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Online charter schools are effective despite report’s findings

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Plain Dealer

Letter to the Editor
Plain Dealer
December 8, 2015

Online charter schools (“Online schools are losing support, creating divisions in the national charter school movement,” Plain Dealer, Nov. 30) have proven effective in educating students. Yet much attention is given to one, very narrow report saying otherwise.

The basis for the data that started the negative news cycle about online charters is an experimental research methodology by CREDO, which has been issuing reports comparing state test scores of students in certain charter schools with composite “twins” in a traditional public school. Such an analysis fails to take into account where such students started when they entered that school, their reasons for enrolling or even how long they’ve been in the school. The report assumes online charter school students are all similar and have similar characteristics to traditional public school students, when the reality is they can be markedly different. Much more sophisticated comparisons and data analysis can and should be done.

Prominent researchers such as Stanford’s Caroline Hoxby have contested CREDO studies, and yet they are used to drive policy changes by opponents and sadly some advocates. Policymakers would do well to ignore this report and seek other, valid ways of measuring the effectiveness of online schools based on real time data, real students and tracked over a period of years.

Jeanne Allen,

Washington, D.C.

Allen is Founder and President Emeritus of The Center for Education Reform.