"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Private and Charter School Research Confounds Education Privatization Plans

A good summary of recent events in this editorial from readingeagle.com:

Bush policies based on bad assumptions

The Issue: A report from the U.S. Department of Education shows fourth graders in public schools perform better than their counterparts in charter schools.

Our Opinion: The Bush administration, which has championed charter schools, should rethink its education policies.

Earlier this summer, a report that was released quietly by the U.S. Department of Education, revealed that public schools perform just as well, if not better, than private schools.

The reason the report was not accompanied by any fanfare was that it was an embarrassment to the Bush administration, which clings to the belief that public schools are failing.

That belief has been used to justify the administration’s school-voucher program, which allows students to transfer out of those failing schools and attend private schools at taxpayers expense.

Last week, another report was released by the Educa-tion Department that compounded the embarrassment. That report, based on scores from the 2003 National As-sessment of Educational Progress test, showed that fourth graders in traditional public schools did significantly better in math and reading than fourth graders attending charter schools.

Unlike private schools, charter schools are part of the public school system, but are free from most of the regula-tions that govern public schools. They are operated either by nonprofit organizations or for-profit companies.

The report also showed that the more closely affiliated charter schools are to the school districts in which they are located the better they perform.

Charter schools have been considered by the Bush administration and others as the panacea for what ails the country’s education system.

The fallacy of that contention became apparent two years ago when the American Federation of Teachers culled the 2003 test scores from data compiled by the Education Department.

The data had been made available to the public, but Education Department officials apparently never imag-ined anyone would dig through the mountain of informa-tion to locate this interesting nugget of information.

Last week’s report merely confirmed what the teachers union had uncovered.
With two reports, both compiled and released by the Education Department, indicating that the Bush admini-stration’s education policies are based on erroneous as-sumptions, it is unlikely there will be a third.

Mark S. Schneider, the federal commissioner of educa-tion statistics who released the report, indicated as much when he said the Education Department should stop con-ducting research comparing charter schools with public schools. That should be left to independent researchers.

An advantage to leaving such studies to independent researchers, of course, is that the administration then could find fault with them if the results don’t agree with its own presumptions.

It’s becoming harder for the White House to justify programs such as school vouchers, which assumes that public schools are failing, when its own reports don’t support that contention.

A few days after the report was released comparing public and private schools, Department Secretary Margaret Spellings proposed a $100 million school-voucher plan, which would provide low-income children languishing in public schools with a private-school education at taxpayer expense.

In light of the two reports, it’s likely that the voucher program will be sending those children to schools that are worse, not better.

As we have said before, rather than making assumptions that aren’t based on facts, the administration should determine what the real problems are and help the traditional public schools to solve them.

No comments:

Post a Comment