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Buried Alive (updated)

shovel“Explosive” results of a comprehensive, multi-year analysis of charter schools in New York City find students in charters more poor, more disadvantaged and from homes with lesser educational background, but closing the achievement gap by as much as 86 percent in math and 66 percent in reading.

So why is that news relegated to Page A27 of the New York Times, and only in a smattering of other papers elsewhere around the country?

This study by a noted Stanford University economist used an apples to apples comparison of real children – students who went to charters with those who did not get chosen by the lottery – rather than use intangible and relatively sketchy methodologies involving virtual students.

A less robust and, frankly, largely flawed study released in June by independent researchers at Stanford used that flawed methodology and made national headlines within a day of its press releases hitting the wires.

Their press roll out was criticized by charter advocates nationwide for misleading reporters. Indeed, the headlines then actually warned of charter students being behind in almost every state, without much credence for that or the general conclusions that now have every state legislator – along with union officials – saying charter success is overrated.

But the reality is: it’s not overrated. Charter schools do make an enormous difference in the life of a child and their family, particularly the longer they stay in a charter school.

The true gold-standard report issued Tuesday by Caroline Hoxby and her colleagues at the National Bureau of Economic Research tells the real story of a very big state that has the longevity and experience worthy of study and reporting.

It should not be buried in the depths of newspapers behind smaller, less

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Too much credit

sneechesEven when research studies come from prestigious universities like Stanford, they can be flawed. That’s the case with data cited in “The $5 billion bet on education,” Al Hunt’s recent New York Times commentary about the Obama Administration’s education agenda and its reliance on less bureaucratic, more accountable public schools known as charters.

A small research unit at Stanford (not the university itself) piloted a methodology pairing virtual twins in charters with students in traditional public education, producing results at odds with most state and national assessments that show far better results. And the longer students are in charters, the better they do.

Obama’s Race to the Top would not be complete without such reforms, but Hunt errors in giving credit to states that have done little to create strong laws that allow for high numbers of high performing charter schools to flourish. The real test will be whether, when state legislators return to work, they will be willing to allow charters to start outside of school board control, free from union contracts and other constraints and funded equitably.

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A Rush to Judgement

judgeSenator Durbin used Wednesday’s hearing on Washington, DC public schools to broadcast what feels like a last ditch effort on his part to remove continuation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program from consideration, and frankly, making thinly veiled accusations of mismanagement and fraud when he himself admits to lacking all of the details speaks of desperation.

While there may be a legitimate question of the program’s transparency, if that truly is an obstacle to continuation, it is one that can easily be removed. What cannot be questioned is the fact that DC OSP families have seen the education and futures of their students dramatically changed for the better because of their participation.

Perhaps the most scrutinized and vetted federal education reform program in history, mountains of research and hours of testimony before Congress by experts, educators, parents and students should speak for itself, pointing to increased student achievement, safety and satisfaction.

This small $14 million program has proven itself to be effective on many levels, and yet billions upon billions are heaped into pork legislation, pet projects and favors without so much as a raised eyebrow? This year, public schools across the country have been the recipients of the largest influx of monies ever allotted to education. Rather than fighting what works, Senator Durbin and his teachers union supporters would better serve the kids he so strongly “defends” in his war on the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program by thoroughly following the $100 billion pledged to the country’s schools and ensuring that it not continue to fund failing and broken programs.

Save Opportunity

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