Study: No charter edge

Students who won lotteries to get into charter middle schools performed no better in reading and math than lottery losers who enrolled in nearby district-run schools, concludes a federally commissioned study (pdf) involving 36 charter middle schools in 15 states.  Behavior and attendance was similar as well, but parent satisfaction was higher for charter parents.

However, urban charter schools serving low-income students outperformed nearby schools, concludes the study by Mathematica Policy Research.

“Generally, we found that these charter schools were more effective for more low-income, lower-achieving students,” Ms. Silverberg said, “and less effective for higher-income, higher-achieving students.

That jibes with Mathematica’s KIPP study (pdf) which found learning gains for KIPP middle schoolers, most of whom are low-income black and Hispanic students.

Researchers found a wide range of results: Some charter schools are working very well and some are not.

Charter schools receive less funding — $9,883 per student compared to $12,863 per student — than  district-run schools, concludes another study, Equal or Fair?, reported in Answer Sheet.

Gary Miron and Jessica L. Urschel of Western Michigan University, looked at 2006-07 data (the latest available) for 1,675 charter schools in 22 states.

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  1. caveats
    1- middle schools only aka elementary and high schools are specifically not addressed (or subjects of future studies)
    2- siblings exempted where they have a lottery preference (page 8) this should have little effect, I think, but was 31% of the admits
    3- study look ed at many differences among charter and control district schools (page 34) but omitted differences in funding. The closest it came as a surrogate was student teacher ratios, teacher salaries and facilities.

  2. Charters do the same job district schools do yet get $9,883 per student compared to $12,863 for district schools? Any time I can get the same job done for less money I consider that a serious improvement.

  3. Keep in mind that when you are looking at kids who are even considered for charter schools, you are looking only at a subset of student populations.

    1) You are only looking at those whose parents are motivated or knowledgeable enough to try to choose a school for their children, instead of accepting whatever the district says.

    2) You are not looking at many (if any) of the special education students, especially those with severe learning disabilities or emotional troubles. These students require a disproportionately high amount of resources.

    The whole idea of computing basic cost per student is incredibly flawed. It’s like the old canard about women making 72% of the wages that men earn – it combines unequal data sets and pretends they are equal.

    By looking at lottery winners and losers, you are doing a pretty good job of equalizing the two data sets – i.e. only looking at kids whose parents entered them in the lottery. It does not surprise me at all that such kids are doing essentially the same.

    To paraphrase Tom Lehrer, education is like a sewer: what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. Education is (ideally) about the children. It is they and their families who make the real difference.

  4. And here’s how they do it cheaper, from the study

    26% Hispance students vs. 32% for the public schools
    12% Black students vs. 16% for the public schools
    33% of students receiving free or reduced lunch vs 45% for public schools
    4% of students classified as LEP vs 11% for the public schools
    12% special ed students vs. 14% for public schools

    The charter school applicants were more likely to have achieved proficiency on their state reading tests (73 versus 57 percent) as well as their state math test (58 versus 45 percent).

    In other words, they started with a better off group of students, easily deduced by the fact these kids had parents willing to take the time to fill out the applications and go through the selection process, fewer minority students, fewer special ed. kids, and fewer non-English speaking kids.

    All of which cost more (for the local public schools) to educate. I noticed there was no data available for transportation. In my town the local charter school provides no transportation for its students.

  5. Not everyone shares your view of black and Hispanic kids, Mike. Or black and Hispanic parents either.

    Needless to say, those parents are hardly likely to share your view that they ought to shut up and accept whatever the public education system dishes out.

  6. Ah, but I never said they do, you chose to use those words.

    But it is what it is, for whatever reasons, be it testing bias or language acquisistion issues, minority and poor students tend to do more poorly on standardized tests. If there wasn’t significance to that fact the study authors wouldn’t have bothered to collect the statistics on it.

  7. Whether it’s overt racism or the delicately-phrased implication of racial inferiority, it’s all grist for the mill when the defense of the status quo is at stake. Pleasingly, it isn’t working.

    Louisiana’s the latest state to enact voucher legislation among the seven states that’ve ignored the blizzard of baloney with which mercenaries masquerading as teachers defend their sweet deal.

  8. Which has absolutely nothing to do with the study at hand.

    Apparently you don’t have any valid arguements so you resort to calling me a racist to hide the lack of depth of any of your arguements.

    I find it highly amusing, given that my class from the school year I just finished was 97% minority.

  9. See, that’s the source of your confusion. What you’d like to think of as amusement is frustration and anger.

    Frustration because no amount of spin and misrepresentation seems to be re-establishing the apathy and resignation on which the public education system depends to get the public to accept the lousy job that’s so often being done.

    Anger because it means the sweet deal, the ever-rising salaries and bennies without a lick more effectiveness, is coming to an end.

    And here’s the extent to which that anger and frustration has driven you: you’re willing to embrace racism if it serves your purposes.

    That’s assuming, of course, you weren’t a bigot to begin with. I’ve noticed that overt bigotry is inversely proportional to the opportunity to make a buck. Since you’re willing to make use of skin color to excuse lousy professional performance that makes you a mercenary but it doesn’t preclude you from being a bigot.

  10. Frustration because no amount of spin and misrepresentation seems to be re-establishing the apathy and resignation on which the public education system depends to get the public to accept the lousy job that’s so often being done.

    That’s why so many parents overwhelmingly rate their child’s school as good or better.

    As always Allen, you have no validity to your arguements so you resort to name calling.

    Have you checked the internet, maybe some charter school sites for some more disinformation to spread?


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kriley19 and JoanneLeeJacobs, 21stprincipal. 21stprincipal said: Students won lotteries to charters performed no better than those in traditional schools. […]