Saturday, June 27, 2009

High-Quality Charter School Report Confirms Past Research


June 24, 2009

Review raises some technical concerns but praises report's contribution to the
established research base showing minimal, and perhaps negative, average
performance results

Contact: Gary Miron, (269) 599-7965; [3]
Brooks Applegate, (269) 387-3886; [4]
Kevin Welner, (303) 492-8370; [5]

BOULDER, Colo. and TEMPE, Ariz. (June 24, 2009) -- A new report on the impact
of charter schools on student performance finds that, on average, such schools
perform no better than conventional public schools. The report, released last
week, claimed to break new ground in its national coverage and in the detail of
its analyses, and it received a great deal of attention from media and policy
makers. A review [6] of the report confirms its claims of a superior and
extensive data base and finds that its analyses are largely sound, with some
limitations that should have been shared in the report.

The report is Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States, by the
Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. It was
reviewed for the Think Tank Review Project by Gary Miron and Brooks Applegate,
professors at Western Michigan University with extensive experience studying and
evaluating charter school performance.

Multiple Choice draws its conclusions from the researchers' examination of
longitudinal, student-level data compiled from 15 or 16 states (the reviewers
note some lack of clarity on this point), covering 65-70% of the nation's
charter schools. The report analyzes the achievement of students in these
charter schools compared to that of matched students in traditional public

The primary findings of the CREDO report show that charter school students'
test performance is basically the same as the performance of students enrolled
in traditional public schools. Because of their very large data base, the
authors were able to tease out statistically significant differences in 54% of
the charter schools studied, with the following results: "17 percent [of
charters] provide superior education opportunities for their students. ... 37
percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their
student [sic] would have realized had they remained in traditional public

In their review, Miron and Applegate summarize past research examining charter
school performance and conclude that the CREDO findings are consistent with that
earlier work. Charter schools, on average, appear to have achievement outcomes
that are similar to, and perhaps worse, than traditional public schools. "The
scope and relative rigor of the CREDO study reinforces the larger body of
evidence which shows no overall impact of charter schools on performance," Miron
and Applegate report.

The CREDO report also attempts to draw some state-level conclusions from their
results, looking that three policies associated with more or less
restrictiveness in the state charter laws: caps on the number of allowed
charters in the state, restrictions on who can authorize the creation of a
charter, and the allowance of appeals by charter applicants from a denial of
authorization. The results were mixed, and the reviewers conclude that the
analytic approach was undermined by the divergent manner in which these policies
are implemented. The reviewers do, however, present their own secondary look at
the state-level data (presented in their review) and uncover a pattern showing
states doing better when they have fewer charters and when fewer of those
charters are run by for-profit corporations.

Although too complex to be easily summarized, the review from Miron and
Applegate also raises a series of technical questions regarding the report's
analyses. Because of the potential value of the CREDO work, the reviewers urge
the authors to answer those questions in technical follow-up papers to the
report and in later work with their data base.

Find Gary Miron's and Brooks Applegate's review on the web at: [7]

Gary Miron, Professor
Dept. of Educational Leadership, Research & Technology
College of Education, Western Michigan University
269-387-3883 [8]

Kevin Welner, Professor and Director
Education and the Public Interest Center
University of Colorado at Boulder
(303) 492-8370 [9]

About the Think Tank Review Project

The Think Tank Review Project ( [10]), a
collaborative project of the ASU Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU) and
CU-Boulder's Education and the Public Interest Center (EPIC), provides the
public, policy makers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of
selected think tank publications. The project is made possible by funding from
the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and

Kevin Welner, the project co-director, explains that the project is needed
because, "despite their garnering of media attention and their influence with
many policy makers, reports released by private think tanks vary tremendously in
their quality. Many think tank reports are little more than ideological
argumentation dressed up as research. Many others include flaws that would
likely have been identified and addressed through the peer review process. We
believe that the media, policy makers, and the public will greatly benefit from
having qualified social scientists provide reviews of these documents in a
timely fashion." He adds, "we don't consider our reviews to be the final word,
nor is our goal to stop think tanks' contributions to a public dialogue. That
dialogue is, in fact, what we value the most. The best ideas come about through
rigorous critique and debate."


The Education and the Public Interest Center (EPIC) at the University of
Colorado at Boulder and the Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU) at Arizona
State University collaborate to produce policy briefs and think tank reviews.
Our goal is to promote well-informed democratic deliberation about education
policy by providing academic as well as non-academic audiences with useful
information and high quality analyses.

Visit EPIC and EPRU at [11]

EPIC and EPRU are members of the Education Policy Alliance
( [12]).


(c)2009 EPIC. Education and the Public Interest Center, School of Education
249 UCB, University of Colorado at Boulder, CO 80309-0249.
Phone: 303-447-EPIC(3742) | [13]
To unsubscribe from future mailings, click here [14].


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