Dead heat

Only a third of fourth graders perform at grade level in reading and math, according to NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress); minority students do much worse. Looking at NAEP’s pilot study of charter schools, the Center for Education Reform finds hope.

The report finds that in the race for student achievement, charter school students are in a statistically dead-even tie with conventional public school students, despite the fact that charter school students receive less funding, are twice as likely to be African American and live in a central city and attend schools that have been operating for only a handful of years.

The NAEP charter report is a one-year snapshot with no information on student progress from year to year, CER emphasizes.

Fortunately, there are a number of highly credible research studies out there that do examine student achievement gains over time. This research reveals that that charter school students are making progress at rates much faster than conventional public school students Ð- and the longer children are in charter schools, the more dramatic that progress is.

CER is strongly pro-charter.

Update: Here’s a Los Angeles Daily News story on the Hoxby study, as applied to California students, which found charter students outperformed students at nearby public schools they’d otherwise attend. Charters did best with poor and Hispanic students, and charters in existence for six years or more did better than new charters. The story mentions NAPE instead of NAEP. Just a tad sloppy.

The New York Times has a negative spin on charters once again.

The department, analyzing the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress test for fourth graders, found charter students scoring significantly lower than regular public school students in math, even when the results are broken down for low-income children and those in cities.

In reading, the report said, over all there was no statistically significant difference between students in charters and in regular public schools. However, when students in special education were excluded, charter students scored significantly lower than those in regular public schools.

When broken down by race, the results show charter students generally lagging behind those in regular public schools in reading and math, but the differences were not statistically significant, the report said.

Charters enroll more black and urban students than non-charters.

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  1. Mike in Texas says:

    I don’t know what the CER is getting excited about. A short visit to the NAEP Executive Summary found these little jewels.

    in mathematics, fourth-grade charter school students as a whole did not perform as well as their public school counterparts


    In reading, there was no measurable difference in performance between charter school students in the fourth grade and their public school counterparts as a whole

    And one of my favorites:

    There are also instances where the performance of students with shared characteristics differed. For example, among students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, fourth-graders in charter schools did not score as high in reading or mathematics, on average, as fourth-graders in other public schools.

    In other words, the low socio economic status kids, one of the sub groups by which public schools are actually measured by, and a group the charter schools are supposed to revolutionize education for, actually did worse than public school kids.

    At least they didn’t try the Rod Paige approach and try to factor out the minority and low SES kids in singing the praises of charter schools.

  2. OK, what I’d like to see is how the charters perform when broken into subtypes based on educational philosophy. Charters, as a group, are far more diverse in this regard than public schools, a point which speaks in favor of the charter movement. It’s also a point which makes judging charters as a whole nearly useless.

    My bet on this would be that certain types of charters are doing very well, while others are doing very poorly. Finding out what types are doing what would be a productive use of the data, while using the averages just allows charter opponents to bash the movement as a whole.

  3. Richard Brandshaft says:

    YES. Now there are two of us who noticed charter schools are a not a group to aggregate.

    Charter schools are experiments on children. They are conscionable only because the conventional system is so badly broken. The next step is to take note of which experiments succeed, and try to figure out why.

    It is easy — and possibly correct — to conclude that both sides are more interested in bending the numbers to their doctrines than in the pursuit of truth. But I have noticed that even techies who should know better tend to overuse averages. Reducing the data to one number makes conclusions much easier reach to understand. The conclusions may be wrong, but they’re a lot easier to grasp.

  4. Mike in Texas says:

    It’s also a point which makes judging charters as a whole nearly useless.

    I knew someone would take the Rod Paige route and try to point out all the poor and minority in charter schools and how they shouldn’t be judge by their scores, like the public schools are.

  5. Mit wrote:

    “I knew someone would take the Rod Paige route and try to point out all the poor and minority in charter schools and how they shouldn’t be judge by their scores, like the public schools are.”

    I agree that they should be judged just like the public schools, by both standardized tests and by the parents. However, in the case of the public schools, when the parents judge and put their kids into another school, nothing changes. If this happens to a charter school or a private school, they close down.

    In our state, the charter law is set up so that only schools that are quite different than public schools are allowed and have to be approved by the state educational hierarchy. I can tell you that they have not and will never approve a charter school that sets higher standards. Still, the students of these schools should take the standardized tests and be judged.

    What is happening here now is that school districts which meet the minimal state testing standards are complaining that their kids should not be allowed to go to charter schools. Charter schools are only for areas where the public schools are failing. They say that these charter schools are “siphoning off” money that they could use. That is why our state now has a moratorium on new charter schools. The message is clear. No charter schools unless they are in failing districts and no accoutability more than the minimal state tests. On top of it all, since the charter schools are mostly in the bad school districts, the results are worse than the average of all public schools. This is then used as proof of the failure of charter schools. There is an organized effort to show that charter schools do not work as a whole. There is no interest in studying the success or failure of each individual charter.

    This is all about protecting the public school turf, not trying to find what works and what doesn’t. This is all about money, control, and educational philosophy, not what is best for each individual child. This is all about the educational arrogance of the public school system, where it is OK for the affluent to have choice, but not the poor. If charter schools are so bad, they will die off. Open up the rules, lift the moratoriums, test, and let the parents decide.

  6. “I knew someone would take the Rod Paige route and try to point out all the poor and minority in charter schools and how they shouldn’t be judge by their scores, like the public schools are.”

    MiT, you know, I do love it when people put words in my mouth. Really, I do. Now, if you go back and read WHAT I ACTUALLY SAID, you’ll find that all I want is a breakdown of test scores by educational method to find out which types of schools are successful and which ones aren’t. I DO want them judged by their scores, I just want the data presented in the useful format. That’s ALL I said.

    Really MiT, is your position so weak that you have to invent arguments to which to respond? How about next time you try reading my post in its entirety and responding to the points THAT I ACTUALLY PUT FORWARD. Honestly!

  7. Mike in Texas wrote:

    I knew someone would take the Rod Paige route and try to point out all the poor and minority in charter schools and how they shouldn’t be judge by their scores, like the public schools are.

    Tell you what, Mike, when charter schools get the same level of funding as conventional public school then they ought to be judged by the same criteria.

    Since funding for charter schools is inevitably lower then nearby district-based schools and funding for public education is inadequate, according to you Mike, that must mean that charter schools labor under an even greater handicap then district-based schools.

    What do you say, Mike. Wouldn’t it be fair to adjust any score by the difference between what the charter school gets and what the district-based schools get?

    Of course, that adjustment still wouldn’t take into account the self-selecting nature of charter school students.

    What parent would go to the trouble of enrolling their child in a charter school rather then accepting the default choice of district-based schools? A parent who’s kid isn’t doing very well in the old school.

  8. Mike in Texas says:


    My apologies, I DID misread your statement. I thought your statement about diversity was in regards to student populations and didn’t see it was about educational philosophies.

  9. MiT,

    Apology accepted.