American charter school Myth promoted in New Zealand

On the PPTA Blog there is one writer Tom Haig who has a passion for attacking charter schools. One of the more recent rockets he has fired was one claiming that a particular charter school got rid of students at a higher rate than other schools.

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Interestingly it turns out that this is a myth about charter schools that originated in America.


A sign for the new KIPP Thrive Academy hangs outside what had been the closed Eighteenth Avenue School Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Research Disproves Another Charter School Myth

Marcus A. Winters is a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

The rapid expansion of charter schools is fundamentally reforming urban education. Those who want to slow their growth often deflect by saying that the educational gains from attending an urban charter seen in the research are due to factors other than better quality schooling. Perhaps the most commonly cited boogeyman is that charter schools benefit from high attrition rates of the most difficult-to-educate students. New research is debunking that claim.

No charter school network is more synonymous with urban education reform than the Knowledge is Power Program, or KIPP.

KIPP has rapidly grown throughout the years and now serves about 70,000 students – the vast majority of whom are minority and come from low-income households – in 183 schools across 20 states and the District of Columbia. Their schools exemplify the “no-excuses” model that holds students accountable for meeting high standards, regardless of their backgrounds.

Recent research shows that students make substantial academic progress when they attend a KIPP school instead of the district school to which they would have otherwise been assigned. The results from KIPP and other charters provide strong evidence that disadvantaged students can indeed learn if they are provided with high quality schooling.

And yet, some question whether these gains made in KIPP schools are real and replicable. In particular, they argue that their test scores improvements are inflated by disproportionate attrition of low-performing students out of KIPP.

But new work from researchers at Mathematica Policy Research, published in the latest issue of the prestigious journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, shows that such concerns are at best exaggerated.

The authors compared the mobility of students attending KIPP middle schools to those of students in surrounding school districts. They found that overall attrition from KIPP is actually very similar to that of both the entire surrounding school district and a group of similar peer schools. Nor do KIPP schools seem to be systematically pushing their lowest-performers out the door –– the achievement levels of students who leave KIPP mirror those exiting similar district schools.

These findings for KIPP are consistent with a growing body of research. My own research in Denver and New York City found that low-performing students are just as likely to leave charter schools as they are to exit district schools. A study by Vanderbilt’s Ron Zimmer and Indiana University’s Cassandra Guarino similarly found no difference in the exit patterns of low-performing students in charter and district schools within an anonymous school district in the Midwest. There simply is no empirical evidence to support the common claim that low-performing students are systematically pushed out of charter schools.



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  • biscuit barrel

    The UK conservatives have a done a u turn of their election policy that all schools will be transformed into Academies.

    “Nicky Morgan has insisted there will be no retreat on plans to convert every state school in England into an academy”

    “Plans to force all of England’s schools to become academies are being abandoned in a government climbdown.

    Like the UK and US , most public schools were run from central bureacracies, while NZ schools all have independent governance. The major feature is the Principal does the hiring of teachers here, while overseas they are ‘placed’ in their schools.
    By most oversea standards we have academy schools now. Creating boutique schools as partnership schools here might work in some circumstances but will largely have same results as the current devolved state system.
    However as the policy was created as election agreement for a party on 1%, they will all be swept away on change of government. So the things learned will be lost.

    • Rightsideofthebed

      And isn’t that just the way of the left.

      We don’t care if the policy is working and giving better outcomes to students – it’s against the mantra dictated to us by the unions so it must go.

      Would be nice if the left in general could stop thinking left=good : right=bad and actually acknowledge that some ‘not invented here’ policies have merit.

      Of course that would be the stance of a party trying to capture the middle ground – not fighting it’s way further left.

      • Abjv

        It is the groups that are getting better outcomes that is the problem, disadvantaged Maori and Pasifika. If those kids do well, succeed, escape the poverty trap then they will accumulate income and assets and be less inclined to vote Labour. Less inclined to go bleating to the media over every misfortune in life. And less inclined to end up in prison and become a friend of Kelvin Davis, with their next generation ending up in the same place. These are generations of potential labour votes we are talking about, the last thing wanted is for these kids to succeed.

        • sandalwood789


          If state schools are perfect then why do private (and charter) schools exist?

          If state schools are *not* perfect then there should be alternatives. Private schools are one option, charter schools are another.

  • andrewo

    Teachers are about half the total union membership in NZ, so it’s not hard to see why the movement feels threatened by charter schools.

  • SavetheBees

    Tom Haig, the new deputy general sec, another internall appointment by ppta. more of the same sadly with him in this position. PPTA use to stand for something, now they stand for anything.

    There is no evidence cos no one collates it. There is no evidence cos no one is asking the tough questions to get the answers. Just more light questions that have a nice answer that make everyone feel nice.