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« Coffman for Secretary of State | Main | Wednesday Evening Sunrise »

Faculty Agenda Journalism

Last night, Krista and I interviewed Mike Petrelli of the Fordham Foundation concerning a New York Times report on the alleged ineffectiveness of charter schools. He pointed out that while there had been numerous state-level studies indicating the superiority of charter schools vs. standard cookie-cutter public schools, the Times continued to repackage the same three-year-old study, with each subsequent headline screeching more hysterically than the last. Today's Journal brings up a number of the same points:

"You compare students year to year in certain subjects to find out whether they're learning and how much of it can be attributed to the school," says Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform. "This national study doesn't do that." This federal picture is incomplete, in part, because the feds only began including charter schools in NAEP data three years ago. But states have been measuring performance trends for much longer. And the value-added effects of charter schools are clear.

Studies in California, New York, Massachusetts, Florida and elsewhere have repeatedly shown charter school students outperforming their counterparts in traditional public schools -- sometimes dramatically. In Michigan in 2004, 46% of black eighth-graders in charter schools passed the state math assessment test, compared with just 21% of black eighth-graders statewide.

We might also add Colorado to the list. Using 2003-2004 CSAP data, Caroline Hoxby of Harvard's Econ department found that:

Compared to students in the nearest regular public school and the nearest public school with a similar racial composition, charter students are more likely to be proficient in reading and math on their state test. Students in charter schools that have been in operation longer are more likely to have a proficiency advantage over their peers in the matched regular public school. In Colorado, charter school students were between 12.3 and 13.5 percent more likely to be proficient in reading and math than students attending the nearest regular public school. (emphasis added -ed.)

You can read the whole report here.

Remember, charter schools don't have the luxury of refusing students based on performace - these are public schools, that have to fit student demand to seat supply through a lottery, or some other neutral mechanism. The only student selection is self- or parent-selection, and while it's more likely that motivated parents or students will cast about for an escape, the experience in Cleveland and Florida suggest that that proportion is higher than just a few percent. In any case, charters can hardly be accused of skimming.

We did have one caller, Robin, a middle-school principal, who argued that charters need to upgrade their teacher certification standards, a typical claim from a union that would like to extend the close shop to beyond the shop. If charters are outperforming (or even matching) public schools using less restrictive teacher certification, that just says that at least some of the standards the unions have helped impose are either irrelevant or outright damaging.

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