ACLU: Study Finds Detroit's Charters May Outperform, But Their Competition Hurts Regular Schools

Organization says Detroit charter school success skews statewide record higher

ACLU Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss says her organization has concerns over the selection of Betsy DeVos as U.S. secretary of education.

In an online statement, Moss stated that DeVos’ support of charter schools has harmed Michigan, and claimed there is “overwhelming evidence” that “charters do no better at educating children than traditional public schools…”

In an email, Moss addressed Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), which has studied Michigan charter schools.

“I think it is very important to be aware of the fact charter school (and school finance) policies differ substantially from state to state in ways that strongly influence the impact of choice policies on children and schools,” Moss said in the email. “Michigan’s policies and their implementation are outliers in a number of regards. The rules matter. It’s extremely important to be sensitive to this.”

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“CREDO, out of Stanford, applied the same methods in several states studied. The study’s methods did not actually look at the design of choice polices, only measures of student performance and demographics. They found that charters out-performed traditional schools in MI. The study reports that the positive statewide performance estimates for MI are driven entirely by schools in the Detroit area,” Moss said.

Moss continued: “But here’s the thing: the methodology they used assumes that the charter and district schools are distinct spheres, that is the presence of charters does not influence the performance of district schools and vice versa. This is a plausible assumption when the charters are a small sector relative to the district schools. But this is not the case in Detroit, where more kids attend charters than district schools, and where the very high density of charters has clearly disrupted the operation of traditional public schools and contributed to a highly turbulent and chaotic educational setting. (The district was not even a traditional public school district at the time of the CREDO study, but rather under state-appointed emergency management.)"

"The CREDO study found that performance in MI charters on average was very low, but better than district schools attended by similar students," Moss stated. "But their method blinded them to the obvious possibility that the result turned on the negative impact of high density charter penetration (and EM) on the performance of DPS. I refer you to the work of Dr. David Arsen at: http://www.education.msu.edu/epc/library/papers/documents/WP51-Which-Districts-Get-Into-Financial-Trouble-Arsen.pdf.


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