And then there's our Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire with her hardheaded unscientific opposition to charter schools and her treat to veto any charter school bill that gets to her desk. "I have told them I will veto it. I will veto it," said Gregoire.
Governor Gregoire does not seem to care that 41 other states have charter schools and she must have missed the memo from President Obama and his Democratic administration promoting their strong support for the expansion of high quality public charters. Why would our Democratic President do such a thing, our state party leaders might ask? Because there is an urgent need to accelerate student achievement in under-represented groups, and the research shows that public charter schools serving low-income, urban students consistently outperform traditional public schools.
What caught my eye was the link to the “research shows” since much of what I read suggests that her claim is not accurate. So, clicking on the link sent me to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools site. One might think that this site would be supportive of public charter schools as was the case when I reviewed the “Understanding Charter School Research” section. In it, the Alliance debunks the notion put forward by the authors of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) study out of Stanford University that the findings were mixed and that the authors emphasized the more negative results of the study. They suggest that by going further into the data over time that it becomes clear that charter students out perform their counterparts in public schools.
I see no sense in debating the point; there are many studies out there that I believe the consensus would be that results for charter schools are mixed at best. To suggest, however, from one study that charter schools serving low-income, urban students consistently outperform traditional schools is not accurate. It concerns me that DFER and other organizations use data and language such as this to influence policy makers with increased success across the nation. Our legislators need accurate, unbiased data, as they make critical policy decisions that influence our work, not trends or unsupported positions by advocates for a particular position. I believe that we need better ways to get accurate information to staff members who have access and the ability to influence the legislators as they struggle with these important issues.
Perhaps they should read this opinion piece in Saturday’s Time by columnist Sirota who sites the same study as MacFarlane.
In recent years, major studies suggest that, on the whole, charter schools are producing worse educational achievement results than traditional public schools. For example, a landmark study from Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes discovered that while 17 percent of charter schools "provide superior education opportunities for their students," a whopping "37 percent deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their students would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools."
Sirota does, however acknowledge that there are successful charters, just not THE answer that many would have us believe.
Does this all mean that charter schools are inherently bad? Of course not — there are some terrific charter schools out there. However, the data do suggest that charter schools are not a systemic answer to America's education crisis. In many cases, in fact, they make the crisis worse, not only exacerbating inherent inequalities, but also distracting attention from the real ills plaguing the education system — ills rooted in economic inequality and anemic school budgets.
Given the chance, I would guess that DFER would say that teachers through the Washington Education Association do the same thing and have over time wielded a powerful influence in Olympia, one that they are attempting to change. We’ll see how that plays out as the budget resolution unfolds. If we are surprised by charters resurfacing in the compromise we will learn much about the shifting balance of power in state politics