing parental demand, at least among a certain subset of parents of school-age kids, the National Charter School Resource Center has issued a toolkit for charter school leaders looking to leverage their schools’ unique attributes and flexibilities to build diverse student communities not found in nearby district schools. The report cites a number of studies showing academic benefits of desegregated schools, especially for low-income and minority students. It is unlikely that the mere existence of documentable diversity is at the root of those benefits. More likely, it is a complicated alchemy of choice, quality, culture, and expectations that drives any observable academic boosts. Garden-variety school quality is a strong selling point for any type of school, but this toolkit sets aside that discussion to focus on deliberately building a multi-cultural student body for its own sake. Bear...

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