Congratulations to KIPP: Central Ohio Executive Director Hannah Powell (who was the school leader for the past several years) and the entire staff at KIPP: Journey Academy for the school’s EPIC Silver Gain Award from New Leaders for New Schools.
The EPIC (Effective Practice Incentive Community) award recognizes schools that make substantial gains in student academic growth. In partnership with Mathematica Policy Research, student test data are analyzed, and schools with the highest gains are selected as winners. To be eligible for an EPIC award, schools must have student populations of at least 30 percent eligible free and reduced-price lunch (over 90 percent of KIPP Journey students are considered economically disadvantaged) , submit three years of state test score data for all students, and be willing to share their effective practices with NLNS EPIC partners. As part of the award, KIPP: Journey Academy will receive approximately $50,000 to be distributed among its staff.
Of the 179 charter schools from 24 states and the District of Columbia that participated, only 14 winners were selected, and KIPP: Journey Academy was the only school in Ohio - and the only KIPP school nationally- to receive an award.
On behalf of the school, Ms. Powell said, “We are thrilled and honored that KIPP: Journey received this award. This award recognizes the dedication of our teachers and staff as they help our students climb the mountain to and through college.”
As the sponsor (aka “authorizer”) of KIPP: Journey Academy, we extend our warmest congratulations to the leadership, staff and students. We know that behind
Fordham has worked in Dayton – as a funder, charter-school authorizer, and charter-school advocate – to push for the creation and growth of high quality charter schools since 1998. Over the last decade one of the highest performing charter school clusters in the city has been the Richard Allen (RA) Schools (RA has three schools in Dayton that serve about 800 children). Over the years I’ve spent time with the leaders of Richard Allen, visited their schools, and even helped judge their annual debate competition. In short, I have always been impressed by both the educators and the students I’ve met and worked with from the RA schools and believe the schools delivered quality education to students.
It is because of these personal connections to the schools over the years that I found the recent “Special Audit of the Richard Allen Academy Schools” such painful and disturbing reading. The Special Audit provided a litany of “missing money, missing records and self-dealing” that has led to $929,850 in findings for recovery. The audit describes a situation where public dollars were used without any basic accountability or transparency. It reads as if the schools’ leadership considered the schools a private operation free of any responsibility for how the state dollars were spent. There also seemed little understanding as to whom the public resources were meant to support.
For example, the audit details how the schools contracted with the Montgomery County Department of Jobs and Family Services to provide summer and after-school readiness enrichment services to needy Dayton families.
Ohio’s charter school community has been split into two camps since the inception of the state’s first charter law in 1997. The first camp – I’ll call free-market purists – believes that charter schools should be afforded the same rights as private schools and as such be given maximum freedom of operations. The free-market purists argue that when it comes to charter schools the role of the state is little more than to distribute public dollars for a child’s education. As long as parents decide to send children to a school, no more “accountability” is necessary for performance.
In short, if there is market demand for a school – and the school is in compliance with basic regulations like fire and health and safety codes – then no more evidence is needed to keep the state dollars flowing. Free-market purists believe that school choice is an end in itself. If public policy creates a marketplace of school options then issues of school quality will work themselves out as parents will naturally seek quality and abandon failure. Free-market purists believe school operators know best what families and children need and that the state should have no say in matters of school “quality” and academic performance.
The second camp of school-choice supporters – I’ll call accountability hawks – believes that market demand for schools is important (no child should be trapped in a failing, monopolistic school system), but of equal importance is holding schools that receive taxpayer dollars accountable for their academic and fiscal performance. Accountability hawks – of which I
White Hat Management has been the Goliath of Ohio’s charter school operators since its first schools opened in 1999. The company currently operates 33 schools in the Buckeye State. White Hat’s CEO David Brennan was a pioneer in Ohio’s school-choice movement and his efforts in this realm have long faced criticism – some deserved and some not. In recent years White Hat’s schools have faced a series of legal and academic problems. Among them, the fact that none of White Hat’s schools are rated above a C on the state report card, increased competition resulting in lower enrollment, legal action brought against the company by the governing boards of some of the schools it operates, and a related fight over the disclosure of certain financial records.
These issues have made White Hat a fixture in the press, most recently with a report that the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) rejected four of six White Hat applications to the department to authorize new schools that were slated to open in the fall of 2012. (ODE is allowed to sponsor up to five new charter schools a year as part of a compromise in the biennial budget that made the department a charter authorizer almost a decade after being forced from that role by an earlier General Assembly.)
The rejection of the White Hat applications will come as a surprise to many observers because ODE has rarely challenged large, not to mention politically well-connected, operators. It appears, however, that the department has committed itself to quality and performance. Its rejection