Friday, April 11, 2008


An adventure in education by smf

Some might find it hard to believe, but I was minding my business answering e-mails this afternoon and came across one from EDin08, Roy Romer's political action committee to raise the level of debate about public education in the current presidential campaign.

I'm with Roy on this. I bought one of his EDin08 t-shirts, they mailed it back the next day!  And then mailed another one two weeks later. Roy is my friend!

When a wear the t-shirt my wife wonders if it doesn't mean "Erectile Dysfunction in '08".  She is my wife.

Anyway, the EDin08 email invited me to visit the EDin08 Facebook page and I was way impressed!  Facebook.  I don't have a Facebook page and Roy does? This will not do.

On Roy's Facebook page I found an article by Roy. Bloggery is like that.

"A colleague of mine came across an interesting working paper published by RAND on "Evaluating the Performance of Philadelphia’s Charter Schools" and I thought I’d share it with you. The paper reports that Philadelphia has seen a dramatic increase in the number of charter schools since 1997. Beginning with only three, the school district now has over 60. The report examines the effects that charter schools have had on student achievement in Philadelphia and its results are quite impressive.

"'Charter schools have exhibited an increase in the percent of students reaching proficiency in recent years.'

"The report illustrates that the percent of charter students reaching proficiency in math increased from 24.1 percent to 46.7 percent. Student’s proficiency in science also increased from 16 percent to 45 percent.

"The creative ways in which charter schools use the additional time is instructive to policy-makers and practitioners around the nation and could explain some of the great achievement results students have gained."


Roy, I concluded, has drank the charter school Kool Aid. We have even more charters in L.A. than Philly - though not as many in terms of percentage of students. And the dollar per student is higher, charters can give more bang for more bucks. Roy opposed the charters when he got them in L.A. …but now he's read the study and been drawn into the light.

Because I'm wary of "research based" anything, I studied who wrote the study.


Q: Who paid RAND to do the study?

A: The William Penn Foundation.

Q: Who are they when they're at home? wondered I. Lickspittle toadies of the international charter school conspiracy? Billionaire developers? Or died in red wool NeoCon NCLB'ers?

A: No.

Then I read their summary of the study they paid for:



"Not much, according to a new RAND study funded in part by the Foundation.

"Researchers at the RAND Institute examined the effect charter schools are having on student achievement in Philadelphia by looking at student performance in a variety of areas, including reading and math, as well as student turnover rates.

"In general, RAND found that achievement among Philadelphia’s charter school students was statistically indistinguishable from students at traditional public schools. They also found no evidence that neighborhood public schools facing competition from charter schools performed any differently."


Really...? So I read the study.

After the first few pages of fuzzy writing, muddy prose and foggy thinking - essentially saying 'there are lots of outstanding questions about charters and we are going to address a very few of them' - I stopped.

The Penn Foundation's version is right and they should ask for their money back.

And I fear somebody slipped some caffeine into Roy's Kool Aid.


COMING SOON: The 4LAKids Facebook page!

The study.

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