New Jersey charter schools: What’s real and not real

A new report on charter schools in New Jersey was hailed as proof that charters in the state on average produce better standardized test scores than traditional public schools. Which would be fine, if that’s what the report really said.

It turns out that it shows something far less. Julia Sass Rubin, an associate professor of public policy at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University wrote here on the N.J. Spotlight Web site, about big problems with the report, which was done by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. For example, she said:

The CREDO press release claimed that “New Jersey charter public schools significantly outperform their district school peers.” However, this is not even remotely what the CREDO study found.

 

First, the CREDO study looked at only about half of New Jersey’s charter schools (46 out of 86).

 

Second, the study excluded another quarter of the state’s charter school students (23 percent), particularly those from groups that score lower on standardized test scores (students who have to repeat a grade, students with special needs, and students with limited knowledge of English).

 

Third, the study did not include students who had left charter schools. This is especially problematic given the significant attrition levels at the highest scoring charter schools, with the most academically challenged students the most likely to leave.


She also notes, among other things, that CREDO largely ignores “dramatic demographic differences between charter and traditional public schools.” Read the whole piece to see her complete analysis.

There’s more. A a blogger called Mother Crusader took Rubin’s piece and took a deep look into the report and CREDO, did more investigation about CREDO, entitled “Is CREDO ‘Part Of The Bandwagon?’”

For example, she asked the lead researcher of the study, Macke Raymond, how the study was funded and got this response:

The study of New Jersey Charter Schools is part of a larger array of studies we are conducting on charter school effectiveness across the country.  We have received foundation support for that body of work, though none of it was specifically ear-marked for the New Jersey study.

I hope this answers your question.  I do not, however, agree with you that we should be expected to announce our funders.  Many of the entities that support our work are “quiet” organizations and we try to respect their wishes as our funding partners.  Where funders are interested in being identified, we will generally go along.  So we’re not trying to hide anything, which the tone of your email implies. [emphasis Mother Crusader's]

Mother Crusader then found this on the Hoover Institution’s Web site about Raymond, who serves as director of CREDO:

In partnership with the Walton Family Foundation and Pearson Learning Systems, Raymond is leading a national study of the effectiveness of public charter schools. The public-academic-private partnership helps public charter schools adopt information technologies as a means to both support their operations and generate information required by the study design. [emphasis Mother Crusader's]

As Mother Crusader notes, CREDO is in part funded by Pearson, the largest education company in the world, and the Walton Foundation, which donates millions of dollars each year to expand the world of charter schools.

Who funds and sponsors research is something

Read the whole thing here.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · December 8, 2012