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:


Mitch Pearlstein

In most public policy discussions and debates regarding elementary and secondary education, critically important ideas are routinely downplayed to the point of dismissal because they are intrinsically elusive. And because such ideas are largely ignored, a lot of young people who could be better served and educated are not. Or, more specifically in this instance, a lot of kids who might benefit from attending a Catholic school don’t have the opportunity.

As for such elusive ideas and (one would hope) corresponding behaviors, Paul Tough, a New York Times reporter, in 2013, wrote a New York Times bestseller called How Children Succeed, which argued that “grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character” were key to learning. It’s a compelling book.

Three years later in 2016, psychologist Angela Duckworth wrote Grit, which argued that for “anyone striving to succeed,” be they parents, students, educators, athletes, business people, or whomever, “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence” that she calls “grit.” Her book also was a New York Times bestseller.

Predating both books, psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and journalist John Tierney, in 2011, wrote Willpower, with “willpower” described as the “greatest human strength.”...

 
 

Comparing Ohio K–12 education to other states helps us gauge the pace of progress, provides ideas on improvement, and gets us out of our local “bubble.” In a recent post, my colleague Chad Aldis examined Ohio and Florida’s NAEP results, finding the Buckeye State wanting in terms of gains over the past decade. Terry Ryan has also offered an insightful comparison of Ohio’s charter policies to Idaho’s. This piece follows a similar path and takes a look at Ohio’s charter landscape relative to Arizona’s.

Why the Grand Canyon State? For starters, Arizona has a significant charter enrollment of about 180,000 students, or 16 percent of public-school enrollment (Ohio has roughly 110,000, or 7 percent). Arizona charters are also producing some stellar results. As Matthew Ladner has repeatedly (and I mean repeatedly) shown, Arizona charters have posted high scores on NAEP—and for two years straight, US News & World Report placed several of them in its top-ten high schools in nation.

Let’s start by comparing a couple terrific maps that my Fordham colleagues produced in their recent Charter School Deserts report. Figure 1 displays the charter locations for the Cleveland...

 
 
By Terry Ryan

NOTE: 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.

Earlier this century, Dayton, Ohio, was a hotbed for charter school growth, largely driven by parents, mostly poor and minority, desperately seeking better options for their children. In 2002, the Council of the Great City Schools captured Dayton’s challenges when it reported that “no urban school system in Ohio has fewer children meeting state proficiency standards…The problem appears to be exacerbated by high teacher absenteeism.”

Throughout the 2000s, Dayton was annually rated by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools as a “Top Ten Community by Market Share.” In fact, by the mid-2000s, Dayton had more children per capita enrolled in charters than any city in the country, save for post-hurricane New Orleans.

I was Fordham’s Ohio point person from 2001 to 2013. A big part of my job was to try and responsibly seed the growth of quality charter schools, mostly in Dayton. This meant providing start-up grant support to prospective school operators, identifying individuals and groups we thought could run schools well, organizing technical assistance for schools through partner organizations,...

 
 
Susan Pendergrass

Can we call a place a desert if we refuse to let water in? The Fordham Institute recently released an interesting look at which communities in the U.S. have a significant portion of low-income students but very few choices when it comes to their education. Fordham calls them “charter school deserts,” and they created interactive maps of each state with the deserts highlighted.

Sadly, these are easy to identify in Missouri. Just find the Census tracts where more than 20 percent of children live in poverty and circle them. The school choice spigot in Missouri is firmly turned off, with little hope that it will be turned on any time soon. The Missouri legislature has refused to transfer any power away from local school boards and into the hands of parents. As a result, students who live in areas of concentrated poverty around Springfield, in the southern part of the state, and in the bootheel have no options beyond their assigned public school. Going by the current laws governing charter schools, you would think that all the parents outside of St. Louis and Kansas City are perfectly satisfied with their children’s assigned public school.

In contrast, our two...

 
 

NOTE: In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Fordham Ohio staffers will be blogging about teachers, principals, and guidance counselors who made a positive difference in their schooling and in their lives. This is the fourth and final post, which does double duty of celebrating National Charter Schools Week as well. The first post can be found here; the second can be found here; and the third here.

Growing up, I attended five different elementary schools. District transportation interruptions, school closings, and family relocations forced me into changing schools at the end of each year. My memories of middle school aren’t much better: They involve metal detectors, fights erupting on cafeteria tables, and teachers reading the Dayton Daily News instead of teaching. Overall, the schools I attended were poorly staffed, overpopulated, and nearly devoid of learning.

By the time I entered high school, I was at a significant disadvantage. My parents and I were skeptical of the district high schools’ ability to adequately equip me with a strong secondary education and effectively prepare me for college, so we selected a charter school instead: the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA).

DECA was founded in 2003 as Ohio’s first...

 
 
Eva Moskowitz

When my eldest son Culver was in elementary school, he was an avid reader, but I couldn’t get him to touch anything but science fiction. By the time he was eight, I was becoming concerned that he would never read anything else, so I headed to Bank Street Bookstore, a wonderful children’s bookstore on the west side of Harlem. A young woman who worked there approached me to ask how she could help. When I described my dilemma, she smiled, “I’ve seen this before—you just haven’t found the right books.” She asked me more about my son and began picking out books outside of the sci-fi genre, drawing on what appeared to be an encyclopedic knowledge of high-quality children’s literature.

Culver was enraptured with Sarah’s picks. Thanks to her selections, his reading took an omnivorous turn and I regularly returned to the store for more recommendations. Just around that time, in 2006, I opened the first Success Academy and had to stock our classroom libraries. I ordered the pre-set publisher’s collections that are used by so many schools—but I was shocked by how little the sales people knew about what they were selling. My experience buying books for my own...

 
 
Alex Hernandez

I remember this day as one of the worst days of my life. I remember opening the newspaper, looking at the internet and being like…what?!? It was like someone threw a brick at me. And there’s nothing worse in your professional life than working incredibly hard and then getting crappy results. Nothing feels worse than that. And that is what happened.

—Doug McCurry, co-CEO and superintendent of Achievement First

When New York’s first round of Common Core state test results came out in 2013, student results plummeted across all schools; district and charter. The decline was especially pronounced at charter school networks known for their stellar academic programs, names like Achievement First (AF), Uncommon Schools, and KIPP New York.

State tests are not the ultimate measure of a child’s education, but the declining scores were concerning because the Common Core standards asked students in grades 3–8, for the first time, to make meaning of a text, find evidence to support an argument, understand concepts, and apply their thinking. When students were asked to think more deeply, most could not.

Achievement First’s co-CEOs Dacia Toll and Doug McCurry are candid about their feelings in the...

 
 

For charter school supporters, it can be frustrating. There’s always something new in the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) saga. The most recent allegation, by a whistleblower who’d worked for the online giant, is that officials from the school were ordering staff to manipulate student attendance data—after the school had already been ordered to repay $60 million in state funds as a result of a review of student participation by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

At about the same time, Senate President Larry Obhof mused that it might be time for the General Assembly to “take a look” at how the state calculates attendance and funding. “When the legislature’s able to do things or has the responsibility for doing things,” he said, “it should be the legislature, not an administrative agency, that does that.”

President Obhof is right. It’s time for legislative action. Thoughtful policymaking could not only hold online schools accountable for their work but also strengthen the virtual school sector and improve outcomes for students. Here’s a look at a few common sense reforms that the legislature should consider.

Commission a study on performance-based funding

Performance-based funding is an attractive solution that’s been pitched before,...

 
 
Jim Waters

NOTE: 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.

During the raging debate in recent years about whether Kentucky would join America’s education civilization by allowing charter schools, Ohio’s dismal charter performance became a favorite whipping boy of school-choice opponents.

Less than three years ago, the headline atop a 1,000-word exposé in The Washington Post on the Buckeye State’s charter schools read: “Troubled Ohio charter schools have become a joke -- literally.”

Ohio’s bad charter schools provided piles of fodder for Kentucky’s anti-choice zealots committed to keeping these schools out of the Bluegrass State.

Worse is that Ohio’s failures gave charter-school opponents nationwide a convenient ploy to divert attention away from the decades-long academic failure of many school districts in other states, including Kentucky’s largest in Jefferson County, where parents would leap at the opportunity of enrolling their children in charters – if only they had it.

However, as an old Bob Dylan hit heralds: “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”

Confirmation of the truth in Dylan’s lyrics is found in the newly released National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results showing dramatic improvement...

 
 

If you were on vacation earlier this month—lucky you—you may have missed the release of the 2017 NAEP results. On the whole, you didn’t miss much. With NAEP results flat in much of the country, the prevailing narrative is that education progress has stalled. There were some exceptions around the country, like Florida, that continued to make impressive gains. Unfortunately, Ohio wasn’t one of those exceptions, as my colleague Aaron Churchill has explained.

Don’t take my word for it though, here are some data comparing Ohio and Florida’s NAEP performance.[1]

In summary, Florida is now cleaning Ohio’s clock on NAEP. But that wasn’t always the case: Notice how in 2003 Ohio had better NAEP scores in both fourth and eighth grade reading and math for black and low-income students. In 2017, Florida was superior in EVERY one of those categories. Florida’s most disadvantaged students made tremendous gains while Ohio’s languished. The progress hasn’t been limited to historically...

 
 

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