Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dueling Charter School Ledes

Here’s the opening of today’s Star-Ledger story on performance in NJ’s charter schools:
As Gov. Chris Christie prepares to announce new charter schools approved to open in New Jersey, data obtained by The Star-Ledger shows well over half of the state’s charter school classes outperformed their local school district counterparts on standardized tests.
Here’s the opening of today’s Record story on performance in NJ’s charter schools:
With the Christie administration poised to announce approvals for a new wave of charter schools today, some educators say the state needs to be more vigilant in making sure charters keep their promises to be models of reform. While some charters, like North Star Academy in Newark, winner of a national Blue Ribbon for excellence, are shining successes, others underperform even in the most troubled districts.
Both articles are based on newly-released standardized test scores for 2010 in Abbott districts. The Star-Ledger does the numbers and concludes that 76% of charter school eighth-graders outperformed kids in traditional schools in language arts and 69% did so in eighth-grade math. The Record comes up with 79% for language arts and 54% in math. (One of them is right.)

The Star-Ledger’s analysis is that public charter schools in poor neighborhoods are outperforming traditional public schools. The Record’s analysis is that some charter schools are still performing poorly (the piece profiles the troubled Community Charter School of Paterson, where parents acknowledge the struggles but feel their kids are safer there than in the district schools) and that the NJ DOE is incapable of competent oversight.

Maybe they'e both right. Or maybe The Record is just trying to be consistent. After all, yesterday's Albert Doblin editorial attacked NJ's charter schools and the Christie Administration's advocacy of school choice. Here Doblin makes the argument that the educational woes in poor districts are due to poor parenting and lack of motivation on the part of students.
The governor can close every poor performing school in New Jersey tomorrow and replace them with a charter school and there will still be failing schools because if those schools are required to teach everybody, they will have some students who will not get with the program. And if these charter schools toss out the students who do not meet their schools’ criteria, where do these students land?

There is a reason – a reason more complex than tenure – for failing schools. Schools don’t fail in Glen Rock, Ridgewood and Mendham for a reason and it has nothing to do with tenure. It’s stability. It’s parents. It’s safety. It’s many, many things.
In addition to attacking children trapped in failing districts, Doblin also attacks tenure reform, merit pay, Robert Treat Academy, and Gov. Christie. That's actually sort of interesting, a nifty illustration of how charter schools have become a lightening rod for the anti-ed reform community. It's everything you love to hate rolled up in one neat package, inciting a repetitive loop of rhetoric that ends up blaming the victim.

1 comment:

Duke said...

The SL "analysis" is anything but:

http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2011/01/our-failed-media-charter-school-edition.html

You have to control for the populations of the schools if you are going to make a meaningful comparison - even Bruno Tedeschi says so at the end of the article. The SL did not.

This is typically lazy journalism, the kind I've come to expect in the school reform debate.