Monday, July 1, 2013

Charter schools: No better than real public schools

Posted By on Mon, Jul 1, 2013 at 11:49 AM

The Billionaire Boys Club, with leading press agentry by the Walton "education reform" propaganda machine, is already spinning it differently, but they are outliers in interpreting yet another Stanford study that was hoped to demonstrate the superiority of charter schools.

Writes columnist Wendy Lecker, senior attorney for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity project at the Education Law Center:

The verdict is in, and it is the same as four years ago. In updating its 2009 national study on charter schools, Stanford's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) reaches the same conclusion it did in its previous study: The vast majority of charter schools in the United States are no better than public schools.

In 2009, 83 percent of charters were the same or worse than public schools, and now about 71-75 percent are. Even more telling, CREDO concludes that "the charter sector is getting better on average, but not because existing schools are getting dramatically better; it is largely driven by the closure of bad schools." In addition, students at new charter schools have lower reading and math gains than at public schools.

I had written before that a full examination of the study shows that, on the whole, Arkansas charter schools have not outperformed conventional Arkansas public schools in the measured categories. This link contains a link to the entirety of the Stanford study.

You'll find a deeper, more nuanced analysis by Matthew Di Carlo on the Shanker blog. He writes about changes between 2009 and the most recent study:

Overall, what do these results mean? The differences within and between time periods are still quite small, and, overall, the major conclusion is no different than before: There is substantial variability in estimated charter school effects, and little meaningful difference on the whole. That said, the finding that charter schools’ relative performance may be getting better is significant, and should not be disregarded. It will be very interesting to see if this improvement keeps up.

And, of course, the most important question — how do we explain these differences within and between time periods, states and subgroups — remains an open one, and is severely constrained by the difficult of gathering these data, but this report provides some useful information toward that goal (actually, having school-level estimates across 27 states is by itself a big asset). Going forward, this will hopefully be the focus of charter research.

One final point: It’s a little striking to consider that it’s been over 20 years since charter schools appeared on the public educational landscape, and opinions about them, positive and negative, tend to be exceedingly strong, but we’re still in the earlier phases of figuring them out. Good policy research, like good policy, requires time and patience.

In Arkansas, the message driven by the Waltons, Hussmans and their camp followers has been that invocation of the words "charter school" — real or virtual — is next to godliness. They must be better than those nasty ol' real public schools. The reality is far more complicated.

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