When Private Schools Take Public Dollars: What's the Place of Accountability in School Voucher Programs?
Voucher opponents often argue that it's unfair to hold public schools accountable for results under the No Child Left Behind Act and various state rules while allowing private schools that participate in voucher programs to receive taxpayer dollars without similar accountability.
We at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute don't entirely buy that argument but we also believe there's room for a reasonable middle ground. It's time for the school-voucher movement to embrace accountability done right, just as most of the charter-school movement has done. But it's also vital to preserve the capacity of private schools to be different and not to deter them from taking children who would benefit.
In pursuit of that middle ground, we sought the advice of twenty experts in the school-choice world. This paper presents their thoughts and opinions, as well as Fordham's own ideas.
The majority of experts agree that participating private schools should not face new regulation of their day-to-day affairs. They also see value in helping parents make informed choices by providing data about how well their own children are performing.
However, experts are not of one mind when it comes to making academic results and financial audits transparent. Some would "let the market rule" and are averse to transparency or accountability around school-level results. Others would "treat private schools like charter schools" when it comes to testing, financial transparency, etc. Some would also like government (or its proxy) to intervene if individual schools aren't performing adequately.
We suggest a "sliding scale" approach to bridge the divide: the more voucher-bearing
students a school enrolls, the greater its obligation for transparency and accountability. And the more generously taxpayers support vouchers, the greater their accountability claim on voucher-receiving schools.
Read the report in a nutshell.
Climbing to Quality 2007-2008 Fordham Sponsorship Accountability Report
This yearly report covers Fordham's sponsorship practices throughout the year as well as newsworthy events related to our sponsored charter schools. You can also find detailed reports on all of Fordham-sponsored schools. Each school report contains information on the school's academic performance, educational philosophy, and compliance for the 2007-2008 school year.
2007-08 Ohio Report Card Analysis
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, in partnership with Public Impact, analyzed the 2007-08 academic performance data for charter and district schools in Ohio's eight largest urban cities to produce Urban School Performance Report: An Analysis of Ohio Big Eight Charter and District School performance with a special analysis of Cyber Schools, 2007-08.
City-by-city analysis of school performance:
Who Will Save America's Urban Catholic Schools?
America's urban Catholic schools are in crisis. Over 1,300 of them have shut down since 1990, mostly in our cities. As a result, some 300,000 students have been displaced--double the number affected by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. These children have been forced to attend other schools at an estimated cost to taxpayers of more than $20 billion.
Fordham's latest report, which includes a comprehensive survey of the attitudes of U.S. Catholics and the broader public toward inner-city Catholic schools, examines this crisis and offers several suggestions for arresting and perhaps reversing this trend in the interests of better education. By looking at seven case studies, the report shows that in a few cities, such as Wichita, urban Catholic education is making a comeback. However, in other cities like Milwaukee and Washington, D.C., despite public voucher programs, enrollment continues to decline and/or schools are being closed or converted into charters.
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation Sponsorship Accountability Report 2007
For information on Fordham's unique role as a charter school sponsor in Ohio, there's no better source than The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation Sponsorship Accountability Report 2006-07. The report offers a comprehensive account of Fordham's sponsorship policies and practices-as well as individual profiles of all Fordham-sponsored schools. Included in the profiles are descriptions of each school's educational program, school philosophy, and overall academic performance.
Ohioans' Views on Education 2007
Between April 29th and May 8th, 2007, the FDR Group conducted a telephone survey of 1,000 randomly selected Ohio residents (margin of error +/-3 percentage points). The survey covers such topics as school quality and funding, academic standards, school reforms, proposals to improve how the public schools are run, teacher quality, charter schools and school vouchers. Additional interviews were conducted with residents from five of Ohio’s largest cities to enable a reliable comparison of their views. This survey is a follow-up to one conducted in 2005 and many of the questions are repeated, allowing us to gauge whether attitudes have shifted over time.
See a summary of the findings here.
See a PowerPoint presentation on the survey here.
2006 Thomas B. Fordham Foundation Sponsorship Accountability Report
For information on Fordham's unique role as a charter school sponsor in Ohio, there's no better source than The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation Sponsorship Accountability Report 2005-06. The report offers a comprehensive account of Fordham's sponsorship policies and practices-as well as individual profiles of all Fordham-sponsored schools. Included in the profiles are descriptions of each school's educational program, school philosophy, and overall academic performance based on state achievement data.
Turning the Corner to Quality
At the request of Ohio's top government and education leaders, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and National Alliance for Public Charter Schools have issued a report seeking to strengthen the state's charter school program. Among its 17 recommendations are calls for closing low-performing charter schools and holding sponsors more accountable for oversight of the growing charter movement while also helping more high-performance schools to open and succeed in Ohio. In return for sharply stepped-up accountability, restrictions on the formation of high-quality charters should be removed, and charter schools should receive more equitable funding.
Turning the Corner to Quality bases its findings on research and analysis of Ohio school performance data; a review of best practices in other states; input from experts in charter school finance, sponsorship, accountability and policy; and evaluation of dozens of policy options.
Trends in Charter School Authorizing
Belatedly, policymakers and researchers are recognizing that quality charter schools depend on quality charter school authorizing. This report presents findings from a pioneering national examination of the organizations that sponsor, oversee, and hold accountable U.S. charter schools. Its primary aim is to describe and characterize these crucial but little-known organizations.
Authorizer Survey Database (final data)
Playing To Type? (2006)
Most discussions of charter schools assume that they are monolithic. This study—the first of its kind—categorizes the nation’s charter schools into a robust typology according to their educational approaches. It also provides demographic information by type—how many are in each category, what their student populations look like, and so forth—and makes a first attempt at comparing their test scores. The result is a much richer and more accurate picture of the charter school universe.