About That Civitas Institute Post On Charter Schools – Comparing Apples to Rocks

A recent post on the Civitas Institute’s website entitled “Research: charter schools improve public schools” is worth the read because while it may have provided the writer some light ammunition to make the claim “Is there a more powerful argument for competition and choice?”, what it really does is prove that many would rather cherry pick research to fit a narrative than actually analyzing what is reality now (https://www.nccivitas.org/civitas-review/research-charter-schools-improve-public-schools/#comments).

Bob Luebke cites a study conducted by Professor Sarah Cordes of Temple University who writes,

…that the introduction of charter schools within one mile of a TPS [traditional public school] increases the performance of TPS students on the order of 0.02 standard deviations (sds) in both math and English Language Arts (ELA). As predicted by theories of competition or information transfers, these effects increase with proximity to the charter school and are largest among student in co-located schools where performance increases by 0.09 sds in math and 0.06 sds in ELA. In addition retention decreases between 20-40 percent in TPSs located within 1 mile of a charter school. School level responses that might explain these positive spillovers  included higher per PPE  [per pupil expenditure] and changes in school practices such as higher academic expectations, student engagement, and levels of respect and cleanliness at the school, as reported on parent and teacher surveys.”

Luebke also makes sure to specify,

“The research by Cordes is the first peer-reviewed study on the subject and appears in the Journal of Education Finance and Policy.  Cordes analyzed nearly 900,000 students in grades 3-5 who attended traditional public school in an attendance zone that included a charter school serving at least one of those grades between 1996 and 2010.”

To even allow for this research to explain why the charter school expansion in North Carolina is a viable action is careless because what Cordes reports actually goes against what Luebke seems to champion: school choice that is manipulated by legislation to weaken public schools in NC.

Notice that the study concentrates on the years 1996-2010. That’s seven years ago. That’s before a GOP-controlled supermajority in the NC General Assembly began its “reforms.” That’s before the following occurred, a lot of which was orchestrated by the very people (Art Pope) who fuel the Civitas Institute:

  • Teacher Pay still low on national scale
  • Removal of due-process rights
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed
  • misplaced Bonuses
  • Last in nation in Principal Pay
  • Standard 6 and Nebulous Evaluation Tools
  • Push for Merit Pay
  • “Average” Raises
  • Health Insurance and Benefits Attacked
  • Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE)
  • Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Opportunity Grants
  • Virtual Schools
  • Achievement School Districts
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program

And that’s just a small list.

For Luebke to even equate the educational topography of 2017 with the 1990’s and early 2000’s with what is being done today is asinine.

Furthermore, it is rather interesting that Cordes says this specifically:

School level responses that might explain these positive spillovers included higher per PPE  [per pupil expenditure] and changes in school practices such as higher academic expectations, student engagement, and levels of respect and cleanliness at the school, as reported on parent and teacher surveys.

Higher per pupil expenditure?

Higher levels of respect?

In NC, those very things that Cordes says occurred in public schools are the very things that the NCGA is stifling. It’s a total contradiction to what is happening in North Carolina, especially since the removal of charter school capping and the expanse of vouchers, neither of which has produced any empirical data that proves that either is helping our students the way that Luebke would want to claim they are.

In essence, he is using research from a different academic terrain to fit his narrative that cannot be validated because there is no research of what is happening in NC because the very people who want that narrative to exist are controlling the vary variables that would allow for research to provide answers.

And as far as “cleanliness” goes? When you have less resources for a growing student population, then it is hard to keep things maintained. Remember this?

EDEN — A bathroom that doesn’t have toilet paper.

A classroom lacking textbooks.

A copy machine without paper.

In some Rockingham County schools, there’s not enough money to buy these — and other things.

When that was revealed last week during a meeting of the Rockingham County Board of Education, it came as a shock to some and a surprise to others (http://www.journalnow.com/news/state_region/rockingham-county-schools-short-on-the-basics/article_61b15a34-bcfd-5407-83a4-86a2830c5ab2.html).

That’s Phil Berger’s district. His son was trying to open up a new charter school in the area at that very time.

That was in 2014 – not 1996-2010.

Leubke referenced an interview on the study by the education web site The 74. You should check out that outfit.

74 1.png

But be sure to understand that it really is not non-partisan. It was founded by Campbell Brown, one of the leading voices of the privatization movement.

And you might want to be sure to see who has funded The 74. That list alone makes the term “non-partisan” a synonym for the “current administration.” At the top of the list is Betsy DeVos.

Mercedes Schneider did some incredible research on The 74 and its funding – https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2016/12/01/a-challenge-for-campbell-browns-the-74-publicize-your-detailed-history/).

Along with DeVos, there is the Walton and Broad Foundations. And don’t forget to see Brown’s connections with Wall Street and her convenient role on the boards of New York’s Success Charter Schools. In fact, check out this piece on Brown and her “non-partisan” ways – http://www.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-education/2016/11/campbell-brown-steps-back-from-coverage-217630.

Luebke’s celebration of Cordes’s research of a different educational terrain from years and decades ago is like a square peg that Leubke is trying to shove into a round hole that he has helped to mold and shape.

That peg does not fit and he’s trying to convince you that it does. That should automatically make you doubt whatever he might have to say about public education.