April 27, 2015

Contact:
Andrew Maul, (805) 893-7770, amaul@education.ucsb.edu
Daniel Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

A review of CREDO's Urban Charter School Study issues concerns

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Apr. 27, 2015) – A recent report from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University attempted to investigate whether charter schools generate better outcomes than traditional public schools (TPS) in urban environments. The report, part of a series of reports on the performance of charter schools relative to TPS, asserts charter schools in urban environments provide a slightly greater test score advantage than those in non-urban environments.  However, an academic review out today issues concerns with the methodology and reporting of the CREDO study.

Andrew Maul, assistant professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, reviewed the Urban Charter School Study for the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The report utilizes a methodological approach similar to previous reports from CREDO, and finds that students in urban charter schools were estimated to score approximately 0.055 standard deviations higher on math tests and 0.039 standard deviations higher on reading tests than their peers in urban TPSs.

In his review, Maul cites the following concerns: (1) the study's "virtual twin" technique is insufficiently documented; (2) the report's estimation of growth using "days of learning" requires accepting untested assumptions; and (3) the study includes a number of arbitrary and unexplained analytic choices.

All the same, Maul states, "Even setting aside such concerns over analytic methods, the actual effect sizes reported are very small, explaining well under a tenth of one percent the variance in test scores."

Maul acknowledges the importance of the size and comprehensiveness of the data analyzed, and notes that the report is an interesting contribution to the charter school research base.

Nevertheless, in his conclusion, Maul says "The findings of this report cannot be regarded as compelling evidence of the greater effectiveness of charter school compared to traditional public schools, either overall or specifically within urban districts."

Read his full review at:
http://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find the Urban Charter School Study on the web:
http://urbancharters.stanford.edu/

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, 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.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:
http://nepc.colorado.edu

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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 develp reasearch-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/