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Jonathan Chait loves charters but he does not know the extensive research that refutes his ardor. New York magazine publishes his misinformed opinions without fact-checking.
Julian Vasquez Heilig, dean of the College of Education at the University of Kentucky and one of the nation’s most eminent experts on race and equity, refutes Chait here.
Here is a brief excerpt from his brilliant rebuttal:
Charter Schools do not deliver extraordinary results— in fact on average their results are quite limited. Contrary to Chait’s argument, as an academic, I can assuredly tell you that “education researchers” HAVE NOT been shocked by charter schools gains— I think unimpressed is probably a better word. Check out this extensive list of more than 30 National Education Policy Center “top experts”whose peer reviewed research findings are largely contrary to Chait’s grandiose claims about school choice. Also, Chait cited studies produced by The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) located at the conservative Hoover Institution. CREDO studies are not peer reviewed. But Chait and charter school supporters point to CREDO’s 2015 urban charter study to say that African American and Latino students have more success in charter schools. Leaving aside the integrity of the study for a moment, what charter proponents don’t mention is that the performance impact is .008 and .05 for Latinos and African Americans in charter schools, respectively. These impact numbers are larger than zero, but you need a magnifying glass or telescope to see them. Contrast that outcome with policies such as pre-K and class size reduction with far more unequivocal measures of success than charter schools— often double and triple the impact of charter schools. Also, CREDO doesn’t usually compare schools in their studies. Instead, researchers use statistics to compare a real charter school student to a virtual (imaginary) student based on many students attending a small subset sample of neighborhood public schools. In spite of criticism of CREDO’s methods and lack of blind peer review, Chait still cited the CREDO studies as important evidence demonstrating charter school success.
New Orleans is not a charter success story.Chait mentioned New Orleans as a charter success story. Notably, New Orleans charters and Louisiana have been last and nearly in most educational data (NAEP, ACT scores, and Advanced Placement scores, dropout, graduation). A near majority of charters schools in New Orleans are rated D or F. Does that sound like a success story to you? Where education reformers actually succeeded in New Orleans was in realizing a goal to close NEARLY ALL the neighborhood public schools and replace them with (primarily poorly performing) charters.
Please read Dr. Heilig’s response in full. He shreds the charter propaganda spread by conservative billionaire-funded organizations and repeated by Chait.