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:


Rabbi Eric "Yitz" Frank

This blog was originally posted on Education Next on July 24, 2016.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently released a study on the academic impact of Ohio’s flagship school choice program authored by noted researcher Dr. David Figlio of Northwestern University. The report is noteworthy for its principal findings, namely that, not only is the sky not falling for impacted public schools, the EdChoice program has had a positive impact on the academic performance of public schools whose students are eligible for a scholarship. Surprisingly, the study also found that the students using scholarships to attend private schools who the report studied (more on that later) did not perform as well as their public school peers on the state test.

Matt Barnum of The 74 wrote an article that details some of the possible explanations for the latter finding. Based on my own experience in Ohio, I can attest that many nonpublic schools do not align their curriculum to the state test, nor do they focus much on these measures, and that is likely an important factor. However, it is important to note what the study could not address. As Dr. Figlio made clear in both his...

A report released last month by the DC Public Charter School Board looked at how far students must travel to attend charter schools in the nation’s capital. It breaks down data by students’ age, race, and at-risk-status, examining how travel distances differ for those who live within the city’s various wards.

We learn that, on average, D.C. charter students commute a remarkable 2.1 miles to school as the crow flies. Depending on the method of transportation, this could mean a forty-two-minute walk, an eight-minute Metrorail ride (not counting the commute between home, metro station, and school), or a ten-minute drive (in no traffic—a fanciful scenario in our nation’s capital). Yet the report also found much variance between student subgroups.

Those travelling to special education schools had the farthest to travel: an average of 3.1 miles, almost a mile more than those in standard pre-K or elementary schools (both averaged two miles), middle schools (2.2 miles), high schools (2.4 miles), and adult and alternative schools (2.1 miles). When disaggregated by race and ethnicity, Hispanic students have the shortest commute to school (1.7 miles). All others faced an average travel distance of 2.2 miles. At-risk students (i.e., those who are homeless, in...

In a new NBER study, analysts pool estimates from lottery-based studies of the effect of charter school attendance on student outcomes, rescaling as needed so that the estimates of those effects are comparable across studies. They end up with a sample of 113 schools drawn from studies of KIPP and SEED schools, as well as charters in Massachusetts, New York City, Boston, and more.

On average, they find that each year children are enrolled at these schools increases their math scores by .08 standard deviations and their ELA scores by .04 SD on average, yet there's wide variation as expected. They link impact data to school practices, inputs, and characteristics of fallback schools (the non-charter schools that lottery losers attended the following year). They find that schools that have adopted a “no-excuses” model—which typically includes extended instructional time, high expectations, and uniforms—are correlated with large gains in performance. But noting that such schools are also concentrated in urban areas with poor-performing schools, analysts determine that the gains are largely a function of the poor performance of fallback schools. Once they control for the performance of the fallbacks, intensive tutoring is the only no-excuses characteristic that is consistently associated with student...

At the National Charter Schools Conference last month, Secretary of Education John King challenged U.S. charter operators to rethink their approach to discipline and “lead the way on professional reflection and growth.” Fordham has expressed some skepticism about the nationwide drive to loosen disciplinary practices, particularly in charters. But the secretary's comments were largely well-considered, so I decided to pick up the gauntlet he threw down.

Over the past week, I solicited contributions from voices on all sides of the discipline discussion. Their assignment: To react to Secretary King's remarks, but also to help reframe the terms of a policy debate that's proven fractious to the reform movement for years. The questions they raised are numerous and pressing: What are the adverse effects on students of being suspended from school? How about the impact of trying to learn in a classroom with a disruptive classmate who can't be removed? What level of autonomy should we try to preserve for charter schools—which were created, after all, to experiment with their own approaches to school culture?

See the full series here:

1. Paul Hill: Tradeoffs, not absolutes, on suspension and expulsion

2. Sarah Yatsko: Suspending belief

3. Carrie Irvin: Charter boards need to understand school...

Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, is the Republican Party’s vice presidential candidate, running alongside Donald Trump. The duo will face off in November against Democratic Party's Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine and the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and William Weld.

Here are some of Pence’s views on education.

1. Charter schools: “We want to eliminate low income and location as barriers to receiving a quality education, and public charter schools are an essential element of achieving that objective.” July 2015.

2. Vouchers: “This is a school that has greatly benefited by our educational voucher program, opening doors of opportunity to kids that might not otherwise be able to enjoy the kind of education they have here. We've increased our investment in our traditional public schools, we've raised the foundation under our charter schools, and we've lifted the cap on our voucher program." (Said while visiting St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School.) May 2015.

3. School accountability: “We grade our children every week, and we can grade our schools every year, but those grades should fairly reflect the efforts of our students and teachers as we transition to higher standards and a new exam.” ...

Lauren Morando Rhim and Paul O’Neill

Editor's note: This is the seventh entry in our forum on charter school discipline practices. Earlier posts can be found hereherehereherehere, and here.

Mike Petrilli’s recent blog post regarding student discipline in charter schools is a classic example of a false dichotomy—with a bit of Chicken Little thrown in. In that post, Petrilli proposes that charter schools should not be discouraged from disciplining students. Doing so, he argues, will fundamentally limit their autonomy and ability to successfully serve students at risk of failure.

While Petrilli does not explicitly call out students with disabilities, he emphasizes that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is a big part of the overregulation problem he perceives. The role of the OCR is to ensure that the rights of disabled students and other at-risk groups are protected; unfortunately, this sometimes requires regulation.

Petrilli may find it amusing to poke fun at OCR (i.e., “Office of Hard and Fast Rules and Directives”), but he fails to recognize that parents and advocates don’t appeal to the office as their first line of defense. Rather, they see it as an option of last resort after trying to persuade schools and districts to uphold...

Ohio has finally proven that it is serious about cleaning up its charter sector, with Governor Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly placing sponsors (a.k.a. authorizers) at the center of a massive charter law overhaul. House Bill 2 aimed to hold Ohio’s sixty-plus authorizers more accountable—a strategy based on incentives to spur behavioral change among the gatekeepers of charter school quality. Poorly performing sponsors would be penalized, putting a stop to the fly-by-nightill-vetted schools that gave a huge black eye to the sector and harmed students. Under this effort, high-performing sponsors would be rewarded, which would encourage authorizing best practices and improve the likelihood of greater quality control throughout all phases of a charter’s life cycle (start-up, renewal, closure).

While the conceptual framework for these sponsor-centric reforms is quite young, the reforms themselves are newer still. (House Bill 2 went into effect this February, and the previously enacted but only recently implemented sponsor evaluation is just now getting off the ground.) Even so, just five months in, HB 2 and the comprehensive sponsor evaluation system are already having an impact. Eleven schools were not renewed by their sponsors, presumably for poor performance, and twenty more are slated to close. Not only are academically...

Scott Pearson and Naomi Rubin DeVeaux

Editor's note: This is the sixth entry in our forum on charter school discipline practices. Earlier posts can be found herehere,  here, here, and here.

Many thanks to Mike Petrilli for launching this forum. Paul Hill’s contribution looked at the matter of discipline from the vantage of a school. In this post, we’d like to provide a charter school authorizer’s perspective.

An authorizer’s primary responsibility is to certify that charter schools comply with applicable laws, are open to all children, provide a healthy and safe environment, don’t misuse taxpayer dollars, and offer high academic quality while respecting a charter school’s freedom to design and run its own programs. Unlike traditional school boards, good authorizers focus on outcomes (like graduation and proficiency rates) and not on inputs (like what curriculum a school chooses to use). We avoid mandates and respect schools’ individuality.

Mike argues that schools’ use of out-of-school suspensions should be wholly up to them, akin to their dress codes or class sizes. We disagree for these reasons:

  • Excessive out-of-school suspensions and any use of expulsion causes children to leave their schools and enroll in new ones.  This impacts traditional public schools and other public charter schools who then enroll these
  • ...
Nat Malkus

Editor's note: This is the fifth entry in our forum on charter school discipline practices. Earlier posts can be found herehere,  here, and here.

At the National Charter Schools Conference in June, Secretary of Education John King challenged charter schools to rethink their approach to discipline. His remarks were measured and appropriate in their intent, but they were based on two sets of evidence—one compelling and one problematic.

King spoke about his personal experience as a co-founder of Roxbury Prep, a very successful Boston charter school. The school’s approach includes the use of strict discipline practices that resulted in a 40 percent suspension rate in 2014. Roxbury Prep has started to rethink its methods, but King acknowledged it has not done so fast enough, and he urged charter leaders to “commit to accelerate exactly this kind of work.”

King’s experience grounds his comments in the specifics of a school setting, as well as the particular procedures common in many “no-excuses” charter schools. He also said in his remarks that there should not be any “hard and fast rules or directives” to govern charter discipline, ostensibly because context is key to managing discipline. So far, so good.

However, King used...

In a previous blog post, we urged Ohio’s newly formed Dropout Prevention and Recovery Study Committee to carefully review the state’s alternative accountability system for dropout-recovery charter schools. Specifically, we examined the progress measure used to gauge student growth—noting some apparent irregularities—but didn’t cover in detail the three other components of the dropout-recovery school report cards: graduation rates, gap closing, and assessment passage rates. Let’s tackle them now.

Each of these components is rated on a three-level scale: Exceeds Standards, Meets Standards, and Does Not Meet Standards. This rating system differs greatly from the A–F grades issued by Ohio to conventional public schools; the performance standards (or cut points) used to determine their ratings are also different. One critical question that the committee should consider is whether the standards for these second-chance schools are set at reasonable and rigorous levels.

Graduation Rates

Dropout-recovery schools primarily educate students who aren’t on track to graduate high school in four years (some students may have already passed this graduation deadline). These schools are still held responsible for graduating students on time. Ohio, however, recognizes that dropout-recovery schools educate students who need extra time to graduate by assigning ratings for extended (six-, seven-,...

Pages