December 3, 2020

Contact:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Yongmei Ni: (801) 587-9298, yongmei.ni@utah.edu

Report Attempts to Make Hay of Different Trends in Charter Schools and District Schools

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: The analysis of performance trends of different NAEP cohorts does not allow for causal conclusions about the relative effectiveness of the charter and district sectors in raising student achievement.

EAST LANSING, MI (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:
https://www.greatlakescenter.org

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:
https://www.hks.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/Taubman/PEPG/research/PEPG20_04.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: https://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/

About The Great Lakes Center
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform. Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: https://www.greatlakescenter.org. Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/greatlakescent. Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesCenter.

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at https://www.greatlakescenter.org/