Organization Strongly Disputes Charter School Study

Jul 25, 2014 by

A rival organization is sharply disputing a recent study from the University of Arkansas’s School Choice Demonstration Project purporting to show that charter schools are vastly more efficient at achieving higher test scores.

The Arkansas study found that, on average, charter schools produce a 40 percent greater return in increased test scores for every $1,000 per pupil spent on teaching a particular subject. It also found that charter schools outperformed their public competition in every single state observed, and that student economic outcomes improved more and more for each year spent in charter schools.

However, that study, argues the National School Boards Association (NSBA), is riddled with basic methodological errors that make it useless as a comparative tool.

The NSBA is an organization representing the interests of over 90,000 public school board members across the United States, and generally lobbies on behalf of traditional public schooling. The group says it supports charter schools, but only when such schools are created with the support of local school boards.

Jim Hull, a senior policy analyst with NSBA’s Center for Public Education, says that Arkansas’s study ignores the enormous differences between the typical charter school and the typical public school when it comes to expenses. Charter schools are able to achieve the same results with far less money, he said, because of a host of advantages the Arkansas study did not account for.

For instance, he said, traditional public schools are more likely to enroll students for whom English is a second language, and such students cost more resources to adequately educate.

Similarly, he said, charter schools have fewer students requiring special education, who both cost more to educate and provide little if any contribution to success on the NAEP tests used to evaluate schools in the Arkansas study. Other sources of inequality abound, Hull says: Charter schools are often allowed to reside in public school buildings at little or no cost, charters are less likely to be high schools, which are more expensive to operate, and charters offer far fewer of the services many expect of public schools, from bus service to school bands.

Hull accused the Arkansas researchers of hiding behind a supposed desire for objectivity to avoid doing the work necessary for a fair comparison.

“[M]aking an apples to apples comparison of how much funding charter schools receive to provide similar services as traditional public schools is not taking an advocacy position. It can be done with objective statistics,” Hull said. He admitted that making a completely fair comparison of charter and public school budgets would be “an arduous undertaking” that would require applying far more scrutiny towards individual items in school budgets, but said that until such an undertaking is made the schools simply cannot be compared with one another.

The School Choice Demonstration Project has had its work faulted before. A previous study released in the spring which purported to show that charter schools are underfunded compared to traditional public schools won a sharp rebuke from Rutgers education professor Bruce Baker, who accused the study of using shoddy methodology that invalidated its claims.

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NSBA is an organization representing 90,000 school board members across the country.

“Until such a study is conducted that at least attempts to compare the funding for similar services provided, such claims that charter schools are more productive than traditional public schools cannot be substantiated,” said Hull.

via Organization Strongly Disputes Charter School Study | The Daily Caller.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Teacher with a Brain

    Clearly, some charter schools do outperform public schools and they should.

    Firstly, as I was reading about this very thing yesterday, I learned that courts all around the nation have ruled that charter schools are NOT public schools. Yes, they accept tax $$$ and they do not charge tuition, so they are not precisely private schools in the strictest sense. They are private entities that contract with state, local governments. In otherwords, the charter movement is one more example of privatizing the economy.

    While they generally employ a lottery system to enroll students, there are ways to limit the pool of students who make it into the lottery by requiring families show up for orientation meetings, as sometimes less convenient times where there is no babysitting offered for younger children, to procure an application to get into the charter. Once enrolled, they have the right to “dismiss” a student w/o due process. This is a huge difference between public schools and charters and is more consistent with a private school.

    Many charters, especially those that are knock-offs of KIPP, require an extended school day and year, sometimes keeping children in school for almost 50% more days/hours than do public counter parts (this alone should produce higher scores).

    Lastly, are they underfunded? Take a look, if you can find it, at what their CEOs draw in salary for themselves and you will almost always find individuals who are making significantly more $$$ than a traditional school superintendent. Many charters are partially funded with donations from wealthy persons and corporations, some boast of this on their website.

    Yesterday I found an article about teacher run schools. These are traditional public schools where teachers are empowered. In many cases teachers in these schools have willingly given up tenure because they trust their system to evaluate them fairly.

    There are plenty of things that Americans COULD do with their public schools if they had the will, and I submit that there are many teachers would gladly work in a situation where they were empowered. Charters are merely one approach to reforming education, though they happen to be the one championed by Wall Street and hedge fund managers, so it is no wonder they are being so heavily promoted over solutions that will not turn a profit for investors.

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