May 10, 2018

Julian Vasquez Heilig, (916) 278-2282,
Great Lakes Center, (517) 203-2940,

Review: Lack of clarity and validity plague charter school productivity report

EAST LANSING, Mich. (May 10, 2018) — A report published by the Department of Education Reform (EDRE) at the University of Arkansas contended that charter schools were more productive than public schools. The report focused on eight U.S. cities and used cost effectiveness and return on investment (ROI) ratios. However, an academic review released today identifies flaws that threaten the validity of the results.

Julian Vasquez Heilig, Sacramento State University, reviewed Bigger Bang, Fewer Bucks?: The Productivity of Public Charter Schools in Eight U.S. Cities, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

In his review, Heilig identifies several weaknesses of the report that make it insufficient for causal claims, including:

  1. The report fails to account for the non-comparability of student populations;
  2. It uses revenues instead of actual expenditures;
  3. There is a lack of specificity that threatens the accuracy and validity of its calculations; and
  4. The authors of the report fail to reconcile their report with the extensive literature of contrary findings.

In his conclusion, Heilig writes: "Unfortunately, the evidence in this report is so flawed that it provides no valid guidance to educators or policymakers who aim to evaluate cost effectiveness or return on investment for either charter or traditional schools."

Find the review on the web:

Find Bigger Bang, Fewer Bucks? here:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

You can also find the review on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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