Report Ignites Infighting among School Choice Fans

By Russell, Jason | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, June 17, 2016 | Go to article overview

Report Ignites Infighting among School Choice Fans


Russell, Jason, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


On Thursday, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released a report outlining reforms states should make to improve the struggling online public charter school sector. The alliance generally supports charter schools, so it's made plenty of allies with other nonprofit groups that support school choice. Some of those allies pushed back on the report for suggesting, among other reforms, that authorizers should close chronically low-performing virtual charter schools.

"This research lacks the depth and integrity that we need in educational analysis, and ignores the fact that the voluntary choices of parents -- when they have them -- may not represent others' conceptions of what works best for their kids," Jeanne Allen, CEO and founder of the Center for Education Reform, wrote in a press release. "Researchers agree that this view of the data is superficial and ignores who and what is gained by a particular kind of schooling approach... This report is troubling in that it suggests that the measure of a school's effectiveness is an average of who gets tested, not who gets served and the conditions under which they enter or leave."

The push back from PublicSchoolOptions.org was even harsher. "[The report] contains no new information and only rehashes previously released flawed, one-sided data," the group said in a press release. "The proposal fails to address several key factors calling into question the credibility of its sources and the motives of the authors, organizations that claim to be dedicated to expanding school choice for parents and students."

According to one study from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, the average student in a virtual charter school learned nothing in math and learned half as much in reading as the average traditional public school student.

Todd Ziebarth, the lead author of the alliance's report, told the Washington Examiner that Allen's and PublicSchoolOptions.org's critiques of the data "defy logic." He said the data have been well- vetted over the last seven to eight years, and noted that Allen's Center for Education Reform uses other studies from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes to show how successful public charter schools are.

"It's not gold standard research, but it does have student-based data comparing students with similar characteristics against one another," Ziebarth said. …

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