This charter school bombshell was dropped last week

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) released a study last week that reported urban charter schools outperform their traditional public school counterparts in math and reading.

I’ve read a lot about this, ranging from discussions about how they created their metric (they converted standard deviations into “days of learning”) as well as “what does this all mean?” type articles. Plus, I am well-versed in the debate about charter schools overall.

Here is my take on the CREDO study:

1) I do not believe in silver-bullet interventions. I believe that contexts are important. So I disagree with anyone saying that “charter schools are the solution to educational problems.” That being said, if one considers math and reading outcomes as his or her sole metric for success, the charter school advocates scored a big one with this study.

2) To nuance my first point, I do think many urban school district organizational environments are in sour shape. This means to me that an intervention like charter schools (different in organization than the original districts) is more likely to do better than the schools that were performing poorly. I am not surprised by these findings as they relate to cities. However, I bet the findings would be different in non-urban districts that have strong performance already.

3) Charter schools are not going to solve all of the problems that urban schools face and it is unfair to think that they or traditional public schools are capable of doing so. These charter schools may be doing better than their counterparts, but they are still not going to compete with a local school in a wealthy neighborhood. Often we measure student poverty when we think we are measuring school effectiveness. Read here for an interesting post about this.

4) Test scores are only one limited metric of school success. Knowing that students in these charter schools have scored better on a few tests is important, but we need to go into these cities and look at the entire picture in order to really create value judgements based on these schools.

All of this being said, this report is a pretty big “win” for advocates of charter schools. It will be interesting to see the push back.

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