Media Skews Charter Public School Study

A new study showing the success of charter public schools in Michigan was released yesterday and the response from the media shows the importance of the Mackinac Center’s news website, Michigan Capitol Confidential.

While the report, released by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, received some attention from media outlets in Michigan, the way it was covered is revealing.

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From the Detroit Free Press: “The average charter school student in Michigan is showing more growth than demographically similar students in traditional public schools in the state, though achievement remains low overall, according to a report released Monday.” (Emphasis added).

Charter schools serve significantly more students in poverty (70 percent to 43 percent), with English as a second language (5 percent to 3 percent) and minority pupils (67 percent to 23 percent) than traditional public schools. Since socioeconomic status is the main indicator of student achievement, charter pupils serving these students start off with achievement levels well below their peers. The point of the study is that those students enrolled in charter schools make larger gains than their counterparts in the conventional public schools who come from the same background and have the same baseline test scores.

An article on shows how to truly twist a statistic: “Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) reports that in general, 14 percent of the state’s charter schools have below-average growth and below-average achievement in reading, and 25 percent of charters have below-average growth and achievement in math.”

For some reason, the reporter decided to highlight the minority of charter schools who had below-average growth and achievement. The study showed that the vast majority of charter school students who performed well when measuring growth and achievement: 82 percent are above average in reading and 72 percent are above average in math. The reporter switched the statistic around and led the article with those numbers.

The CREDO study is just the latest showing how school choice improves student learning. The preponderance of the best evidence shows that charters, vouchers and tax credits are good for education. From a commonsense perspective, this makes sense.

Charters improve education for their students and give conventional public schools an impetus to be better. Competition drives innovation and success in every area of life — sports, business, media, etc. — education is no different.


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