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Buried Alive (updated)

shovel“Explosive” results of a comprehensive, multi-year analysis of charter schools in New York City find students in charters more poor, more disadvantaged and from homes with lesser educational background, but closing the achievement gap by as much as 86 percent in math and 66 percent in reading.

So why is that news relegated to Page A27 of the New York Times, and only in a smattering of other papers elsewhere around the country?

This study by a noted Stanford University economist used an apples to apples comparison of real children – students who went to charters with those who did not get chosen by the lottery – rather than use intangible and relatively sketchy methodologies involving virtual students.

A less robust and, frankly, largely flawed study released in June by independent researchers at Stanford used that flawed methodology and made national headlines within a day of its press releases hitting the wires.

Their press roll out was criticized by charter advocates nationwide for misleading reporters. Indeed, the headlines then actually warned of charter students being behind in almost every state, without much credence for that or the general conclusions that now have every state legislator – along with union officials – saying charter success is overrated.

But the reality is: it’s not overrated. Charter schools do make an enormous difference in the life of a child and their family, particularly the longer they stay in a charter school.

The true gold-standard report issued Tuesday by Caroline Hoxby and her colleagues at the National Bureau of Economic Research tells the real story of a very big state that has the longevity and experience worthy of study and reporting.

It should not be buried in the depths of newspapers behind smaller, less significant news. Then again, Hoxby was worried about research, not PR.

(UPDATE: The Washington Post sees the importance of the Hoxby study, saying that “opponents of charter schools are going to have to come up with a new excuse”.)


  1. Lisa says:

    My assignment this week for a graduate class at Walden University was to find an education blog and respond to it. I visited many educational websites; I read through subject after subject, and I just couldn’t find one that related to our lesson this week until I read through your post. I was captivated by your first line that asserts that new research finds “explosive” results that charter schools are closing the achievement gap. In a required reading this week for my class, an article on brain-based research describes education as “a folklore profession” because we operate “intuitively,” and “[t]his lack of scientific knowledge has put us at the mercy of lay boards and politicians who have sometimes made decisions that are unrelated to what we know is best for students” (Wolfe, p. 2). Also, Wolfe (2003) brings up a similar argument that the media reports on educations research “exaggerate, misconstrue, and fabricate results” (p. 2). Although brain-based research and New York charter schools are unrelated, the overlapping message of your post and Wolfe’s article is poignant: Educational research is relevant and should be used to enhance classroom practices – We must not allow political agendas to manipulate our breakthroughs. Thank you for your insight!


    Wolfe, P. (2003, Fall). Brain-compatible learning: Fad or foundation? The School Administrator, 6. 7 pp. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/courses/35801/CRS-WUPSYC6205-3426328/6610_readings/fad_foundations.pdf

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