“Outcomes in authorizing matter: you have to know whether, and to what extent, you’re impacting students and changing lives. Specifically, are the resources—time, money, people, professional development—substantially changing the education landscape for the better? NACSA’s in-depth work to identify practice-linked outcomes is important to the profession because it identifies key characteristics of top authorizers. This enables others in the field to capitalize on this information and in turn improve the sector as a whole.”
—Kathryn Mullen Upton, Vice President of Sponsorship & Dayton Initiatives, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
What is this case study about?
This case study takes a close look at how and why the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (Fordham) does its authorizing work, providing big-picture oversight to charter schools in Ohio. It is one of five case studies at the heart of NACSA’s groundbreaking Quality Practice Project, which explores the authorizer practices associated with high-quality charter school portfolios.
The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is one of the top charter school authorizers in the country, based on an 11-point evaluation of school portfolio and authorizer performance outcomes. Some facts of note about Fordham:
- Fordham, at the time it was chosen for study, was authorizing 13 brick and mortar charter schools located throughout Ohio, educating just over 5,000 students.
- Fordham charter schools have full autonomy within the bounds of federal and state law. Fordham does not exert direct control or any undue influence over their schools’ governance, operations, or educational plans.
- The majority of its charter schools were in the “Very High” or “High” academic growth categories in Reading and Math at the time of NACSA’s analysis.
Leadership, Commitment, Judgment at Fordham
Who does this impact?
Fordham’s institutional commitment to quality authorizing is reflected in the success of its schools, seen in trustees’ decisions to approve expansions and replications of existing, high-performing school models. These models are then able to serve more students, which translates to a broader impact on successful student outcomes. One model has expanded from a founding class of 56 students to over 1,500 (and growing). This school perennially posts some of the highest student growth outcomes in the state.
Leadership is dedicated to a mission of giving more kids access to a great education, evident in Fordham’s portfolio growth from 2,700 students in 2005, to 5,000 students in 13 schools (and growing) in five Ohio cities.
Where can I learn more?
Read more about Fordham’s practices in the full case study, available via PDF below.