Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Charter Schools Study Shows Student Improvement

A few weeks ago, the Indianapolis Star touted a report from Indiana University suggesting that there were only small differences in the passing rates at charter schools versus traditional public schools. The article only briefly mentioned criticism of the report and failed to note major analytical problems with the study, including that it failed to account for the fact that many of the charter school students had been life-long traditional public school students and had only just enrolled in the charter school before taking the ISTEP. Yet those students' failures were counted against charter schools instead of the traditional public schools where they actually received their education.

Today the Indianapolis Star reports on a study from the school where I teach, the University of Indianapolis, with much better methodology than Indiana University's that simply looked at raw data on ISTEP scores, without considering where those students came from. U of I examined results from a standardized test given at the beginning of the school year and again at the end to measure growth. The study found that the students at charter schools experienced more than 18% more growth in math, 22% more in reading, and 25% more in language arts than similar students in noncharter public schools.

Russ Simnick, of the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association, hits the nail on the head when he says in commenting on the report: "We've always advocated that learning is best measure by growth over time."

Exactly. The success, or failure, of charter schools should be determined by taking before and after pictures of the students' performance, not by using flawed studies such as that produced by Indiana University.

There is a reason why charter schools are popular: the parents of those charter schools students believe they provide a better education for their children than traditional public schools. Let's not deny them that choice by rushing forward with a moratorium on charter schools.


varangianguard said...

This is still ignoring the bull in the china shop.

It isn't schools that are failing, it is something else. Too many adults don't buy into the concept that schooling helps their children succeed in life. That attitude rubs off on their kids. Result? Those kids think that they could be doing something else besides sitting on uncomfortable institutional furniture for most of the day.

The survey results are exactly in line with what I would expect. Removed from the general population of unmotivated students/families, motivated students/families perform better. Nothing worthwhile is proven here. Just another statistical exercise.

Might have well have researched whether the sky is blue, or not, on a clear day. It is a pathetic type of research (like most social science research today).

If the results were any different, I would be down at the Mayor's office demanding that he rescind charters across the board. Charters had better be outperforming the dickens out of public schools.

Your last paragraph is misleading. It is the MOTIVATED parents of charter schools students who believe that removing their children to schools without UNMOTIVATED students will improve their chances at obtaining a better education.

Nothing intrinsically superior in charter schools teaching methodologies, just fewer (or no) distractions. And, charter schools are not a very egalitarian solution either.

Patriot Paul said...

The statistics of the finished product should determine if Charters should advance, and it looks like they pass. They also provide competition, as both Mayors Peterson and Ballard endorsed. Even the fact that slow learners are able to catch up quickly when reset into this environment is an added plus. Still, Varangianguard's point is that these progress statistics should be far better than they appear, and I agree.

Cathy Sue said...

Another excellent article regarding charter schools appeared in Monday's Wall Street Journal In it Al Sharpton and Joel Klein discuss how urban charter schools can close the achievement gap in urban minority students.