Charter School Debate Round Up

You probably don’t know what to do with yourself until 4:30 today. If you’re inclined to blow off your honey-do list, perhaps you’d care to join the growing debate about charter schools that’s raging across the Garden State.

Start with Tom Moran’s piece in the Star-Ledger, which takes us to a “high performing” charter in Jersey City. Give Moran some credit for at least acknowledging the other side of the debate; unfortunately, even though he grants that charters have limited scalability, he’s still sides with Chris Christie’s plan for charter expansion.

I take on his example, however, at Jersey Jazzman, and show that, to a large extent, charter school “successes” can often be accounted for by the fact that charters serve a different student population than surrounding neighborhood schools:

May I make a suggestion, Tom? For your next piece, do what Michael Winerip of the NY Times did, and talk to some families who have not been served well by the charter school experience. Then take another cue from Winerip and look at the charter application process.

You’ve come a long way in acknowledging the other side of this debate, Tom. But take the next step: let’s get this all out on the table before we start cheering on more charters.

Professor Bruce Baker at Rutgers goes deep into the data to prove just that:

When one estimates what I would call a “descriptive regression” model characterizing the differences in proficiency rates across district and charter schools in the same cities, one finds that compared against schools of similar demography, and on the same grade level and subject area tests, the charter proficiency rates, on average are no different than their traditional public school counterparts. [emphasis mine]

And NJ Parents Against Gov. Christie’s School Budget Cuts takes Moran to task for ignoring the data and instead attempting to tug on his readers’ heartstrings:

More and more, NJ parents are seeing through the hype and demanding quality public schools for every child rather than the privatization of our public education system. That’s why Christie couldn’t get his education agenda passed in 2011, and he’s going to run up against some powerful opposition in 2012.

This debate cuts right to the heart of progressive interests: are we a society that ensures that every child gets a high-quality education? Leave your thoughts below.

Comments (10)

  1. Teducation

    Once again, the anonymous pundit Blue Jersey gives a forum as “Jazzman” obsessively beats the charters school like a drum…on and on and on. This week I hear that he is a former charter school teacher — where? At one of the schools he constantly singles out for smerain and innuendo? Why did he leave? Was it of his own volition? Anonymity is fine in journalism until it becomes obsession on one topic….and when that anonymity is revealed to hide someone with a personal grudge, good journalistic practices call for that bias to be exposed and the forum to revoke that soapbox.

    If Jazzman’s bio read “a former charter school teacher who taught music at XX from 20Xx to 20XX and left/was asked to leave/was laid of, I think everyone would read these diatribes with a more educated eye. Maybe he taught at the beginning of the charter school movement when thigns were still being finetuned.

    Again, many charter schools are run by dedicated progressive liberals who don’t need to visit Blue Jersey to see this personal grudge beat like a drum every day.  

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  2. Teducation

    Interestingly, above, even Baker says that all factors in, charter schools are no better or worse than their government-run peers in testing results. But the cost is less, that is not at any debate, correct? And parent satisfaction surveys are much higher, that is not at any debate, correct? So, if all averaged out, the results are the same, why would happier families at a lower cost to taxpayers make charters the answer in failing urban districts?

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