Publications

Charter School Autonomy: A Half-Broken Promise

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This Fordham Institute study finds that the typical charter school in America today lacks the autonomy it needs to succeed, once state, authorizer, and other impositions are considered. Though the average state earns an encouraging B+ for the freedom its charter law confers upon schools, individual state grades in this sphere range from A to F. Authorizer contracts add another layer of restrictions that, on average, drop schools' autonomy grade to B-. (Federal policy and other state and local statutes likely push it down further.) School districts are particularly restrictive authorizers. The study was conducted by Public Impact.

*Updated May 2010. This updated edition of Charter School Autonomy: A Half-Broken Promise reflects changes that were made after a few minor sampling errors were found and corrected. The changes did not impact our findings or conclusions, and a complete explanation is included at the end of the report.

In the Media

April 28, 2010
Journal Sentinel
May 15, 2010
The Wall Street Journal

America's Private Public Schools

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This analysis by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute finds that more than 1.7 million American children attend what we've dubbed "private public schools"—public schools that serve virtually no poor students.* In some metropolitan areas, as many as one in six public-school students—and one in four white youngsters—attends such schools, of which the U.S. has about 2,800. Read on to see whether there's one in your neighborhood.

* It has come to our attention that South Dakota reported inaccurate free-and-reduced-price-lunch data to the National Center for Education Statistics’ Common Core of Data, impacting our results for the Mt. Rushmore State.

Press release

"Private public schools" broken down by metro area

NATIONWIDE

Atlanta

Baltimore

Boston

Chicago

Cincinnati

Dallas

Denver

Detroit

Houston

Inland Empire

Los Angeles

Miami

Minneapolis

New York

Philadelphia

Phoenix

Pittsburgh

Portland

Sacramento

San Diego

San Francisco

Seattle

St. Louis

Tampa

Washington DC

Ohio's Education Reform Challenges: Lessons from the Frontlines

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Charter schools are one of the hottest policy debates in American education—and we've been a lively participant in this debate since day one, both nationally and in Ohio. Our home state has struggled with these issues and conflicts for more than a decade, struggles in which Fordham has played influential—and controversial—roles, including that of an actual authorizer of charter schools.

Ohio’s Education Reform Challenges: Lessons from the Frontlines, published by Palgrave Macmillan, is our commitment to describe and analyze our efforts, successes and failures, and to distill what we think it all means for others committed to school reform and innovation.

Fordham’s trajectory in Dayton and our experience as a charter school authorizer are chronicled in 11 chapters that illustrate, as former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education David Driscoll notes, the “collision of theory and practice” and the “woes of public education in America."

Andy Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education and former domestic policy advisor to President Clinton, calls it an “engaging, interesting first-hand account of education reform in Dayton.” The president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Nelson Smith says, “This book is a real battlefield memoir. The Fordham team names names—and fesses up to their own foibles as well—providing the kind of insight you can’t find in most plain-vanilla volumes on education reform.”

We are happy to finally share our story, a memoir of our unique role as dual participant in the charter school debate since its inception, and authorizer of actual schools serving some of Ohio’s neediest students.

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To read an exerpt from the book featured in Education Next, see here.

Also check out our presentation of the book's findings, as delivered at the 2010 National Association of Public Charter Schools conference, and a video interview by Education Next featuring authors Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Terry Ryan.

In the Media

Renewal and Optimism: Five Years as an Ohio Charter Authorizer

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The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is pleased to share our 2009-10 Sponsorship Accountability Report. The report, Renewal and Optimism: Five Years as an Ohio Charter Authorizer, contains a year in review for Ohio’s charter school program, detailed information on the Fordham Foundation’s work as a charter school sponsor, and data on the performance of our sponsored schools during that year. 

 

School Profiles

 

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Playground Construction Event

Buddy the Robot

School Profile

2010-11 Ohio Report Card Analysis

Student achievement in Ohio's "Big 8" district & charter schools

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In 2010-11, 40 percent of public school students (enrolled in both district and charter schools) in Ohio's eight major urban areas attended a school rated D or F by the state. This is an improvement from the previous year, when 47 percent of students attended such schools.

The percent of students attending schools rated A or B has remained roughly the same. However, the percent of students in these cities attending a school that has met or exceeded "expected growth" (according to Ohio's value-added metric) has risen significantly, from 67 percent in 2009-10 to 78 percent in 2010-11.

City by City Analyses:

    Charting a New Course to Retirement: How Charter Schools Handle Teacher Pensions

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    In this "Ed Short" from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Amanda Olberg and Michael Podgursky examine how public charter schools handle pensions for their teachers. Some states give these schools the freedom to opt out of the traditional teacher-pension system; when given that option, how many charter schools take it? Olberg and Podgursky examine data from six charter-heavy states and find that charter participation rates in traditional pension systems vary greatly—from over 90 percent in California to less than one out of every four charters in Florida. As for what happens when schools choose not to participate in state pension plans, the authors find that they most often provide their teachers with defined-contribution plans (401(k) or 403(b)) with employer matches similar to those for private-sector professionals. But some opt-out charters offer no alternative retirement plans for their teachers (18 percent in Florida, 24 percent in Arizona).

    In the Media

    June 22, 2011
    New York Post

    Are Bad Schools Immortal?

    The Scarcity of Turnarounds and Shutdowns in Both Charter and District Sectors

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    Foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Amber M. Winkler

    This study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute finds that low-performing public schools—both charter and traditional district schools—are stubbornly resistant to significant change. After identifying more than 2,000 low-performing charter and district schools across ten states, analyst David Stuit tracked them from 2003-04 through 2008-09 to determine how many were turned around, shut down, or remained low-performing. Results were generally dismal. Seventy-two percent of the original low-performing charters remained in operation—and remained low-performing—five years later. So did 80 percent of district schools. Read on to learn more—including results from the ten states.

    Press Release

    In the Media

    December 14, 2010
    Journal Sentinel

    America's Best (and Worst) Cities for School Reform: Attracting Entrepreneurs and Change Agents

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    This study from the Fordham Institute tackles a key question: Which of thirty major U.S. cities have cultivated a healthy environment for school reform to flourish (and which have not)? Nine reform-friendly locales surged to the front: New Orleans, Washington D.C., New York City, Denver, Jacksonville, Charlotte, Austin, Houston, and Fort Worth. Trailing far behind were San Jose, San Diego, Albany, Philadelphia, Gary, and Detroit. Read on to learn more.

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    City Profiles:

    Albany, NY Columbus, OH Gary, IN Milwaukee, WI San Antonio, TX
    Austin, TX Dallas, TX Houston, TX New Orleans, LA San Diego, CA
    Baltimore, MD Denver, CO Indianapolis, IN New York, NY San Francisco, CA
    Boston, MA Detroit, MI Jacksonville, FL Newark, NJ San Jose, CA
    Charlotte, NC El Paso, TX Los Angeles, CA Philadelphia, PA Seattle, WA
    Chicago, IL Ft. Worth, TX Memphis, TN Phoenix, AZ Washington, D.C.

     

    Data Tables:

    Albany, NY Columbus, OH Gary, IN Milwaukee, WI San Antonio, TX
    Austin, TX Dallas, TX Houston, TX New Orleans, LA San Diego, CA
    Baltimore, MD Denver, CO Indianapolis, IN New York, NY San Francisco, CA
    Boston, MA Detroit, MI Jacksonville, FL Newark, NJ San Jose, CA
    Charlotte, NC El Paso, TX Los Angeles, CA Philadelphia, PA Seattle, WA
    Chicago, IL Ft. Worth, TX Memphis, TN Phoenix, AZ Washington, D.C.

     

    National-stakeholder survey | Local-expert survey

    In the Media

    August 24, 2010
    The Christian Science Monitor

    Seeking Quality in the Face of Adversity: 2008-09 Fordham Sponsorship Accountability Report

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    As a charter school sponsor (authorizer), Fordham submits an accountability report to the Ohio Department of Education at the end of November each year. The report includes profiles of each Fordham-sponsored school, as well as graphics comparing the achievement data of our schools, their home districts, and statewide averages. You’ll also find pertinent information on Ohio charter school spending over the last decade, and in the introduction, a timely analysis of the political and legislative environment impacting Ohio charters in 2008-09 that explains why the title, “Seeking Quality in the Face of Adversity,” is befitting.

    2008-09 Ohio Report Card Analysis

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    Each year the Thomas B. Fordham Institute conducts an analysis of urban school performance in Ohio.  We found that in 2008-09, 54 percent of charter students in Ohio Big 8 cities were in a school rated D or F, while 50 percent of traditional district students attended such a school. In Cleveland and Dayton, however, charter students outperformed their district peers in both reading and math proficiency.

    In partnership with Public Impact, we analyzed the 2008-09 academic performance data for charter and district schools in Ohio's eight largest urban cities.

    City Profiles

     

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