Much ink has been spilled in the last two weeks over the release of the NJ charter schools report, published by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). Below is an index of commentary on the report. I encourage you to read as much as you can, but let me summarize it here:
– The report shows that the “benefits” of charters are almost all concentrated in Newark. Charters in the other major urban areas, in the suburbs, and in rural areas showed little to no gains – or even losses – in student achievement over public schools.
– CREDO only studied about half of the charters in New Jersey. The study did not compare “equivalent” schools; it matched charter students to their “academic peers” in public schools, a method that cannot account for “peer effect”: the effect of attending a school with only those students who have similar motivation and family characteristics.
– There is a substantial body of evidence that shows “successful” Newark charter schools engage in patterns of segregation: by race, by economic status, by special education need, and by language proficiency.
– This practice of segregation means that the gains of Newark’s charters may be due, at least in part, to “peer effect.” This would mean that charters are not replicable on a large scale.
– The CREDO study did not disaggregate student characteristics by multiple levels of poverty or severity of special education need. This is a serious limitation of the report and brings into question its use as a justification for charter expansion.
– While the study uses good methodology given the limited data available, it must be noted that CREDO has extensive ties to the right-wing, pro-charter movement.
– The report came 631 days after Education Commissioner Cerf promised it “as quickly as is humanly possible.” Curiously, the report was released on the day before the Camden Board of Education reversed its vote to allow KIPP, the national charter management group, to come into the city and open a charter on land that was previously designated for a public school.
The upshot is this: the CREDO charter report does not justify the current charter expansion policy of the NJDOE. In many ways, the report raises far more questions than it answers about the efficacy of charters in New Jersey.