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National Charter Research Misfires on Charter Schools

CREDO Report Ignores Wide Variation in State Assessments and State Law

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
February 5, 2013

A national research study across 23 states and DC assessing charter school performance over time makes erroneous conclusions about the impact of charter schools on students, while ignoring critical distinctions among state proficiency standards and the components of each state’s widely differentiating charter school laws.

“It is hard to believe that year-after-year, smart, well-intentioned researchers believe they can make national conclusions about charter school performance using uneven data, flawed definitions of poverty and ignoring variations in state charter school laws,” said Jeanne Allen president of The Center for Education Reform (CER).

Among the two-dozen states that were the subject of study for Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) in its Charter School Growth and Replication report released last week, there are more than two-dozen varieties of charter law:

• Fewer than half of all states studied — ten plus the District of Columbia — have authorizers that are independent from existing education entities, a notable difference in laws and outcomes;

• Nine states have only either school districts or the state board of education authorizing charter schools, compromising school freedoms;

• Three states in the report do not permit flexibility from rules and regulations;

• 11 states guarantee less than 75% of average per pupil funding; and

• Six states limit teacher freedom from collective bargaining agreements.

All the states in the study have vastly different ways of assessing student performance. For example, charter schools in Washington, DC, are evaluated on a criteria that ineffectively measures growth, but the independent DC Public Charter School Board uses the city’s assessment and combines it with other data to create its own performance metrics which analyzes school performance over time and provides a clear, unambiguous data set from which to judge the quality of DC charter schools.

By looking at the quality of a charter school law, it is possible to predict the quality of the charter schools in that area. States with independent, multiple authorizers, that provide their schools high degree of freedom for operations and financial management, and ensure equitable funding have and will continue to show progress among students, while states that do not afford such autonomy and freedom have less successful schools as evidenced in CER’s 2013 Charter School Laws Across the States; Ranking and Scorecard.

Thus, aggregating states into one research universe and drawing conclusions about their relative achievement, in addition to relying on flawed virtual twin methodology, is highly misleading and ignores the so-called “gold standard” of academic research that compares individual student achievement on identical measures. Stanford University Economist, Caroline Hoxby, has reported additional insights into the problems of the CREDO study and has pointed out numerous inconsistencies when CREDO first deployed its unique methodology to make conclusions about student achievement.

The Center also solicited comments from other researchers and while not on record, they were used to issue the following reports on CREDO over the past three years.