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:

In case you missed it, Fordham released a new report last week: a first-of-its-kind analysis of the districts and the students utilizing open enrollment across district boundaries in the Buckeye State, focusing on which districts did and did not open their borders and on the academic outcomes of students who take advantage of the opportunity.

Interest in the findings was widespread and a sample of the local, state and national media coverage includes:

  • The Columbus Dispatch – which has previously covered local school residency and attendance issues
  • The blog of The 74 Million – including an interview with Fordham Ohio’s research guru Aaron Churchill
  • The blog of Chalkbeat – including a national perspective on the issue
  • Statehouse news site Gongwer Ohio – who covered the report and the release event held in Columbus

If you weren’t able to join us for that release event and the important panel discussion included therein – which included the perspective of urban and suburban district leaders as well as a vital parent perspective – please visit Fordham’s YouTube channel or click on the image below to see the full video.


Bernie Moreno

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 commentary was originally published in Crain’s Cleveland Business.

As a business owner in Cleveland as well as other cities, I spend a lot of time thinking about return on investment (ROI).

It's a financial term that when used in public education can make some people feel uncomfortable. Students and teachers are not units or widgets, and running schools is not a business — or so the thinking goes. Many would argue that the educational process of expanding a child's mind and equipping them for a lifelong love of learning simply can't be reduced to numbers.

I agree that teaching is an art form, that children are unique, and that K-12 public education — as a public good — cannot and should not be reduced to balance sheets alone. Yet we see the results of a poor education very much in terms of numbers.

These are cold, hard facts that we must contend with and eventually pay for. Low percentages of students who can't read or do math at grade level lead...

In April, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos toured the Van Wert school district in rural northwestern Ohio along with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. In such sparsely populated communities, private and charter schools are usually scarce. But does that mean school choice does not exist? Absolutely not: In a Cleveland Plain Dealer op-ed published just before her visit, Secretary DeVos noted that “parents or guardians of nearly 20 percent of students who live within Van Wert’s district lines choose to send their children to a nearby district.”

She was of course referring to interdistrict open enrollment, a public school choice policy that allows students to attend school outside of their “home district” without having to pay tuition. While open enrollment often flies under the radar, it’s among the oldest and most widespread forms of school choice in America. Minnesota passed the nation’s first open enrollment law in 1988, and several other states, including Ohio, enacted similar laws shortly thereafter. Forty-four states now allow some form of open enrollment: Some states require their districts to participate in open enrollment (it’s mandatory), while others leave that decision to local districts.[1]

Like any choice initiative,...

Posted just six hours after the close of Mother’s Day, this eerily titled article, “Some school districts tail parents to check where family actually lives,” discussed the lengths to which some parents go to enroll their child in a “desirable school district”—and the lengths to which some districts go to keep such “outsiders” at bay.  Nothing says we cherish or appreciate moms like this description of a local residency investigation that resulted in a child being forcibly withdrawn from a local school. As the Columbus Dispatch reported:

“In April, lots of Bexley residents chimed in over social media when an outraged mother posted that the Bexley school district hired a private investigator to tail her for months to see if she and her young son actually live at her mother’s house. She said she works multiple jobs and isn’t at home much. In the Facebook post that has since been removed, she said her son had been kicked out of school with only five weeks left in the year...”

In response, the district’s attorney, Gregory Scott defended the district’s actions saying:

“There’s nothing nefarious about that [legally following someone in public].”

“Districts that choose to close...

Inequity in the City—the work of veteran authors of charter-school funding studies, including Inequity’s Next Frontier, Inequity Persists, and Inequity Expandsdiffers slightly from its predecessors because of its metropolitan focus. Its core finding is familiar, however: public charter schools face serious and persistent funding gaps compared to their district counterparts. (Will we ever get to read “Inequity Shrinks” or “Inequity Disappears”? One can dream.)

The analysts focused on 15 cities: Atlanta, Boston, Camden, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, San Antonio, Tulsa, and Washington, D.C. These locales were selected for their high concentration of charters or their “potential for growth.” Data come from fiscal year 2014.

They examined revenue differences in these places between the charter and district schools sectors, including all sources of funding—local, state, federal, and nonpublic. In eight of the cities, the authors conducted longitudinal analyses. They also tested to see whether differences in the enrollment rates of students with special learning needs (defined broadly to include students who are low-income, English language learners, or with disabilities) might explain funding differences.

There are several notable findings:

  • Urban charter schools continue to receive significantly less money than
  • ...

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is releasing a first-of-its-kind statewide analysis of interdistrict open enrollment. Using anonymous student-level data, Ohio State University professor Stéphane Lavertu and Deven Carlson of the University of Oklahoma examined the background characteristics of open enrollees along with their academic outcomes as gauged by state exams and graduation rates.

We invite you to an important discussion of this widespread but often-overlooked means of school choice in the Buckeye State. The researchers will discuss their findings and a panel of education experts will discuss the implications of the report. The discussion will focus on the benefits and challenges of the policy; how it impacts the families, students, and districts involved; and how Ohio policy makers might strengthen open enrollment policies in the future.

Tuesday June 6, 2017

8:30 - 9:45 am

Chase Tower
100 East Broad Street
Sixth Floor - Conference Room B
Columbus, OH 43215

Seating is limited so please register today.



Deven Carlson
University of Oklahoma
Report co-author



Tina Thomas-Manning
Reynoldsburg City Schools



David Burns

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 on the blog of the Ohio STEM Learning Network and is reposted with kind permission from the author.

Throughout the three weeks that span the end of May and the beginning of June, students all over Ohio will be donning an unflattering tasseled mortarboard cap and a polyester gown, lining up in alphabetical order, and trying to remember all the words of their soon-to-be alma mater’s song.  They will be a bit apprehensive, somewhat self-conscious, and a tad more anxious than usual.  They’ve practiced this drill two or three times and generally know where they are supposed to go and when they sit and stand, but the gravity of the circumstance has them a little on edge.

Soon, they will walk across the stage, receive a diploma, shake a hand, and move on.  It all seems easy enough and has been done 100,000 times before, but there’s always a moment or two of hesitation.  It’s the thin line between saying what you are going to do and...

In its version of the state budget bill, the Ohio House included language that would place more weight on student growth measures when calculating charter sponsor ratings. The provision requires that 60 percent of the academic portion of sponsor evaluations be based on student growth measures (aka value added), instead of 20 percent as under current policy.

The Senate should retain this change and take it a step further: It should be applied to district schools as well. Such a legislative change would ensure that Ohio’s ESSA plan places greater weight on student growth in the accountability system used to gauge the performance of all public schools. The Ohio Department of Education will submit the ESSA plan early this fall and now is the right time to fix the weighting system.

As we and others have pointed out many times, rating systems that place an overemphasis on “status measures” correlated with demographics or prior achievement (e.g., proficiency or graduation rates) will flunk almost all high-poverty schools just because they enroll pupils who initially lag behind.

Growth measures, on the other hand, are more poverty-neutral gauges of school performance. They look at the trajectory of...

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...