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JANUARY 23, 2024

Once Again, University of Arkansas Charter Funding Report Makes Unfounded Claims

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Glaring methodological flaws invalidate report’s assertions that charter schools achieve better results for less money than traditional public schools.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI (January 23, 2024) - The Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas has maintained, in an ongoing series of reports, that charter schools suffer from inequitable funding compared to public district schools. Their latest output extends this argument, claiming that despite receiving less revenue, charters achieve better results on standardized tests, making them the more cost-effective choice. However, the same methodological flaws identified in earlier reports continue, and worsen, in this one.

Mark Weber of Rutgers University and the New Jersey Policy Perspective reviewed Still a Good Investment: Charter School Productivity in Nine Cities and details the faulty methodology that undermines the validity of its conclusions.

To substantiate its claim of superior performance by charter schools, the report references research conducted by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO), combining its own school revenue database with CREDO’s results in a jumbled and invalid attempt to convert CREDO effect sizes from different states and grade levels into points on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Specifically, the report conflates NAEP scores with CREDO measures of growth when transforming the academic outcomes into a common scale.

The report then compounds this error by using a simplistic "return on investment" measure that lacks the necessary complexity found in rigorous research on education cost modeling. It also is grounded in a weakly documented dataset of district and charter revenues.

These data limitations, along with the erroneous transformation of the CREDO results into NAEP points and the simplistic ROI figure, thoroughly invalidate the report’s findings. The report, consequently, is yet another methodologically flawed document that should be ignored by policymakers and stakeholders.

Find the review, by Mark Weber, at:

Find Still a Good Investment: Charter School Productivity in Nine Cities, written by Alison H. Johnson, Josh B. McGee, Patrick J. Wolf, Jay F. May, and Larry D. Maloney and published by the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, at:

NEPC Reviews ( provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

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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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Michelle Renée Valladares
(720) 505-1958

Mark Weber
(908) 358-5828