After giving the first whack to RNC hatchetgal Collin Levey, the Seattle Times today officially joined the scrum over disappointing test scores at charter schools. [The debunking politics of charter schools]
The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress report add nothing to the debate on charter schools.
Yeah… especially if you don’t report it.
In case you get all your “news” from the Seattle Times, (and thus have no idea what we’re talking about,) the NY Times broke a story earlier this weekly (quickly picked up by the Seattle P-I and Tacoma News Tribune) that Education Department statistics show fourth graders at charter schools lag half a year behind similar students at traditional public schools.
Of course, keeping your readers ignorant makes it so much easier to refute the study in an editorial. For example, the Seattle Times attempts to discount the results as being an unfair comparison:
Charter schools are concentrated in urban, often poor, areas. Many students were unsuccessful in the public schools. After years of being academically behind, they are now playing catch-up. Yet, the study compares their achievement with their public-school counterparts. It is an unfair, premature comparison.
But the study was careful to compare rotten apples to rotten apples. As the NY Times noted, “in almost every racial, economic and geographic category, fourth graders attending charter schools are outperformed by their peers in traditional public schools.”
On average, charter school students are performing worse than students at the schools they transfered out of. But to defend their long standing support of charter schools, the Seattle times flips the analysis on its head:
Pronouncements regarding their academic performance are more telling about the schools the children came from than about the charter schools they’re in.
Still, much of the Seattle Times editorial is measured, even reasonable. Of course there may be extenuating circumstances that influenced the test results, and of course it is too early in the charter school experiment to judge it one way or the other.
But proponents of charter schools have loudly touted them as a superior, free market alternative — offering nothing but anecdotes to back up their claims — so I must disagree with the Seattle Times editorial board. National test results showing charter school students lagging behind does add something very important to the national and local debate: a dose of reality.
Washington voters have wisely chosen a cautious approach to charter schools, and I expect they’ll do so again this November by rejecting R-55.