Charters & Choice
Annie Martin, Leslie Postal and Beth Kassab at the Orlando Sentinel blow the lid off of Florida’s state scholarships to private schools in a multi-part investigative series.
Natalie Bruzda at the Las Vegas Review-Journal recognizes the top-notch reporting of the UNLV student newspaper in the wake of the recent shooting.
At Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, students aren’t kids or boys.
In the classrooms and cafeteria, they’re kings.
That’s just one of the many things that stand out in this new boys-only, public school in Washington, D.C. The school opened in August 2016 to a class of roughly 100 young men. All are freshmen. All are students of color. All are determined to change the narrative.
Florida Private Schools Get Nearly $1 Billion in State Scholarships With Little Oversight, Sentinel Finds
Private schools in Florida will collect nearly $1 billion in state-backed scholarships this year through a system so weakly regulated that some schools hire teachers without college degrees, hold classes in aging strip malls and falsify fire-safety and health records.
A total of 8,700 students from the Christina district attend non-district schools. That’s 38 percent — far more than any other district.
Each year, there’s more empty seats at Christina schools, as parents are increasingly “choicing” into other districts, or picking charter or vo-tech schools, according to state and school district data analyzed by WHYY.
Elizabeth Paige, a Christina school board member who served as board president until recently, said the ever-rising number causes her and others on the board and across the district deep concern.
The United States spends more than $600 billion a year on public elementary and secondary education, federal data indicate. By comparison, philanthropic organizations spend roughly $2 billion to $2.5 billion on education, according to Allan Golston, the president of the U.S. program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
That’s less than half a percent — a relative drop in the bucket.
Lauren McGaughy of The Dallas Morning News follows the controversy of a cancelled conservative speaker at a Houston HBCU that led to a war of words and accusations of infringement on free speech.
Jason Gonzales examines the results of The Tennessean’s two-year investigation of the challenges for teaching literacy in Nashville schools, which reveal stark differences in reading levels fueled by poverty and environmental factors.
President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos both say they want to expand school choice, including with public funding for private schools.
Recently, two parent activists on the front lines of the school voucher debate — one from Wisconsin, the other from Arizona — spoke to journalists attending the Education Writers Association’s convening for Spanish-language media.
Last school year, Ohio’s cash-strapped education department paid Capital High $1.4 million in taxpayer dollars to teach students on the verge of dropping out. But on a Thursday in May, students’ workstations in the storefront charter school run by for-profit EdisonLearning resembled place settings for a dinner party where most guests never arrived.
In one room, empty chairs faced 25 blank computer monitors. Just three students sat in a science lab down the hall, and nine more in an unlit classroom, including one youth who sprawled out, head down, sleeping.
In Minneapolis, record numbers of families are abandoning their neighborhood schools for charters and other educational options, forcing the district to cut staff, programs, and services as the state’s per-pupil funding leaves with students.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is followed by protestors almost everywhere she goes, but she faced an especially tough crowd at Harvard University Thursday.
Once it was the biggest school district in the state. Now Minneapolis Public Schools is the biggest loser in Minnesota’s robust school-choice environment, surrendering more kids to charter schools and other public school options than any other district.
And unlike most other school districts in the state, most of the defections in Minneapolis are occurring among black families. The 9,000 departing black students make up more than half of the districtwide total, according to a Star Tribune analysis of state enrollment data.
The bus cruising through Eden Prairie neighborhoods in the morning looks like any other yellow school bus.
But some families in the community know it’s different. They’ve hired the driver to pick up their children and haul them to the adjoining school district in Minnetonka. For some, the trip is 30 minutes one way and requires a change of buses.
Eden Prairie schools are usually ranked among the best in the Minnesota, but parent Jane-Marie Bloomberg says it’s worth paying $700 a year to bus her children to Minnetonka, where class sizes are smaller.
Jennifer Chambers of the Detroit News reports on Ivanka Trump’s visit to Detroit to help advance a $500 public-private partnership to promote STEM and computer science in the nation’s schools.
Education Week’s Evie Blad examines the First Amendment rights of students in light of recent protests at national sporting events, and gives advice to educators on how to turn such events into a teachable moment.
For years, state lawmakers have been expanding school choice throughout Wisconsin, allowing public dollars to follow kids to private schools. Now, the Trump administration is looking to expand voucher programs nationally.
WUWM and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel held a community conversation, titled Across the Divide: Where is School Choice Header Under President Trump?, at Anodyne Coffee in Walker’s Point on September 19 to bring together people with different perspectives on school choice.
Across Denver, a growing number of preschoolers are getting their first dose of formal education at charter schools that have retrofitted their models to meet the needs of younger students. The trend is fueled by a growing awareness that getting kids in the door early pays off later academically and by a hunger among parents for affordable, high quality preschool options.
It also signals charter leaders’ increasing willingness to navigate the complicated — and often unfamiliar — early childhood funding and regulatory landscape.
From Eden Prairie to Mahtomedi, suburban parents are going the distance to enroll their children in other school districts and charter schools that offer the programs and services they want. In the process, they’re effectively redrawing the map of school district boundaries in the Twin Cities metro and producing unexpected winners and losers.
Back in 2004, The New York Times described Eva Moskowitz as having “sharp elbows.” At the time, Moskowitz represented Manhattan’s affluent Upper East Side on New York’s City Council and had, according to the Times profile, emerged as one of the council’s most influential members. Those sharp elbows helped her get things done, whether that meant replacing plastic newspaper racks with stylish fiberglass ones or taking on powerful teachers’ unions in the name of improving the city’s beleaguered public schools.
The Sacramento Bee’s Diana Lambert reports on a school board’s decision to keep policies that allow the teaching of potentially controversial topics, after the reading of a kindergarten book about a transgender child caused months of uproar from parents divided along ideological lines.
Edsource’s Mikhail Zinshteyn reports on possible changes to remedial education requirements in California, with potentially huge effects for the state’s community colleges.
While it’s widely known that private schools convert to charter status to take advantage of public dollars, more schools are now heading in the opposite direction. As voucher programs across the country proliferate, shuttered charter schools, like the Orange Park Performing Arts Academy, have begun to privatize in order to stay open with state assistance.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has faced some big challenges in her more-than six months in office—setbacks in Congress on her school choice proposals, difficulty staffing her department, protestors greeting her at every turn, not to mention the political stickiness of serving a controversial president.
Minnesota students have had the right to attend school in other districts since 1990, but the number of elementary and high school students exercising that option is surging. Last year, about 132,000 Minnesota students enrolled in schools outside their home district, four times the number making that choice in 2000, a Star Tribune analysis shows.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has spent decades advocating for private school vouchers and charter schools, came to Washington with one item at the top of her agenda: to push for a new federal school choice initiative.
Here’s What Betsy DeVos Had to Say in Denver About DACA, Student Loans and Opting Out of State Tests
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s first multi-state school tour of her tenure took her Wednesday to a private Denver autism center, where she encouraged schools and parents to work together to better educate students with special needs.
More folks will be talking about Summit and super schools, funded by Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective, after a one-hour feature on them airs Friday night across the nation on all four major commercial broadcast networks. With high-profile stars like Jennifer Hudson, Tom Hanks, Common, Justin Timberlake, U2 and Ringo Starr, the Entertainment Industry Foundation-sponsored program is intended to inspire a sense of urgency about redesigning high school. Why is that so critical?
It’s rare, if ever, that education issues get live, prime-time programming across multiple major television networks. Then again, few, if any, education organizations have the star-studded, deep-pocketed backing that the XQ Super School Project has garnered in its effort to rethink and reshape the high school experience.
Free-market boosters, including Betsy DeVos, promised that a radical expansion of charter schools would fix the stark inequalities in the state’s education system. The results in the classrooms are far more complicated.
After a rocky legislative battle, Illinois has become the 18th state to establish a tax-credit-scholarship program for students to use toward tuition at a nonpublic school.
Do ‘No-Excuses’ Charter Schools Lead To Success After High School? At One High-Profile Network, The Answer Seems To Be Yes
Many so-called “no-excuses” charter schools — often featuring longer school days, intensive tutoring, and strict discipline — have high test scores. But critics often say those scores are unlikely to translate into outcomes that really matter, like getting through college.
Hurricane Harvey has pummeled Texas, with the greatest concentration of flooding in the Houston area. Local school districts that had intended to kick off the new academic year this week are instead assessing the damages to campuses, and preparing to help students and families displaced by the storm.
When it comes to judging a school’s quality, what matters most? A new poll suggests the American public puts a premium on offerings outside of traditional academics, including career-focused education, developing students’ interpersonal skills, and providing after-school programs and mental health care.
At the same time, even as local schools were generally viewed favorably in the national survey, parents said they would consider taking advantage of vouchers for private or religious schools if the price was right.
Coming to a Democratic primary near you: a clash over education issues.
In several big states, governors who have supported charter schools are on their way out or facing a re-election fight in 2018. And while the party is united in its distaste for President Donald Trump, candidates vying for state leadership from California to Georgia are split on key education issues.
About a third of public school students in the District are considered “college and career ready” in math and English, according to test scores released Thursday that showed slight gains in both subjects, particularly in the traditional public schools.
D.C. Public Schools, which educates a little more than half of the District’s 90,000 public schoolchildren, surpassed the performance of charter schools in English language arts and math by small margins. The charter schools also made gains, now boasting 10 straight years of rising scores.
ChalkBeat’s Julia Donheiser walks us through the steps educators across the country are taking to prepare for next week’s “Great American Eclipse.”
Jennifer Chambers of The Detroit News looks at how school supplies get into the hands of students where many children live in poverty, and parents cannot afford the long list of required items.
Not too long ago, teachers, instructional coaches, principals and other educators poured into Memphis, Tennessee, energized by and drawn to an aggressive effort to turn around the state’s chronically poor-performing schools – schools that, for decades, had been failing generations of students.
Charters were just one piece of a broader dream for advocates, who sought to make New York City — the nation’s largest school district — into the central urban laboratory for education reform. They hoped to overhaul how schools evaluate teachers, and to weaken the grip of the powerful teachers’ union by loosening tenure laws. If they could accomplish those foundational reforms — in a deep blue state, no less — then perhaps New York could serve as a beacon for similar efforts across the country.
But the revolution in New York City was never realized.
The Trump administration has big ambitions to ramp up school choice — both public and private — but those desires have quickly bumped up against political reality. Will the president and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos deliver? It remains to be seen, though speakers on a recent EWA panel expressed some skepticism.
KPPC’s Kyle Stokes reports that while vaccination rates in California schools reached an all-time high in the prior academic year, one subset of public schools still appears to be lagging behind: charter schools.
Jenny Rankin provides commentary for the L.A. Times on why 41% of teachers leave the profession within their first five years.
Are you an education reporter looking to do more investigative work but missed the annual Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Phoenix last month? Perhaps the 120-degree heat scared you off. Not to worry: Here are five key lessons courtesy of fellow education reporters as well as journalists working on other beats.
For the first time, Texas charter schools have outperformed traditional public schools in reading and closed the gap in math, researchers at Stanford University have found.
Students at Texas charter schools, on average, received the equivalent of 17 additional days of learning per year in reading and virtually the same level of education in math when compared to traditional public schools, according to a study released Wednesday by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO.
‘I Think That’s Blood Money’: Arne Duncan Pushed Charters To Reject Funds From Trump Admin If Budget Cuts Approved
For left-of-center education reformers, the proposed Trump budget amounted to a devil’s bargain.
They could support the budget plan, which would give hundreds of millions of dollars to charter schools. But they would have to do so knowing it slashed education spending across the board, including money meant for poor students.
Lisa Miller, an associate editor at New York magazine, discusses her new profile of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Miller discusses the unwillingness of people close to DeVos to discuss her on the record — including current Department of Education employees — made this one of the most challenging profiles she’s ever written. What do we know about DeVos’ vision for the nation’s public schools that we didn’t know six months ago?
From room mom to PTA president, parents have long played an important and active part in their children’s schools. But increasingly, parents are taking on a new, potentially powerful, role — activist.
In many states, parent groups have become a political force to be reckoned with — swarming city halls and state capitols and flooding the phone lines of elected officials to voice their opinions on issues such as the Common Core State Standards, standardized testing, and school choice.
When U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos came into office, many in the education community were terrified the billionaire school choice advocate would quickly use her new perch to privatize education and run roughshod over traditional public schools.
Maybe they shouldn’t have been quite so worried. Nearly six months into her new job, a politically hamstrung DeVos is having a tough time getting her agenda off the ground.
After calling for a temporary ban on new charter schools last year, the NAACP has revealed what would it would take to get the civil rights group to support the privately run, publicly funded sector.
The lengthy report, released Wednesday, allows for the fact that some charters are doing well, but also relates an exhaustive list of concerns. About 5 percent of the country’s public school students attend charters, with an even larger share of black students, the focus of the NAACP report.
The Florida Times-Union’s Denise Smith Amos reports on a local district’s disproportionate rates of suspension and discipline amongst black students.
Writing for EducationDive, Linda Jacobson speaks with educators still working out how to get the right balance of testing without sacrificing valuable instructional time.
As AP test scores fall, Diana Lambert and Phillip Reese of the Sacramento Bee ask the question: are students ready for college-level coursework?
Suzanne Pekow and the APM Reports team are back with a new episode of the Educate podcast, outlining the current school trend back towards segregation.
Tensions between charter schools and traditional public schools are a fact of life nationwide, but few places have seen the debate play out with higher stakes and public glare than Washington D.C.
Marked for decades as one of the country’s most under-performing public school systems, the District of Columbia Public Schools gradually lost half of its students to charter schools.
Education reporters can expect to hear a lot more about school choice over the next four to eight years. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a longtime choice advocate and has pledged that the Trump administration will do more to advance this cause than any other presidency.
While specifics are still in short supply on how the Trump administration’s zeal for school choice will translate into new or expanded federal programs, it’s a topic that will be hotly debated at the national, state and local levels.
Bracey Harris of The Clarion-Ledger has the latest on the federal investigation into allegations that a school district discriminated against Hispanic students by retroactively changing their transcripts and schedules in a bid to make the students ineligible for state exams.
From the Virginia Gazette, Amanda Williams discusses the concerns that led to the signing of a bill mandating schools test their water for unsafe levels of lead.
When Baltimore County school officials wanted to move boundary lines in 2015, some parents predicted declining property values and voiced fears of sending their children to school with “those kids.”
Liz Bowie, a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, pushed for clarity on the coded language. Doing so, she told a packed room at the Education Writers Association’s recent National Seminar, is crucial to news coverage of school boundaries and the often related issues of segregation, class bias, and equity.
Adam Harris of The Chronicle of Higher Education provides an update on the month of stagnation since Betsy DeVos has taken reporters’ questions, or made other senior officials available to explain policy shifts.
On a recent Friday morning, students in Kalee Barbis’ English class at Washington Leadership Academy work diligently on laptops as they sit under the high, vaulted ceilings of the school’s Great Hall. Light filters through stained glass windows as the students put the final touches on essays about the lives of Matthew Shepard, Trayvon Martin, Pablo Escobar, and others.
Success Academy Charter Schools, a network of 41 schools in New York with a high Latino student enrollment, was awarded the 2017 Broad Prize for charter schools this month along with $250,000 in prize money.
The prize, awarded by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, recognizes a public charter school management organization that has demonstrated high academic achievement, particularly for low-income students and students of color. The foundation announced the award during the National Charter Schools Conference held in Washington, D.C.
Thousands of charter school educators, leaders, and advocates gathered in Washington D.C. this week at a time of both great hope and palpable dissonance within the charter school sector.
Education reporters can expect to hear a lot more about school choice over the next four to eight years. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a longtime choice advocate and has pledged that the Trump administration will do more to advance this cause than any other presidency.
While specifics are still in short supply on how the Trump administration’s zeal for school choice will translate into new or expanded federal programs, it’s a topic that will be hotly debated at the national, state and local levels.
Nationally, politicians and others frequently tout Hartford, Connecticut, and its magnet schools as a model of school integration. But in reality, the city has a system of haves and have nots, as Vanessa de la Torre and Matthew Kauffman, reporters at The Hartford Courant, revealed in their 2017 series, “Hartford Schools: More Separate, Still Unequal.”
Cory Turner discusses the NPR education team’s deep dive into school vouchers, with a focus on Indiana, home to the largest voucher program in the nation. Among NPR’s findings: less than 1 percent of participating students transferred out of public schools that had been labeled by the state as low performers, and many students using vouchers were already attending private schools. With school choice as a centerpiece to President Trump’s education policy agenda, what does the evidence show when it comes to academic outcomes for students using vouchers?
Plans to expand school choice from President Donald Trump may be generating a lot of attention — but they should be taken with a dose of political reality, and not obscure other key issues.
That was one of the main messages from a panel of K-12 advocates discussing the changing politics of education, part of the annual conference of the Education Writers Association in Washington, D.C., this week.
When U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos declined EWA’s invitation to speak at its 70th National Seminar, it prompted coverage from The Associated Press, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, among others, in part because of her already limited press availability in the nearly four months since she was appointed to the cabinet post.
Emma Brown of The Washington Post discusses President Trump’s budget proposal for education, with fresh analysis of the priorities and politics behind the line items. She also explains the prospects in the GOP-led Congress for the Trump plan. Overall, the president’s budget envisions deep cuts to the U.S. Department of Education budget, even as he wants to step up federal aid for school choice. Which education programs are up for major cuts or outright elimination and why? How do some of the largest programs, like Title I aid for disadvantaged students and Pell grants, fare?
Eva-Marie Ayala of The Dallas Morning News reports on a bill passed in the Texas Senate that would expand the state cap on virtual charter schools, widening their reach despite evidence that such schools have faltered in Texas and elsewhere.
The Oklahoman’s Ben Felder examines the decisions made by districts planning to slash funds as the state Legislature remains at an impasse when it comes to filling a nearly $1 billion budget hole.
The Los Angeles school board is about to undergo a political sea change, as two candidates backed by charter school advocates won victories in a bruising runoff election that shifts the panel’s balance of power.
The Los Angeles Times describes the outcome as “a watershed moment with huge implications” for education in the nation’s second-largest city.
Megan Raposa of The Argus Leader looks at schools that make students wash tables, wear special wristbands or even throw their food away if they’ve racked up debt on school lunches as the schools work to comply with Department of Agriculture requirements for written policy for handling unpaid meals.
Lauren Camera of U.S. News & World Report discusses a little-noticed, and potentially troubling, trend: Dozens of cities nationwide have broken off from their counties to create new school districts, increasing student segregation by race, ethnicity, and family income. What are the implications of a recent U.S. district court ruling in Alabama that allowed such a move?
Nine school districts in Michigan have signed a deal to delay potential state-ordered closures of 37 chronically low-performing schools. Chad Livengood of Crain’s Business Detroit dives into the details.
Ask the principal of any U.S. high school and they’ll likely tell you their goal is to graduate all of their students “college- or career-ready.” That is, students should be prepared to begin postsecondary education or enter the workforce and be successful.
Andrea Purcell, the principal of an all-girls charter school, is no different, despite the fact that her group of 120 or so high school-aged students are among the most at-risk for dropping out.
Leah Askarinam of The Atlantic discusses a new study that raises questions about the value of the school voucher program for low-income families in the nation’s capital. On average, test scores were lower for students who used federal aid to attend private schools, when compared with those who attended D.C. public schools.
EdSource’s Mikhail Zinshteyn writes that both sides of the charter school debate are expecting another year of hearings over Senate Bill 808, a California bill that critics claim could lead to the shuttering of many charter schools.
The waiting list to get into USC Hybrid High College Prep in downtown Los Angeles is long – about two students for every one admitted – and so is the commute for many of the students who go there. An hour-and-a-half each way by bus or car isn’t uncommon.
There was no missing the symbolism in President Donald Trump’s first school visit since taking office — a stop at St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Florida, this month.
St. Andrew is “one of the many parochial schools dedicated to the education of some of our most disadvantaged children,” Trump noted, and it’s been helped along by school choice policy.
President Donald Trump’s first budget blueprint begins to flesh out the areas in which he sees an important federal role in education — most notably expanding school choice — and those he doesn’t. At the same time, it raises questions about the fate of big-ticket items, including aid to improve teacher quality and support after-school programs.
Heather Vogell of ProPublica discusses a new investigation into how districts utilize their alternative schools — campuses set up to handle struggling and troubled students. ProPublica concluded that by reassigning students unlikely to graduate out of mainstream classrooms, some traditional high schools were “hiding” their true dropout numbers, and boosting their own ratings within their state’s accountability system.
Do charter schools really outperform traditional public schools? Is any such comparison skewed by the caliber of students who attend charters and their district-run counterparts?
Few questions are more contested in education policy circles, but 25 years since the first charter school opened in Minnesota, there is more data available than ever to find answers. Two prominent education researchers waded into the debate over charter schools and charter research at a recent Education Writers Association seminar in Los Angeles.
If anyone doubted that school choice would be a top educational priority for the Trump administration, the Republican president’s first address to a joint session of Congress laid that question to rest.
“I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children,” he declared. “These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.”
At Summit Public Schools campuses, you won’t see PowerPoint lectures on “Antigone” in English class or witness lofty explanations of the Pythagorean theorem in geometry. Instead, you’ll hear a discussion about the morals and ethics in the ancient Greek tragedy tied to students’ own teenage identity formation and observe discussions on how real-life problem-solving skills can be applied to math.
In the contentious debates over what is a good school, parents are frequently pitted against public officials. The stakes are especially high for charter schools, which periodically must be granted a new lease on life.
It’s a case of one side pointing to test scores or compliance with various rules of operation, and the other invoking their satisfaction with the school in ways that may be hard to measure. While regulators may be tempted to close a low-performing school, parents regularly object.
At 10 years old, Audrey Campos is the one who helps her 18-year-old cousin communicate with their grandparents. Unlike her cousin, Audrey speaks Spanish. That’s thanks, in part, to the public school she attends, part of the Camino Nuevo Charter Academy network.
Audrey was in the inaugural kindergarten class for the school’s bilingual program in 2011. She spent 80 percent of her day learning in Spanish that first year, though now Audrey speaks and hears mostly English in school.
Kimberly Hefling of Politico discusses the new U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, who was confirmed Tuesday after Vice President Mike Pence was called in to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate. What will be her top priorities moving forward? How aggressively will the new secretary push school choice, and how likely is President Trump’s $20 billion school choice plan to gain traction? Has DeVos lost political capital during the bruising confirmation process? Was she held to a higher standard than other nominees for President Trump’s cabinet? And how much power will the Republican mega-donor have to roll back the Obama administration’s education policies and initiatives?
After a bruising confirmation process and a Senate vote on Tuesday largely divided along party lines, Republican mega-donor and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos is the new U.S. secretary of education.
In her first public communication as secretary, DeVos signaled that school choice would be a paramount concern:
Kriste Dragon grew up in Atlanta, a mixed-race child in a segregated school system.
When it came time to find a school for her children in her new Hollywood home, Dragon was hopeful that the neighborhood’s highly diverse demographics would be reflected in its schools. But instead, she found a low-performing school system that was as segregated — or worse — as what she’d experienced growing up.
What will President Trump and his administration mean for charter schools and school choice? Will the new president put political muscle behind his campaign pledge to create a new, $20 billion school choice program? How will the GOP-led Congress respond? What are the ramifications of key statewide elections, especially gains by Republicans and the defeat of a high-profile Massachusetts ballot measure to raise that state’s charter cap?
Reporter Arianna Prothero discusses Education Week’s eight-month investigation of online charter schools, including how some companies aggressively lobby states to craft regulations that allow them to flourish despite spotty records on student achievement. Why do some students opt for this kind of alternative publicly funded education? What do we know about attendance, academic achievement, and school quality in cyber charters? Who are the big players in the cyber charter industry, and how much is known about their policies, practices, and profits?
Prothero answers these and other questions and shares story ideas for local reporters covering online charter schools in their own communities.
Tuesday’s confirmation hearing for billionaire school advocate Betsy DeVos — President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. secretary of education — was a doozy.
DeVos sought to present herself as ready to oversee the federal agency, but some of her remarks suggested a lack of familiarity with the federal laws governing the nation’s schools.
In her opening statement before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, DeVos said:
It’s shaping up to be a contentious year on the education beat, fueled in part by Donald Trump’s upset victory in the presidential election.
Kate Zernike, The New York Times’ national education reporter, discusses what’s ahead on the beat in 2017. How will President-elect Donald Trump translate his slim set of campaign promises on education into a larger and more detailed agenda? What do we know about the direction Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, will seek to take federal policy if she’s confirmed? Zernike also offers story ideas and suggestions for local and regional education reporters to consider in the new year.
Veteran education reporters from the Detroit Free Press and The Washington Post discuss Betsy DeVos, the billionaire school choice advocate nominated by President-elect Donald Trump. David Jesse of the Detroit newspaper sheds light on DeVos’ Michigan track record on legislative causes, and what is known about her tactics and negotiating style. Plus, he explains how DeVos’ strong religious beliefs have influenced her policy agenda. Emma Brown of The Washington Post details why Trump’s proposal for $20 billion in school vouchers might be a tough sell, even to a Republican-controlled Congress. And she sheds light on the potential for the next administration to dismantle President Obama’s education initiatives, including scaling back the reach of the Office for Civil Rights at the Education Department.
Donald Trump spent little time on education issues during his campaign, but his victory is sure to have big implications. Journalists Alyson Klein of Education Week and Andrew Kreighbaum of Inside Higher Ed discuss the likely impact on P-12 and higher education. What will be President-elect Trump’s education priorities, and how will the GOP-controlled Congress respond? Will Trump follow through on his campaign pledge to provide $20 billion for school choice? What will be the fate of existing federal policy like the new Every Student Succeeds Act? And how will Trump approach the hot-button higher education issues like student loan debt and accountability?
This Election Day, Massachusetts voters will decide whether to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state — a hotly contested ballot measure that’s drawn more than $34 million in fundraising among the two sides and garnered national attention, with parents of students of color and advocates for minority students on both sides of the issue.
With growing evidence that the nation’s cyber charter schools are plagued by serious academic and management problems, Education Week conducted a months-long investigation into what is happening in this niche sector of K-12 schooling. The result is a deep-dive account of what’s wrong with cyber charters. Education Week uncovered exclusive data on how rarely students use the learning software at Colorado’s largest cyber charter, the questionable management practices in online charters, and how lobbying in scores of states helps keep the sector growing.
For five years in a row, the Hoosier Academies Virtual School had been failing.
The school, where students take all of their classes online while at home, had been assigned an “F” grade from the state of Indiana every year it had been open except its first, when it had garnered a “C.” That troubled track record had finally made the virtual school of nearly 4,000 students a candidate for state regulators’ chopping block.
Eleven years ago, as Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters receded, experts promised to transform the city by upending its schools, fixing poverty and crime by and through degrees. …
Far more students graduate from New Orleans public high schools now: 75 percent, up from 54 percent before the storm …
But the real test is what happens after high school. The new New Orleans won’t materialize if beaming teenagers walk off the graduation dais as if it were a gangplank.
When Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans in 2005, much of the city’s infrastructure was washed away — including its public education system. Changes imposed after the storm have produced a system primarily of charter schools which are independently operated and publicly funded — including those run by the KIPP network.
In the new series “Higher Ground” (for NOLA.com/The Times Picayune), reporter Danielle Dreilinger looks at where the city’s KIPP’s graduates wind up after graduation. She talks with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about the project (part of the EWA Reporting Fellowship program), and how the high-achieving charter network is seeking to improve New Orleans’ students chances of postsecondary success.
In Massachusetts, a referendum on charter schools is drawing national attention. At issue is whether to raise the state cap on the number of independently operated, publicly funded campuses, and allow existing schools to boost enrollment. But there is also unusually aggressive – and expensive — campaigning on both sides of the issue, raising questions about outside influence on the decision before Massachusetts voters.
James Vaznis of The Boston Globe talks with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about what’s at stake on the upcoming ballot, whether the Bay State’s reputation for high-achieving charter schools pans out, and how questions of diversity and equity factor into the fight.
The number of Hispanic students enrolled in charter schools is growing, as is support for school choice among Hispanic parents, a new report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools shows.
With so much attention focused on the campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, voters could be forgiven for forgetting they’ll be asked to decide plenty more in November. And the stakes are high for K-12 education in state-level elections, including races for governor, state education chief, and legislative seats, plus ballot measures on education funding and charter schools.
In Louisiana, a high school focused around the theme of coastal restoration will be built on a barge — yes, a barge. Two Los Angeles educators have dreamed up plans for a high school designed to serve foster and homeless children. And the Somerville, Mass., district is planning a year-round high school that “feels more like a research and design studio,” reports the Boston Globe.
Today’s assignment: Reporting on the nation’s largest school district, with 1.1 million students and an operating budget of $25 billion. Patrick Wall of Chalkbeat New York has dug deep into the city’s special education programs, investigated whether school choice programs are contributing to student segregation rather than reducing it, and penned a three-part series on on one high school’s effort to reinvent itself. He talks with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about his work, and offers tips for making the most of student interviews, getting access to campuses, and balancing bigger investigations with daily coverage. A first-prize winner for beat reporting in this year’s EWA Awards, Wall is spending the current academic year at Columbia University’s School of Journalism as a Spencer Fellow.
Experts and advocates assess how early childhood and K-12 education issues are factoring into the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They offer analysis of the candidates’ campaign positions and explore the complex politics of education policy. They also discuss other key elections around the nation with big stakes for education.
Crossing an international border can be a hassle. But some parents in Mexico do it every day in pursuit of a better education for their children.
San Antonio-based KENS 5 recently aired a story of a father who walks his two young children across the Mexico-Texas border daily so they can attend school in the U.S. The trek is worth it, he says.
The boys (and girls) are back in town. For class, that is.
See how forced that lede was? Back-to-school reporting can take on a similar tinge of predictability, with journalists wondering how an occasion as locked in as the changing of the seasons can be written about with the freshness of spring.
Recently some of the beat’s heavy hitters dished with EWA’s Emily Richmond about ways newsrooms can take advantage of the first week of school to tell important stories and cover overlooked issues.
While the number of parents who opt out of having their kids take their states’ standardized tests has grown nationally, much of this movement appears to be made up of white, wealthier families. Latinos and other minorities seem to be less inclined to avoid standardized testing.
That should not be the case, said Ruth Rodriguez, an administrator with United Opt Out National.
Charter schools have grown at a rapid rate over the past 20 years as parents, activist groups, lawmakers and others look for alternatives to the traditional public schools.
Supporters say charters can offer the freedom to be more creative in the curriculum they provide to support a wider range of needs for students.
In early May at Match Public Charter School in Boston, 18 freshmen are preparing to discuss themes from “Lord of the Flies.” Their English teacher is Ashley Davis, a 26-year-old native of Cincinnati who’s in her second year of teaching, but acts like a veteran.
Davis will soon have her students explaining the biblical allusions in the 1954 novel and debating whether mankind is naturally good or evil.
For education reporters, coming up with fresh ideas for back-to-school stories is an annual ritual. And if you’re balancing the K-12 and higher education beats, it can be an even bigger challenge.
Barely a day goes by that charter schools aren’t in the news somewhere. A quarter century after the first state law allowing charters was enacted, the sector has expanded to serve upwards of 2.5 million students in 43 states. With this growth has come increased attention — and intense scrutiny.
Now that the White House race has narrowed to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, how is education playing out as an issue in the campaign? Will it prove an important fault line between the Democratic and Republican candidates? Will Trump offer any details to contrast with Clinton’s extensive set of proposals from early childhood to higher education? What are the potential implications for schools and colleges depending on who wins the White House? Also, what other races this fall should be on the radar of journalists, whether elections for Congress, state legislatures, or governor?
Hillary Clinton vowed to be a partner with educators if she wins the White House, during a speech today to the nation’s largest teachers’ union. Clinton drew enthusiastic applause from National Education Association members for most of the address, including her calls to make preschool universally available, boost teacher pay, and ease the burden of paying for higher education.
But the presumptive Democratic nominee got a far more muted response, and even some jeers, when she made a positive plug — albeit very briefly — for charter schools.
It used to be simple to register your child for school – just go to your local school, fill out some paperwork and you’re done.
But in an era when school choice is increasingly widespread, the process isn’t always so easy.
“Diversity — (noun) the state of being diverse; variety”
At Codman Academy Charter Public School, the walls in the lower school hallways aren’t covered in the bright reds, yellows, and oranges visitors might expect in an elementary setting. Instead, they’re subdued neutrals, mostly creams and browns. Rather than large chart paper displays and murals, there are natural wood panels, internal and external windows, and glass panels decorated with branches and leaves.
Roughly 25 years after the first charter school opened in Minnesota, the debate over these publicly funded but independently operated campuses remains polarized.
Juan Cofield, the president of the NAACP’s New England Area Conference opposes a looming public referendum in Massachusetts to lift that state’s cap on the number of charter schools.
Most reporters dread seeing the next school board meeting on the calendar. But as more states take over failing schools, removing them from local control, some journalists are finding open and easily accessible meetings harder to come by, and recognizing the value of what they’ve lost.
Here’s a quick quiz. Rate the following statements on a scale from one to five, with one meaning you totally disagree and five meaning you wholeheartedly agree:
Beginners and experts essentially think in the same way.
Most people are either left-brained or right-brained.
Students learn more when information is tailored to their unique learning styles.
“If you’ve made the commitment to go to school here, then you’ve made the commitment to go to college.”
Match Beyond has a bodacious goal: To invent a college program that wipes out undergraduate debt and cures poverty.
Not the rarefied college designed for that by-the-bootstraps, defy-the-odds high school senior trotted out for interviews and inspirational speeches when visitors come to high-poverty schools looking for their scholarship success stories.
Massachusetts has long been the poster child for education.
For years now it’s ranked at the top in the country for math and reading achievement, boasted impressive graduation rates and made a significant financial investments over the last few decades to get there.
It’s no slouch when it comes to higher education either. Massachusetts harbors some of the best colleges and universities in the world, and it’s joining a growing number of states looking to make college more affordable.
Is “school choice” a misnomer in Detroit, where options for students hinge heavily on their ability to find their own transportation?
Washington lawmakers and school choice advocates are scrambling to keep charter schools open in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling that declared the independently operated campuses unconstitutional. A compromise bill awaits Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature, and the families of more than 1,000 students are hoping for a last-minute legislative save.
At the Democratic Town Hall Sunday night in Columbus, Ohio, Sen. Bernie Sanders was asked whether he supported charter schools. The Democratic presidential candidate’s answer — imprecise at best — set off a flurry of responses in the Twittersphere, if not the audience at the CNN broadcast.
The Health of the Charter Public School Movement: A State-by-State Analysis evaluates the health of the charter public school movement in key states across the country. Following the first report released in October 2014, this second edition measures movement growth, innovation, and quality, while this year doubling the number of quality measures. Due to these quality additions, a total of 18 states with charter school laws met the criteria for inclusion in this year’s report.
An Alabama principal who was fired from her Catholic school post for allegedly embezzling funds claims in a new federal lawsuit that she was instead retaliated against for defending Hispanic students.
In the Windy City, one out of every 10 high schoolers is enrolled at a campus in the Noble Network of Charter Schools. And while Noble students typically perform well, the network is facing some growing pains in the nation’s third-largest school district. Among the challenges: An increasingly diverse student population, competition for enrollment from traditional Chicago Public Schools campuses seeking to reinvent themselves, and concerns about Noble’s strict discipline policies and emphasis on preparing for the ACT college entrance exam.
A Closer Look at the Charter School Movement: Schools, Students, and Management Organizations, 2015- 16
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
Enrollment in charter public schools has grown by 250,000 students in the 2015-16 school year, and more than 400 new charter public schools have opened their doors, according to, A Closer Look at the Charter School Movement: Schools, Students, and Management Organizations, 2015- 16. The report also estimates that the total number of students currently attending charter public schools is nearly 3 million, representing a sixfold increase in charter school enrollment over the past 15 years.
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.
New York City is one of the world’s great melting pots — so why aren’t efforts to diversify its schools taking hold?
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.
Without a doubt, the biggest change to the educational landscape in England over the next few years will be the growth of so-called academies and free schools, both modeled at least in part on U.S. charter schools.
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.
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.
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.
In the first decade of the 21st century, the NYC Department of Education implemented a set of large-scale and much debated high school reforms, which included closing large, low-performing schools, opening new small schools and extending high school choice to students throughout the district. The school closure process was the most controversial of these efforts. Yet, apart from the general sense that school closures are painful, there has never been a rigorous assessment of their impact in NYC.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Top journo tweets from #EWAChoice’s fourth Saturday session.
Top tweets from #EWAChoice’s third Saturday session.
Top tweets from reporters about the second Saturday session of #EWAChoice.
Top journo tweets about the first session of the second day of #EWAChoice.
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.
Top tweets from #EWAChoice’s fourth panel.
Top tweets about the panel on virtual charters at #EWAChoice
Top tweets from “Eye on Denver” — the second session at #EWAChoice
Top Tweets from #EWAChoice’s first session
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
How Do Reporters Answer the Question ‘What School Is Best for My Kid?’
Webinar on School Choice Data
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.