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The Charter School Vs. Public School Debate Continues

by Claudio Sanchez
July 16, 2013

Charter schools turn 21 this year. In that time, these privately run, publicly funded schools have spread to 41 states and enrolled more than 2 million students.

But one key question lingers: Do kids in charter schools learn more than kids in traditional public schools?

There have been lots of skirmishes over charter school data over the years. But few have created as big a ruckus as the 26-state study of charter schools released recently by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO.

Like previous studies, the one from CREDO concluded that kids in most charter schools are doing worse or no better than students in traditional public schools. About a third, though, are doing better. And that’s a big jump from four years ago. The gains among blacks, Latinos and kids whose first language is not English have been impressive and surprising, says CREDO Director Margaret Raymond.

“The fact that we can show that significantly disadvantaged groups of students are doing substantially better in charter school in reading and math, that’s very exciting,” she says.

More and more charter school students are doing better, Raymond says, because they’re getting anywhere from three to 10 extra weeks of instruction compared to their public school counterparts.

“The average charter school student in the United States is benefiting from additional days of learning,” she says, “compared to where they were four years ago and compared to traditional public schools they otherwise would’ve attended.

None of these findings were in dispute. But when Jeanne Allen looked at the study, it upset her.

“The way that CREDO has manipulated data and made conclusions about policy based on that data is absolutely ‘un-credible,’ ” she says.

Allen heads the Center for Education Reform. She loves charter schools and would do

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Study: Charter schools are improving, but performance still close to public schools

by Jeanette Rundquist
The Star-Ledger
June 26, 2013

Students in charter schools fared better than those in traditional public schools in some states — including New Jersey — but a majority of charters across the United States still deliver no better education than traditional public schools in reading, and 40 percent are about the same in math, according to a new study released Tuesday by researchers at Stanford University.

The study, which updates a 2009 report and which Stanford researchers described as the largest study of charter school performance in the United States, looked at test scores from 1.5 million charter school students in 27 states or districts, including New Jersey, and compared them with their “virtual twin” students attending traditional public schools.

The study determined that about a quarter of charter schools performed better than regular public schools — specifically, 25 percent did better in reading and 29 percent better in math.

The original study, which looked at charter schools in 16 states, showed only 17 percent of charter schools outperformed traditional public schools in math, and 37 percent fared worse.

“The results reveal that the charter school sector is getting better on average and that charter schools are benefiting low-income, disadvantaged and special education students,” said Margaret Raymond, director of the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford.

New Jersey is one of 11 states or districts where charter school students’ performance outpaced traditional public schools in both subjects in the new study. The state was not included in the original research.

“It’s not saying 100 percent of New Jersey charter schools are hitting it out of the park,” said Dev Davis, research manager at CREDO. “Overall, they’re doing better than the national picture.”

New Jersey has about 84 charter schools, educating about 23,000 students.

Nationally, there are about 2.3 million students in privately run,

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Study: Charter school students learning more

by Celeste Bott
South Bend Tribune
March 11, 2013

An average Michigan charter school student will learn more in a year than his or her public school peer, according to a new report by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

The study found that students from Michigan charter schools learn an average of two month’s more of math and reading per academic year.

Twenty-seven percent of the state’s charter school students are from Detroit, and Detroit charter school students gained up to three months’ worth of additional education, it said.

Charter schools are publicly funded but can be privately run. They were established in part so that individual schools could have more independence over curriculum and teaching staff.

Margaret Raymond, director of the center, praised Michigan’s charter school practices, especially given problems that districts like Detroit face.

“These findings show that Michigan has set policies for charter schools to produce consistent high quality across the state,” Raymond said. “The results are especially welcome for students in communities that face significant education challenges.”

It is the center’s first in-depth study of charter schools in the state. A total of 85,650 students attend 276 charters in the state. For the study, 61 schools were too small to be analyzed, resulting in a total study sample of 212 charters.

Not all of the findings were favorable to the alternative public schools, however.

For example, 14 percent of Michigan charter schools showed below average growth and achievement, and 25 percent of students perform below average in math.

Devora Davis, a co-author of the report, attributed those conflicting numbers to the use of averages — there are both struggling charters and high-performing charters that distort the data.

The poor performances are offset by the growing proportion of charters with high-level achievement, Davis said.

“Should these trends continue, the share of schools which currently lag

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A Pretty Good Sales Pitch For MA Charter Schools

March 1, 2013

In a follow-up to their initial 2009 report on the Bay State, CREDO has released its latest Charter School Performance Report on Massachusetts, a six year study that analyzes the effectiveness of Massachusetts’s charter schools and in particular, their performance in the Boston area.

The report was largely positive on both math and reading tests, notably when comparing Boston charter schools to their public school counterparts. When analyzing just Beantown charters, the report found that 83 percent had significantly positive learning gains in both reading and math and no city charters were performing lower than the local public schools. That’s a pretty good sales pitch for charter schools in Massachusetts.

For a little more background on CER’s long history with CREDO and our concerns with their methodology, which they use in this report, here’s a link to help you out: a little intro to CREDO.


NYC Charter Achievement Positive Across Multiple Studies

February 20, 2013

The latest CREDO report looks at New York City charter school achievement and finds generally positive results.

CREDO research on other cities and states, like the Michigan report released in January, has generally yielded positive results. But perhaps more interesting is the fact that NYC CREDO findings are in line with work done by other researchers studying New York City charter schools. Check out the studies below for more on charter schools in the Big Apple:

How NYC Charter Schools Affect Achievement:
This study done by Caroline M. Hoxby employs quality charter school research methodology and finds that NYC charter school students will learn more over time than those students who remain in conventional public schools.

The State of the NYC Charter School Sector:
This report from the New York City Charter School Center gives an in-depth look into the city’s charter schools data, demographics and achievement, and indicates that charter schools continue to be a viable alternative for parents looking to better their children’s education in the Big Apple.

And for those of you scratching your head as to why you’ve heard the acronym CREDO before, it may have been because of a controversial and widely cited national report from 2009. Here’s some background to help you out: All About CREDO.


Charter Criticism Based on Fact or Fiction?

February 6, 2013

“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).

Yes, CREDO is at it again, using the same virtual twin methods that came under fire in their 2009 report.

In a Wall Street Journal Opinion video, David Feith breaks down — in less than 3 minutes — problems with the numbers in the latest CREDO report, as well as problems with how the report is being interpreted.


Understanding Charter Achievement Research: The CREDO Report

A Stanford University report from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) gained major attention in June 2009 when the New York Times ran its findings that public charter schools do no better or worse than traditional public schools. Unfortunately, these findings continue to be taken as fact today despite the study’s shortcomings. Below are some brief talking points on why the CREDO report is flawed.
You can find more detailed information in “Fact-Checking Charter School Achievement.”

Uncorrelated Variables

CREDO’s analysis does not account for the great variances in charter laws from state to state or how those laws may differ from paper to practice.

  • While the report suggests correlations exist between student achievement and charter law components, they admit to not fully understanding the impact of specific laws.
  • The report suggests a negative correlation between student achievement and multiple authorizers. In fact, such charter authorizers vary greatly in law and practice, as CER’s 2012 study and scorecard demonstrate. There is clear evidence that charter students succeed in states witha number of meaningful, independent and highly accountable authorizers who compete for chartering. See our Multiple Authorizers Primer for more information on charter authorizers.
  • The study was based on student population and not the overal strength of their charter system. Therefore CREDO missed most opportunities to see really strong charters in action.


Virtual Methodology

While there are virtual schools, there is no such thing as “virtual” student achievement.

  • The CREDO report acknowledges the creation of new research tools to assess the unknowable. Instead of comparing real students who attend charter schools to real students who attend conventional public schools, CREDO merged demographic data to create “virtual twins.” Randomization, the gold standard of research, is not used.
  • By virtually replicating the demographic profile of a

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Here They Go Again…

I read with some interest and a lot of frustration this Washington Post article, taking as gospel the findings of a flawed study conducted by The National Education Policy Center (NEPC). The study “found” K12 Inc. lags behind traditional public schools.

Once again we have good reporters getting snookered by “research” based on un-comparable data and lacking any value-added measurement of performance progress over time.

By any reasonable standard, reputable research needs to be based on an apples to apples comparison of subjects. The NEPC methodology makes no effort to compensate for the fact that the basic nature of virtual schools like K12 makes it difficult to compare their students to those in traditional public schools. Consequently, it ends up comparing apples to watermelons.

The NEPC report also cites a 2009 CREDO study that is one of the most egregious examples of bad research out there. CER has successfully debunked it time after time and yet the media continues to trot out that Trojan horse for some reason.

Where does madness end? When is the media going to learn to recognize good research from bad?

–Jeanne Allen, Founder and President of the Center for Education Reform

For K12 Inc.’s perspective, check out the Spotlight section on their website.


Fact-Checking Charter School Achievement

Download or print your PDF copy of Fact-Checking Charter School Achievement

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