Saturday, October 18, 2014

Andrew Broy: Just Say NO (to any study questioning Charter School Claims)

Andrew Broy
Andrew Broy:  Just Say NO (to any study questioning Charter School claims)

Andrew Broy is the head of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. 

Broy, who runs an “education blog” on the electronic Huffington Post, was ecstatic with the election of Rahm Emanuel as Mayor of Chicago, and he quickly offered suggestions to the new Mayor for selections of a fresh educational leader in the city, one tailored to work with Sec. of Education Duncan’s Race to the Top ( ).

Together, Broy and Emanuel have worked well past the current caps on charter schools in the city using a variety of loopholes in the law.  In fact, the number of new charter openings in Chicago is staggering – only eclipsed by the number of public school closings. 

Problem for Broy: A recent research study by the University of Minnesota finding Charter Schools really don’t perform any better than public schools – in fact, worse – and it is one with which Broy has, understandably, taken serious umbrage.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been rather silent on this recent and latest research, but in the past the Mayor has used a different tactic than Broy.  Rahm doesn’t say “no”; he uses a more political and evasive response:  That’s old research” or “we should be measuring all schools’ performance, not just one kind.” 

Broy prefers to attack directly the researchers' methodology or the study’s validity.

"…that's old research…"
The Chicago Tribune?  Well, they admit siding with the Mayor and Broy whenever possible, although even the Editorial Board finds itself wondering on occasion where Broy is coming from.  Example?

Broy, who likes to offer his own research whenever possible, defended at one point the efficacy of Charter Schools by pointing to the numbers of students seeking entrance into Chicago’s charter institutions.  Kind of like an “If you build it and someone wants to come “ argument.  For Broy, interest is tantamount to successful education.  In an opinion piece by the Chicago Tribune entitled “The Thirst for Charter Schools,” the Dold-led Board states, “It’s no secret that this page strongly supports charter schools…Charter schools attract excellent young teachers and offer them wide latitude to reach students…” (

(Never mind that average salaries of charter schoolteachers are nearly 30% lower than national averages for teachers/grade level…or that wide latitude may mean not necessarily having qualifications in a specific subject area. )

But in April of 2013, even the Tribune questioned the number of students seeking admission into Chicago Charter Schools at 19,000.  Broy, who often cites that and other generous numbers, ignores studied reports that these numbers “significantly overstate demand because it counts applications, not students."  In other words, if a student applies to four or more different charter schools, each of these requests is counted as a student waiting for one school.  While that may seem statistically invalid as representing the whole number of all students seeking admission, Broy “stands by his calculation(s). “We feel the 19,000 number is strongly supported and is likely a conservative estimate.”  The higher the inflated number, the increased proof we educate better? 

Broy adamantly accepts his own research standpoints, but he balks at the investigation provided in this recent study by the University of Minnesota – and many other foundations/universities indicating that charter schools do not perform in any measurable way that outshines the public school system.  And this recent study, specific to Chicago and a single year of careful correlation/control of like students and like programs demonstrates charter schools perform more poorly than their public counterparts.

Yet, the study entitled “Charter Schools in Chicago: No Model for Education Reform,”  is careful in its exegesis to include past studies (with which Broy took exception) on charter school performance to better validity and reliability of study.  Looking back at earlier studies by Rand Corporation, CREDO of Stanford University [two separate researches] and a local Medill study, the University of Minnesota calculated a research model designed to find a more consistent and reliable manner in which to match control groups in both charters and public schools.

“What the analysis described here can do is update the comparisons to the most recent year available (2012-13) and provide comparisons that include all students and all charter schools in the Chicago public school system.  The completeness of the data set also allows comparison of how other parts of the traditional system – selective or gifted student schools and magnets – compare to traditional and charter schools.  Finally, the available data makes it possible to look at a range of achievement measures, including standardized pass rates, student growth rates, and college entrance (ACT) scores” (  ). 

The study, using comprehensive data for years 2012-2013, shows that, after controlling for the mix of students and challenges faced by individual schools, Chicago’s charter schools actually underperform their traditional counterparts in MOST measureable ways.   

Most administrators might offer, “Well, you caught us on a bad year?”  But Broy boldly assaults the validity of the study altogether, declaring a single year not indicative of what charters have done and do for students.  On the other hand, beyond the litany of other studies indicating questionable results by Charters, the conclusions are pretty damning.  In the U of M report for that single year: “Reading and math pass rates, reading and math growth rates, and graduation rates are lower in charters, all else equal, than in traditional neighborhood schools.  This is true despite the fact that, because students self-select into the charter system, student performance should exceed what one sees in traditional schools, even if charters do better at teaching their students.

And, recall, Broy’s particular style of research theorizes that self-selection (times how many applications?) is revealing of a better education.  That’s simple.

Read the full report for an illuminating look at how Charters in Chicago increase expulsions, deepen racial segregation, ignore record keeping, avoid reporting on school report cards, and present students often with under-prepared or unlicensed would-be educators. 

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