To the Editor:
In response to “Ready to Learn,” a study highlighted in your Oct. 21, 2009, Report Roundup section:
While the call from Policy Matters Ohio, a union-backed think tank, to scale back the charter sector in Ohio is unsurprising, it has several flaws. The study uses student scores on Ohio’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment-Literacy, or KRA-L, to inform its main point that “charters are getting better-prepared students,” despite the fact that the Ohio Department of Education has issued a disclaimer saying the KRA-L “is NOT a comprehensive measure of school readiness [emphasis from the department].” Further, a third of Ohio’s charters don’t enroll kindergartners, but despite this limit to the sample, the study generalizes across all Ohio charters when it argues that they don’t serve the state’s hardest-to-educate students.
Finally, the report overlooks explanations for why charter kindergartners scored higher than their district peers, and admits that “no data on … documented preschool experience were used in this analysis.” Innovative charters such as the Richard Allen Schools, in Dayton and Hamilton, the Dayton View Academy, and the Dayton Academy go out of their way to partner with preschool programs like Mini University, a rigorous early-learning program aligned with Ohio’s academic-content standards and geared toward the most at-risk preschoolers. Instead of praising these charter schools for putting a priority on early-learning opportunities (and then achieving higher test scores), Policy Matters Ohio attacks them for skimming the cream in receiving the best students.
Admittedly, many Ohio charter schools are chronically underperforming, and those that consistently fail should be shuttered. But the Policy Matters Ohio study lacks nuance—it calls for a vague scaling-back of charters in the state without detailing what that means. It fails to recognize cities where charters regularly outperform their district peers (Dayton and Cleveland), and ignores serious limits to its research, contributing to widespread misconceptions about charter schools in a state already hostile to them.
Jamie Davies O’Leary
Ohio Policy and Research Analyst
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
A version of this article appeared in the November 11, 2009 edition of Education Week as Ohio Study Contributes To Charter Misconceptions