Charter schools shoot themselves in both feet

Written By: - Date published: 2:03 pm, October 23rd, 2012 - 16 comments
Categories: education, making shit up, schools - Tags: ,

I notice that DPF is pushing data supposed to show the success of charter schools in New York (and of course pushing his anti-teacher agenda at the same time). The source is the WSJ:

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.

16 comments on “Charter schools shoot themselves in both feet”

  1. Gosman 1

    The key point in the article that Kiwiblog discusses was the comparision between districts over time. In that respect it should not really matter if testing standards have been relaxed because supposedly they will have been relaxed for all schools and therefore do not explain the changes in the relative measurements between school districts.

    The great bastion of Social Democracy – Sweden – has gone big on Charter Schools with little evidence that they are failing students or that the leftist parties in Sweden are itching to get rid of them. I wonder why that is.

    • McFlock 1.1

      it should not really matter if testing standards have been relaxed because supposedly they will have been relaxed for all schools

      cf:

      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.

      my boldface both quotes.
      moron.

      • Gosman 1.1.1

        Ummmmm…, if you had bothered to read that article you should have noticed it was about Pennsylvania not New York. Considering the article Kiwiblog is discussing is about the comparative performance of various schools in in another state entirely it is irrelevant unless the argument is about comparing Charter School against Public Schools in PENNSYLVANIA.

        • McFlock 1.1.1.1

          Actually – good call. Through shear weight of numbers you have managed to not spout bullshit.
              
          Of course, it calls into question your basic assumption that general rule relaxation doesn’t favour some schools over others, but nevertheless, good call. I read too quickly between taskings.
           

        • Dr Terry 1.1.1.2

          Not only New York as such, but in Harlem specifically. Anyone who has resided in New York, as I have, will understand the implications of this.

          Are you conceding that comparisons in Pennsylvania are not favourable? (I cannot imagine Gosman making too many concessions, actually. I wonder why?)

    • Dv 1.2

      >>testing standards have been relaxed because supposedly they will have been relaxed for all schools

      Interesting assumption

      Sweden
      >>with little evidence that they are failing students

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/swedens-free-schools-model-has-limited-impact-2008070.html

      The report highlights evidence that shows a “moderately positive” impact of free schools on academic performance when pupils are 15 and 16, but adds: “The biggest beneficiaries are children from highly educated families; the impact on low educated families and immigrants is close to zero.”V

      The report also cites evidence that says: “The researchers also find that the advantages that children educated in areas with free schools have by age 16 do not translate into greater educational success in later life.”

      • Gosman 1.2.1

        All that suggests is that they aren’t as successful in Sweden as some would have hoped according to a particular meassure. It doesn’t support the view they are failing students.

        • Dv 1.2.1.1

          Didn’t say they were, BUT how are they going to improve the 10% tail, as they are suppose to as the impact on low educated families and immigrants is close to zero.

    • Georgecom 1.3

      sad thing Gosman is that the New York comments suggest that standardised testing and charter schools didn’t lead to a great leap in achievement levels. Supposed improvments were the result of ‘relaxation of standards’. The claims that standardised testing and charter schools improve achievements have been cast into doubt, yet again, by this report. On that basis, why bother investing tens of millions of dollars into programmes that are not proven to deliver what is claimed. The govt is apparently short of money. Why waste it on underachieving programmes.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.3.1

        This government is only short of money to help society be better. They’ve got plenty to give to their rich mates.

    • KJT 1.4

      Sweden has had a bit of a swing towards the Neo-liberal paradigm lately. And as expected are having the inevitable decline in social outcomes.
      Though as they started at a high level of social wages they have a longer way to fall than we did.

      • Colonial Viper 1.4.1

        I saw a recent speech by the Swedish finance minister on Youtube. Yeah a barely disguised neoliberal hack.

    • lprent 1.5

      The great bastion of Social Democracy – Sweden – has gone big on Charter Schools with little evidence that they are failing students or that the leftist parties in Sweden are itching to get rid of them. I wonder why that is.

      First off Sweden isn’t exactly a homogenous country nor is it uniformly liberal. I’d suggest you have a look at some of the local juristrictions which have quite a lot of autonomy. Especially their history since the war for “hooligans” and unwed mothers. Makes some of our worst excesses look tame.

      That is why they have a rather classic authoritarian second term government at present.

      I believe it was because their charter schools were highly regulated even beyond the state school regulations about what could or could not be done. That was all tha would pass the legislature. That reduced the amount of room there was to cut corners. Why are you trying compare apples with oranges? The intent here is to have extremely light regulation, whichis why an ACToid has been put in charge of the pilot programme.

      Charter schools, if implemented here, should be regulated up at least as far as the private schools in NZ that take state money and for exactly the same reasons. Using state money to finance nutters and/or low standards of basic education is unacceptable.

      As Dv pointed out the results were not particularly useful in target groups in Sweden that were the ostensible reason for creating the schools. They however were of use for getting state money to set up enclave schools for the already affluent. That kind of closed community is not acceptable either – it appears to be just a good way of manufacturing arrogant idiots. Bad enough seeing the silly buggers coming out of Kings..

  2. ianmac 2

    There is a long tail. We will have Charter Schools. Therefore the tail will be eliminated.
    Simple as 1+1=2. If John Banks can see it why can’t you? Hmmm?.
    Actually testing is the gremlin both as in NS and as in how to measure success. The Question is the Answer.
    Would those running our Charter schools cheat in order to get the funding and pump up their success? Doubt it. 😈
    Come to think of it, had National Standards not been shunted in front of Charter Schools, there might have been a good case for designing alternative schools to cater for specialised learning unfettered by normals and testing. Now the suspicion and doubt that has been thrust by Parata and the Ministry has made cooperation nil.

  3. captain hook 3

    I dont live in Pennsylvania.
    I live in New Zealand and I know that the promoters of charter schools in New Zealand are barely literate and posessed of anti everything ideas except their own weird beliefs.
    This is a case of not only loonies running the asylum but actually being given state money to build half assed versions for themselves.
    Is this really the democratic ideal?

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