Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Reformy Cage Match; CER Takes Down CREDO, NACSA, NJDOE And Cerf!

Oh dear!

In a press release titled "National Charter Research Misfires On Charter Schools", Jeannie Allen of the Center for Education Reform (CER) puts the smack-down on Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO).
A national research study across 23 states and DC assessing charter school performance over time makes erroneous conclusions about the impact of charter schools on students, while ignoring critical distinctions among state proficiency standards and the components of each state’s widely differentiating charter school laws.
“It is hard to believe that year-after-year, smart, well-intentioned researchers believe they can make national conclusions about charter school performance using uneven data, flawed definitions of poverty and ignoring variations in state charter school laws,” said Jeanne Allen president of The Center for Education Reform (CER). (emphasis mine)
I wonder if the NJDOE knows that one of their Important Partners is tearing down the folks they hired to produce a super-favorable study on the performance of New Jersey's charter schools?  

Allen couldn't possibly be saying anything that would discredit the New Jersey study Cerf is so jazzed about... she must just be going after the studies that include multiple states like the Charter School Growth and Replication report which was released last week, right?

Wrong. She goes after their entire methodology.
Thus, aggregating states into one research universe and drawing conclusions about their relative achievement, in addition to relying on flawed virtual twin methodology, is highly misleading and ignores the so-called “gold standard” of academic research that compares individual student achievement on identical measures. Stanford University Economist, Caroline Hoxby, has reported additional insights into the problems of the CREDO study and has pointed out numerous inconsistencies when CREDO first deployed its unique methodology to make conclusions about student achievement.
The Center also solicited comments from other researchers and while not on record, they were used to issue the following reports on CREDO over the past three years. (emphasis mine)
OUCH! This press release is nothing short of a complete repudiation of CREDO.

I'll be looking for a response from CREDO in the very near future. CREDO took on Caroline Hoxby when she questioned their methodology in 2009.  The debate between Hoxby and Allen is far, far too complicated for me, (where's Bruce Baker when you need him?) but it's interesting that CER has chosen to dig it back up.

This is not the first time CER has done something that had a potential negative impact on the NJDOE. In December of 2011 they released a report titled "The Garden State’s Missed Opportunity."  It excoriated the NJDOE's authorization practices. 
The findings make a strong case in support of the bi-partisan effort to reform the state’s charter school law to adopt best practice chartering through the creation of multiple authorizers, which allows other bodies besides the state to approve charters.
“For years we’ve heard from charter applicants in New Jersey that the system is flawed,” said Jeanne Allen, CER president. “But, this last round of reviews was extremely troubling, prodding us to dig deeper.”
Allen is clearly not afraid to take on her fellow reformers, and if you want to stay in Allen's good graces it seems to be her way or the highway. In this video Allen describes CER as the "watchdogs and guardians of issue accuracy throughout the movement, the media and the general public."  

Well, at least that's not too grandiose and controlling...

Seems we can safely assume Allen feels that CREDO has veered off topic with their focus on school closures, even if it is supported by the National Alliance of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) president and CEO Greg Richmond and our own Commissioner Cerf. After all, if a simple campaign to close "bad" charters and open "good" ones takes root, what will happen to all of CER's charter policy objectives?
While I certainly agree that closures are not the answer, I'm not a fan of the use of multiple authorizers and other "fixes" advocated by CER either. Here's a ranking of charter laws state by state created by CER, based on changes they deem important to strengthening our charter law.  (Gee, where have we seen this state report card idea before?) CER ranks New Jersey a solid C. 

Jeanne Allen seems to think she has the policy solutions to cure all that ails the charter "sector", and she's not afraid to go up against her own allies in very public ways if they deviate from what SHE sees as the reform movement's script. You've got to admire her chutzpah and independence, but It will be interesting to see if there is any fallout for her for lambasting CREDO, and by extensions NACSA, the NJDOE and Cerf.

Was is something I said?

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