Friday, July 19, 2013

Did the CREDO study fudge charter school data?

Many charter school supporters are touting a study by Stanford University’s CREDO (Center for Research on Education Outcomes), which claims to document greater academic growth in charter schools than in their public counterparts.

The Louisiana Department of Education was quick to use the study as evidence that we are “among eleven states where charter school performance outpaced traditional public school growth…”

As always with controversial subjects like charter schools, there were conflicting reports about the accuracy of the study. But in a man-bites-dog twist, one of the loudest critics of the new CREDO study is an ardent supporter of charter schools, Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform.

Allen told National Public Radio reporter Claudio Sanchez that CREDO “manipulated data and made conclusions about policy based on that data” that are “absolutely un-credible.”

As Sanchez wrote for this story, “the CREDO study did not compare real kids to real kids. Instead, researchers took selected data and created a ‘composite’ student to represent public school kids.”

As Jeanne Allen put it, "They compared those (charter school) students to students that don't even exist."
Allen told the reporter that it is possible to collect data on individual student achievement over time and create a legitimate study.

“But it takes a lot of patience and money that too many studies have been unable or unwilling to spend to get to that crucial question,” Sanchez wrote. “Are charter school students learning more than kids in traditional public schools?”

As long as the debate over charter schools is based on flawed research apparently aimed at bolstering a political agenda, it won’t be possible to answer that question.

In Louisiana, the politicians and venture capitalists have decided that charter schools and other privatization schemes are the way to improve educational achievement. They are all too happy to use bogus reports to support their cause.

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