Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ohio CREDO study: Charters' Generally Negative Impact

The quadrennial CREDO study from Stanford has become a sort of gold standard for charter-public school comparisons. They use sophisticated statistical techniques to draw helpful comparisons between the two education sectors. And while they are only looking at reading and math test scores (which brings inherent limitations), the analysis is as clear-eyed as you'll get on this contentious issue.

Well, the Fordham Institute paid to have CREDO look at Ohio's charter school sector. And in its report released today, CREDO says about Ohio's charter sector what it's generally said during its quadrennial look -- it ain't good. Kudos must be given to Fordham for paying to have CREDO come into town. While we have differed on policy over the years, I do find Fordham to be among the more credible and sane voices on this issue in Ohio from the pro-charter side. They know there's a problem and want to fix it. And for that, they deserve credit.

Back to the study. Overall, kids in charters lose 36 days of math and 14 days of reading to their traditional public school counterparts. Of the 68 statistically significant differences CREDO found between charters and public schools, 56 showed a negative charter school impact, and 12 showed a positive one. 

There appeared to be a few positive impacts in middle schools and a couple other places. But, overall, the results were really not good.

Here are a few quotes: 

  • "... the better the student at the start of the year, the worse they are served in charter schools compared to what they would have learned" in a traditional public school.
  • "... recent efforts across Ohio to improve the quality of charter school performance are only dimly discernible in the analysis. Overall performance trends are marginally positive, but the gains that Ohio charter school students receive even in the most recent periods studied still lag the progress of their (Traditional Public School) peers. More work is needed to ensure that charter schools are serving their students well."
  • "Despite exemplars of strong results, over 40 percent of Ohio charter schools are in urgent need of improvement: they both post smaller student academic gains each year and their overall achievement levels are below the average for the state. If their current performance is permitted to continue, the students enrolled in these schools will fall even further behind over time. The long-term prospects for their students dim with every year they remain in these schools."

Over the next several days and weeks, many will parse out these results and focus on the few areas where Ohio charters seem to be doing particularly well or poorly (students in small towns lose almost an entire academic year of learning in a charter, for example). But I want everyone to remember that more than $900 million went to Ohio charters last school year. And about 1/2 of kids in charters do not come from Ohio's urban core. And that the average Ohio student loses more than $300 a year because the state removes so much to pay for charters.

And I want you to ask yourselves a simple question: Is this level of commitment worth it? For taxpayers and, most importantly, our kids both in charters and traditional public schools? 

It is time to fix this behemoth before it continues to harm both the students in Ohio's schools as well as the well-meaning dreams of education reformers.