The Evaluation of Charter School Impacts: Final Report #IES #USDOE NEW REPORT!


Charter schools, first launched in the 1990s, are an important and growing component of the public school system in the United States. As of November 2009, more than 5,000 charter schools served over 1.5 million students—approximately three percent of all public school students—in 40 states and the District of Columbia (Center for Education Reform 2009). Charter schools are intended to play a key role in school improvement under the existing Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) as well as the programs established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. However, there remains considerable debate as to whether, how, and under what circumstances charter schools improve the outcomes of students who attend them. This report summarizes the results of a new study: the Evaluation of Charter School Impacts, a large-scale randomized trial of the effectiveness of charter schools funded by the Institute of Education Sciences and conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and its partners.1
The evaluation, which we conducted in 36 charter middle schools across 15 states, compares outcomes of students who applied and were admitted to these schools through randomized admissions lotteries (lottery winners) with the outcomes of students who also applied to these schools and participated in the lotteries but were not admitted (lottery losers). This analytic approach produces the most reliable impact estimates. But because the study could only include charter middle schools that held lotteries, the results do not necessarily apply to the full set of charter middle schools in the U.S.
Key findings from the evaluation include:
• On average, charter middle schools that hold lotteries are neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving student achievement, behavior, and school progress. Participating schools had no significant impacts on math or reading test scores either a year or two years after students applied, other measures of academic progress (such as attendance or grade promotion), or student conduct within or outside of school. Being admitted to a study charter school did significantly and consistently improve both students’ and parents’ satisfaction with school.
• The impact of charter middle schools on student achievement varies significantly across schools. Across 28 sites (covering 32 schools), the effects on reading scores after two years were estimated to be greater than zero in 11 sites and less than zero in 17 sites (with magnitudes ranging from -0.43 to +0.33 standard deviation units), with 4 of the individual site estimates statistically significant. The estimated effects on math scores were greater than zero in 10 sites and less than zero in 18 of the 28 sites (-0.78 to +0.65 standard deviation units), with 10 of the site estimates statistically significant.
• In our exploratory analysis, for example, we found that study charter schools serving more low income or low achieving students had statistically significant positive effects on math test scores, while charter schools serving more advantaged students—those with higher income and prior achievement—had
1 The evaluation team also included Optimal Solutions Group and Paul Hill of the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education.
significant negative effects on math test scores. Charter middle schools in large urban areas also had significant positive impacts on math achievement compared to negative impacts in other locales, although urbanicity was no longer an influential factor once such characteristics as students’ demographics and income levels were controlled for. There were also differential effects on reading achievement, with negative and significant impacts for study charter schools serving more advantaged students and no impacts for study charter schools serving fewer advantaged students.

Some operational features of charter middle schools are associated with more positive (or less negative) impacts on achievement. These features include smaller enrollments and the use of ability grouping in math or English classes. Although impacts differed for study charter schools with longer- versus shorter- hours of operations or higher versus lower revenue per student, these features were no longer significant once other school and student characteristics were controlled for. We found no statistically significant relationships between achievement impacts and the charter schools’ policy environment, including the extent of its decision-making autonomy, the type of authorizer and how the authorizer held the school accountable, and whether it was operated by a private organization.


The Obsession With Testing Is Nuts: Diane Ravitch #HuffPo

Diane Ravitch: The Obsession With Testing Is Nuts


Last year I exchanged emails with a high-ranking official at the US Department of Education. I complained that the accountability movement had gotten out of control, that too much time was spent preparing to take tests, learning to take tests, and taking tests, especially in low income districts. I said that the time spent on testing was reducing time for the arts, history, science, civics, geography, even physical education. Thus, kids have more tests and worse education.

His first response was “you measure what you treasure.” I replied, “No, you cannot measure what you treasure.” How do you measure, friendship, love, courage, honor, civility, love of learning? I suppose he was moved a little bit, because he replied, “How can we incentivize the teaching of the arts?” I should have given up then, but responded that you do some things not for economic reward, and not because they are utilitarian, but because they are right.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in an event sponsored by the Economist magazine in New York City. As I waited to go on, the previous speaker talked enthusiastically about why we should look to the arts and artists as sources of inspiration, creativity, and innovation. When my panel started (billed as a “debate” between me and Eva Moskowitz, founder of Harlem Success Academy), the first question was: “How do you envision schooling five years from now?” Eva spoke of individualization and personalization. I predicted, based on current policies in the US, that kids will be drilled endlessly for the next test. That the machinery will be in place to measure and test, driving out innovation, creativity, and divergent thinking. This is not wise and it is not smart.

It’s a frightening scenario. I hope I am wrong. If there is not a major change in federal education policy, this is the likely outcome of where we are heading.


Thompson: Respect Vs. Righteousness #TWIE @alexanderrusso

This Week In Education: Thompson: Respect Vs. Righteousness


Thompson: Respect Vs. Righteousness

Safe_image The message of the back-to-school media blitz was that single-minded “warriors” and heroic, individualistic teachers are good, while unions are bad.  “Reformers” trust in the “will” and the goodwill of autocrats top-down managers, and scorn collective bargaining agreements as “adult interests.”   Accountability hawks believe their righteousness  is self-evident, justifying the destruction of the “status quo” those who disagree with them.  But America has been well-served by the principle that “we are a nation of laws, not men (or women).”  What is wrong with the principle that contract should be respected and a person’s word is his or her bond?  The Shanker Institute shows that states with binding contracts have higher student performance, and there are reasons why that is the case. -JT

During this round of reform wars, as in previous reform cycles, the union’s position has been “trust but verify.”  Teachers are willing to be held accountable to tough new contracts, but we need verifiable provisions that management will not arbitrarily ignore their commitments.  Similiarly, teachers have always tried out new fads theories imposed on schools,  but as opposed to true believers in standardized testing, we seek evidence that innovations actually work.

The Rheeocrats also grow out of a longstanding tradition that dates back to the Puritans.  In their hearts, they know they are right.  Because their cause is just, they reject the constraints of “man’s law” when it hinders their crusade.  The same applies to rules of evidence, and the laws of social science, when they call into question the effectiveness of their assumptions.  Teachers, on the other hand, are more interested in what actually works in the classroom.

During the media’s all-out attack on my profession, I sometimes have been impatient with Randi Weingarten’s continued civility.  She has negotiated a lot of contracts, however.  I worry, but I trust her to hammer out compromises with the anti-teacher crowd those who have  different educational values.