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.


Our many choice-related blog posts are listed below.

Fordham’s choice experts:

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.

Postsecondary enrollment marks a critical transition point for students after they graduate high school.  It’s important that students enroll in some form of postsecondary education opportunity beyond high school—whether that be college, advanced training, or the military. This is particularly true for low-income students and other underrepresented populations. Unfortunately, a 25-percentage-point difference exists between high- and low-poverty schools (52 percent and 77 percent, respectively) when it comes to enrolling in college in the first fall after high school graduation.

In Ohio, students have a variety of options that can help them transition from high school to college. Most people have heard of College Credit Plus (CCP), but the lesser known early college high schools (ECHS) provide an important pathway to college—particularly for low-income students.

In fact, according to the Ohio Department of Education, ECHS programs must prioritize:

  • Students who are underrepresented in regard to completing post-secondary education
  • Students who are economically disadvantaged, as defined by the Ohio Department of Education
  • Students whose parents did not earn a college degree

ECHS provide mostly low-income...


Ohio school report cards released

The Ohio Department of Education last week released much-anticipated school and district report cards. For the first time in six years, report cards included an overall grade. Here is an analysis of Ohio’s Urban 8 cities, comparing charter performance to that of district schools across several measures. While the data are dispiriting overall, some bright spots emerge especially among charter schools. Additionally, the Dayton Daily News provided an analysis of area charter school report cards. Kudos to several high performing charter schools in the Miami Valley.


Federal education funding for FY 2019 moves forward; includes boost for CSP

Last week, U.S. House and Senate members reached agreement on the education portion of a FY 2019 spending bill. Among other important features, the bill would provide $440 million for the Charter School Program (CSP), the highest-ever funding level in the program’s history. A good summary of the CSP and other provisions comes from EdWeek. The bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate; the House currently faces a September 30 deadline to vote. In a timely release, the National Charter School Resource Center is out with a new...

Jamison White

Many students these days seek high-paying, meaningful, hands-on work without the burden of increasingly cumbersome student loan debt. Endless high-skilled job openings exist, and many Americans choose to jump straight into those jobs as an alternative to attending a university. This, however, requires job training, apprenticeships, and an intense focus on specialized skills. For students who choose this path, Career Technical Education (CTE) also known as vocational education provides a great alternative to the traditional education model. Some CTE schools focus primarily on specialized career fields while other schools fuse their core curriculum with real world experiences and industry-specific knowledge.

1. The Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers offers a college preparatory and vocational curriculum for high school students in Boston exploring careers in health and health-related professions. In 1995, a group of community health care providers and higher education leaders recognized that too few underserved children envisioned career possibilities in the health professions. They believed too many students lacked the role models, mentors, and rigorous academic preparation needed to explore the medical field. Consequently, very few students saw a future for themselves in health care. The group created Kennedy Academy for Health Careers as their solution to...


Last Thursday, Ohio released annual school report cards that offer parents and communities an objective review of the academic performance of its roughly 600 districts and 3,500 public schools. Much of the focus has understandably been on the “bottom line,” as this year’s reports included for the first time overall A through F grades that combine the many separate elements of the report card, much like GPAs do for students. In cities like Dayton and Columbus, the bottom-line F’s assigned to their school systems naturally made for depressing headlines.

Nobody should ignore or excuse the district-level results, as they speak volumes about the leadership and governance of those school systems—and about the often-challenging demographics of the children who fill them. But it’s also important to dive deeper and look at campus-level data. After all, children attend schools where education is actually delivered. It’s doubly important in Ohio’s major cities, as children have many school options—including public charters and district-operated schools—that vary widely in their report-card ratings. These differences are important for families to see and understand, as they should influence parents’ decisions about where to enroll their children. They’re also critical for civic and philanthropic leaders wishing to...

James V. Shuls

How would you respond if you stumbled across a headline that asked, “How much do farmers markets cost Walmart?” It’s a ridiculous question. It presupposes that the customer belongs to Walmart; that any time the individual chooses to buy cucumbers from a local grower or salsa from an aspiring entrepreneur, he or she is “robbing” the dominant grocer. That’s just absurd. Yet this is the standard frame we use when talking about education. We blithely assume that education is wholly different from any other field.

Consider, for example, a recent headline on the Education Writers Association’s website: “How much do charter schools cost districts?” It’s the same question, and it is just as absurd as when talking about groceries. Worse, it is unethical, because it dehumanizes children, reducing them to economic units. In this formulation, neither they nor their parents are individuals with aspirations, endowed with free will and the ability to act in their own self-interest; they are a mere funding stream for public school districts.

This type of headline is all too common. Most people wouldn’t even bat an eye at it. But this isn’t just semantics. It gets at the heart of the way many...


Editor’s Note: As Ohioans prepare to elect a new governor this November, and as state leaders look to build upon past education successes, we at the Fordham Institute are developing a set of policy proposals that we believe can lead to increased achievement and greater opportunities for Ohio students. This is the first in our series, under the umbrella of creating transparent and equitable funding systems. You can access all of the entries in the series to date here.

Proposal: For funding purposes, Ohio should decouple the identification of economically disadvantaged (ED) students from eligibility for federal free and reduced-priced lunches (FRPL). Instead, the state should identify low-income students through their family’s participation in other means-tested programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and/or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—a process known as direct certification.

Background: With fewer resources at home, low-income students require more public funds to support their education. Recognizing this, Ohio provides additional state aid to districts serving more ED students (see table 1 above). In FY 2018, the incremental amount is $272 per pupil, with an adjustment that steers more dollars to districts serving the highest proportions of ED students. Ohio generally identifies ED students...



Columbus Dispatch Editorial: Charter schools deserve fair rules for bus rides

The Columbus Dispatch editorialized this week on the transportation challenges facing charter schools. The editorial explains that charter schools and their families have been complaining of unreliable bus service from school districts for years and that a recent conflict between Columbus City Schools and local charter schools suggests that state officials need to address this persistent problem. The Dispatch also recognizes that all schoolchildren, whether attending a district or charter school, should receive the transportation that their parents’ tax dollars pay for.

A response to the popular question: “Do charter schools take districts’ money?”

James V. Shuls, an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, wrote an op-ed in The 74. Shuls argues that you can believe charter schools take districts’ money away only if you think students, and the funding that comes with them, are district property.

Charter schools and unified enrollment systems

In recent years, unified student enrollment systems have become increasingly popular. Unified enrollment allows students to fill out one application, rank their top school choices (often including both district and...


Children in the state of Connecticut are being denied access to schools that have plenty of room for them because of the color of their skin. Yup, that’s right. Available seats in the magnet schools of Hartford—and beyond—sit empty despite long waitlists for admission.

And this denial of opportunity is happening in the name of integration.

“Those seats just stay empty, no matter what,” Robinson said. “Even if I want Jarod to have a seat, he can’t get in unless kids from the suburbs come in too. It’s like Connecticut says, ‘You have to have a white kid in a classroom for a black kid to be educated.’”

Year after year, LaShawn Robinson entered her son Jarod’s name into the lottery for one of Hartford’s magnet schools and year after year, he was denied admission even though the school had room for him. Now Ms. Robinson and six other plaintiffs are taking their case to federal court.

After a 1996 supreme court ruling in Sheff v. O’Neill that held that racial segregation in Hartford schools violated the state constitution, lawmakers responded by passing a racial quota law. The law required Connecticut school boards to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic...



2018 EdNext Poll shows increased support for charter schools

A new poll from Education Next (EdNext) found growing support for charter schools, particularly amongst Republicans. Forty-four percent of respondents supported the expansion of charter schools (up from thirty-nine percent last year) and thirty-five percent were in opposition. EdNext found consistent support across a variety of groups including fifty-seven percent of Republicans, forty-nine percent of Hispanics, and forty-six percent of African Americans. You can find the National Alliance for Public Charter School’s reaction to the news here.

DeWine Files Lawsuit to Recover Public Funds Related to ECOT

On Tuesday, Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit to recover public funds disbursed by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT). The lawsuit alleges violations of fiduciary duty and seeks to hold the school’s founder and school officers personally liable. Because of the nature of the allegations, all Ohio charters should keep an eye on the suit’s proceedings. More information about the lawsuit can be found on the attorney general's website.

New report examines why independent charters outperform district-operated autonomous schools

The Reinventing America's Schools Project at the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) released a ...



New report on the emergence of non-district authorizers

Over the last five years, a significant shift has occurred within the national charter school landscape: for the first time, most new charter schools are being authorized by entities other than local school districts. If this trend continues, it could have both positive and negative implications for the pace of charter school growth, quality of charter schools, quality of oversight, and attributes of newly approved schools. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers’ (NACSA) new report examines this shift.


The myth of Ohio’s “for profit” charter school system

Gallons of ink have been spilled documenting the missteps of a few Ohio for-profit charter operators. Unfortunately, as Aaron Churchill explains, the high-profile controversies surrounding these politically active titans have stoked a narrative that paints all charters as “corporatizers” out to make a buck. Churchill argues that the for-profit narrative is both misleading and not particularly helpful if the true goal is student achievement.


Top charter school networks share college completion success tips

Education writer Richard Whitmire explains in an op-ed this week how charter schools have developed a way to help...