Don't Superman and Wonder Woman Win at the End?

Bob Braun of the Star-Ledger has drunk the kool-aid. Here’s his favorite take on Michelle Rhee’s resignation and the news that Harlem Children’s Zone, the charter operation started by Geoffrey Canada, had less impressive results this year:
"Superman and Wonder Woman Meet Kryptonite" was the headline to these stories suggested by Paul Tractenberg, the Rutgers Law School professor who has, for decades, championed education reform done the hard way — by paying for, and persistently pursuing, it.
In other words, education reformers have it all wrong. New Jersey’s system of increased funding to poor districts with no accountability is still the best system. We’ve got to pay the money and be persistent, that’s all. Simple. These ed reform types are slaves to fashion, drooling over fads like merit pay and tenure reform, showing “public scorn for teachers by emphasizing the idea that many should be replaced or just dismissed.” Current initiatives are simply another orbit in the historical cycle of ebb and flow, another item in the catalogue that, Braun says, includes Sputnik and “A Nation at Risk” and Reagan’s “Morning in America.” Wise educators will simply wait out the storm and all this nonsense will go away.

Braun bases his argument on two sources: a New York Times article that analyzes HCZ’s drop-off in private donations and grades that NYC awards schools for student growth, and a Brookings Institute white paper on academic performance of HCZ students. From the Brookings Institute report:
HCZ works, at least to raise academic achievement among the population of students whose families try to enroll them in HCZ charter schools. Harvard researchers Dobbie and Fryer conducted a study of the HCZ that took advantage of a New York City regulation that requires public charter schools to select students by lottery when the demand for slots exceeds supply.[vii] By comparing academic outcomes for lottery winners vs. lottery losers, they were able to create the conditions of a randomized experiment, thus assuring that any differences among the two groups in academic outcomes were due solely to the opportunity for enrollment in the HCZ charter schools. The researchers found very large effects on academic achievement, particularly for math at the end of middle school. They conclude that, “the effects in middle school are enough to reverse the black-white achievement gap in mathematics.”
Hmm. Seems like HCZ works pretty well. What the Brookings report found was that “there was no compelling evidence that investments in parenting classes, health services, nutritional programs, and community improvement in general have appreciable effects on student achievement in schools in the U.S.” It's not the educational initiatives that are in question, it's the extra services, and that certainly bears more study. So how do we get from successfully reversing the black-white achievement gap to Braun's suggestion that we persist on our current trajectory that costs too much and doesn't improve student growth?

What’s that quote from that Jersey guy Albert Einstein? "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

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