BOULDER, CO (December 3, 2020) – The Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) at Harvard University recently published a research study touting improvement in the charter sector relative to district schools. The study attributes this, in part, to “enhanced charter performance.”
Yongmei Ni and Eunice Han of the University of Utah reviewed Changes in the Performance of Students in Charter and District Sectors of U.S. Education: An Analysis of Nationwide Trends and determined that no such causal inferences can be drawn from its comparison of national performance trends in the charter and district sectors.
Using National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading and math test results for seven different cohorts of fourth and eighth graders, the study compares student performance trends in the charter and district sectors between 2005 and 2017. Based on the comparisons of overall performance changes as well as subgroup analysis by student ethnicity, socioeconomic status, region, and locale, the study offers its conclusion that charter school trends are better than those of district schools. The report then spins a storyline about “political resistance to charters [from] both the management and labor sides of the district sector” that feel threatened by the “disruptive . . . innovation” of successful charter schools.
However, professors Ni and Han explain that, because NAEP does not track the performance of individual students over time, the analysis of performance trends of different cohorts does not allow causal conclusions about the relative effectiveness of the charter and district sectors in raising student achievement.
The reviewers also point out that the study suffers from several methodological weaknesses around sampling, control of extraneous variables, and determination of statistical significance. Due to these limitations, the study fails to advance our knowledge of charter school effectiveness and offers no solid base for policy recommendations regarding whether charters merit more or less investment, nor any insight into what practices and changes might benefit the charter sector.
Find the review, by Yongmei Ni and Eunice Han, at:
Find Changes in the Performance of Students in Charter and District Sectors of U.S. Education: An Analysis of Nationwide Trends, written by M. Danish Shakeel and Paul E. Peterson and published by the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, at: