A recent Forbes article called "The Unappreciated Success of Charter Schools", largely quoted a
study from Mathematica
[SOURCE: Forbes | Adam Ozimek | 11 January 2015]
Blogger Kevin Drum at MotherJones.com blogged about this on Monday, 12 January 2015. Here is the link to the blog post and commentary.
My feelings? Glad you asked. :-) :-)
First of all, that study by Mathematica of 36 Charter schools across 15 States is a very small
sample size, highly subject to bias and extreme events (for example: 34 plumbers + Bill Gates and
Donald Trump). Also: Was it random? Did they stratify the population by characteristics to ensure a
representative sample? I am not sure, but regardless, even still the Forbes article quoted the
following summary from the authors of the Mathematica study:
This paper presents findings from the first national randomized study of
the impacts of charter schools on student achievement, which included
36 charter middle schools across 15 states. The paper compares students
who applied and were admitted to these schools through randomized
admissions lotteries with students who applied and were not admitted. It
finds that, on average, charter middle schools in the study were
neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in
improving student achievement. However, impacts varied significantly
across schools and students, with positive impacts for more disadvantaged schools and students and
negative impacts for the more advantaged.
Notice the bold part. Bingo.
But then notice the italicized extra part that was added to "soften" the reality of the bolded part.
Really? the study says that "impacts varied significantly" across the data from this small sample
size that might not be representative. Go figure? ... but yet there somehow were still "positive"
and "negative" aspects? Huhn?
Positive? Negative? Yea the smart kids get dumbed down, and when you get a school with a few more
high-end kids more than would have been in the public school system, of course it's a benefit. But
is this due to the teaching and curriculum paradigm of the charter's or just by the pure obvious
You can't look at this purely by numbers. You have to get to know the day by day, week by week
realities of what these institutions are actually doing to our children.
The data collected in all of these studies is not based on the same population of kids. You have to
apply to most charter schools, and they get to reject or expel
students. Public schools have to accept every student who registers,
and you can't find reasons to expel students who are not applying
themselves. So Charter schools are serving motivated students who
choose to apply themselves. Even so, they still are not any better
than Public schools, who do rather well despite the horrific realities
of the student population and budget cuts.
But let me quote from some other folks. First, from Chad Brick;
I am not sure if any convincing evidence for or against charter school performance exists - or even
could exist. Even the randomized lottery studies have a fatal flaw:
1: Some students enter the lottery
2: Some of the students win the lottery, some lose
3: Some hyper-motivated parents find a way to get around #2
4: The lottery winners go to school with other lottery winners (and the cheaters), the lottery
losers go to school with those that never entered the lottery and other lottery losers.
Even if you ignore point number three, the fourth point creates a major issue - it is NOT RANDOM.
The children who entered the lottery are not the same as the children who did not. Therefore, any
difference between the charter and the public school might be due to the lottery winners and losers
have a different set of classmates rather than a different set of teachers. The only way around this
would be force all eligible students to enter the lottery, and to my knowledge this has never been
done and is entirely impractical.
Second, from skeptonomist:
When parents put their kids into charters by volunteering or the selection is made otherwise in
non-random ways, and when the charter system is allowed to throw kids (or teachers) back into the
public system if they don't perform, then comparison is invalid. Charter systems may have access to
low-cost teachers that public systems don't. I doubt if all the systems in the metastudy really met
the criteria for a valid test. Those who set up such systems, whether they are private or public,
have motivation and usually some power to impose selectivity. Public systems have little power to
oppose this selectivity.
is that the vast majority of the charter schools are put into existence and
funded by ideological non-profits so that they can suck up students from
nearby public schools and bring about the demolition of the public
school system. Leave-No-Child-Behind was the first pillar in this long
term plan. It created a plethora of insane ways to label schools as
"failing" or "lacking-improvement" and then kicked in a clause in the
law that enable a charter school to petition in the district. It was
the camel's nose under the tent. Sucking up funds from the local
schools who have extra cost overloads and cannot compete with the cost
structures of the non-profit grant subsidized charters, who often would
operate at a loss otherwise.
Teacher turnover and moral in
charter schools is often terrible. Many teachers are youthful recruits
for Teach for America who are inexperienced and are given a "canned"
curriculum to follow. Need I say that charter schools do not have
This is the biggest Union-busting scheme in American
History, and it really sucks to read people like Kevin Drum at an outlet like Mother Jones (of all
places) is not even
mentioning it, while at the same time giving lip service to the charter
school movements false achievements of serving the "colored" population
better. (Despite being a completely different population -- readabove.)
If you are clueless or need more info, a good start in your education is Diane Ravitch. Go to her
blog http://dianeravitch.net/ .
Then go read her book "Reign of Error" and begin to become horrified by the truth of the charter