Bob Braun:In a short post that evening, I pointed out the obvious fact that the state’s analysis was wholly inadequate to demonstrate charter performance – good, bad or indifferent – relative to comparable regular public schools. Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker did the same, and also presented a school-level analysis showing that there was no difference.Christopher Cerf, the state’s acting education commissioner, decided to stand by the suspect results, basically saying that they were imperfect but good enough to draw the conclusions from.It was an astonishing position.Isolating the effect of charter schools versus regular public schools is an exceedingly complicated endeavor. One must account for a huge array of observable and unobservable factors, including student characteristics, attrition,selection bias, and resources. It is, of course, impossible to control for everything, and that is why the research literature on charter effects is highly complex. The better analyses rely on sophisticated statistical models, longitudinal student-level datasets, and, when possible, experimental research designs using random assignment.The state’s analysis consisted entirely of subtraction. The conclusions drawn from it offend the most basic principles of empirical research. Christopher Cerf is a smart guy, and I’m guessing that he knows this.
It's tough these days for Christie and Cerf, as facts have a well-known liberal bias. It's hard work twisting them to justify the opening of Haliburton High Schools all over the state.TRENTON — Good news: Christopher Cerf, New Jersey’s acting education commissioner, has promised an "independent" analysis of the relative achievement of charter schools and traditional public schools.Bad news: Just in case there was any doubt about what he thinks, he reissued an old report contending charters "outperform" regular schools.The second report, prepared for the state school board, added some things not in the January report, first released in time to support Gov. Chris Christie’s new charter school initiative. It includes new data that purport to show charter schools do, in fact, enroll disabled and poor children. However, as Cerf has refused for the last two months, he did not show how the differences in enrolled students in charter and traditional schools affect achievement.Getting the facts right is very important. The administration is pushing for both a vast expansion of the number of charter schools and a blanket deregulation of the publicly funded institutions — including allowing them to ignore teaching licenses when hiring instructors and allowing for-profit businesses to run charter schools. The changes could radically alter the way education is delivered in the state."We are seeing a classic demonstration of how data gets manipulated to support whatever point of view is in vogue," says Joseph DePierro, dean of the Seton Hall College of Education and Human Services.