In the early years of Ohio’s voucher programs, proponents of private school choice cautioned that schools wouldn’t participate if government asked too much of them in the way of regulations and accountability for student achievement. That was certainly a plausible theory at the time – after all, when the EdChoice Scholarship program launched in 2005, Ohio’s public schools were only just getting used to our increased battery of state tests. But evidence from a new report shows that the theory doesn’t hold true today, and that policymakers could pursue expanded accountability for private schools—especially when it comes to transparency about student achievement and progress.
The Fordham Institute’s national team commissioned David Stuit of Basis Policy Research and his colleague Sy Doan to examine closely thirteen existing voucher and tax credit scholarship programs and describe the nature and extent of their regulations as well as how many private schools participate in them (and how many do not). They also asked them to survey private schools in communities served by four of the country’s most prominent voucher programs (including EdChoice and the Cleveland Scholarship & Tutoring Program) to see how heavily regulations and program requirements weigh in schools’ decision whether to participate.
The result is the new Fordham report School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring. What does it tell us?
Specific to Ohio, Stuit and Doan determined that:
- Ohio’s voucher programs have the second-most extensive testing-and-accountability requirements of all programs in the nation.
- Considering a total of 10 factors,
We don’t know the fine-grain details of Governor Kasich’s education plan yet, but the early indicators are promising. Many of the state’s district superintendents have reacted positively to the plan—though, without specifics, their comments remain guarded. The plan also earned praise from economist Eric Hanushek of Stanford University, who calls the governor’s plan “a significant improvement in the financing of Ohio schools.” Hanushek adds, saying that Kasich “has targeted extra funding toward achievement and has set the stage for unleashing local innovation to boost student outcomes."
A few of the promising elements that may have sparked the interest of Hanushek and others include targeted funding for innovation, a revamped funding formula, and expansions for quality school choice. Specifically, in his plan, the governor has proposed to:
- Establish an innovation fund: Dubbed the “Straight A Fund,” this $300 million pot would provide competitive grants for one-time, innovation projects. As the Governor’s team presented it, these one-time projects may include, for example, retrofitting a school’s technology or establishing more efficient management systems.
- Provide facilities funding for charter schools: Currently, charter schools don’t receive state dollars for facilities, meaning that charters have to pay for facilities out of their operating fund. The governor’s plan provides $100 per-pupil funding to charters for facilities, which would free charters to spend more on classroom instruction.
- Broaden voucher eligibility to more low-income families: Tuition vouchers to attend private schools are currently only available to students who would otherwise
Growing quality charter schools requires strong charter school authorizers. That’s a key takeaway from Stanford University’s CREDO study, Charter School Growth and Replication, released yesterday. To assess charter school quality in 23 states (including Ohio) and the District of Columbia, CREDO examined over 2 million charter student records from 2005-06 to 2009-10.
A charter school authorizer, of which Fordham is one, has four primary responsibilities: (1) review charter applications, (2) contract with the charter school, (3) ensure compliance, and (4) renew or not renew the charter school’s contract based on school performance, especially academic performance. In each area of responsibility, except compliance, CREDO’s findings suggest that charter school authorizers must strengthen its practices to ensure a growing supply of high-quality charters. Three of CREDO’s findings, in particular, have relevance to charter authorizer practices.
First, CREDO found significant variation in the quality of charter school management networks, or CMOs (e.g., KIPP). Authorizers must be persnickety in the educational organizations with whom they contract—there are sour lemons as well as delicious apples in the CMO barrel. CREDO’s analysis discovered that the finest CMO networks (e.g. KIPP and Uncommon Schools) have large positive effects on students’ learning growth, while the lowest performing networks (e.g. White Hat and Responsive Education Solutions) have far less favorable effects on student learning. They also noted that charters that were supported by the Charter School Growth Fund “had significantly higher learning gains than other
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Special Ed Connection.
Charter school operators treasure their autonomy from the regular public school system. Thus, one might suppose that charter school officials in Ohio were glad that the state board of education's new policy on restraint and seclusion does not apply to them.
The policy was adopted January 15 by a vote of 12-4. An accompanying rule is now being reviewed by a legislative committee.
In fact, charter schools didn't ask to be exempted and were surprised the board left them out, according to Stephanie Klupinski, vice president for legislative and legal affairs at the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
"It's not entirely clear to me why charters were not included in the policy," she said. "It could be just an oversight."
Charter schools weren't looking for an out, agreed Terry Ryan, vice president for Ohio programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
The institute is a supporter of the charter schools movement and a sponsor, i.e., authorizer, of several Ohio charters.
Adopting limits on the use of restraint and seclusion by districts "was the proper and appropriate move for the state board to make," Ryan said, and "as a matter of principle, it should extend to the charter schools."
Any such extension should take into account the particular needs of the charter school community, Ryan said.
For example, it is not clear how such a policy would work at a charter