When the Walton-financed pro-charter-school department at the University of Arkansas turned out a study purporting to support the sea that charter schools produce better returns in test scores for the money, I discounted it for a variety of reasons. Several of them have now turned up in an analysis by another education research group.
The National Education Policy Center in Boulder has done some study of the UA report. According to a summary:
The report uses findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and “revenues received” to support its claim that charter schools spend less per pupil than traditional public schools and produce achievement as good as or superior to that of traditional public schools.
In his review, however, Glass points out that the report inaccurately employs NAEP test results, and that its calculation of expenditures in charter and traditional public schools relies on questionable data. The report, meanwhile, also discounts the fact that demographic differences between the two sectors are highly correlated with NAEP performance. In short, Glass says, “The sector with the higher percentage of poor pupils scores lower on the NAEP test.”
Facts long ago ceased to matter much in this battle-hardened debate. As the NEPC said of the UA work:
Taken together, the report’s flaws leave readers with little evidence on which to base any valid conclusions, Glass concludes. He predicts, however, that despite its many shortcomings, charter school supporters will attempt to use the findings to advocate expanded funding for charter schools. In that respect, he writes, “The report continues a program of advocacy research that will be cited by supporters of the charter school movement.”
You need look no farther than social media postings by Walton-paid lobbyist Gary Newton of Arkansas Learns and leading organizer of the Walton-supported new majority white Quest charter school in upscale western Little Rock to see the prediction has already come true.