CREDO Critique

I published a post called “This charter school bombshell was dropped last week.” There has been much debate about this report that claims urban charter schools perform better than their traditional public school peers. The National Education Policy Center released a rebuttal which asks some critical questions about the study. Here is the abstract:

Following up on a previous study, researchers sought to investigate whether the effect on reading and math scores of being in a charter school was different in urban areas compared with other areas and to explore what might contribute to such differences. Overall, the study finds a small positive effect of being in a charter school on both math and reading scores and finds that this effect is slightly stronger in urban environments. There are significant reasons to exercise caution, however. The study’s “virtual twin” technique is insufficiently documented, and it remains unclear and puzzling why the researchers use this approach rather than the more accepted approach of propensity score matching. Consequently, the study may not adequately control for the possibility that families selecting a charter school may be very different from those who do not. Other choices in the analysis and reporting, such as the apparent systematic exclusion of many lower-scoring students from the analyses, the estimation of growth, and the use of “days of learning” as a metric, are also insufficiently justified. Even setting aside such concerns over analytic methods, the actual effect sizes reported are very small, explaining well under a tenth of one percent of the variance in test scores. To call such an effect “substantial” strains credulity.


I am working on a theoretical piece that discusses why there are such drastic differences in findings about charter schools. We should all not be surprised that some scholars find good charter schools and some find bad. I think they are asking the wrong questions and these horse race studies are not as useful as they seem. I tend to think that the framing of these questions is off and local context is so important in anticipating the results of these charter schools. Some local contexts call for a massive overhaul of the educational system, while some do not need “competition” to help them continue to thrive. Often, schooling isn’t the main aspect of the problem, but that is a discussion for another day…


I would like to give a shout out to everyone at AERA who gave me great feedback on my work. I had the pleasure of participating in the Clark Fellowship for graduate students in educational leadership and policy. The professors there really helped me with my thinking and framing of my dissertation. It was a great event and I recommend it to other graduate students.

Then I had the good fortune of presenting in a paper session about the MOOC I worked on last summer and participating in a few round tables where I discussed with scholars about my work analyzing Texas Online Schools. These pieces are under peer review, so I will post here when they get published.

Looking forward to AERA next year in Washington, DC!

My AERA schedule in Chicago

Next week I will be participating in the American Education Research Association (AERA) annual meeting in Chicago. I have a few presentations there, so feel free to drop in and say hello.

April 15-16 I will be participating in the Clark Seminar presented by UCEA.

Friday April 17 from 12:25-1:55 in Marriot Fourth Level Addison: I will be presenting “Overcoming Language Barriers Online: Fostering Community With Nonnative Speakers in a Massive Open Online Course.”

Saturday April 18, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Swissotel, Eent Centre Second Level, Vevey 3: I am a non-presenting author on “Choice and Segregation: Exploring the Choices and Consequences of Students’ Charter School Transfers.”

Sunday, April 19, 12:25 to 1:55pm, Hyatt, East Tower – Purple Level, Riverside East: I will be available in a “Meet the Editors” session on behalf of the American Journal of Education.

Monday, April 20, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Hyatt, East Tower – Gold Level, Crystal BC: I will be presenting in a roundtable session, “Click Here If 13 or Older: Achievement Outcomes and Grade-Level Differences in Texas Online Schools.”

I will try to blog about some of the sessions I attend, but if not I will be back writing after the conference is finished!

Digital Divide anyone? This story is all too familiar.

Below is a story from PRI about online learning and the digital divide. The first few paragraphs are below. An interesting read! Read the rest by clicking on this text.

Online learning holds great promise — but mostly for the well-off

Cool school in MA…I wish they all had 43K per student to spend!

This has got to be one of the most innovative schools out there. Read the story about it in EdWeek. The first few paragraphs are below.

At $43K Private School, Tech Opens Doors to Different World

A Multimedia Look Inside the Beaver Country Day School

By Benjamin Herold

Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Joshua Glenn wants his two sons to leave high school ready to flourish in the high-tech world that awaits them.

That’s a big reason why he’s paying $43,360 a year for each boy to attend the prestigious Beaver Country Day Schoolhere.

“I like the fact that Beaver uses technology as a tool for research. I like the fact that they use technology as a platform for self-expression and collaborative work. It’s extraordinary how they build computer coding right into the classes,” said Mr. Glenn, a marketing consultant from nearby Boston.

“It feels like Sam and Max will be able to move seamlessly from Beaver into real life,” he said.

Founded in 1920, Beaver Country Day, which enrolls 468 students in grades 6-12, offers what is arguably the best approach for using K-12 educational technology that money can buy.

Unlike many elite private schools, Beaver hasn’t shied away from the digital revolution.

And unlike many public schools, Beaver hasn’t positioned its students as passive consumers of others’ digital content.

Instead, Beaver has invested in efforts like NuVu, a standalone “innovation school” with no classes, no homework, and no tests. Each trimester, about 20 Beaver students forego the school’s main campus in favor of a pink-walled, 4,000-square foot room in Cambridge, strategically located near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

At NuVu, students take part in a rapid-fire series of two-week “studios” modeled on graduate-level architecture programs. The students’ task, for which they will receive credit back at Beaver: Conceive, design, and fabricate solutions to real-world problems.

At their disposal: a staff of architects, robotics engineers, and artists; experts from MIT, Harvard, and the business world; five 3-D printers; and a workshop outfitted with everything from a laser cutter to an industrial sewing machine.

Junior Laurel Sullivan, 17, spent this past winter creating a life-saving wearable technology.