As the Kentucky Senate prepares to hear a bill that will bring charter schools to the state, it is certain than an of-repeated bit of nonsense from one of the more frequently quoted reports on charter schools will raise its head yet again.
The research in question is the often cited, though usually incompletely cited, CREDO report from 2009, “Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States.”
The problem is that charter school enemies, including teachers’ union operatives and their supporters in the Kentucky legislature, jump on some – but only some – of the findings in this somewhat dubiously created report.
Those charter enemies tell us the report says:
“…17 percent (of charter schools) provide superior education opportunities for their students. Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.”
This is a direct quote from the report, but like the late Paul Harvey liked to point out, there is more to the story.
This not terribly well done report buries some of its most important findings in only a few places like page 45, where it ALSO says:
“Our pooled study also revealed that time plays a significant role in the academic growth of charter school students. First year charter students experience significantly smaller learning gains compared to their TPS peers. Second and third year charter students not only reverse this trend, but can anticipate larger learning gains than those of their TPS counterparts.”
You NEVER hear the charter critics own up to this additional finding from CREDO. This important, but unsurprising, finding shows that charter schools need time with new students to turn around the impacts of years of bad schooling in TPS. But, once students remain in charters for at least three years, they DO outperform TPS students. Much of the CREDO findings cited in the first quote above come from students who have not been in charters very long; so, its clear that those 17 percent and 37 percent figures aren’t a very good indicator of real charter school performance.
Interestingly, CREDO also did a follow-on study in New York City that came to the conclusion that charters outperform TPS in the “Big Apple,” too. You don’t hear charter critics owning up to that, either.
For legislators and others who want a nice summary of the charter school issue and why Kentucky needs them, look no farther than this helpful freedomkentucky.org Wiki item.
You see, Kentucky needs the kind of performance that charter schools are providing in other states, like this example of a Chicago charter that sent ALL of its graduates to a four-year college last year. Even Louisville’s prestigious and highly selective Male High School didn’t do that last year! Only four percent of those students were reading at grade level when they entered this Chicago charter school in ninth grade.
It’s time to cut through the selfish, adults first, students a distant second mentality that is driving opposition to charter schools in Kentucky. Once you dig through the smoke screen that charter proponents have erected, like not telling us about the full findings in the CREDO study, it turns out that charters, which could even include entire charter districts, have a lot to offer throughout the state.
(Slightly revised from original to clarify that most of the CREDO report’s findings are based on students who have not been in charter schools for more than a year or so)