Cream and Charters

August 16, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

A couple of weeks ago, NYC schools chancellor Joel Klein was waving around test scores for all to see as irrefutable evidence that charter schools do a better job than traditional public schools. I voiced some reservations (here).

Not all poor schoolchildren are alike, and there’s good reason to expect systematic differences between charter school kids and others. The charter school kids have parents who, while they may be poor, are more involved in their education.  The traditional public schools get the kids who are left behind. The cumulative effect of this selection makes for vastly different kinds of learning environments – differences that have much more to do with kinds of parents and children than with kinds of school organization or the presence or absence of unions.

The charter cheerers like Klein deny any such effect.  (Klein is not just a championr of charters, He puts the taxpayers’ money where his mouth is. He used his position as NYC schools chancellor to give every advantage to charters – especially all four of Eve Moskowitz’s Success Network schools – sometimes at the expense of traditional public schools.)

The latest issue of Educational Policy has some research on this very topic by Yongmei Ni (Ni is too polite to call it “creaming” and uses the low-fat term “sorting.”): “The Sorting Effect of Charter Schools on Student Composition in Traditional Public Schools.” (here gated – I found it thanks to a tweet by Shankar Vedantam)

From the abstract:
the dynamic student transfers between charter schools and TPSs are analyzed through a series of hierarchical generalized linear models. The two-way transfer analysis shows that the student sorting under the charter school program tends to intensify the isolation of disadvantaged students in less effective urban schools serving a high concentration of similarly disadvantaged students. [emphasis added]
The problem has no easy solution.  The solution for the individual is clear – get your kid into the best school possible.  But for the system, this creaming solution makes the most disadvantaged schools more chaotic, more hopeless.

1 comment:

brandsinger said...

Hardi had this is rich, Jay. A few years ago you and I had bitter debates over charter schools -- you arguing that they did not do a better job of teaching students, me arguing the contrary. Now that evidence is increasingly proving -- beyond doubt -- that charters tend to do a better job, you whine that it's because the students and parents are pre-selected for success! So what's your point (as I asked you over and over years ago)? That we should abandon charter schools (that work better) so that you and the discredited education establishment can have your monopoly on public education (that guarantees mediocrity)? You prefer failed schools run by unions, is that your point? What's your end game? Fight and fight and fight against charter schools until your excuses have run out and American schoolchildren actually get a better education? That would be a bitter pill for you to swallow.