Brookings Report too Flawed to Guide Federal Policy on Charter Schools
Report misstates financial issues and omits extensive body of research
EAST LANSING, Mich. (January 20, 2011) – A review of the Brookings Institution report, Charter Schools: A Report on Rethinking the Federal Role in Education finds that it relies on a limited body of research, misstates key issues and makes some recommendations not supported by the evidence.
The review, by Western Michigan University professor Gary Miron, was produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Education, with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
The evidence presented on student achievement suggests that charter schools are more effective at raising student achievement in popular urban charter schools. The evidence presented on revenues suggests that charter schools are short-changed in terms of the funding they receive.
Miron points out that the five studies of student achievement in oversubscribed charter schools cited in the report, "cannot validly be generalized to less-popular charter schools." Overall, the research on charter student achievement is much less positive. Even more troubling, he finds that the two studies on charter school funding cited in the report are used to justify recommendations that are "poorly developed and based on a narrow and misleading view of the evidence."
Miron criticizes the Brookings report for unquestioningly accepting the assertion by charter advocates that charter schools get some 20% less per pupil in public revenues than traditional public schools. In truth, he explains, "differences in revenues can largely be explained by higher spending by traditional public schools for special education, student support services, transportation, and food services." Moreover, there is great variation within the charter sector. Contrary to the Brookings recommendation, Miron concludes, "Recommendations regarding charter school finance should be targeted at the creation of better state funding formulas that are more sensitive to the diverse programs schools offer and the diverse needs of students that schools serve."
As a result of the shortcomings of its data and analyses, the report's recommendations related to charter school facilities and charter school finance inappropriately support policies intended to expand the number of charter schools in the short run at the expense of policies that will strengthen charter schools in the longer run.
In the end, Miron says, federal policies that will strengthen charter schools in the long run "need to be based on a more representative body of evidence and a process of formulating recommendations that includes more voices and more than a day of conversations."
Find Gary Miron's review and a link to the Brookings Institute report on the Great Lakes Center website at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org
The review is also available on the National Education Policy Center website at:
The mission of the Great Lakes Center is to improve public education for all students in the Great Lakes region through the support and dissemination of high quality, academically sound research on education policy and practices.
Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org