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:


Each year, school choice advocates celebrate National Charter Schools Week. This year, they had an extra reason to break open the champagne: U.S. News and World Report’s annual best high schools ranking included a host of charter schools in its final list, including the three highest-ranked schools in the country.

Though charter success in general isn’t a surprise, the fact that more and more charter high schools are getting attention is important. High schools have remained relatively untouched by many aspects of education reform, and it shows in the data. Nationwide, high school achievement has been disappointing. NAEP scores for 12th graders are lackluster, as are ACT and SAT scores. The national high school graduation rate has hit at a record high, but there are concerns that the measure could be subject to gaming and low expectations. Effective reform at the high school level remains a mostly uncharted territory.

Luckily, there are some notable exceptions, including some high-profile charter school networks. For example, the Noble Network operates sixteen high schools in Chicago and has demonstrated remarkable achievement and growth with its largely minority and low-income student...

NOTE: This piece originally appeared in The Cincinnati Enquirer in a slightly different form.

A recent Cincinnati Enquirer editorial by contributor Sarah Stitzlein sharply criticized Ohio’s current private-school scholarship programs and savaged Senate Bill 85, which would expand them. The recently introduced bill would open choice opportunities to working-class families by offering them partial tuition scholarships (aka vouchers) while continuing to offer full scholarships for pupils from low-income families.

Sadly, voucher critics distort private school choice and mislead the public as to why it’s worthwhile and how it works. They also distort or overlook key elements of the relevant research and make questionable claims about private schools.

Why vouchers? It’s no secret that wealthier parents enjoy a greater choice of schools for their children. They can afford to purchase homes in high-status suburban districts or cover the costs of private school education.

Yet few low- and middle-income families have similar opportunities. They typically send their kids to a public school that is assigned to them based on residential address. Many times, this works out fine. But when it doesn’t, students with limited means are stuck in schools that don’t meet their educational needs.

School choice, including private-school...

NOTE: The Education Committee of the Ohio Senate last week heard testimony on SB 85, a proposal that would expand Ohio’s private school voucher program. Fordham’s Chad Aldis was a witness at this hearing and these are his written remarks. You can watch archive video of the hearing here, courtesy of the Ohio Channel. Chad’s testimony begins at the 10:16 mark; questions from committee members and Chad’s answers begin at the 19:17 mark.

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.

We've long believed that every parent should have access to a good school that meets his or her child’s educational needs. School choice in its many forms, including open enrollment, magnet schools, charter schools, homeschooling, and private school choice, is important when a zoned school—for whatever reason—isn’t a good fit.

While supportive...

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...

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