Charter schools work, so get out of their way

The latest CREDO (Center for Research on Education Outcomes) study has some interesting perspectives on charter schools,

and the left-wing and teacher unions are ignoring it because…well…charter schools are working and helping “their people”.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes?(CREDO), at Stanford University, has done that in a new study, and it turns out that charters, in general, are strongest exactly where the need is greatest?in urban areas. In some cities, such as Boston, students are achieving six times the growth in math knowledge as are their traditional school counterparts; in reading, four times as much.

The CREDO study also fingers cities where charters are plainly failing, although on average in the 41 urban areas it studied, charter students are clearly outpacing traditional-school peers. Notably, the methodology employed by CREDO seems to rule out the persistent accusation that charter schools get better results merely by ?cherry-picking? abler or more motivated students.

The beauty of charter schools is if they aren’t working, then you simply close them…try doing that with a state school and watch the wombles march in?the?streets, irrespective of the results achieved by those schools. Every state school is perfect don’t you know.

Although forests have been leveled for all the studies on charter schools, CREDO?s new study took an unusual tack. It studied students in multiple areas of the country?and exclusively studied urban areas. Three points emerged. When suburban charters were excluded, the smaller average gains registered in previous studies were suddenly magnified. In other words, charters seem to be remedying a particular defect of schools in the most challenged areas. Second, within those schools, gains were greatest among students?those in poverty, African-Americans, Hispanics, English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students?whose performance typically lags. Disadvantaged students gain the equivalent of months (or more) of extra learning for every year in a charter school.

And the third point was the great divergence among charter organizations (each of which has its own board and often a distinct approach, with varying levels of community engagement). Some are offering a superior alternative; some are not.

Even if they are not, if they are at least on a par with state schools there is no real problem.

Over a six-year period, CREDO compared each charter student with the average of their demographic ?twins.? This matching was done for more than one million students?a large enough sample so that the results would not be driven by chance.

It is true that charter students are drawn from a motivated group?those that care enough to apply. However, if a charter student?s home environment produced similar test scores to those of the matching group at the beginning of the sample period, one would expect equivalent results at the end as well.

But they weren?t equivalent. The charter students, according to the study, achieved ?significantly higher levels of annual growth in both math and reading.? On average, students achieved the equivalent of 40 days of extra learning in math per year, and 28 days in reading. Moreover, with each year that a student stayed in charter school, relative results improved.

As noted, African-American and other disadvantaged groups performed particularly well, relative to their traditional school peers. Gains were strongest among students with ?multiple disadvantages.? For instance, black students who were also poor achieved the equivalent of 59 days of additional learning in math compared to their traditional-school peers. Hispanic students who were also ESL advanced in math at the same rate as white peers in traditional schools?erasing a seemingly intractable learning gap.

So why does Labour, the Greens, the NZEI and PPTA want these schools closed down?

It can’t be because of their results…it has to be ideology in the face of facts.

As is usual the teacher unions can’t actually articulate their opposition, instead relying on the tired and failed lies of their campaigns.

Confronted with such evidence, legislators introduced a bill last year to lift the cap, but the Massachusetts Teachers Association vehemently lobbied against it. The measure died in the state senate.

Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, said he wasn?t surprised by the CREDO results. ?They?re cherry-picking? the students, he said. He pointed out that Boston charters had dramatically fewer ESL students and slightly fewer special-ed students. Neither factor, though, would affect the study?s conclusions.

I asked Stutman if he thought traditional schools could learn anything from charters. ?They don?t do anything different,? he said. ?All I ever hear is they have a longer school day.? In response, Jon Clark, co-director of Brooke Charter Schools (which I visited), enumerated a list: better discipline, professional development for teachers, principals focused on instruction rather than non-academic chores, and more tutoring and feedback for students.

It is hard to comprehend the opposition to charter schools, especially when neither Chris Hipkins nor Catherine Delahunty have never so much as visited a charter school.

The results and evidence are proving the lies of both of them and their teacher union pals.


– Fortune