Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Charter schools: the secret is out.

The US Department of Education released a report, "The Evaluation of
Charter School Impacts
," in June 2010.

According to the report, the evaluation was conducted in 36 charter middle schools across 15 states and compares outcomes of students who applied and were admitted to these schools through randomized admissions lotteries (lottery winners) with the outcomes of students who also applied to these schools and participated in the lotteries but were not admitted (lottery losers).

The key findings, as stated in the Executive Summary (italics are mine):

• On average, study charter schools did not have a statistically significant impact on student achievement.

• Study charter schools positively affected parent and student satisfaction with and perceptions of school.

Oh, I get it. This must be what all the fuss is about...students don't actually do any better in charter schools. They just feel better about their schools. Wow. No wonder Governor Christie, President Obama, Arne Duncan and the rest are so excited.


Anonymous said...

Laurie, I am surprised at your dismissal of student and parent's "feelings."

Isn't education all about how a learner feels about themselves?

Laurie said...

Haha. You know I care about your feelings. Of course they matter. Read carefully: the study reported on students' and parents' feelings about charter schools, not about themselves.

Of course it matters how parents and students feel about their schools. But that's not solely how I'd judge success.

And in case my sarcasm obscured my point: there seems to be some assumption among political leaders, the media and, thus, others that charter schools are somehow automatically "better" than regular public schools. This study is one more that shows that generalization is simply not borne out by the research.

As to your question about the definition of what education is "all about:" I don't think I would define education that way, no.

Anonymous said...

Of course, the sampling was selective by the researchers. Not a random. Think that might have skewed the results?

Laurie said...

I'm not sure you're correct in that. Did you read the 25+ pages of the report that were devoted to explaining the methodology for determining schools to participate? It was scientific and spelled out clearly. It's on page xviii of the Executive Summary, and in much greater detail beginning on page 5 of the actual report.

To summarize: they started with ALL charter schools, and then narrowed it down based # of years in operation (2+) and those which had more applicants than they could accommodate (in order to study achievement of kids who got via in via lottery vs. kids who did not). Schools had to meet these criteria for all years of the study. And then they had to agree to participate. That narrowed it down to 36 schools. They were not hand-picked.

It's just one study with interesting results.

Anonymous said...

From your post you sound like you're ridiculing Charter schools because people view them in a better light than the public schools. I, for one, wish that me and my children loved our elementary school here in Ridgewood. Unfortunately that is not the case. I've come to realize that all of you sit there and wait for the parents to tutor and help their children achieve academically and you take all the credit. After a meeting at our school last night, I see that the real goal of this district seems to be mediocrity. You scream excellence, but accept much less all the while digging deeper into our pockets. I think you're all so anti-charter because you know that many parents would choose to go that option if given the choice. Quit criticizing it and maybe do some of the things that the charter schools are doing to make the families feel so much better about the educational experience.

Laurie said...

Thanks for your comment.

On the contrary: I'd praise ANY school that does a great job educating students -- charter or otherwise. What I criticize is the message I constantly read in the media and hear from certain politicians, that is a version of: "charter schools are inherently better than non-charter schools, simply by virtue of their charter-ness." It's just not true. The facts show that when you pick any particular charter school, it may be better than a traditional public school...it may be the same...or it may be worse. I think it does a disservice to students and their parents to keep pushing the idea that all we need are more charter schools. It would be awesome if that simple (simplistic) statement were true, but -- as this one study seems to show -- it is not.

That's what I was reacting to. Sure, I agree with you, let's learn from any school's success and replicate good programs wherever we find them.

I'm not anti-charter. I'm anti-false-advertising.