Comparisons between traditional public and charter schools have little meaning. In an article entitled: Making School Choice Easier in today’s New York Times, charter school operators made concrete proposals to improve charter school achievement data.
Representatives of New Visions for Public Schools offer four ways to help parents make more informed decisions about the effectiveness of charter schools. New Visions are charter schools located in New York. They are non-profit.
- Charter school evaluations should model clinical trials. District and charter school comparisons should report the number of students who drop out or voluntarily left the grade.
- A single unified enrollment system should be used. Separate enrollment systems for each charter encourage cherry picking of students by targeting applications for specific groups. Examples of a single system are found in Denver and New Orleans and show improved data and equity.
- States and school authorizers should report enrollment and attrition data. The types of students offered seats, the types enrolled, and reasons for student departures impact the interpretation of school achievement. These data categories should include students with disabilities, language status and previous academic achievement.
- Vacant seats should be filled. When students leave charters, the seats should be filled. The practice of reporting achievement only on students who survive over time inflates success rates.
Greater data transparency would reveal the flaws in current comparisons between traditional public and charter schools. It could help policy makers focus on the real educational problems many children face. The current choice system favors compliant children and involved parents. It results in increased economic and racial resegregation of schools. It exacerbates divisions within communities.
There has to be a better way. Suppose district charter contracts included these requirements. What would the State Board of Education do? If they reject greater transparency, at least they would have to acknowledge they do not want to know how ineffective the current system is.