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:


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...

 
 

 

OhDELA testing new approach to online learning

The Ohio Distance and Electronic Learning Academy (OhDELA) is now working with ACCEL Schools. The charter school’s new operator, ACCEL CEO Ron Packard, recently announced his plans for improving OhDELA’s performance using a “new approach to online learning.” Some of the changes include requiring more in-person meetings between students and teachers, doing less advertising to ensure they’re recruiting students who are truly well-suited for online classes, and more.

It’s time to be pragmatic about online charter schools

Last month, the General Assembly passed two pieces of legislation (SB 216 and HB 87) that, among other things, seek to address some of the issues that have plagued online charter schools in Ohio. But an important measure (from HB 707—a bill that didn’t pass) that would have required ODE to adopt rules allowing online charter schools to disenroll students for not “actively participating in learning opportunities” didn’t pass. Fordham’s Chad Aldis believes Ohio needs to revisit this recommendation—he explains why here.

IDEA schools success story

This week, Idea Public Schools’ superintendent Joann Gama is celebrating: All 849 seniors from her charter schools graduated this...

 
 

Online charter schools have been front-page material in every major Ohio newspaper for the past two years. The coverage, largely focused on the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), has featured the very public funding dispute between ECOT and the Ohio Department of Education, a host of legal proceedings, the school’s mid-year closure and subsequent displacement of 12,000 students, and the political rush from both parties to take credit or assess blame for the entire situation.

Last month, the General Assembly passed two pieces of legislation (Senate Bill 216 and House Bill 87) that, among other things, seek to address some of the issues that have plagued online charters in Ohio. A quick overview of the changes can be found in this summary of education-related legislation for the first half of 2018. The online charter provisions, while generally recognized as being positive, also drew criticism for not going far enough. This is likely because another piece of legislation—House Bill 707, which was introduced in mid-June by Republican Representatives Reineke and Faber—had even stronger accountability provisions, many of which came from recommendations made by Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost.

One...

 
 

 

A good news online charter school story

Sarah Robinson, an online charter school graduate from Massillon, Ohio wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Canton Repository this week. Robinson, the co-valedictorian for the class of 2018 at Ohio Connections Academy (OCA), describes how the school’s flexibility enabled her and her sister to learn self-discipline, work at their own paces, and pursue outside interests (like taking college classes and volunteering). This is a great reminder that, despite the flurry of negative stories, there are many students like Sarah who thrive in online schools.

 

Analyzing the impact of dropout recovery report card changes

As we’ve described previously, the State Board of Education recently adopted significant changes to the rules around report cards for Ohio's dropout prevention and recovery schools (DPRS). A new piece from Fordham’s Jessica Poiner examines the potential impacts of those changes, specifically around identification as a DPRS and graduation rate performance levels.

 

Ohio charters in the news

The Ohio Distance and Electronic Learning Academy (OhDELA), an online charter school long operated by White Hat management, is now working with ACCEL Schools. This story in the...

 
 

 

Ohio charter school success story

Yesterday, the Fordham Institute released their latest Pathway to Success profile that’s part of a series dedicated to highlighting how charter schools are helping students and families across Ohio thrive. This profile features a student at Near West Intergenerational School in Cleveland, a charter that emphasizes relationships and rigor to ignite lifelong learning. If you (or someone you know) would like to have a school or student featured in Fordham’s Pathway to Success series, please contact [email protected].

Big changes to Newark, Ohio, charter schools

Newark City Schools has decided, for now, to stop sponsoring charter schools. The two schools it sponsored, Newark Digital Academy and Par Excellence Academy, will continue serving students but with new governance structures. The district will take over Newark Digital Academy, while Par Excellence will be sponsored by the Ohio Department of Education. For Par Excellence, this means the school is now accepting more students for K-5 and is expanding to include two sixth grade classrooms (much to the delight of many parents who have pushed for the expansion for years).

 

New Orleans becomes first district in U.S. to oversee a...

 
 

Did you know that there’s a great new resource to help you keep up with charter school news in the Buckeye State and across the country? It’s called Ohio Charter News Weekly and you can have it delivered to your email Inbox every Friday. To subscribe to this quick mix of news, opinion, and events collated with the busy charter school stakeholder in mind, click here, and you won’t miss another edition.

You’ll be glad you did.

 
 

 

Big changes are coming for Ohio’s dropout prevention and recovery charter schools

The State Board of Education recently adopted significant changes to the rules around Ohio's dropout prevention and recovery school report cards. Among other changes, graduation rate expectations have increased and it will now be more difficult for schools to earn dropout prevention and recovery school designations. Fordham’s Jessica Poiner breaks down some of the changes here.  

Toledo charter school students attend behavioral health summer camp

This year, Caregiver Grove (a behavioral health service provider) started providing in-school counseling at several charter schools in Toledo, including Achieve, STAR Academy of Toledo, and REACH Academy. But their work didn’t stop when summer vacation began. Instead, they launched a summer version of the program and 20 students, ages 8 to 17, are currently enrolled. The program is set up like a summer camp (with sports, field trips, and art) that’s designed to help the students with anger management, depression and anxiety, social skills, and expressing emotions.

Innovation Ohio’s half truths about ECOT and school funding

Over the past month, several newspapers have published articles on ECOT and based their coverage on an...

 
 

Since 2012, Tennessee has taken a unique approach to intervening in struggling schools. With the goal of turning around the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state (known as priority schools), officials introduced two separate models: the Achievement School District (ASD) and Innovation Zones (iZones). The ASD is a state-run district that directly manages some priority schools and turns others over to select charter management organizations. iZones, on the other hand, are subsets of priority schools that remain under district control but are granted greater autonomy and financial support to implement interventions. There are four districts that contain iZones: Shelby County Schools (Memphis), Metro-Nashville Public Schools, Hamilton County Schools (Chattanooga), and Knox County Schools (Knoxville). The remaining priority schools weren’t included in either of these initiatives, effectively creating a comparison group.

Research teams from Vanderbilt University and the University of Kentucky have kept a close eye on both initiatives. In 2015, they published an evaluation of the ASD and iZone schools after three years of implementation. They found that, while ASD schools did not improve any more or less than other priority schools, iZone schools produced moderate to large positive effects on student test scores. A separate ...

 
 

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