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Archive for February, 2011

Vouchers Proposed in Affluent CO District

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Vouchers are a way of expanding school choice, usually for low-income students and/or students in low performing schools.  However, a new voucher system is under consideration by the Douglas County School Board in Colorado, which seems like an unlikely place for a voucher plan.  Douglas County is an affluent suburb of Denver, with only 8% of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, as well as high test scores and graduation rates.

The idea came from a task force convened to recommend improvements to the school board, one of which was vouchers.  The Los Angeles Times recently featured an article highlighting the issue, “Colorado school district has wealth, success – and an eye on vouchers”.  As the Douglas County School Board considers a new program that could potentially expand the population of eligible students and change the way voucher programs are designed, it is important to consider what the research says about previous voucher programs.

Check out some of the voucher research by the Choice Center:

Effects of Autonomy in Charter Schools

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Does autonomy lead to better schools?  Greater autonomy is often claimed to be linked to greater innovation, especially in the debate about charter schools.  In a newly released report, the Center on Reinventing Public Education explores the opportunities and challenges of charter schools because of their autonomy.

Inside Charter Schools:  Unlocking Doors to Student Success uses multiple data sources including surveys and case studies to address this issue.  Charter schools are granted more autonomy than traditional public schools in exchange for more accountability, to school authorizers as well as parents and students.  This greater autonomy allows charter school principals and boards to: create their own mission and the curriculum that is best suited to their chosen mission, have more control over hiring policies and staffing, and other focused programs.  However, the presence of autonomy does not insure a good school, it is just an opportunity.  There are also many challenges that arise from this independence.  High staff turnover, limited principal training in enlarged roles and limited support are just some of the challenges confronting these leaders.  Overall, the utilization of autonomy is more important than its simple presence.

For more information, check out the paper!  A brief is also available for this study.

Charter authorizers and student achievement?

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Does the charter school authorizer have an impact on student achievement?  This is a key question in charter policy and law.  Many theories and suggestions for improving education, including charter schools, are difficult to implement.  However, if the type of authorizer has an effect on student achievement within the charter school, lawmakers could use this information to adapt charter laws to improve charter schools in a fairly simple way.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education has released a new paper, Charter School Authorizers and Student Achievement: A Case Study of Ohio, co-authored by Ron Zimmer (along with Brian Gill and Kaitlin Obenauf) who has previously conducted research for the Choice Center.   This research examines whether student achievement levels in charter schools vary by authorizer type.  Ohio is a great site for this research because its charter law allows for multiple authorizers, including local districts, universities, and nonprofit organizations.   The authors found variation of student achievement among types of authorizers.  For more information about the specific findings, check out the paper!

A research brief is also available for this paper.  Find it here.

The NCSC is funded by a 5 year, $13.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences. Its lead institution is Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The center is housed on the campus of Peabody College, one of the nation's top graduate schools of education.