I suppose, as long as Bill & Melinda Gates keep fronting the money, Rand will keep doing studies comparing charter schools to traditional public schools. This latest one compares charters to TPS in eight states and guess what? The results come out essentially the same as all their previous studies: charters don't outperform the very neighborhood schools they are supposed to replace. Why not? That's a matter of opinion. Here's mine:
- There's really not much different taking place inside charter school classrooms.
- Comparisons mainly focus on standardized test scores, the same scores used to condemn urban public schools where non-school factors like poverty and social inequities, play a major role in driving these scores.
- Charter schools aren't all one thing, any more than TPS. Some are great and some are horrible. But they are all lumped together for the purposes of these studies as well as for political and ideological reasons by self-interested charter school associations and conservative think tanks.
- The things that make charters unique, ie. no collective bargaining rights for teachers, weak accountability and oversight, are not things that improve student performance.
- In these kinds of statistical studies of large groups of schools across states, everything reverts to the mean (average). In other words, if you eliminate the small, high-performing group of innovative and teacher/student-friendly charters in the study, you're left with hundreds of charters, usually in chains managed by cookie-cutter minded operators that are doing much worse than regular public schools. In fact, the study doesn't even take into account the hundreds of charters which have been closed for low performance or mismanagement.
- Chains like KIPP, which do produce slightly higher scores, often do so by means of attrition--pushing out low-scoring or special-needs students. This factor wasn't even taken into account in the Rand study.