There are few education writers who can claim to be peers of Walt Gardner. Earlier this month, the former teacher effectively unmasked the half-truths the charter school industry are telling the nation. In a post titled Questioning Charter School Superiority, Gardner responded to one such half-truth propaganda which – not unsurprisingly – came from Nina Rees, president/CEO of the National Charter School Alliance. From Gardner:
In her letter to the editor, Rees wrote that “charter students from low-income families are outperforming their traditional public school peers.” This is the claim she repeated in an op-ed on Mar. 27 (“Will Obama’s Budget Recognize Charter Schools?” The Wall Street Journal). To support her view in the essay, Rees cited a multiyear study of KIPP that was released in February by Mathematica Policy Research. According to investigators, after three years students in KIPP were 11 months ahead of their traditional public school peers in math, 14 months ahead in science, and 11 months ahead in social studies.
Rees emphasized that KIPP’s success is all the more remarkable because it “draws from some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country.” What she omitted, however, was that students in charter schools are there because their parents have chosen to enroll them there. Traditional public schools by law must enroll all students. As a result, self-selection contaminates results. Researchers attempt to control for this difference by comparing students who won the lottery to oversubscribed charters with those who did not. By doing so, they are comparing motivated students with motivated students. But this strategy can be applied successfully only to schools that are popular enough to require a lottery in the first place and that keep accurate records.
Emphasis mine. Floridians were recently subjected to another charter school superiority study done on the public dime by the FLDOE. Concludes Gardner:
Charter schools deserve credit for their accomplishments, but they play by a completely different set of rules. Not only do most charters require parents to sign a contract that outlines their responsibilities, but they also reserve the right to counsel out underperforming students. These students invariably end up in traditional public schools, which become the schools of last resort. It’s little wonder, therefore, that some charter schools can post the results that Rees heralds
And the charter school hacks at the FLDOE churned out the study just in time for the legislative session for
other charter school hacks lobbyists like Rees to use to influence legislators. Along with the choice lobby, they continue to advance half the story.
If it really is about kids and their families, why not tell the whole story? Why do they not let parents – whom they presume to advocate for to have another seat at the table – have all the information?