A commonly cited factoid about charter schools is untrue, according to a new report by the Center for Education Reform. In fact, numerous statistics aimed at undermining charter schools are misleading, often misreported by the media, and require further explanation, the CER report concludes.
The New York Times and other media outlets in 2009 reported only one in five charter schools perform well. “The problem is that it’s not even remotely true,” the CER report states.
“Charters are, on the whole, moving their students forward faster, providing personalized learning environments to students, and providing parents with a choice other than the school their zip code provides,” said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform.
Allen says she’s concerned the public doesn’t have access to the facts about charter schools and their positive effect on student achievement. The new report provides specific data countering prevailing myths about charter schools and an alleged lack of successes, she said.
CREDO Study Challenged
“No More Waiting: The Real Data on School Improvement” examines a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) and finds many flaws in its analysis. For instance, the CREDO study examined only 15 states with charter schools (not all 40); did not account for variation in grade levels of schools; ignored variations in state test rigor, reporting, and data; and did not conduct an apples-to-apples comparison between students in traditional and charter schools.
“One [common false] myth is that only a fraction of charter schools are succeeding,” said Allen. The CREDO study suggests only one in five charter schools are succeeding. “No More Waiting” refutes that by citing a study by researcher Caroline Hoxby of Harvard University which found a student in a charter school would score 30 points higher in math, by the end of eighth grade, than if he or she had stayed in a traditional public school.
Myths Prevalent: Poll
Dovetailing with CER’s conclusions, a recent poll by Education Next notes key facts about charters remain unknown.
The Education Next poll found only 18 percent of the public knows charters cannot hold religious services, 19 percent are aware they cannot charge tuition, and just 12 percent know charters typically receive less government funding per pupil than traditional public schools.
“Too many folks don’t yet realize that charter schools are public schools, meaning that they are open to all students—including English-language learners and students requiring special education services—and that they can’t teach religion, charge tuition, or have admission requirements” explains Todd Ziebarth, vice president for state advocacy and support at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
There are more than 5,000 charter schools in 40 states and the District of Columbia enrolling approximately 1.5 million students, with an estimated 365,000 students on waiting lists.
Brooke Terry ([email protected]) writes from Texas and is a former education policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Center for Education Reform: “No More Waiting: The Real Data on School Improvement” (October 2010):