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

Monday, January 16, 2012

No Data? No Charters!

Why do so many politicos push charters when we know so little about them?
The study, just published in the journal Science, was conducted by two well-known researchers: Julian Betts, an educational economist at the University of California at San Diego and executive director of the San Diego Education Research Alliance, and Richard Atkinson, president emeritus of the University of California, former director of the National Science Foundation and professor emeritus of cognitive science and psychology at UC San Diego.
They wrote in their study, “Better Research Needed on the Impact of Charter Schools,” that charter schools have been embraced by the Obama administration — and by the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations before it — as “the saviors of a broken educational system.” But, they said, researchers still can’t answer the question: Does attendance at a charter school improve student outcomes?

“Which charter schools, or even types of charter schools, are more effective than others? We don’t really know,” they wrote.
Researchers (one of them was Betts) conducting a recent meta-analysis of charter research studies ended up throwing out about 75 percent of them because they didn’t take into account differences between the backgrounds and academic histories of students attending charter schools and those attending traditional public schools.
“Most studies simply take a snapshot of student performance at a single point in time,” the new report says. “Such studies cannot disentangle school quality from the preexisting achievement level and trajectory of students who decide to attend a given school. The potential for student self-selection into charter schools is great, which makes naïve comparison of student outcomes at charter schools and traditional public schools misleading.” [emphasis mine]
This is the key point in the charter (and voucher) debate: we can't claim charters do better than public schools when we don't account for student characteristics. And yet the folks who push charters (and vouchers) don't want to wait and study the data before they begin charter school expansion.

Take, for example, here in New Jersey. Let's check the ACTING Commissioner Cerf Charter Report Clock:

ACTING Commissioner Cerf promised us a report on charter schools and student achievement "as quickly as is humanly possible." I'd say 315 days is long enough.

There should be a moratorium on any new charter schools until the Cerf report is released and properly vetted.

Anything less is unwarranted and unwise.


Ken Houghton said...

Apparently, per NJ spotlight, the Governor and the ACTING Commissioner either agree with you, or they failed in doing their job.

No announcement today.

Lisa said...

The Inconvenient Truth Behind "Waiting for Superman" exposes the reality and answers the critical issues and questions that NJ must face before it careens down this slippery slope. This is Part 2 of a movie produced by a grassroots group of NY parents and teachers. It's worth the time. The other four parts are also up on YouTube and are also worth the time.


Duke said...

Ken, in fairness, they moved the State of the State to today when the majority leader of the Assembly dies last week. I can understand they didn't want to overshadow it. A political decision, yes, but a reasonable one.

I do think they are worried about the backlash if some of these application go through. People are not putting up with this any more.

Lisa, thx for the link - I'll check it out.