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10 Things Charter Schools Won’t Tell You – SmartMoney

This is a balanced summary, including good links that help identify the pros and cons of the various forms of research on charters.  The net of it seems to be that, while there are inspired high-performance charters that outperform some traditional public schools, most don’t.  As Michael Marder shows, most public schools outperform most charters, according to the most-used comparisons.  So, while there is no data to support a general policy that promotes substituting charters for traditional public schools, New Hampshire charters have demonstrated their value in focused roles such as helping kids at risk of failure in school.  Here’s the SmartMoney piece:

1. We’re no better than public schools.

Not that public schools are perfect, as many parents know. See our earlier story, 10 Things Your School District Won t Tell You

A host of other studies on charter school outcomes have come up with sometimes contradictory results. As with traditional public schools, there are great charters and some that aren t so great. There s a lot of variation within charter schools, points out Katrina Bulkley, an associate professor of education at Montclair State University who studies issues related to school governance. In fairness to organizations that are running high-performing schools, many of them are very frustrated with the range of quality, because they feel that it taints charter schools as a whole, Bulkley says.

find the rest at: 10 Things Charter Schools Won’t Tell You – SmartMoney.com.

The unions make public schools bad, right? Actually, that’s not what the data shows.

Michael Marder is physics prof at the University of Texas at Austin, and Co-Director of UTeach (“We prepare teachers.  They change the world.”).  He’s a scientist who has found communicative ways to visualize his research data.  Sometimes he applies that skill to education issues to see what’s really going on.  Here is his look at the role unions play in student achievement (taken from page 8, here).

The view that unions are an obstacle to educational progress is the almost universally shared premise among education reform proponents in the U.S., whether the proposed reform is punitive teacher evaluations, the charterization of public education or state-funded private school vouchers.  Prof. Marder lets Steve Jobs (2007) serve as the voice of conventional wisdom on this issue:

I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way….This unionization
and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy.

But then he displays simple data that tells a different story.  Each disk is a state.  The red disks are “right to work” states, which he characterizes as “weaker union” states.  The blue disks are “stronger union” states.

Marder union graphs 1

Here’s what Prof. Marder observes in his dispassionate way:

States with and without strong unions are intermingled. Well-off students in wealthy states with strong unions have the highest outcomes. For low-income students the states with highest outcomes have weak unions. Differences in state performance that might be attributed to unions are small compared with effects of poverty.

As an additional note, here is an interesting study by the conservative Fordham Institute that ranks the states by the strength of their teachers’ unions.