Charters & Choice Seminar

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

This agenda is subject to change. Review the onsite program for the final schedule and speakers.

Friday, Feb. 27

8:00 – 11:30  a.m.
Site Visits to Local Schools

12:00 – 12:30 p.m.

12:30 – 1:00 p.m.
Welcome & Introductions

  • Caroline Hendrie, Education Writers Association
  • Paul Teske, University of Colorado Denver

1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
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?

  • Michael Petrilli, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
  • David Welker, National Education Association
  • Kevin Welner, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Todd Ziebarth, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
  • Moderator: Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

2:00 – 2:15 p.m.

2:15 – 3:15 p.m.
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?

  • Sharon Bailey, Colorado Black Roundtable
  • Van Schoales, A+ Denver
  • Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, Denver Public Schools
  • Alan Gottlieb, Chalkbeat Colorado (moderator)

3:15 – 4:15 p.m.
Virtual Choice

Online education has quickly become a mainstay of school and course choice, from the rapid growth of full-time virtual charter schools with forprofit operators to state-run online programs, such as the Florida Virtual School. How is choice playing out in the virtual marketplace? What questions should reporters ask about this dimension of school choice? Have policymakers kept pace to ensure adequate safeguards are in place for quality and accountability?

  • Mickey Revenaugh, Connections Education
  • John Watson, Evergreen Education Group
  • Kevin Welner, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Michael Alison Chandler, The Washington Post (moderator)

4:15 – 4:30 p.m.

4:30 – 5:15 p.m.
Two Authors, Two Visions for Charters

A pair of recent books on charter schools offer decidedly different takes on the public school choice landscape, including its strengths, weaknesses, and what should be the focus of charter schools. Hear from the authors about their work.

  • Richard Kahlenberg, The Century Foundation
  • Richard Whitmire, education author and commentator
  • Erik Robelen, Education Writers Association (moderator)

Saturday, Feb. 28

8:00 – 8:30 a.m.

8:30 – 8:45 a.m.
Recap of Day One

  • Caroline Hendrie, Education Writers Association

8:45 – 9:45 a.m.
Charter School Quality and Accountability

Even many of the staunchest charter advocates acknowledge a serious problem with the uneven quality of charter schools. Recent data suggest the issue is most pressing in certain states, such as Ohio, and in certain cities, where charter school achievement has been especially lackluster. Experts will explore the reasons behind wide variations in charter achievement, and the roles of state laws, charter authorizing, and other factors that may address the situation.

  • Alex Medler, National Association of Charter School Authorizers
  • Margaret (Macke) Raymond, Stanford University
  • Warren Simmons, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University
  • Erik Robelen, Education Writers Association (moderator)

9:45 – 10:00 a.m.

10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
The School Choice Experience

Recent research has sought to better understand what the school choice experience looks like for families in “choice-rich” communities, including New Orleans, Denver, and Detroit, based on surveys and other information. Do parents have adequate information? Is transportation readily available? Do they get into the schools they want? Experts share findings on the key challenges and obstacles to ensuring choice is meaningful, especially for low-income and minority families.

  • Douglas Harris, Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, Tulane University
  • Robin Lake, Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington Bothell
  • Paul Teske, University of Colorado Denver
  • Jenny Brundin, Colorado Public Radio (moderator)

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
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?

  • Sarah Carr, The Teacher Project at the Columbia Journalism School, and author of “Hope Against Hope”
  • Douglas Harris, Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, Tulane University
  • Kira Orange Jones, Teach For America, Greater New Orleans-Louisiana Delta
  • Aesha Rasheed, New Orleans Parent Organizing Network
  • Danielle Dreilinger, New Orleans Times-Picayune (moderator)

12:00 – 12:45 p.m.

12:45 – 1:45 p.m.
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.

  • Pamela Bisceglia, Advocacy Denver
  • Josh Drake, Denver Public Schools
  • Scott Pearson, D.C. Public Charter School Board
  • Lauren Morando Rhim, National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools
  • Kavitha Cardoza, WAMU public radio (moderator)

1:45 – 2:45 p.m.
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?

  • Josh Cunningham, National Conference of State Legislatures
  • Robert Enlow, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
  • Thomas Gentzel, National School Boards Association
  • Scott Elliott, Chalkbeat Indiana (moderator)

2:45 – 3:00 p.m.

3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Reporters as School Choice Watchdogs

Charter schools often make the news because of questions about quality, accountability, financial impropriety, and transparency. Hear from two veteran reporters about how they have played a watchdog role in covering this sector.

  • David Jesse, Detroit Free Press
  • Dan Mihalopoulos, Chicago Sun-Times
  • Caroline Hendrie, Education Writers Association (moderator)

4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Your Turn: Brainstorming Story Ideas

EWA leads an interactive session in which participants work together to share ideas and develop a list of compelling and consequential stories on the charter sector and school choice for their audiences in the months to come.

  • Caroline Hendrie, Education Writers Association
  • Erik Robelen, Education Writers Association

Seminar hosted by the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs.