Sunday, November 6, 2016

Jersey Jazzman: Thoughts On Question 2 and Charter School Expansion

Jersey Jazzman: Thoughts On Question 2 and Charter School Expansion:

Thoughts On Question 2 and Charter School Expansion



As we enter the final days of the election, the debates have intensified -- and not just over whether we should give the nuclear codes to an unqualified, misogynistic, racist maniac...

In Massachusetts, a battle is being waged over Question 2, a proposal to lift a statewide cap on the expansion of charter schools. Like many of the debates over charter expansion and educational "choice," much of the rhetoric revolves around the ostensible "gains" that charter students make compared to students who are in public district schools.

But the Q2 debate is unique: a group of academics, many affiliated with MIT, have been following the expansion of charter schools in and around Boston for years. I can't think of another region where charter schools have been studied so closely using econometric methods. This work has been at the heart of the policy discussion of Q2; it's cited repeatedly in reports about the ballot initiative.

And the economists who conducted this research have been happy to help make the case that their studies support lifting the cap:

As policies are debated, we often have to rely on research that is ill-suited to the task. Its methodology is frequently too weak to form a firm foundation for policy. Or, the population, design, and setting of the research study are so different from the policy in question that the findings cannot be easily extrapolated.
This is not one of those times. We have exactly the research we need to judge whether charter schools should be permitted to expand in Massachusetts. This research exploits random assignment and student-level, longitudinal data to examine the effect of charter schools in Massachusetts. [emphasis]
Do we? Do these studies tell us exactly what we need to know about whether Massachusetts should lift its cap on charter expansion?

Because simply showing that charter school students in Boston get better test scores than similar students in the Boston Public Schools is not, I'm afraid, nearly enough evidence to support lifting the cap. In fact, the more time I spend Jersey Jazzman: Thoughts On Question 2 and Charter School Expansion:

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