Charters & Choice

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Overview

Charters & Choice

Over the past two decades, charter schools have emerged as the fastest growing form of school choice, outpacing other alternatives such as vouchers, magnet schools, and homeschooling. Charters have also become a touchstone for how people feel about a host of related issues: job protections for teachers, the role of elected school boards and teachers unions, and the privatization of schools. The materials compiled in this Topics section examine the ways charter schools and other school choice options play out in the education process.

Over the past two decades, charter schools have emerged as the fastest growing form of school choice, outpacing other alternatives such as vouchers, magnet schools, and homeschooling. Charters have also become a touchstone for how people feel about a host of related issues: job protections for teachers, the role of elected school boards and teachers unions, and the privatization of schools. The materials compiled in this Topics section examine the ways charter schools and other school choice options play out in the education process.

Charter schools are publicly funded but run by independent boards. Usually, their teachers are not unionized and the operators do not have to adhere to all of same government regulations as district schools. Critics of charter schools argue they represent an attack on the public education system, erode the power of school boards and teachers unions, and can drain traditional schools of resources and more motivated families. Supporters say charter schools’ relative freedom from traditional strictures allows them to “innovate” by lengthening the school day or experimenting with the curriculum, for example. Supporters also maintain charters provide families, particularly poor ones, with more options and, at their best, spur the rest of the public system to improve.

Historical Developments

The nation’s first modern charter school opened in 1992 in St. Paul, Minn., after that state became the first to pass legislation paving the way for the quasi-public, quasi-private schools. At the time of their inception, charter schools attracted politically diverse supporters with very different motivations. Some, including former American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker, hoped the schools might empower teachers to come together around a shared vision. Others, including William Bennett, the secretary of education under President Ronald Reagan, hoped charters would create an educational “marketplace” and challenge the government’s virtual monopoly on running schools. Those same tensions over the purpose of charters persist today.

Charter schools have grown rapidly in number since 1992, as most states have adopted legislation allowing for their creation. Charters proliferated in the wake of several unsuccessful efforts to create or expand school voucher programs—which direct public funds to private schools —in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Many state lawmakers, particularly Republicans, saw charters as a more politically viable means of introducing choice and competition into the public education sphere. In 2010, several states lifted their caps on the number of charter schools to compete more aggressively for a share of the $4.35 billion offered through the federal Race to the Top fund; U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan decided that states without restrictions on charter school growth would be favored in the application process. By 2011, only 10 states did not have some form of charter school law in place, and the number of students attending the independently run schools topped two million—up from 1.1 million five years earlier.

Charter school laws vary considerably among states. They differ in terms of who can approve and start a charter school, the length of the contract, and whether the teachers can belong to unions. About 12 percent of charter schools nationally were unionized as of 2010. Typically, state laws will spell out who can authorize charter schools: Most often state departments of education and local school boards serve as authorizers, although in some states universities, nonprofits, community groups and other governmental entities can as well. An independent charter board usually signs a contract—or “charter”—with the authorizer detailing the school’s plan and the performance goals it agrees to live up to over a set time frame.

Current Issues

In recent years, much of the debate over charter schools has focused on their performance, which most researchers concur is not significantly better or worse than traditional public schools, on average. One significantly comprehensive multi-state study found that 17 percent of charter schools outperformed traditional schools in reading and math on state achievement tests; 37 percent performed worse; and the rest, nearly half, performed about the same. That finding has hardly put the debate about charter schools to rest, however. Critics pointedly note that charter schools have failed to transform public education and continue to draw outsized attention and private funding given what they see as mediocre results. But charter supporters home in on the hundreds of charter schools that are outperforming their traditional counterparts, arguing that it’s these outliers whose work and approach should — and can — be replicated.

Charter schools’ education philosophy, curriculum, popularity, and funding vary just as much as their results. Some charters are highly structured, while others have adopted progressive educational approaches, including Montessori and project-based learning. Some have waiting lists of hundreds of students, while others struggle to fill their seats. And some receive millions of dollars from private donors or foundations, while others spend less per pupil than traditional schools.

About 30 percent of charter schools are overseen by charter management organizations (CMOs) or education management organizations (EMOs): groups that run multiple schools, sometimes in a single geographic area and other times across different cities or states. EMOs manage a set of schools, usually imposing curriculum choices from the top down. EMOs do not always manage just charter schools, and they are more likely to be for-profit than CMOs.

Charter management organizations tend to function less like businesses than EMOs; CMO schools are united more by a shared educational philosophy than a particular business structure. When a CMO runs multiple schools in the same city or geographic area, the schools typically share “central office” or “back office” services, however. A majority of the nation’s charter schools — about 70 percent — are unaffiliated with management organizations. But CMO-led schools are growing at a faster rate than other types of charter schools, and many people consider them to be the future of the charter school movement, particularly in cities. A string of recent reports put out by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington scrutinized the sustainability of charter management organizations, which often rely on private funding sources and require their staffs to work longer school days. The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) is one of the best known CMOs; in early 2012, it operated 109 schools in 20 states.

The charter school movement also faces increasing scrutiny over whether authorizers have been aggressive enough in closing poor and mediocre charter schools, particularly because the premise of charters is that they trade greater autonomy for greater accountability. About 15 percent of charter schools have been forced to close, according to one charter advocacy organization.

Finally, in a few cities, charter schools are expanding so significantly they could take over the entire system within a few years. In New Orleans and Youngstown, Ohio, more than half of the city public schoolchildren attend charters; in three other cities, more than a third do so. For anti-charter activists, such rapid growth raises concerns about privatization and the wholesale displacement of elected school boards and teachers unions. Meanwhile, advocates hope the long-term results in cities like New Orleans and Youngstown will prove charters can effectively educate urban schoolchildren at scale.

Other Types of Choice

Voucher programs let families send their children to private schools using government-funded tuition vouchers. Usually, voucher programs are limited to low-income families or students with special needs. The first modern voucher program started in Milwaukee in 1990. A coalition of African-American Democrats in the city and conservative leaders at the state level fought for the program. Voucher debates often produce unlikely political coalitions: Backers who see school choice for poor families as a social justice issue are often joined by those who favor a market-oriented approach to education. There are currently several voucher programs across the country, including in the District of Columbia, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin. As with charter schools, the research on vouchers is very mixed. The limited data that exist suggest the academic impact of vouchers is negligible.

Tuition tax credits provide tax incentives for contributions to organizations that provide privately funded scholarships for students who want to attend private schools. In other forms, voucher-like tax credits offer parents who choose private schools some return on their costs. About a dozen states have some form of private school tax-credit program, including Arizona, Florida, and Iowa. Such programs have sometimes been described as “backdoor vouchers” because they create a more indirect mechanism for public money to subsidize private schools. Unlike vouchers, they are usually not limited to low-income or disabled students. Like charters, tax credit programs proliferated in the late 1990s and early 2000s as school choice backers discovered they were more politically palatable than vouchers.

Magnet schools usually have a specific theme or curricular focus, like the arts or technology, and draw students from throughout a city or geographic region. Magnets originated in the 1970s as part of voluntary and mandatory desegregation efforts across the country. The theory was that magnets would be able to attract diverse student bodies more easily than most neighborhood schools. In some cities magnets have selective admissions, meaning students have to audition or take a test to get in; in others they are open to all regardless of ability. Magnets declined in political popularity after the 1980s, when many states and cities started to dismantle school desegregation programs and charter schools began to flourish. Although their growth has stalled, magnet schools still exist in about 30 states and enroll about two million students, approximately the same number as charter schools.

Additional forms of school choice include home schooling, virtual schools, and interdistrict transfer programs.

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After WBUR’s Peter Balonon-Rosen asked a Boston school about why it suspended 68 kindergartners – roughly 11 percent of all early-grade suspensions in Massachusetts – the school banned suspensions for kindergartners.

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January 21-28
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Too Little, Too Late

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Charters And School Choice Challenged In Washington State, Nevada

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In the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling that its new charter school law was unconstitutional, Washington lawmakers have approved a creative fiscal workaround that could allow the public but largely independent schools to remain open. 

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New York City is one of the world’s great melting pots — so why aren’t efforts to diversify its schools taking hold?

As one of several Chalkbeat New York writers contributing to a new series, Patrick Wall is taking a close look at how school choice is playing out in the nation’s largest school district.

He spoke with EWA Public Editor Emily Richmond about some of the complexities of New York CIty’s multilayered approach for sorting students, and shared ideas for local reporters looking to dive into the data on school diversity in their own communities.

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Prime Minister David Cameron has said he would like every government-funded school in England to be a free school or academy by 2020. At present, they represent 60 percent of the country’s roughly 2,000 state-supported secondary schools.

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December 10-17
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Can Kicking Down Conventions Close the Achievement Gap?

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At High Tech High School in San Diego, there are no bells that signal the start of class periods. There are no seven-period days, no mock standardized assessments and no lectures.

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Deeper Learning, Smarter Testing

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Since 2003, more information is produced every two days than the total sum of information produced between that year and the dawn of time, the CEO of Google said in 2010.  Easily web-accessible facts, names and articles have grown exponentially, so much so that some say students can’t be taught like they were in the past, when rote memorization was the gold standard for learning and information wasn’t at almost everyone’s fingertips.

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#EWAElection Tweets: Pre-K-12 Education in the 2016 Race

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EWA Radio

Why Did the Feds’ School Improvement Grant Program Fall Short?
EWA Radio: Episode 48

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Education reporter Caitlin Emma (Politico Pro) spoke with EWA Radio about her deep dive into the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, which invested more than $4 billion into efforts to turn around some of the nation’s lowest achieving schools.

Report

State Capacity to Support School Turnaround
Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

More than 80 percent of states made turning around low-performing schools a high priority, but at least 50 percent found it very difficult to turn around low-performing schools. 38 states (76 percent) reported significant gaps in expertise for supporting school turnaround in 2012, and that number increased to 40 (80 percent) in 2013.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

State, Local Election Results Signal Shifts for Ed. Policy

Image of State, Local Election Results Signal Shifts for Ed. Policy

Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core, but with a new Republican governor elected Tuesday who opposes the standards for English language arts and math, that pioneering legacy could be upended.

Key Coverage

Left Behind: The Unintended Consequences Of School Choice

Once a powerhouse Class AAAA school, North Charleston High can barely field sports teams anymore. Half of its classrooms sit empty. Saddled with a reputation for fights, drugs, gangs and students who can’t learn, middle-class families no longer give it a chance.

This is the unintended consequence of school choice.

Two-thirds of students in its attendance zone now flee to myriad magnets, charters and other school choices that beckon the brightest and most motivated from schools like this one.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Will Washington State’s Supreme Court Ruling End Charter Schools?

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Washington’s new charter school law was ruled unconstitutional Friday by the state’s Supreme Court, “creating chaos for the hundreds of families whose children have already started classes,” the Seattle Times reported.

EWA Radio

Summer Reading List: “The Prize”
EWA Radio: Episode 38

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In 2010, billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced an unprecedented gift: he would donate $100 million to the public school district of Newark, New Jersey (dollars that would eventually be matched by private partners).

Dale Russakoff, a longtime reporter for The Washington Post, spent more than three years reporting on what turned into a massive experiment in top-down educational interventions—with decidedly mixed results. 

Seminar

69th EWA National Seminar

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The Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover education, is thrilled to announce that its annual conference will take place from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in the historic city of Boston.

Co-hosted by Boston University’s College of Communication and School of Education, EWA’s 69th National Seminar will examine a wide array of timely topics in education — from early childhood through career — while expanding and sharpening participants’ skills in reporting and storytelling.

Boston, Massachusetts
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Parachutes and Shoe Leather: Reporting on New Orleans’ Schools

Image of Parachutes and Shoe Leather: Reporting on New Orleans’ Schools

It would be difficult to find an education writer who has put in more time, or produced more nuanced stories, examining the big changes in New Orleans’ public schools sector than Sarah Carr. She spent seven years covering the post-hurricane education landscape, and its transition to nearly all charter schools.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

ACLU Sues to Block Nevada’s School Choice Law

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The ACLU of Nevada has announced that it will challenge the state’s new, high-profile “education savings account” law. The measure would provide up to approximately $5,000 per child in public dollars to pay for school choice –including private or parochial school tuition — as well as other educational expenses.

The Nevada law has drawn national notice, as experts consider it unprecedented in scope, since most families in the state are eligible to participate.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

National Education Polls Tell Two Stories, Impact on Elections Tough to Gauge

Image of National Education Polls Tell Two Stories, Impact on Elections Tough to Gauge

Getting a read on the American public’s views on education is no easy task, made more complicated by just how much local schools vary. In a country with more than 13,000 school districts that enroll nearly 50 million students, a range of experiences and perspectives are to be expected.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

After Katrina: New Orleans Schools Fight to Flourish

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A decade after the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, the city continues its struggle to recover. Most of the local public schools were replaced by (public) charter schools in the wake of the storm. This dramatic shift in the city’s public education “system” is firmly in the national spotlight as an ongoing experiment in school choice and reform.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

A Look at Latino Charter School Students in California

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“The spread of charter schools throughout the East Bay and California is often viewed as a blessing or curse, depending on whom you ask,” a recent Contra Costa Times article begins. 

But among Latinos in the area, it would appear to be the former, according to the newspaper’s analysis of charter school demographics in Oakland, California, where charter schools have seen their enrollment nearly triple over the past decade. 

Multimedia

Trends in Charter School Finance
2015 EWA National Seminar

Trends in Charter School Finance

Funding for charter schools is a complex and divisive issue. Do charters get an equitable share of public dollars? How do school facilities fit into the equation, as well as private sources of support for the charter sector? What are recent evolutions in policy concerning charter finance and facilities, and what’s on the horizon?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Flavor of School Choice Policy Gains Ground in States

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The sweeping new school choice law in Nevada — or more precisely, educational choice law — has attracted significant national media coverage and analysis. Nevada public school families can apply to spend more than $5,000 in state aid per child on private school tuition or other educational expenses each year, including tutoring, online courses, textbooks, and even home-schooling.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

At Catholic High School, Chicago Students Earn While They Learn

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When Carolyn Alessio assigned her students to prepare to act out a trial to probe the themes of “Frankenstein,” she was surprised at what she found at the top of a few of their supporting documents — perfectly formatted docket numbers.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Chicago Students Soar at Noble Charter High School

Image of Chicago Students Soar at Noble Charter High School

The Noble Network of Charter Schools is arguably Chicago’s most famous charter chain. Despite having schools only in one city and operating exclusively at the high school level, charter advocates now consider Noble to be in the same tier as KIPP and Achievement First — national brands in the no-excuses charter arena.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Urban Schools Landscape: Lessons From Chicago

Image of The Urban Schools Landscape: Lessons From Chicago

Urban education leaders crammed a marathon of Chicago’s public education woes and wonders into a 45-minute session (more akin to a 5K race) at the Education Writers Association’s recent National Seminar in Chicago.

Sara Ray Stoelinga, the director of the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute, joined colleague Timothy Knowles for a breakfast panel titled “10 Lessons to Take Home From Chicago” at the EWA event.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Ten Questions to Ask on Nevada’s New School Choice Law

Image of Ten Questions to Ask on Nevada’s New School Choice Law

Nevada this week drew national attention after Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval signed legislation creating a universal school choice program that appears to be unprecedented in scope.

It’s what’s known as an “education savings account” program, though it’s similar in some respects to voucher initiatives. Or, as one analyst said, it’s akin to “a voucher on steroids.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Students, Teachers Thrive at U. of Chicago Charter School

Image of Students, Teachers Thrive at U. of Chicago Charter School

What’s most notable about the Chicago kindergarten class where assistant teacher Nichelle Bell is temporarily in charge is what is not happening. Teachers are not redirecting pupils, who are not off-task. Hands are not in other people’s spaces. Voices—those of children and adults—are not raised.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Charter Schools: Following the Money

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Reporters should pay attention not just to the amount of money charter schools receive but how they are spending it, reporter and moderator Sarah Carr said as she kicked off a session on charter school finance at the Education Writers Association’s recent National Seminar in Chicago.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Covering School Choice, On a Deadline

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When Lori Higgins of the Detroit Free Press began investigating for a series on charter schools, she and her colleagues gathered in a conference room at the Michigan Department of Education and started flipping through blue binders on every charter school in the state. The reporters pored over contracts and leases, filed Freedom of Information Act requests, visited schools, interviewed teachers, and had a data expert analyze student test scores.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Holding Charter Schools Accountable

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With charter schools serving about 6 percent of America’s public school students, most everyone — from teachers’ unions to researchers to right-leaning advocates — seems to agree that the publicly funded but independently run schools are here to stay. That much was clear from an Education Writers Association panel on the future of charter schools, held last month in Denver.

But what happens next is up for debate.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Charter School Quality Conundrum

Image of The Charter School Quality Conundrum

Charter schools increasingly are being scrutinized for the exact problem many advocates hoped they would help solve: poor student outcomes. How exactly to deal with those schools that do not meet academic expectations—or fail in other regards, such as employing questionable business practices or not being equitable in welcoming all students—have become key concerns.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Virtual Choices: Opportunities and Challenges for Online Schools

Image of Virtual Choices: Opportunities and Challenges for Online Schools

For students looking for greater flexibility in their learning environment, virtual schools can be a better option than a traditional bricks-and-mortar K-12 campus. But some online programs operating in more than two dozen states have come under scrutiny for reaping profits while yielding poor academic academic outcomes.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Two Authors, Two Views on Future of Charter Schools

Image of Two Authors, Two Views on Future of Charter Schools

Where are charter schools headed? Two authors offer different takes on the movement.

A pair of recent books provide notably different takes on the charter schools sector, including its strengths and weaknesses, as well as what the main focus of these public schools of choice should be.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Debating the Special Education Challenge in Charter Schools

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As the charter schools sector faces increased scrutiny for educating a smaller share of students with disabilities than traditional public schools, the conversation is increasingly focused on better understanding the reasons and looking for ways to improve the situation.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

On School Choice, Denver Grapples With Equity

Image of On School Choice, Denver Grapples With Equity

Denver Public Schools has made strides in creating educational choices for families in the city, but still has work ahead to make those choices accessible to everyone, experts and a district leader agreed during a panel discussion last week in Denver.

The district, with nearly 90,000 students, has a variety of school options and a single, uniform application process for attending any of the city’s public schools.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

10 Years After Katrina, What Are the K-12 Lessons From New Orleans?

Image of 10 Years After Katrina, What Are the K-12 Lessons From New Orleans?

Nearly a decade ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and, in doing so, catalyzed one of the most dramatic expansions of school choice in the country. With so many schools destroyed and students displaced, the state and city started from scratch.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Charters & Choice: EWA in Denver

Image of Charters & Choice: EWA in Denver

We spent two days in Denver last week talking about charter schools and choice with a wide range of academic experts, policymakers, and educators. 

Also presenting were journalists who recently undertook large-scale investigative reporting projects of the charter school world: David Jesse (representing the reporting team at the Detroit Free Press) and Dan Mihalopoulos of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Debate Over Private Schools and Public Funding

Top journo tweets from #EWAChoice’s fourth Saturday session.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Charter School Lessons in Post-Katrina New Orleans

Top tweets from #EWAChoice’s third Saturday session. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Do Parents in Cities with Many Charter Schools Get the Information They Need?

Top tweets from reporters about the second Saturday session of #EWAChoice. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Goes Into Charter School Quality and Accountability?

Top journo tweets about the first session of the second day of #EWAChoice. 

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Special Education and Charter Schools
Charters & Choice Seminar

Special Education and Charter Schools

A worrisome dimension of charter schooling is the oftentimes disproportionately low share of students with disabilities served by this sector of public education. Experts explore what explains the situation, what’s being done about it, and highlight examples where intensive work is underway to ensure that charters effectively serve the needs of all children, including those with disabilities.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Two Writers Give Tips on Covering Charter Schools

Top tweets from #EWAChoice’s fourth panel.

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Virtual Charter Schools

Top tweets about the panel on virtual charters at #EWAChoice

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Eye on Denver’s Charter and Choice Landscape

Top tweets from “Eye on Denver” — the second session at #EWAChoice

Blog: The Educated Reporter

School Choice Policy and Politics: What’s Ahead?

Top Tweets from #EWAChoice’s first session

Multimedia

School Choice Policy and Politics: What’s Ahead?
Charters & Choice Seminar

School Choice Policy and Politics: What’s Ahead?

Republican gains in the 2014 elections set the stage for a renewed push to expand school choice at the state and federal levels, including charter schools, vouchers, and tuition tax credits. What legislation is emerging and what stands the greatest likelihood of becoming law? To what extent will policymakers respond to concerns about quality and accountability in schools of choice?

Multimedia

Private Schools and Public Funding
Charters & Choice Seminar

Private Schools and Public Funding

Public policy efforts to expand private school choice continue to grow, and may well get a boost from GOP gains in the midterm elections last fall. From vouchers to tuition tax credits and education savings accounts, what’s happening, what’s on the horizon, and why? How do these initiatives vary across states and cities? What role does and should testing and accountability play in publicly subsidized choice initiatives? Where do key legal challenges stand?

Multimedia

Lessons From New Orleans
Charters & Choice Seminar

Lessons From New Orleans

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the storm that sparked an unprecedented experiment in public education in New Orleans. Nearly all public schools in the city are now charters. A decade in, what have we learned about the New Orleans experience and what lessons does it offer to other states and communities that are looking to ramp up the role of charters and choice in public education?

Multimedia

Eye on Denver
Charters & Choice Seminar

Eye on Denver

This city has developed a robust and diverse set of public school options for students, including several dozen charter schools as well as the district’s own “innovation” schools. Denver is also seen as a place, unlike many, where the district and the charter sectors play well together. What does school choice look like in Denver? How meaningful are the options for students? Is the choice landscape promoting equity?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

School Choice: Keeping Parents Informed

Image of School Choice: Keeping Parents Informed

When I was a beat reporter in Las Vegas, families were constantly on the move. And my phone was constantly ringing with parents all asking for the same information: What’s the best school in town, and how do I get my child enrolled? 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Sen. Alexander: Federal Dollars Should Follow Students

Image of Sen. Alexander: Federal Dollars Should Follow Students

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a leading Republican on education issues, delivered a pitch for expanding school choice, including by making federal Title I dollars “portable.” The idea, which is not exactly new, is that money under the $14.5 billion program for disadvantaged students would follow low-income children to the public school of their choice. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How One Charter Group Took a Start-Up Approach to Teaching

Image of How One Charter Group Took a Start-Up Approach to Teaching

At Summit Public School: Denali, young learners do it differently. Most of the students at this Bay Area-area school complete their coursework on school-issued Chromebooks, where they access a portal to online videos, assigned readings and interim assessments they take at their own pace. It’s a competency-based approach to proving they have mastered the subject at hand. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Charter Schools: How Does Your State Law Rate?

Image of Charter Schools: How Does Your State Law Rate?

Minnesota ranked at the top of an advocacy group’s list of states with the most flexible charter school laws, with Maryland coming in last in the nation.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The 2015 Education Beat: Common Core, Testing, School Choice

Image of The 2015 Education Beat: Common Core, Testing, School Choice

There’s a busy year ahead on the schools beat – I talked to reporters, policy analysts and educators to put together a cheat sheet to a few of the stories you can expect to be on the front burner in the coming months: 

Revamping No Child Left Behind

Webinar

How Do Reporters Answer the Question ‘What School Is Best for My Kid?’
Webinar on School Choice Data

How Do Reporters Answer the Question ‘What School Is Best for My Kid?’

Is there an objective way of presenting school data that transcends the politics of school choice?

How do reporters and news outlets more broadly serve their readership with relevant information about schools in their communities?

Report

How Parents Experience Public School Choice

This report examines parents’ experiences with public school choice across eight “high-choice” cities: Baltimore, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. In each city, researchers surveyed 500 public school parents (4,000 total) and collected data on the systems that shape how they navigate school choice, including the availability of information, the process of enrolling, and transportation options.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Impact Academy: Rethinking Student Assessment

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On a recent Wednesday morning, 11th-grader Sophia Wellington took to the undersized stage at the front of her high school gym and with seamless poise demonstrated what smarter student assessment could look like.

Seminar

Charters & Choice: Making Sense of the Fast-Evolving Landscape in K-12 Education
Journalist-Only Seminar

Image of Charters & Choice: Making Sense of the Fast-Evolving Landscape in K-12 Education

Charter schools. Vouchers. Education tax credits. The “portfolio” model of schooling in cities. It’s nearly impossible to find consensus on these hot-button issues, but one thing is clear: American families are seeing more school options at the K-12 level than ever before, especially in urban areas. And the Republican gains in the 2014 elections at the federal and state levels are widely expected to provide further impetus for expanding school choice.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Developments Signal More Growth for Charters

Image of New Developments Signal More Growth for Charters

The nation’s charter schools sector appears poised for still more growth — and potentially increased geographic diversity — as several states that have long resisted the push for charters may finally allow them. Also, a fresh round of federal grants and new expansion plans by charter networks are fueling the upward trend.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Five Questions For… NCEE’s Marc Tucker
On School Accountability, Teachers, and the Common Core

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Marc Tucker, president and chief executive of the National Center on Education and the Economy, recently unveiled a proposed accountability plan for public schools that includes significantly reducing the number of tests students take, and building extensive professional development time for teachers into every school day. He spoke with EWA.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Nashville Charter School Focuses on Neighborhood’s Needs

When LEAD Public Schools came into Nashville in 2010, they took over a campus that had seen a history of low performance and substantial overhauls. Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools intended to close the site – most recently occupied by Cameron Middle School – outright.

“This was a persistently struggling school for quite some time,” said Shaka Mitchell, who oversees public affairs for the Nashville charter network.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Catholic School Program Preps Minority Applicants

The small number of Latino and black students admitted to the elite high schools of the New York City public school system has been a source of frustration among civil rights leaders, families and other advocates for years. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Nashville Magnet School Students Sing Different Tune

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More than a few reporters at EWA’s National Seminar who signed up for the visit to Pearl Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School in Nashville suggested that the campus would certainly be infused with country music elements. Perhaps cowboy hats and boots on each student, with future Taylor Swifts and Scotty McCreerys singing their way through the halls – right?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Authorizer Effect: Creating High-Quality Charter Schools

The Authorizer Effect: Creating High-Quality Charter Schools

Can the quality of a charter school be determined by the entity providing the authorization?

While the research on this question has been mixed, education and policy analysts agree that charter school authorizers wield significant power – particularly when it comes to deciding to launch a school, or to shutter one that fails to meet expectations.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Happens When States Take Over School Districts?

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State takeover districts have been lauded as the savior of children left behind by inept local school boards — and derided as anti-democratic fireworks shows that don’t address the root causes of poor education. Three panelists took an hour during EWA’s National Seminar in Nashville to get beyond the flash and noise and discuss the real challenges of state school takeovers, a process all acknowledged is disruptive.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Will ‘Portfolio District Model’ Yield Returns on Investment?

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The idea has a simple, seductive appeal. Expand the things that work, cut short the things that don’t.

The notion, drawn from the investment world, has manifested itself in public education as the “Portfolio District Model.” Instead of managing stocks and bonds, school districts manage schools, creating or expanding successful ones, closing unsuccessful ones, focusing with zeal on academic results.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

An International Viewpoint on Vouchers

Image of An International Viewpoint on Vouchers

Do choice and competition improve education systems? Plenty of advocates and well-heeled foundations think so, underwriting research and efforts to bring more charter schools and voucher programs to fruition. But in Sweden, the market dynamics of school choice seem to have produced troubling results for the Scandinavian nation.

EWA Radio

Michigan’s Charter Schools: Detroit Free Press Digs Deep
EWA Radio, Episode 7

Image of Michigan’s Charter Schools: Detroit Free Press Digs Deep

A year-long investigation into Michigan’s charter schools by the Detroit Free Press uncovered wasteful spending, cozy contracts, and missed opportunities to shut down long-struggling campuses, according to the newspaper.

Key Coverage

Florida’s Charter Schools: Unsupervised Investigation

Unchecked charter-school operators are exploiting South Florida’s public school system, collecting taxpayer dollars for schools that quickly shut down.

A recent spate of charter-school closings illustrates weaknesses in state law: virtually anyone can open or run a charter school and spend public education money with near impunity, a Sun Sentinel investigation found.

Multimedia

The Authorizer Effect

The Authorizer Effect

Whether it’s a curriculum that makes religion the fourth “R,” a principal who steers lucrative contracts to family members, or test scores that remain stuck in the cellar, charter schools often make the news for all the wrong reasons. Analysts have long seen a connection between problem charters and the process for deciding who gets a charter to operate in the first place. But how much difference does the quality of charter authorizing actually make? Have efforts to strengthen charter authorizing been effective, and if so, where?

Multimedia

Achieving a New State: A Look at State Turnaround Districts

Achieving a New State: A Look at State Turnaround Districts

More places are experimenting with state-run initiatives to address chronically low-performing public schools. Converting such schools to charters is among the strategies these state-led districts employ. We showcase leading examples of the trend, including the Achievement School District in Tennessee. Observers also comment on the Louisiana Recovery School District and the Michigan Education Achievement Authority. How well are their strategies working?

Report

The State of Charter School Authorizing 2013
National Association of Charter School Authorizers

“The authorizing field passed a notable milestone 2013, exceeding one thousand active charter school authorizers. The ranks have grown with impressive speed, from 712 in 2008 to 1,045 in 2013, a 47 percent increase in just five years.”

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: Connecticut Charter Schools are Highly Segregated

A new report on Connecticut charter school enrollment concludes that few are achieving the goal of ethnic and racial integration — even though state laws call on charter schools to reduce segregation.

The study by Connecticut Voices for Children also found that few English Language Learners are enrolled in charter schools.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Study: New York Schools Most Segregated in Nation

New York City may be renown as a melting pot, but a new study reveals that the city’s schools are not the picture of diversity.

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA released a report this week, ”New York State’s Extreme School Segregation: Inequality, Inaction and a Damaged Future,” examining segregation trends between 1989 and 2010. 

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Study of LA Charter Schools Finds Hispanic Gains

Hispanic students who attend Los Angeles charter schools make greater gains in reading and math over the course of a year than their Hispanic peers in traditional public schools, according to a new study. 

The study, “Charter School Performance in Los Angeles,” was conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Polls Show Americans Frustrated With State of Education

New Polls Show Americans Frustrated With State of Education

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, EWA’s Emily Richmond talks with Phi Delta Kappa’s Bill Bushaw about a new Gallup/PDK poll on attitudes toward public education. Watch it here!

The PDK/Gallup poll generated some media buzz, and when viewed alongside two other education polls released this week, reveals a populace that has an ambivalent view on the state of U.S. schools. 

Catch up with news coverage of the polls’ results and responses from stakeholders below:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Dissecting the Data on Charter Schools

A new study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) concludes that charter school students in some states are making respectable academic gains while others are falling behind their peers at traditional public schools. (You’ll find a handy aggregation of the media coverage at EdMedia Commons.) The new CREDO report, like much of the charter schools research, is expected to spur criticism of its methodology and findings.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Study Finds Early Predictors of Charter School Success

A charter school’s performance in its first three years of operation is a solid predictor of the program’s long-term chances of success, a new study by Stanford University researchers concludes.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Rates States’ Laws

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an advocacy organization, has released its new report “Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Charter School Laws.” States were ranked based on a variety of factors including how difficult it is for charters to get up and running, whether states allow multiple authorizers (which typically means organizers have more opportunities to win approval), and whether there is a cap on the total number of charter schools allowed to operate.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Charter Schools Hit Milestone Twenty Years in the Making

The number of charter schools in the United States has topped 6,000 for the first time since the first independently operated public campus launched 20 years ago.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Election Results: Charter Schools Have Narrow Lead in Washington State, Missouri Says No To Tobacco Tax Hike for Education

There will be plenty of discussion in the coming days and weeks about what a second-term Obama administration will mean for education. But first I wanted to follow up on some statewide initiatives and ballot contests mentioned here earlier in the week:

EdMedia Commons Archive

Five Questions For … Nina Rees, Newly Named President and CEO of the National Alliance For Public Charter Schools

Image of Five Questions For … Nina Rees, Newly Named President and CEO of the National Alliance For Public Charter Schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, representing 5,600 schools in 41 states and the District of Columbia, has announced the appointment of Nina Rees as the organization’s new president and chief executive officer. Rees previously served as first assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement at the U.S. Department of Education, and more recently spent more than six years as senior vice president for strategic initiatives for Knowledge Universe, a global education company.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Parent Trigger: Too Much Firepower for Public Education?

There’s a significant buzz out of Florida regarding proposed legislation that would enact a so-called “Parent Trigger:” Dissatisfied families could vote to have a local public school undergo significant restructuring including being converted to a charter school or turned over to a private operator.

Similar legislation has passed in California and Texas, not without controversy and ensuing conflict, and Indiana is also considering enacting a parent trigger.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

More on U.S. News’ ‘Best High Schools:’ Top-Ranked Campuses Include Magnets, Charters

Among the top 20 campuses in U.S. News & World Report’s new rankings for the “Best High Schools” were two magnet schools and four charter schools, indicating that some students are indeed thriving in alternative public education environments.

Report

2014 Survey of America’s Charter Schools
The Center for Education Reform

The report provides an in-depth analysis of charter schools students, operations, and teachers. It discusses trends over time in size and scope; demographics; finance and operations; and academic programs of charter schools and insights into why these independent schools are in such high demand. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

States Add Flexibility, Accountability to Charter School Laws

A new report ranking states based on the transparency, accountability and flexibility of their charter school laws puts Minnesota in first place, with hat-tips to Idaho, Indiana and Mississippi for making strides toward giving families and students more choices in public education.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Do Small Schools Work for Latinos?

Former New York CIty Mayor Michael Bloomberg viewed breaking up large failing high schools and creating smaller ones as one potential remedy to closing the achievement gap.

Now his successor, newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio will have the opportunity to reverse the program.

In a commentary piece for Education Week, University of California, Berkeley education professor Bruce Fuller writes that many of the smaller campuses just furthered segregation by race and class. Small schools sometimes have just 200 students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

‘Rebirth’: New Documentary Explores NOLA’s Charter Schools

Charter school enrollment has soared 80 percent in five years, according to a new report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

EWA Radio

Knowing Their Choices: Assessing Efforts to Inform Parents

More parents are facing educational choices they never had before. Privileged families have always successfully navigated the complexities around schools, but lower-income families haven’t necessarily done so. What new ways are being tried to get information in the hands of a broader array of parents? As organizations step in to  offer guidance, reporters can learn from the processes they use.

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Choice and Competition: Improving or Undermining Public Education?

Choice and Competition: Improving or Undermining Public Education?

Is there evidence that empowering all parents to choose among competing schools—district-run, charter, and private—leads to better outcomes for students? Will a critical mass of charter schools in a community be a catalyst for positive change or for school closings that leave students behind? Advocates with different views debate whether competition threatens to destroy public education or is strengthening it one school at a time. Panelists include Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers and Kevin P. Chavous of the American Federation for Children.

EWA Radio

Dissecting the Data on Charter Schools

 Research  around charter schools seems rarely neutral. How do you navigate it with use of data? Two researchers will offer insight on how to cut through the spin and look at the real numbers behind how charter school students are performing and what kinds of students charter schools are serving.

EWA Radio

Should Funding and Facilities Follow the Child?

Charter advocates are pushing for greater access to facilities and more equitable funding. At the same time, some school districts are seeing steep budget cuts, and in some cases facing bankruptcy, in part because of a shift of students and funding to charter schools. We explore a range of perspectives on this complicated issue.

EWA Radio

Should Funding and Facilities Follow the Child?

Charter advocates are pushing for greater access to facilities and more equitable funding. At the same time, some school districts are seeing steep budget cuts, and in some cases facing bankruptcy, in part because of a shift of students and funding to charter schools. We explore a range of perspectives on this complicated issue.

Multimedia

Charter Schools’ Role in Turnaround and Transformation

Charter Schools’ Role in Turnaround and Transformation

How does the charter school model factor into efforts to turn around low-achieving campuses? Why haven’t more charter management organizations signed on for school turnarounds? What questions should reporters be asking when faced with conflicting data on charter school performance?

EWA Radio

Charter Schools’ Role in Turnaround and Transformation

How does the charter school model factor into efforts to turn around low-achieving campuses? Why haven’t more charter management organizations signed on for school turnarounds? What questions should reporters be asking when faced with conflicting data on charter school performance?

Key Coverage

Charter School Performance Study Finds Small Gains

Charter students on the whole end the school year with reading skills eight instructional days ahead of public school kids, and perform at about the same rate as public school students in math, according to the study released Tuesday by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Parents Want to Know About School Choice: Tips for Reporters

At EWA’s 66th National Seminar, held at Stanford last month, we examined the challenge of how reporters can best evaluate charter school research in a session moderated by the Huffington Post’s Joy Resmovits. We asked some of the education reporters attending the seminar to contribute blog posts from the sessions.

Report

National Charter School Study 2013

In the aggregate, charter school students in the 26 states in the new study gained an additional 8 days of learning each year in reading beyond their local peers in traditional public schools. The 2009 study found a loss of 7 days each year in reading among the students in the 16 states. In mathematics, charter school students in 2009 posted 22 fewer days of learning than their traditional public school counterparts; today there exists no significant difference in days of learning.

Organization

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, based in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit organization that works to improve “the academic and operational quality of public charter schools so that ‘charter’ is recognized as a reliable brand, [clear] the legislative path for increased growth so high-quality charter schools can meet parent demand, [and secure] the sustainability of charter schools by moving toward fiscal equity in public funding, particularly for charter facilities.”

Organization

National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education

The National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education aims “to provide an independent, non-partisan source of analysis and information on privatization in education.” In addition to their own research regarding the charter school movement, the NCSPE also tracks news coverage of charter schools, linking to stories nationwide. The Center is based at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Organization

National Association of Charter School Authorizers

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers, headquartered in Chicago, works to ensure that the groups establishing and operating charter schools have the resources and support to educate children. The “Authorizer Comparison” tool, an interactive map which details state-by-state the statistics for charter schools, is one of the many useful reporting resources available on the association’s site.

Organization

Center for Research on Education Outcomes

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes, originally established at Rochester University in 1999 and now based at Stanford University, looks at education reform “with an emphasis on rigorous program and policy analysis as the means of informing and improving education decision making.” Their 2009 report that found that students at charter schools nationwide overall performed at the same level or worse than those in traditional public schools is one of the landmarks in the discussion of charter schools.

Organization

Center on Reinventing Public Education

Founded in 1993 at the University of Washington, the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s “work is based on two premises: that public schools should be measured against the goal of educating all children well, and that current institutions too often fail to achieve this goal.” Their National Charter School Research Project and District-Charter Collaboration Compacts are valuable resources for journalists covering school choice issues.

Organization

Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice advocates for universal school choice, which it sees as “the most effective and equitable way to improve the quality of K-12 education in America.” According to its mission statement, the organization was “founded upon the ideals and theories of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman and economist Rose D. Friedman.” Among other activities, the organization keeps close tabs nationally on legislation and laws related to private school choice, particularly vouchers and tax credit scholarships. 

 

Organization

Black Alliance for Educational Options

The Black Alliance for Educational Options, based in Washington, D.C. and founded in 2000, “firmly believes parental choice programs, which lead to the creation of quality educational options, not only rescue the children who can take advantage of such opportunities but also create powerful incentives for all schools, public and private, to improve.”

Organization

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform “is a national policy-research and reform support organization that promotes quality education for all children, especially in urban communities. The Institute’s primary lines of inquiry include school transformation, college and career readiness, and extended learning time.” Founded in 1993 and based at Brown University, their research on school turnarounds often examines charters and other choice options

Blog: The Educated Reporter

For Charter Schools, Demand for More Success – And Seats

A new report from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) is likely to provide plenty of ammunition for both supporters and critics of the independently operated, public-funded campuses.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Guest Post: Choice and Competition – Improving or Undermining Public Education?

Guest Post: Choice and Competition – Improving or Undermining Public Education?

We asked some of the journalists attending EWA’s 66th National Seminar, held at Stanford University in May, to contribute posts from the sessions. You can find additional content, including video, at EdMedia Commons.

Key Coverage

UNO Charter Teachers Vote to Unionize

Teachers at one of Chicago’s largest charter-school networks — run by the United Neighborhood Organization — have voted to organize into a union.

Key Coverage

Internal Recording Reveals K12 Inc. Struggled to Comply With Florida Law

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and StateImpact Florida have obtained internal emails and a recording of a company meeting that provide new insight into allegations that K12 Inc., the nation’s largest online education company, uses teachers in Florida who do not have all of the required state certifications. 

Key Coverage

How Diverse Schools Could Help Fight the Worst Effects of Gentrification

Long-segregated schools in urban American might finally, if uneasily integrate.

Key Coverage

With Vouchers, States Shift Aid for Schools to Families

A growing number of lawmakers across the country are taking steps to redefine public education, shifting the debate from the classroom to the pocketbook

Key Coverage

L.A. charter school aims to toss out students with fake addresses

Officials at Carpenter Community Charter, a top-notch elementary, think 120 children are enrolled fraudulently. They want to make room for students who live in the neighborhood

Key Coverage

D.C. Debates Growth of Charter Schools

It’s the latest sign that the District is on track to become a city where a majority of children are educated not in traditional public schools but in public charters: A California nonprofit group has proposed opening eight D.C. charter schools that would enroll more than 5,000 students by 2019.

Key Coverage

Class Struggle: How Carter Schools Get Students They Want

Students may be asked to submit a 15-page typed research paper, an original short story, or a handwritten essay on the historical figure they would most like to meet. There are interviews. Exams. And pages of questions for parents to answer, including: How do you intend to help this school if we admit your son or daughter?
These aren’t college applications. They’re applications for seats at charter schools.

Key Coverage

Investigation Uncovers Non-Certified Teachers at Muskegon Heights New Charter School

Teachers in Michigan need some kind of certificate or permit to teach. Whether it’s in a public school or a charter school, it doesn’t matter; it’s Michigan law.

Report

Shuttered Public Schools: The Struggle to Bring Old Buildings New Life

Large-scale public school closures have become a fact of life in many American cities, and that trend is not likely to stop now. In a previous study, The Pew Charitable Trusts looked at a wide range of issues involved in the shuttering of buildings, including the impact on students. For this report, we focused on what happens to the buildings themselves, studying the experiences of Philadelphia and 11 other cities that have decommissioned large numbers of schools in recent years.

Key Coverage

Four Texas Charter School Proposals Contain Copied Passages

Four groups vying to open Texas charter schools turned in applications last year that had sections copied from other applications, even claiming parts of another school’s public hearing summary as their own.

Report

Charter School Growth and Replication

CREDO’s study “test[s] the idea that new charters hit their mark early in their operations and do not vary much after that.”

Key Coverage

Classes a la carte: States Test a New School Model

Call it the a la carte school. The model, now in practice or under consideration in states including Louisiana, Michigan, Arizona and Utah, allows students to build a custom curriculum by selecting from hundreds of classes offered by public institutions and private vendors. A teenager in Louisiana, for instance, might study algebra online with a private tutor, business in a local entrepreneur’s living room, literature at a community college and test prep with the national firm Princeton Review – with taxpayers picking up the tab for it all.

Key Coverage

Vouchers Gain Foothold Among State, Local Democrats

But at the state and local levels, Democrats’ views on vouchers are more diverse and nuanced than what is suggested by the party’s national platform, which makes no mention of private school choice, or by the policies of the Obama administration, which has consistently opposed providing public money for private school costs. Some Democrats see vouchers as offering an escape hatch for students who would otherwise be forced to stay in academically struggling public schools.

Key Coverage

Teachers Unions’ Alliance with Democratic Party Frays

Teachers unions have been the Democratic Party’s foot soldiers for more than half a century, providing not only generous financial backing but an army of volunteers in return for support of their entrenched power in the nation’s public schools.
But this relationship is fraying, and the deterioration was evident Monday as Democrats gathered here for their national convention.

Key Coverage

Competition for Students Squeezes Parochial Schools

The nation’s Roman Catholic schools have labored for decades under increasingly adverse economic and demographic conditions, which have undermined their finances and sapped their enrollment. Today, researchers and supporters say those schools face one of their most complex challenges yet: the continued growth of charter schools.
Since they first opened two decades ago, charter schools have emerged as competitors to Catholic schools for reasons connected to school systems’ missions, their academic models, and the populations they serve.

Key Coverage

National PTA Revises Policy on Charter Schools

“The National Parent Teacher Association has revamped its policy to make it clear that it supports giving entities other than local school boards the right to approve charter schools, a new position the group argues will increase its ability to shape policy within the diverse and growing sector of independent public schools.”

Key Coverage

LAUSD Fights Court Order to Give More Space to Charter Schools

Los Angeles school officials are fighting a court order, which took effect Wednesday, that would set aside more classroom seats for charter schools — even if that means traditional schools will lose space for parent centers, computer labs, academic intervention and other services.

Report

School Choice Demonstration Project School Choice Demonstration Project (An Evaluation of Milwaukee’s Voucher Program)

These ongoing studies from the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform analyze several aspects of Milwaukee’s voucher programs, including parent satisfaction, student results, and fiscal impact. While they found parent satisfaction levels were high, they reported little evidence students in the voucher program were doing significantly better or worse in school than students in the traditional public system.

Report

National Charter School Research Project

The main study in this ongoing series by the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education evaluated the student demographics, learning practices and results at charter schools run by CMOs. Among other findings, its authors conclude that CMO-run school serve higher percentages of low-income, minority students than traditional schools but fewer children with special needs; and that CMO-run schools with comprehensive student behavior plans perform better than those without such plans in place.

Key Coverage

Education Week’s Charter School Page

This page provides links to Education Week’s latest news and coverage of charter schools.

Key Coverage

Florida Charter Schools: Big Money, Little Oversight

This 2011 investigative three-part series examined the proliferation of for-profit companies running charter schools in Florida, and the student demographics at charter v. traditional schools in that state.

Key Coverage

Charter Schools, Broken Promises

EWA 2010 National Reporting Contest winner. This investigative report examined the reasons Alabama’s 2010 Race to the Top application scored the fewest points of any state. It dispels the rumor that the status of  charter schools hurt the state’s bid for federal money: Only 40 points were at stake if the state heralded in more charters, which would have helped the state finish second to last in the RTT competition instead of last.

The article concludes that the state’s application writers missed many steps, and failed to consult key constituent groups, including labor organizations. 

Key Coverage

Despite Push, Success at Charter Schools is Mixed

This 2010 story contrasted a successful charter school in New York City with a struggling one in Cleveland and scrutinized the challenges in replicating the highest performing charters.

Report

The Evaluation of Charter School Impacts

This 2010 study looked at student results in 36 charter middle schools across 15 states. Overall, it found charter school students learned at about the same rate as students in comparable traditional schools.

Key Coverage

The Challenge of Choice

This five-part series published in 2009 followed four families through the process of selecting and enrolling in schools in the city with the nation’s highest percentage of charters. It explored how socioeconomic class, connections and parent schedules can all affect a family’s capacity to find a quality school.

Key Coverage

Private School Tax Credits Rife with Abuse

This investigative series exposed corruption in Arizona’s private school tuition tax credit program. It showed that families who could already afford the cost of private schools were among the biggest beneficiaries of the program, which failed to increase minority student access to private options

Report

The New York City Charter Schools Evaluation Project

This 2009 study found that students who won admission to New York City’s charter schools (through random lotteries) performed better over time than students who did not win admission and remained in traditional schools.

Key Coverage

Even With Charter Schools, Alabama Would Have Flunked Race to the Top

EWA 2010 National Reporting Contest winner. This investigative report examined the reasons Alabama’s 2010 Race to the Top application scored the fewest points of any state. It dispels the rumor that the status of  charter schools hurt the state’s bid for federal money: Only 40 points were at stake if the state heralded in more charters, which would have helped the state finish second to last in the RTT competition instead of last.

Report

Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States

This 2009 study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes evaluated charter school performance across several states. It found that 17 percent of charter schools outperformed traditional schools; 37 percent performed worse; and the rest, nearly half, performed about the same.

Report

The Forgotten Choice? Rethinking Magnet Schools in a Changing Landscape

This 2008 study from UCLA’s The Civil Rights Project primarily scrutinized the student demographics of magnet schools as opposed to charter schools, concluding that charter schools are more racially segregated, on average, than magnets

Key Coverage

Lessons from the Voucher Schools

In 2005, reporters visited nearly all of the schools in Milwaukee’s voucher program for this series. The articles looked at the lack of accountability in the program, and the role of religion at the schools, among other topics.

Report

Evaluation of the Public Charter Schools Program

This 2004 U.S. Department of Education report found that traditional schools outperformed charter schools on state performance standards. It hesitated to draw broad conclusions about charter schools’ relative merits, however, noting the large number of variables affecting school performance made apples to apples comparisons impossible. 

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