I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Our Failed Media - Charter School Edition

Could we please require a course or two in research methods in journalism schools?
TRENTON — As Gov. Chris Christie prepares to announce new charter schools approved to open in New Jersey, data obtained by The Star-Ledger shows well over half of the state’s charter school classes outperformed their local school district counterparts on standardized tests.
But those charters, most of them located in poor districts, still fell below the state average. 
The newspaper analysis shows 76 percent of charter school eighth grades outpaced performance in their districts in language arts, for example, as did 68 percent of fourth-grade classes in language arts, and 58 percent of fourth-grade classes in math. At the high school level, 69 percent of schools outperformed district classes in the language arts portion of the high school proficiency exam, and 54 percent outdid district classes in math.
Well, yeah - because the charter population is not equivalent to the neighborhood population. Bruce Baker explains in a way even a reporter for the S-L should understand:
First, as I noted on a previous post, Robert Treat’s student body is only 3.8% special education in a district with an average of 18.1%.  This is from the special education classification data from NJDOE. In the enrollment files, Treat reports 0%. At 100% additional average expenditure per special education pupil, matching district demographics would raise Treat’s expected spending to $14,868 (1.18 x 12,600 in 2007).
Second, while Robert Treat does show about 62.4% students qualifying for free (130% poverty level) and reduced (185% poverty level) lunch, the free lunch share is about 42.9%. That is, Treat’s free or reduced share is boosted by the share of children who are more well off among the less well off. Note that the model I used above used Free & Reduced shares, not Free alone or the ratio between them.
By contrast, Newark Public Schools in total has 82% free or reduced and 71% free lunch alone.
Treat also reports less than 1% limited English proficient students while Newark City schools report 8.7%.
Jeanette Rundquist filing this report is bad enough, but who is the editor who allows this drivel to be published? Didn't anyone in the S-L chain of command ever think to ask a very basic question?

The kicker's at the end, thanks to our old friend, Bruno Tedeschi, whom Rundquist quotes:
Bruno Tedeschi, spokesman for the New Jersey Charter Schools Association, said it is unfair to compare children in charter schools — most of which are in poor, urban areas — with children in the state’s wealthy suburban districts.
"It would be great if all of them performed above the state average, and certainly there are charter schools in urban areas where kids are. But you have to remember who you’re talking about. The vast majority of (charter school) kids are disadvantaged, urban children," he said. "It’s unfair to compare kids in Newark with kids in Millburn."
But it's not unfair to compare a school with 43% free lunch kids to others that average 71%. Yeah, makes sense...

Again - this is why newspapers are dying.

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