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:


Miyea Thompson

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.

Miyea Thompson is a fourth grader at UPrep, a high performing charter school in the United Schools Network in Columbus. On Friday, October 6, USN celebrated its 10th anniversary at its annual gala event. Miyea was a featured speaker at that event and the following is the written version of her speech. For more information on USN schools, we urge you to visit our website and download our recent profile of another student in the network.

Thank you! My name is Miyea Thompson, and I am a 4th-grader at United Preparatory Academy - State Street. Last month, I had the opportunity to write about what it meant to me to be a rising star. Tonight, I’d like to share with you what I wrote.

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When I think about being a rising star I got started by identifying what type of stars exist. We have famous people that are called stars such as actors, models, singers, and athletes. These people grew up to become stars, and I would love to...

 
 

It’s frustrating feeling like a broken record, but Stephen Dyer’s comparisons between school districts and charter schools can’t go uncontested. His analyses are reductive, crudely simplifying poor families’ quest for better schools as mere financial transactions that—he claims—unduly harm school districts. Yet he ignores the harm that’s caused when a student attends an unsafe or educationally unsound district school. He overlooks the harm when somebody else’s child is cheated out of beautiful, high-quality learning experiences--the kind that we seek for our own children.

Given Dyer’s long established ties to active charter opponents—Innovation Ohio, the teachers unions, and the Know Your Charter project—it’s not surprising that he routinely places the interests of districts and the adults they employ ahead of families and children simply seeking a quality educational environment that meets their needs. Each blog he writes lays bare the common yet wholly fallacious view that state education dollars are “owned” by districts. Districts receive state funds to ensure that students can receive a publicly funded education in a publicly accountable institution; when a student leaves, so should those dollars.

This edition of “I can’t even, Stephen” has to do with yet another of his common...

 
 

I recently visited United Preparatory Academy (UPrep). It’s a charter school serving students in grades K-4 (growing to grade five) located in Franklinton—one of Columbus’s poorest neighborhoods, where the median household income is thirty percent lower than the city-wide average. About half the population has less than a high school diploma, and just one in ten have earned a four-year college degree. I say all this not to reduce the neighborhood, its families, or its children to these data points—but because from a research point of view, it makes what I’m about to tell you all the more powerful.

Before the visit started, I sat in the office alongside children who’d been dropped off wearing a random assortment of clothes other than the school uniform. It became apparent that it was a struggle for some families to keep freshly laundered clothes in stock for their children. This challenge is part of a growing conversation about how high-poverty schools go beyond the classroom in order to serve families, and more specifically, curb truancy. About ten kids waited while the office manager reached into a cabinet filled with black dress pants and bright blue, logoed polo shirts. One by one,...

 
 
Christine Campbell

Across the country, in Atlanta, Camden, Indianapolis and at least ten other cities, more schools are operating under a kind of partnership school model: a “third way” governance strategy that breaks through district-charter divides. Some education leaders, like Fordham Institute president Mike Petrilli, think this approach should be avoided at all costs. But others, myself included, see it as a potentially promising way to turn around struggling schools or increase the number of quality school options in a neighborhood.

Partnership schools might be thought of as the next stage in district-charter collaboration or a key component in implementing a portfolio management strategy. With a few mature exceptions, most of these arrangements are relatively new. The theory behind what their role is and how well it delivers is largely untested, and student outcomes have not been expressly studied. A new CRPE brief offers a lay of the land on this promising approach and outlines questions that policymakers and researchers should consider as more of these partnerships grow.

Partnership schools, like charter schools, enjoy more freedom than a traditional district-run school. But partnership schools are legally distinct from charter schools. In some cases, districts can open them through...

 
 

School choice is becoming more and more common across the country, creating more and more stories of student and family success. The Foundation for Excellence in Education wants to hear as many success stories as possible and has launched a contest to find them.

The Choices in Education Video Competition begins soon and is seeking video submissions from students, parents, or alumni of existing school choice programs (public school choice, charter, magnet, private school, virtual learning, or homeschool) and even from students and families who want more choice in their state. The best part: the winners will be chosen based not on the quality of the video, but on the sincerity and passion of the story told.

Three Grand Prize Winners will each receive a $15,000 cash prize, one People’s Choice Winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize, and three Finalists will each receive a $5,000 cash prize.

So what are you waiting for? The deadline for submissions is December 1, 2017.

You can find more information and submission information by clicking here.

Good luck! 

 
 

When it comes to gauging the performance of Ohio’s public charter schools, unfair comparisons and generalizations are all too common. Apples-to-oranges comparisons between individual schools and entire districts, as well as casual disregard for charter schools’ high percentages of children in poverty (while contrasting their performance with wealthier children), are inaccurate forms of analysis at best. At worst, they’re intentionally disingenuous. But unless you’re a wonk at heart, these data offenses probably aren’t on your radar.

There’s another refrain from charter critics that disturbs me—not as a data analyst or researcher, but as a parent. It’s the implication that if you’ve moved your child to a school that performs lower on report card measures than the district school to which you are zoned, that choice isn’t a very good one.

I see this critique often from charter critic Stephen Dyer as well as from bloggers, teachers unions, and other choice opponents. Dyer frequently asserts that lower-performing charter schools “drain” public resources from higher-performing ones. You can see this logic at work in specific complaints or in sweeping statements appearing in just about every Innovation Ohio brief, like:

…half of all state money sent to charters goes...

 
 

By expanding access to options including charters, choice advocates hope that more students will reap the benefits of attending high-performing schools. But do all families have charter options in their area? In this study, researchers chart the Ohio landscape and seek to answer two questions: First, where are charter schools located with respect to the poverty and racial demographics of their community? Second, do low-income families have equal access to charter schools?

To answer these questions, researchers Andrew Saultz of the University of Miami and Christopher Yaluma of the Ohio State University (and a Fordham research intern this past summer) collected data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Ohio Department of Education. These data were then used to conduct analyses on the geographic locations of brick-and-mortar charters and the characteristics of their surrounding communities. For the purposes of this study, a family is said to have access to a charter school if they live within a five-mile radius of one.

Unsurprising for those who are familiar with Ohio, the majority of charters are located in large cities like the Big 8 (e.g., Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton). This is almost certainly due to Ohio...

 
 
Dr. Geno Thomas

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.

Lowellville Local Schools in Mahoning County, Ohio, where I am superintendent, has participated in Ohio’s open enrollment program for almost 20 years. Our district enrolls about 600 students annually, about 54 percent of whom attend from outside Lowellville’s district borders through Ohio’s open enrollment option. The program’s impact on our schools and students has been overwhelmingly positive, yet there has been some skepticism about open enrollment across the state. Most of these criticisms seem territorial at heart or seem to stem from a philosophical opposition to choice. Folks might ask, “Why should taxpayers have to pay for students who live outside their district?” or they may wonder about capacity issues, overcrowding, or transportation issues when serving kids outside of their bounds.

But there are other aspects of the program worth knowing about—real benefits for students, families, educators, and communities when districts opt to allow students via open enrollment.

1)      Greater course offerings. In Lowellville, given the manner in which...

 
 
Cris Gulacy-Worrel

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.

The recent request by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) to apply for Ohio’s Drop Out Prevention and Recovery (DOPR) designation has shined a spotlight on this unique type of alternative school and has created many misconceptions surrounding what they do, the students they serve, and how they serve them.

Those of us who have dedicated our careers to providing safe, inclusive, high-quality learning environments for our most challenged students think these misconceptions should be identified and exposed. DOPR is a status for which schools must apply and is outlined in state law. The designation has existed for many years. Only programs that meet the components set forth by law are approved by the Department of Education. DOPR schools must meet specified academic as well as financial objectives set by the Department. The designation is not a shelter for charter schools to utilize as a protection against public accountability for student performance, nor are drop out recovery waivers intended to be leveraged by schools not specializing in this specific student population. The designation is meant...

 
 

Teenagers declaring “I’m bored” is as timeless as a John Hughes film, but may mask a serious problem: Among high school students who consider dropping out, approximately 50 percent cite a lack of engagement with school as a primary reason, and 42 percent report that they don’t see value in the work they are asked to do. In a recent Fordham study, What Teens Want: A National Survey of High School Student Engagement, we found that many students are not being served effectively by the traditional “one size fits all” comprehensive high school. At the same time, there’s growing support for giving adolescents more educational choices.

To explore what keeps these schools from proliferating and how obstacles can be overcome, Fordham, along the American Federation for Children, invited Tamar Jacoby, president of Opportunity America, Kevin Teasley, president of the Greater Educational Opportunities (GEO) Foundation, Jon Valant, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Zach Verriden, executive director of HOPE Christian Schools (Wisconsin Region) to participate in a panel discussion on August twenty-second, moderated by senior vice president for research, Amber Northern.

Speaking from their unique perspectives, the four panelists covered various issues within high school...

 
 

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