Myth Busting: Charter schools are better than district schools (Part 2)


by David Safier

Ann-Eve Pedersen and I have a monthly cable access show, Education: The Rest of the Story. In a segment of this month's show, I discuss the recent study out of Stanford which updates its 2009 study comparing charters and district schools. The 2009 study gave district schools a slight edge — statistically significant, but nothing that really matters in the real world. This time, charter schools received the "distinction without a difference" edge over district schools. Math scores were virtually identical, but in reading, the study indicated the average charter student had the equivalent of 8 days more learning per year. That's about a 4% difference in reading scores. My conclusion? Another study shows you can't point out a significant difference between the education students receive at charter schools and district schools. That being said, Arizona charters took a serious hit in the Stanford study, which said AZ charter students had the equivalent of 24 fewer days of reading instruction and 29 fewer days of math instruction per year than students in AZ's district schools. That's a 12% and a 16% difference, which speaks very poorly for how Arizona grants charters and oversees the schools.

I also explain that the entire discussion of which type of school is better, district, charter or private, is ridiculous. The trumped-up controversy is about politics and privatization, not education.


The show airs Thursdays at 4:30pm on Cox channel 20 or Comcast channel 74. Thanks to Access Tucson Community Media, our wonderful producer Carolyn Brown and the people behind the cameras and in the booth.