Thursday, September 24, 2009

Caroline Hoxby Has a Dog in the Race

That Caroline Hoxby study showing the superiority of charter schools and trying to prove they don't cream received some reactions:

Caroline (not Hoxby) has left a new comment on your post "Critique of charter school study":

Caroline Hoxby, who conducted this so-called "study," is not an impartial academic researcher. She's a longtime, high-profile proponent of free-market "solutions" and privatization. Her work should not be treated like credible academic research; it's advocacy -- or propaganda, if you will.

I'm really shocked that the mainstream press is not even including disclaimers to this effect in its massive hyping of this so-called study. That truly violates media standards and ethics, and misleads the reader.

Here an analysis of the flawed study itself, by a New York blogger. But to me it's also a huge issue that the press has simply abandoned its standards and ethics by reporting on this propaganda as if it were credible academic research.

Which opens with:

What is "The Gold Standard"?

Did you hear about the big report that came out this week? You know, the one that "shows" that NYC charter schools are better than traditional non-charter public schools? It has gotten a ton of attention, probably because it uses "'the gold standard' method[ology]." The report is not subtle about this. It is right there in the very first sentence of the executive summary, "The distinctive feature of this study is that charter schools' effects on achievement are estimated by the best available, "gold standard" method: lotteries." It even uses the term "gold standard" four more times throughout the report.

Everyone wants to follow The Gold Standard -- or at least be able to say that they do. Of course! I mean, who wouldn't? But I do not think that we actually have a gold standard in education research. In fact, I am quite sure that we do not, and appropriating biomedical research's gold standard does not make it appropriate for us.

However, if we are going to borrow their standard, can we not at least get it right?
The blogger, a NY educator, also known as Ceolaf, ends by linking to the fawning press:

Moreover, the popular press(Wash. Post) really must do a better job of examining these claims critically, rather than cheerleading(NY Times), NY Post, Daily News, Wall St. Journal.

Read it all

Leonie wrote on her listserve:

Lots of PR spin about the new charter school study by Caroline Hoxby. No quote from any possible critic or skeptic except in Daily news article.
Nor is there any mention of following facts in any of the articles:

1- Hoxby is a very controversial figure , a conservative economist, who has been accused of skewing her analyses before to benefit the notion of vouchers and charters. See this controversy sparked by her pro-voucher study of school quality based on whether they were near "streams": (this story, coincidentally, was written by Javier Hernandez as undergraduate at Harvard, before he was hired by the NY Times.)

2- One of the prime advantages of most charters, if they do indeed show better results, is their smaller classes. In NYC, this results from the fact that DOE has allowed them to cap enrollment and class size at far lower levels than most regular public schools in NYC.

3- it is difficult if not impossible to figure out how much of the advantage at charter schools, in addition to smaller class size, might be due to "peer effects"; ie charter school students are surrounded by other students from more motivated families, who know they can be kicked out at any sign of slacking off or disciplinary trouble. This is certainly not the case in regular public schools; where the students who "lose" the charter school lotteries are surrounded by students from less motivated households, who are also less afraid of being forced out of school for bad behavior or poor performance.

Thus, whether the entire comparison is fair is quite debatable.

From JMB:

Also, inquiring minds note the sleight of hand that redefines the cohort by looking at kids who stay enrolled K-8. This eliminates all the lottery winners who were weeded out and/or had needs the charters were unable or unwilling to address.

And even the UFT's Edwize chipped in:

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