Charter schools | Arkansas Blog

Friday, August 25, 2006

Charter schools

Posted By on Fri, Aug 25, 2006 at 3:20 PM

We mentioned this study early this morning, but forgot to include a link. Studies such as these don't get much attention in a state in the thrall of Walton- and Hussman-induced charter school mania.

Fourth graders in traditional public schools did significantly better in reading and math than comparable children attending charter schools, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Federal Education Department.

The report, based on 2003 test scores, thrust the Education Department into the center of the heated national debate over school choice. It also drew a barrage of criticism from supporters of charter schools, the fastest-growing sector in public education, who sent out press statements casting doubt on the report’s methodology and findings even before they were announced.

Even as the federal commissioner of education statistics, Mark S. Schneider, released the report, he said the agency should no longer put its official imprimatur on research comparing charter with public schools and leave such studies to independent researchers.

The study found that in 2003, fourth graders in traditional public schools scored an average of 4.2 points better in reading than comparable students in charter schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, often called the nation’s report card. Students in traditional schools scored an average of 4.7 points better in math than comparable students in charter schools.

Students in charter schools that said they were affiliated with local school districts did better than those in schools largely independent from local systems, scoring on par with children in regular public schools in reading and math.

The study also compared traditional public schools with charter schools in central cities serving mostly minority students and found no significant difference in reading achievement at the different schools. However, math scores at such urban charter schools still lagged those at traditional schools, except when those charters were affiliated with local districts.

“We know they are not doing harm,” Mr. Schneider said of charter schools, “so they pass a fundamental test of policy analysis.”

But this was weak praise considering that proponents of charter schools have long argued that students at these institutions would show progress far greater than those at neighborhood schools.

For this administration, failure to harm meets the performance standard. Whew. But this administration at least wants independent assessments. Here in Arkansas, the Little Rock School Board wants a Walton-funded university department to evaluate the success of an idea promoted and financed by the Walton money. And there's a Walton-financed department at The University of Walton-Fayetteville, that will provide financial and technical assistance to create a charter school when the Walton-financed evaluation deems failure at schools that don't adopt the Walton-financed pay model. Walton-financed legislators will oversee the politics of the matter.

 


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