The Dirty Little Secret That Discredits Florida’s Latest Charter School Miracle Study

So redefinED‘s Ron Matus bit hard on a charter school miracle piece in Jay P. Geene’s Blog and missed something huge. Maybe the new addition of the job title as  director for policy & public affair for Step Up for Students allows him to wear another hat. Writes Matus:

Students who attend Florida charter high schools are more likely to persist in college and earn more money than their counterparts in district schools, an “especially striking” finding given little differences in test scores, according to a new working paper. (Hat tip: Colin Hitt at Jay P. Greene’s Blog).

The paper is co-authored by four researchers, including Tim Sass, formerly an economics professor at Florida State University and now at Georgia State University. It builds on earlier research that found students in charter high schools in Florida and Chicago were more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college than like students in traditional public schools. (Both groups examined attended charter schools in eighth grade.) The more recent data continues to show the same thing. But the researchers also found:

*Charter high school students in Florida persisted in college for at least two years at a rate 13 percentage points higher than like district students

*Charter high school students in Florida earned an estimated $2,347 more annually, when they were 23 to 25 years old, than like district students

Golly. We just gotta go charter schools for all now, right?

The authors of the study probably appreciate that Matus used some of their conclusions verbatim which includes verbage like “open question,” “might be able,” and “it is possible that,” especially when they know what data they used.  Consider this about the Florida sample they utilized:

In Florida, the treatment group who went on to attend charter high schools had higher baseline test scores; were less likely to be black, low-income, and in need of special education services; and were more likely to be Hispanic, relative to the comparison group

With the writers of Matus’ website hijacking the 60th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in the interest of promoting National School Choice Week,  you’d think they’d be more aware of what data actually shows in the study.

So black kids, low-income and special needs students weren’t part of the data which Step Up for Students asserts justifies more Florida charter schools. As Matus’ “students who attend Florida charter high schools” doen’t include them, we’re witnessing “reverse cherry-picking” on the part of the charter school industry. In this case they are ignoring inconvenient facts.

director for policy & public affairStep Up for Students

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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12 Responses to The Dirty Little Secret That Discredits Florida’s Latest Charter School Miracle Study

  1. How do they factor in the 250 Florida charter schools that closed? It’s like they never even existed to them.

  2. Good timing Bob, I’m about to start an argument on a post Jeb Bush published on National Review Online..

  3. matthewladner says:

    Those pages long narratives about data and methods can make your hair curl, but if you had continued reading, you would have found the following on the bottom of page 17 and spilling over to page 18:


  4. matthewladner says:

    Oops, cut and paste didn’t work for the quote- but basically their models controlled for all the factors in your quote.

    • Bob Sikes says:

      Matt: Your admission in Jay P. Greene’s blog that “the authors controlled for the factors” in the line I utilized reveals that the data needed massaging at the beginning.

      • matthewladner says:

        Your claim was that this quote “discredits” the study, which is entirely incorrect. The positive effects of charter school effects in the study came after statistically controlling for the factors listed in the quote. You may find it jolly good fun to take a single quote out of context and run with it, but if you are trying to discredit studies it would be a really good idea to actually read them.

      • Bob Sikes says:

        Matt: The charter school industry continues benefit from studies which cherry pick data as it clearly did with this study. It’s remains a pattern for such research to appear before the legislative season and this one will be sure be represented by charter school lobbyists as the latest miracle during hearings. Its narrow scope coupled with the remarkable conclusions that others are making on behalf of the authors is typical. Your rhetorical technique of establishing the negative – that I didn’t read the study – is sophomoric.

  5. A little off topic but, as long as you’re here, does The Foundation for Excellence agree with Common Core proponent Paul Reville’s comment that “The kids belong to all of us”?,

    Any research that needs to use a comparison between Florida the state, and Chicago, the city is probably not worth reading.. If you’d done a comparison between Illinois and Florida or Miami and Chicago then maybe..

  6. matthewladner says:


    I have no idea who Paul Reville or what he said in what context. Speaking for myself however I’ll give you a “no.” The 13th amendment settled the issue of anyone “owning” anyone else.

  7. matthewladner says:

    So let me get this straight, your position is that the “charter school industry” is so evil that you are entirely justified in taking a quote from an academic study completely out of context in making an utterly absurd claim that this out of context quote discredits the findings of the academic study. The ends justify the means, the charter school industry is threatening all of our precious bodily fluids by putting flouride in the water so you had no choice but to launch the B-52s, etc.etc.

    Well by all means carry on. Anyone interested in the reality of this study can follow the link and go to the bottom of page 17 and read the part that Bob either never reached or purposely ignored.

    • Bob Sikes says:

      Matt: I thought you were against taking words out of context, but I’m nonetheless glad to see you qualified your previous negative connotation of my words. Pretty good rant, too.

      Let’s muse about those “findings of the academic study” though, shall we? (Beg forgiveness for another contextual reference). The study’s samplings were so narrow – Chicago and Florida 8th graders who attended charter schools – that it’s easy to recognize selective bias was at work. And again, needing to establish controls at the beginning to address demographic tendencies indicates manipulative intent. You fixation on page 17 doesn’t reassure or address even more critical questions.

      Did the authors have an idea in advance what results they would get? Would they even have published the results if they weren’t favorable to whomever commissioned the authors’ work? How did they decide upon Chicago and Florida 8th graders in the first place?

  8. Diane Hanfmann says:

    May I interrupt the conversation to ask if this Matthew Ladner would be the same Matt Ladner who has twice been the recipient of the NEPC’s Bunkum Award for basically shoddy work? Would this be the same Matt Ladner with a PhD in Poli Sci that worked for school choice agencies and now works for Jeb Bush? Doesn’t Mr. Ladner attend ALEC meetings? Just wondering.

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