Do charter schools (…
Do charter schools (independently run public schools) have lower-than-average test scores than regular public schools? Yes they do, but as Jay Greene (via Pejmanesque) notes:

Such a broad comparison between charter schools and regular public schools is sheer nonsense. Unlike regular public schools, many charter schools are specifically designed to serve students with low test scores. Denouncing charter schools for having lower-than-average test scores is like denouncing drug rehab clinics for having more drug users than regular hospitals. A recent Manhattan Institute study found that a large number of charter schools are specifically targeted to educate particular underperforming populations.Across the nation there are charter schools with the stated purpose of educating groups like pregnant teens, high school dropouts, delinquent youth, or even the broadly defined group of at-risk children. About 13% of New York’s charter schools are targeted to such underperforming populations. So are about 41% of charter schools in Texas and 67% of charter schools in Illinois.

And, of course, this bit of junk science/polling made the NY Times front page on August 17th.

The findings, buried in mountains of data the Education Department released without public announcement, dealt a blow to supporters of the charter school movement, including the Bush administration.

It’s very odd that the Times can find useless poll data to smear the Bush administration, but can’t seem to find time to cover Kerry challenges from the Swifties. Or not.

The letters to the editor that came in on this (that were published) included one noting Greene’s point, but also one citing another reason this is an apples and oranges comparison.

Many parents choose charter schools to escape the value placed on standardized tests in public schools, but we are using those same tests to judge how well these schools are faring. Since many charter schools offer alternative choices that veer away from the teach-to-the-test mentality of public schools, the children in those schools, and the schools themselves, should be assessed accordingly.

Lumping all charter schools together and declaring failure hurts more children than it helps.

Standardized tests pigeonhole students and schools. It is time to stop allowing them to control students, teachers and the system.

A better measure would be to see how the charter school students were faring in public school vs. how they are faring in charter schools. I’d be very interested in those results.

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