I-1240 opponents cherry-pick data in effort to maintain charter school ban

August 22, 2012

The official Voters’ Guide Pro and Con statements on Initiative 1240 just came out.  I-1240 seeks to lift the state ban on charter schools.  I was surprised to read in the Con statement the claim that, “Research conducted by Stanford University and others shows that, overall, charter schools do not perform better than public schools...” 

What is this research by “and others”?  If there are any “other” such studies, I haven’t seen them.  I am aware of only one study, the discredited CREDO study at Stanford, cited routinely by opponents, that questions the overall effectiveness of the nation’s 6,000 charter schools.

The Stanford CREDO study has been severely criticized by national experts for the weakness of its data and methodology.  The CREDO authors looked only at charter schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia, considerably less than half of the 41 states that have charter schools.  Further, the laws authorizing charter schools vary widely across these 15 states and the District of Columbia, yet the CREDO study made no effort to account for these important differences. 

The CREDO study looked mostly at students who had attended a charter school for one year or less, far too short a time to measure academic effects.  In addition, many of the charter schools included in the study had been open a one year or less, not enough time to tell whether a new academic program is working. 

What Initiative 1240 opponents didn’t mention are the dozens of studies that show charter schools are effective at educating students, especially in urban and minority communities.  Today over two million children attend charter schools, hardly a sign of a failed idea. 

A meta-analysis of rigorous charter school studies conducted by the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington shows charter schools perform better than traditional schools in teaching elementary school reading and math, and middle-school math.  For more examples see my “Guide to Charter School Studies” and the study “An Option for Learning: An Assessment of Student Achievement in Charter Public Schools.”

Charter school opponents act as if this large body of positive research doesn’t exist.  Instead they are forced to turn again and again to a single flawed study, CREDO, to cherry pick their data. 

Even if the research results were mixed (they're not), opponents overlook one essential point: attendance at a charter school is entirely voluntary.  Parents do not need a Stanford study to tell them whether their neighborhood school is working for them.  Children from families that don’t like charter schools don’t have to attend them.  This is in sharp contrast to the way many school districts operate, like Seattle, where children are simply assigned to failing schools – parents have little or no say in the matter.  

If a charter school is not serving children, the solution is simple – parents won’t enroll there.  Today thousands of Washington families are trapped in failing public schools. That can’t happen at a community-based charter school. 

Initiative 1240 opponents can’t seem to stand the idea that some children somewhere might want to go to a charter school.  O.K., supporters of the ban just don’t like charters, period.  I get it.  But they shouldn’t try to deny access to children who may benefit from this innovative, well-tested form of public education.

Comments

Not a parental issue only...

Liv...you are entirely missing the point here. Not everyone can vote with their feet...we are taxpayers and don't have the luxury of directing our tax dollars to the school of our choice so under charters, we are forced to fund public/private partnerships that we may totally be opposed to. You said, "Even if the research results were mixed (they're not), opponents overlook one essential point: attendance at a charter school is entirely voluntary. Parents do not need a Stanford study to tell them whether their neighborhood school is working for them. Children from families that don’t like charter schools don’t have to attend them." I don't have children in the public schools!!! This isn't a vote with your feet issue. Rather, it is a taxation WITHOUT representation issue that turns a representative system on its head. In your closing line, you have turned to the classic sentimentalist argument without addressing your opponents points head on...I care about children and I care about my fellow citizen. I oppose fascism or corporatism which this measure will import into Washington State!!!

Dozens of Studies? Can you name just ONE dozen of these?

"What Initiative 1240 opponents didn’t mention are the dozens of studies that show charter schools are effective at educating students, especially in urban and minority communities."

Can you show us JUST 12 of these studies? Dozens should mean 36 or more---or at least 24. Surely you can show us 12 that "prove" your point?

We're waiting...

Know what you criticize

If you actually took the time to read the post you're having such a fuss about you would see that the studies the author refers to are linked to in the post. I suggest you check them out.

Interesting that you mention cherry picking...

Wow. It's interesting that you would accuse 1240 opponents of cherry picking and then cite a meta analysis as evidence that charters outperform public schools (and assert that the evidence is not mixed).

In fact, what that particular meta analysis says is:

"Focusing on math and reading scores, the authors find compelling evidence that charters under-perform traditional public schools in some locations, grades, and subjects, and out perform traditional public schools in other locations, grades, and subjects."

In other words, it says the evidence is mixed.

Since you asked for another study that backs up CREDO, here it is:
http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard//pdf/studies/2006460.pdf

"In the first phase of the combined analysis for mathematics, all charter schools were compared to all public noncharter schools. The average charter school mean was 5.8 points lower than the average public noncharter school mean. After adjusting for student characteristics, the difference in means was 4.7 points. Both differences were statistically significant. The adjusted difference corresponds to an effect size of 0.17 standard deviations."

"On average, the mean scores for charter schools affiliated with a PSD were not signifi cantly different from those for public noncharter schools. However, on average, the means of charter schools not affi liated with a PSD were significantly lower than the means for public noncharter schools, both with and without adjustment. The effect size of the adjusted difference was 0.23 standard deviations."

"In the third phase, the comparison between school types was restricted to schools having a central city location and also serving a high-minority population. There was a signifi cant difference between the average of all charter school means and the average of public noncharter school means, as well as between charter school means not affi liated with a PSD and public noncharter school means. In both cases, the difference favored public noncharter schools, and the effect size of the adjusted difference was 0.17 standard deviations. However, there were no signifi cant differences between the average of public noncharter school means and the means of charter schools affiliated with a PSD."

For reading:

"The average charter school mean was 5.2 points lower than the average public noncharter school mean. After adjusting for multiple student characteristics, the difference in means was 4.2 points. Both differences were statistically signifi cant. The adjusted difference corresponds to an effect size of 0.11 standard deviations. (Typically, about two-thirds of scale scores fall within one standard deviation of the mean.)"

Wrong

Talk about cherry-picking:

" I am aware of only one study, the discredited CREDO study at Stanford, cited routinely by opponents, that questions the overall effectiveness of the nation’s 6,000 charter schools."

Really? And can you provide that the peer-reviewed CREDO study has been discredited? I don't think so given how routinely it is cited everywhere.

"The CREDO authors looked only at charter schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia, considerably less than half of the 41 states that have charter schools."

Unfortunately, there WEREN'T 41 states that had charters when the study was done. The study covered 70% of ALL charter students in the country. That's a huge study.

oday over two million children attend charter schools, hardly a sign of a failed idea.

Unfortunately,the feds report that more than half of their charter authorizers complained about the difficulty in closing low-performing charters. So, a lot of poor-performing charters remain open. People forget - many parents stay at a school they like rather than how it performs.

Also again the misuse of the word "ban" - that means to forbid, rather than not allow. There's a difference.

Simply put, charters don't work in any real numbers or have real accountability. We have voted on this three times already and said no. The initiative itself is vague and poorly written and will have costs to both districts and taxpayers.

C'mon, be honest

There is a rhetorical trick that I see a lot. I saw Republicans do it during the George W. Bush presidency and I'm seeing charter school advocates do it now. Ms Finne tries to trivialize the other side of the debate by attributing the root of their opposition to an emotion rather than a reasoned conclusion. Just as people who opposed President Bush's policies were dismissed as simply hating the president or being deranged, people who oppose charter schools, for a number of well-considered reasons, are dismissed as fearing charters or, as in this case, as irrational idiots who "just don’t like charters".

To suggest that there is actually a real human being anywhere who "can’t seem to stand the idea that some children somewhere might want to go to a charter school" is absurd.

I understand if you aren't confident that you can debate this question with facts and logic. I can certainly see why you might be anxious about it. But that doesn't give you license for this kind of character attack. This is right up there with asking people who questioned the rationale for the war with Iraq "Why do you hate America?"

The CREDO study, for all of the effort to discredit it, remains the only compilation of peer-reviewed research on charter schools of its size. True, it is not completely comprehensive, but that's because most of the research on charter schools is not unbiased, or doesn't follow proper procedures, or isn't peer-reviewed.

The suggestion that charter schools that don't serve children well will simply close due to insufficient enrollment sounds okay in theory but we know that it doesn't happen that way in real life. In the cases of actual charter schools that were actually closed for grotesque failures, most of them were full of students at the time of their closure.

The problems with public education do not lie in the ownership and governance of the schools and making changes in the ownership and governance will not fix those problems. To solve the problems in public education we must dedicate the will and the resources necessary to identify and overcome each individual child's barriers to learning. We need to provide disabled students, English language learners, students living in poverty, students who come to school ill-prepared, and students who are not well-supported at home with the tools they need to succeed. That's not going to magically happen when the school is owned and operated by someone other than the local school district. It's going to happen when someone, typically a principal and a teacher corps, commit themselves to making it happen. They can do that already in our public schools and they do.

There is nothing that a charter school can do for students that a public school cannot do.

If it walks like a duck...

I initially thought the subject line for this should have been 'Haters gonna Hate'. The public education system needs to prove it can do better. Our nation continues to fall back into the pack when it comes to STEM education. We have shoved hundreds of million if not billions of dollars into this system, only to watch it further decay. OK is not acceptable, not as bad as them is not good enough, and watching other counties cruise by us does not endear me to the plight of people who get summer off. We talk STEM. They talk socail issues. End the ban on charter schools, they can't do any worst then the public ones.

Robert Floyd needs an editor

Mr. Floyd writes: "The public education system needs to prove it can do better."
Really? How much better? What is your measure for how well the public education system is doing and what is your benchmark for "better"? What does the graduation rate need to be? What does the pass rate on the state tests need to be? How are you measuring quality and how will you know when it is good enough? Will it ever be good enough or do you just enjoy complaining? From my perspective we do really well for able-bodied, English speaking, middle-class students who are well-prepared and well-supported at home. We have always served these students well and we continue to do so. The problem is that we do not now, nor have we ever, done a good job teaching students outside this narrow range. These students are my concern, Mr. Floyd, are they your concern as well?

Mr. Floyd writes: "Our nation continues to fall back into the pack when it comes to STEM education."
Really? What is your measure for this? What data can you show that supports this contention? And remind me, please, how American exceptionalism works that we, as a nation, should not be "in the pack"? What kind of Ricky Bobby thinking is this "If you ain't first, you're last."? How are you measuring the nation and, given the fact that 41 states have charter schools, doesn't this indicate that charter schools won't fix this problem? From my perspective I see STEM students from all over the world coming here to study in our schools and to work in our companies. Doesn't that make us the global leader in this area?

Mr. Floyd writes: "We have shoved hundreds of million if not billions of dollars into this system, only to watch it further decay."
Really? What is your metric for this decay? Our graduation rates are at historical highs and rising. Our students are learning more than ever before. Washington students need three years of math to graduate high school: algebra, geometry, and advanced algebra. Those are much higher graduation requirements than the ones I had to meet. They need two years of science and one of them must be a laboratory science. The State Board of Education is looking to increase the graduation rates again. Their CORE 24 plan will require four years of language arts. I'm not sure how you can claim that there is any decay, either statewide or nationally. Where is your data to support this contention?

Mr. Floyd writes: "We talk STEM. They talk socail issues. End the ban on charter schools, they can't do any worst then the public ones."
Try talking with spell check and grammar check. Who is "we"? Who are "they"? It is confusing when you use pronouns without antecedents. Who is talking STEM and who are talking "socail" issues? Did it ever occur to you that the social issues are the barrier to learning, rather than a deficient curriculum? And if the curriculum is deficient, what effort have you made to improve it?

Our school boards represent the most local government that most of us have. School board races are typically run without much money and the positions don't pay a salary. If Mr. Floyd is ready to give up on the citizen's voice at the school board level, then what hope can he have for any longer range democracy? Mr. Floyd seems to be saying that he finds representative democracy to be a hopeless failure at even the most local level. That's sad. He is ready to turn our democratic institutions over to distant corporations because they have convinced him that they work better than democracy. They have convinced him that our schools, which are the envy of the world, are a disgrace. They have convinced him that teachers, people who went out and got masters degrees so they could pursue a callling that will never make them rich, and work with children all day giving them the blessings of an education are greedy thugs who don't care about children. That's a pretty impressive public relations campaign. They do it because they want their share of those hundreds of millions if not billions that we, as a society, are willing to spend on education.

Can they do "worst" "then" the public system? You bet they can. According to the CREDO study, about a third of them do.

I am as rabid for Choice as Charlie is against

I love public education, though I was not able to get a decent one for my children in public schools, so I became involved so that parents who did not have my privileges and could not move their children back and forth to private schools and high cost tutors could have a chance. I will not allow any to challenge me on public education. And Charlie you know that public charters are public schools. They just look different from the status quo education that allows African American children to linger for decades at the bottom of the outcome heap. Just today I received an invite to the School to Prison Pipeline Symposium being sponsored by WA State DSHS. If the state is saying yes, our children are on a trajectory from school to prison, we do not need a Stanford study. The Stanford study says that urban pupils do better in public charters than non urban children. It does not say that public charters do not work.

Unfortunately, the Yes 1240 campaign has not real interest in educating the population that the public charter schools are to help. That is a shame because this, we want this for your children but we do not want to interact with the parents of the children that public charters propose to support. So this creates a disconnect and mistrust. Sending a white woman down to SE Seattle to sit with brown, black and poor children not only did not fly, it created a negative.

The voices the campaign is depending upon are not the voices people who live here listen to. They are the voices that do not give flack to the school reformist and walk lock step because of funding needs.

So I say Yes 1240. Give African American and all children a chance and a choice. My grandson just got admitted to East Side Prep Academy and expensive private school. He loves the enrichment activities that allows him to be with an African American teacher who has taught him math so well that Eastside Prep in awe of his proficiencies in both math and writing. Public education as is does not do well with African American scholars who enter Kindergarten all smiles and then something terrible happens along the way to Harvard, Howard, Spelman, Yale, Evergreen, and our many Community Colleges.

Charlie and Liv, both of you are fighting for the education of our children. Neither of you can name 10 children or their parents who are suppose to benefit from your solutions. So tell me why either of you should be trusted as having their best interest at heart.

A Response

Thank you, Ms Mason. It is good to hear from you on this topic.

Please allow me to respond.

1. Charter schools are not public schools. What makes something public or private is ownership. Charter schools are not owned by the public so they are not public schools. They may promise universal service, but so does the gas company, and that's not a public corporation. They may get most of their revenue from the government, but so does Lockheed, and that's not a public corporation. The sole determinant of whether something is public or private is ownership, and charter schools are owned by the entity that holds the charter, which is a private entity, so they are not public schools. That isn't even really open to debate; it's simply an objective truth.

2. If urban students do better in charter schools than they do in public schools, then why is that? It's not because the schools are charters; the ownership and management of the school doesn't have that kind of magical effect. No, if they are doing better it is because the charter schools are doing something different in the classroom. What is it that they are doing? Whatever it is, we can do it in our public schools as well. THAT is the reform that you should be working for - the change in what happens in the classroom, not the change in the ownership and governance of the school.

3. African American children in Seattle HAVE a chance and a choice. An academic opportunity is already put before them. There are two reasons that many of them are not benefitting from it. First, the children have a number of barriers that preclude them from reaching the opportunity. These barriers include disabilities, but few of the disabilities are cognitive disabilities. Much more common are the barriers that come with poverty such as pain, illness, hunger, lack of exposure to a broader world, instability, inadequate parental supervision, and fear. They are exposed to violence, substance abuse and mental illness. On top of this, many of them are inadequately prepared for school or poorly supported in their academics. These are the real barriers that puts academic opportunities out of their reach. This is the opportunity gap. Second, that opportunity stays out of their reach because the schools do not perceive their responsibility to remove those barriers and fill that opportunity gap and neither does anyone else. It is as if there is a banquet put before them but the table is eight feet off the ground and they can't reach it.

The reforms we need are the ones that will close this gap by addressing and overcoming the barriers to learning for each individual student. We do not need to monkey around with the ownership and governance of the schools in the executive offices. We need to change what happens in the classrooms.

As for choice they can attend their neighborhood school, any other neighborhood school with space, an alternative school, a school in another district, an online school, a private school (as you chose), or home-school. There are over 2,000 Seattle Public School students living in the attendance area for Rainier Beach High School, yet the school's enrollment is about 400. That is ample evidence that they have other choices.

4. I live in SE Seattle. I have lived here for over twenty years. Before that I lived in the CD. I can name a long list of kids who would benefit from the reforms we really need. They are my neighbors. I can name even more people who would benefit because our whole society will benefit when we invest in education and when we work directly and successfully to close the opportunity gap. I don't get my ideas about what schools need by talking to CEOs or the Executive Directors of Foundations. Those people don't talk to me. I talk to students, to their families, and to their teachers. I'm out in the community talking about education issues every day. And I will tell you that a lot of the stuff that I used to think was wrong. These folks have set me straight. It's likely that I still have a few things wrong, and I rely on them to continue to correct me.

5. Why should you believe that I have the best interests of African American students at heart? I don't know. Maybe from all of the years that I have been working on this for no pay, no recognition, and very little success. You could ask people who have worked with me, I suppose. You could ask the folks at SOS, like Don Alexander and Carole Simmons. You could ask the folks at Rainier Beach or Cleveland, like Carlina Brown and Princess Shareef. You could even ask people who support charter schools, like Robin Lake and Chris Eide. Maybe you can never believe it no matter what I do. I would not presume to know what would convince you or anyone else.

Funny, a Seattle Unionized Teacher Opposes This

1. By all standard definitions of what makes a public school a public school, Charter schools are in fact public schools.

The only differences are the lower bureaucracy, similar or better results, and the fact that Charter schools only get about 2/3rds the funding of traditional public schools.

2. If you can duplicate what a charter school does to improve performance, then why don't you? If charter schools are allowed to open then why not outcompete them if you're so confident?

3. So how do you plan to address those problems that those students face? And do you really think their parents can afford private school or have the time to homeschool? If their parents did decide to do those things, why should they be forced to keep paying taxes to a school they don't attend?

4. Okay, tell us what you've learned and what specific reforms YOU think we need to pull off. Explain why they are so much better than the 1240 initiative.

5. It seems like you share a very different opinion on how this issue relates to African Americans then what Kevin Johnson would say. I think you and him should chat sometime.

Unfortunately, the Yes 1240

Unfortunately, the Yes 1240 campaign has not real interest in educating the population that the public charter schools are to help.'

versus

So I say Yes 1240.

I don't get it.

BUT, Washington State is not standing still or static.

- the Legislature passed two Innovation school laws in the last two years.
- The Legislature passed a Lighthouse School law to provide more STEM
- Mercer Middle School in Seattle, a diverse school, went off the district’s math curriculum and now has some of the highest math test scores
- Tacoma’s Lincoln Center is a high school within a high school just for at-risk kids that is showing great progress.
- The Rainier Scholars program is showing outstanding success and support for at-risk students
- The Roadmap for Education project for at-risk students in southeast Seattle and south King county is getting tremendous support including the Gates Foundation
- Seattle schools has been a leader, for over 20 years, of parent-driven alternative schools
- Talbot Hill Elementary, a Title One school in Renton, was just named by Scholastic Magazine, one of the Coolest Schools for its student government system that works throughout the building and the school day. 93% grad
- And, in at Rainier Beach High School, a determined PTA has worked hard to bring great change to its school so much so that their PTA president was just at the White House accepting only 1 of 12 Champions of Change awards presented by President Obama. These are communities who know their students and are making change happen.

These are schools with high needs students and diverse communities. Change is happening.