New York City recently released official progress reports for the city’s 1,230 schools, including measures of how each school compares with other schools that have similar students. The reports provide yet more proof that charter schools—which outperformed traditional public schools by a wide margin—are working. Eight of the top 11 elementary and middle schools by student performance are charters, and four of those charters are in Harlem.
There many problems with this supposed success. Here’s one:
Something very similar happened in New York state, where unrevealed relaxations in state testing standards led to a multi-year belief in the efficacy of reforms there. When results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests revealed the gains were illusory, New York admitted the test changes, thereby wiping out half a decade of supposed achievement gains on math and language tests.
Who knows how much of this cooking the books goes on – here’s another example:
Gov. Tom Corbett’s education chief changed the PSSA testing rules in a way that makes it easier for charter schools to meet federal benchmarks than traditional public schools.
Education Secretary Ron Tomalis’ change, made without federal approval, might have skewed the results of the 2011-12 PSSA scores to make it appear charter schools were outperforming traditional public schools, according to a Morning Call review of publicly available test score data.
The proponents of charter schools shoot themselves in the foot with this kind of nonsense, because it means that no evidence purporting to show the success of charter schools can be trusted at face value. (The New Zealand version of charter schools are – surprise! – going to be able to opt out of national standards and NCEA – expect more dodgy data of self-reported success to start emanating from this country in due course.) And that’s before all the other ways of manipulating the results, like selective admissions, expelling “unsuccessful” students (a tactic of the New York schools the WSJ quotes), and so on.
Charter schools do worse more often than the do better, are bad for education in general. Our public education system is already very successful and very cost effective. If we want even better results, the solution is to strengthen public education, not to throw ourselves under the ideological bandwagon of charter schools.