Education and the Future of Citizenship
Checked Out: Ohioans' Views on Education 2009
Governor Ted Strickland and state legislators are seriously debating the future of the Buckeye State's public education system--and much of that debate has grown more partisan than is probably healthy for the state and its children. Much of it also centers on money.
But what do Ohio's voters, taxpayers, and parents think about these and kindred issues? How do they view public schooling in 2009? Are they eager for reforms or generally content with things the way they are? Which changes do they favor? How confident are they that reforms will succeed? Indeed, how aware are they of the serious debates now swirling around the future of Ohio education?
In partnership with the independent education journal Catalyst Ohio (see here), we resolved to find out, and enlisted the expert help of the nonpartisan FDR Group (see here), a respected survey research firm led by veteran public opinion analysts Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett. The result is Checked Out: Ohioans' Views on Education 2009. This is the third such survey that we at Fordham have undertaken since 2005 on education issues in the Buckeye State. This makes it possible to track some key trends in public opinion over time.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Fordham's 2010-11 Sponsorship Accountability Report
The 2010 elections were good for Republicans in Ohio, who have traditionally supported the expansion of charter schools (and choice broadly). We were hopeful as lawmakers and the governor set about removing caps on charter schools, lifting the e-school moratorium, and suggesting other legislative changes that would improve charter quality and accountability. However, we were disheartened when during the budget cycle, the Ohio House proposed several changes that would have been insidious to the charter movement in the Buckeye State, such as: neutering governing boards and authorizers of their oversight responsibilities; exempting charter schools from compliance with most of the state’s education laws and rules; and allowing operators to essentially run schools without an authorizing entity to hold them accountable.
Luckily, the charter community in Ohio and nationally stood firmly against these proposals and was united in the need for better accountability and quality (and not just growth for growth’s sake). This resulted in a rejection of the House’s provisions as well as a new requirement holding charter authorizers accountable (which we explain in the report). Fordham schools showed more academic growth than any of the state’s large authorizers, but we still realize there’s more work to do. Improvement is a continual process and we won’t hide from that challenge.
The report describes these developments over the year, and also delineates how our schools fared in terms of achievement, growth, and their contractual obligations. It provides achievement comparisons to other charters in Ohio’s Urban 8 cities and their home district peer schools, as well as data on student demographics, AYP, and finances. And it outlines important history and context related to our six years as an authorizer: how our portfolio has changed in terms of school composition and performance, as well as our plans for the upcoming year in taking on two new schools. For the first time ever, we are authorizing two rural schools (one of which is a high school – also a first in our authorizing portfolio), and we are positioned to take on other high-performing schools looking to expand.
School Finance in the Digital-Learning Era
Will the move toward virtual and “blended learning” schools in American education repeat the mistakes of the charter-school movement, or will it learn from them?
Try this thought experiment: How much more successful might U.S. charter schools look today if, at the beginning of the charter movement two decades ago, proponents had spent the time and effort to consider what policies and supports would be needed to ensure its quality, freedom, rules and resources over the long term? What mistakes might have been avoided? Damaging scandals forestalled? Missed opportunities seized?
We can’t go back in time for charters but we can be smarter about the next major phase of education reform and innovation: taking high-quality virtual and blended schools to scale—and to educational success. To this end, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, with the support of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, has commissioned five deep-thought papers that, together, address the thorniest policy issues surrounding digital learning. The goal is to boost the prospects for successful online learning (both substantively and politically) over the long run.
In "School Finance in the Digital-Learning Era", Paul T. Hill zeroes in on the policy area most in need of reform if digital learning is to succeed: funding. “Our system doesn’t fund schools, and certainly doesn’t fund students,” he writes in “School Finance in the Digital-Learning Era.” “Yet to encourage development and improvement of technology-based methods, we must find ways for public dollars to do just that—and to follow kids to online providers chosen by their parents, teachers, or themselves.”
Hill explains why our current school funding system could cripple the promise of digital learning—and then proposes innovative solutions. By consolidating education funding from different sources into a “backpack” model that follows students and creating debit cards that parents can use for online enrichment courses, the system Hill outlines would ensure that families can choose from a diverse range of robust schooling options.
In the Media
Now What? Imperatives and Options for Common Core Implementation and Governance
This Fordham Institute publication—co-authored by President Chester E. Finn Jr. and VP Michael J. Petrilli—pushes folks to think about what comes next in the journey to common education standards and tests. Most states have adopted the “Common Core” English language arts and math standards, and most are also working on common assessments. But…now what? The standards won’t implement themselves, but unless they are adopted in the classroom, nothing much will change. What implementation tasks are most urgent? What should be done across state lines? What should be left to individual states, districts, and private markets? Perhaps most perplexing, who will govern and “own” these standards and tests ten or twenty years from now?
Finn and Petrilli probe these issues in “Now What?” After collecting feedback on some tough questions from two-dozen education leaders (e.g. Jeb Bush, David Driscoll, Rod Paige, Andy Rotherham, Eric Smith), they frame three possible models for governing this implementation process. In the end, as you’ll see, they recommend a step-by-step approach to coordinate implementation of the Common Core. Read on to find out more.
Responses from several of our contributors:
- Paul E. Barton
- Jeb Bush
- David T. Conley
- Pasquale J. DeVito
- David P. Driscoll
- Michael W. Kirst
- Paul E. Lingenfelter
- Paul Manna
- Neal McCluskey
- Mark Musick
- Rod Paige
- Judith A. Rizzo
- Mark Schneider
- Robert B. Schwartz
- Eric J. Smith
- Michael D. Usdan
- Gene Wilhoit
In the Media
Cracks in the Ivory Tower? The Views of Education Professors Circa 2010
This national survey of education school professors finds that, even as the U.S. grows more practical and demanding when it comes to K-12 education, most of the professoriate simply isn't there. They see themselves more as philosophers and agents of social change, not as master craftsmen sharing tradecraft. They also resist some promising reforms such as tying teacher pay to student test scores. Still, education professors are reform-minded in some areas, including tougher policies for awarding tenure to teachers and financial incentives for those who teach in tough neighborhoods. Read on to find out more.
In the Media
Charter School Autonomy: A Half-Broken Promise
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
America's Private Public Schools
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.
"Private public schools" broken down by metro area
In the Media
Ohio's Education Reform Challenges: Lessons from the Frontlines
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.
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
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.
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