New CREDO study shows New Jersey charter schools outperforming traditional schools

January 3, 2013

During last year’s political campaign against charter schools, Initiative 1240 opponents never tired of citing a single academic study, released in 2009 by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), showing less-than-stellar results for some charter schools. In fact, it was the only research source opponents used, while conveniently ignoring dozens of other studies, and the experience of thousands of parents, that charters often provide a more appropriate and higher-quality public education for children.

Now comes news that CREDO itself has released a study of New Jersey public education, showing charter schools in that state outperform their traditional school counterparts. The study shows charter school students made significant gains in reading and math compared to their peers in regular public schools, and that charter schools “are excelling with a high proportion of minority students in poverty.”

Executives of the teachers union, the Washington Education Association (WEA), have announced their intention to block implementation of Washington's new voter-approved charter law in 2013. The union’s goal is to preserve its privileged position in the system by preventing any child from attending a charter school within the borders of this state.

For the backward-looking WEA, the fight against charters isn’t over, but we can be confident they won’t be citing CREDO research anymore.


How about reporting the full story?

Nothing like cherry-picking. You left out what else was said in that report:

"Once you go outside of Newark and into elementary schools, the results are quite disappointing."

From the Huffington Post story:

Communities often argue against charter schools, saying they siphon money away from traditional public schools. Yet they are a widely used tool of education-reform proponents, including the Obama administration. Advocates say charter schools' increased flexibility enables them to boost performance for specific populations -- despite the general lack of evidence that charter schools outperform traditional public schools overall.

"This shows positive outcomes for charter schools that will lead policymakers across the country to look critically at what New Jersey has done to promote performance," said Chad d'Entremont, who oversees the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy in Cambridge, Mass. "The state has a rigorous charter approval process, and there has been an emphasis on locating charter schools where they're most needed."

Newark, a high-poverty city, is one of those places. According to the study, Newark's charter school students gained a full seven-and-a-half months of learning in reading and nine months in math over their peers -- but students in rural charter schools lagged behind their peers in both math and reading. Fuller notes that the achievement advantage for non-Newark students is tiny, noting that things like quality preschool could boost learning significantly more than enrollment in charter schools.

Yet charter advocates say the results support increased growth.

"This verifies what we've known anecdotally: that a smart strategy for growth focused on students with the greatest needs will produce big gains in student achievement," said Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The results of the study hint at tension within the charter school movement between growth and performance: New Jersey has fewer charter schools than many other states, and has closed a relatively high percentage of those schools since they've opened.

In other words, unlike states that emphasize a growing market share, "New Jersey does have a fairly rigorous chartering process," d'Entremont said.

But despite New Jersey's apparent success with charters, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools chided the state in a 2012 report for not expanding quickly enough.

End of Huffington story.

So the real story is that SOME charters work in small numbers. And, the charter industry gets upset if a state limits those numbers to those they believe will work.

Something to consider and it would be great if WPC reported the WHOLE story.


The findings of the NJ CREDO study include:
The vast majority of charter school students performed worse or at the same level as students in the traditional public schools from which they came (70 percent lower or same in math and 60 percent lower or same in reading).

The charter school students who performed better were located almost exclusively in Newark, while charter school students in other cities and rural areas consistently and significantly underperformed their traditional public school peers.

The charter school students who performed better did so only for their first two years at the charter school, while their third year performance was actually worse than their traditional public school counterparts.

Additionally, you neglect to mention the bias of the CREDO study - they are part of the highly conservative Hoover Institute, funded primarily by the Walton family, who hates public education.