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Center for Ed. Reform Takes Aim at CREDO Study

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The Center for Education Reform has released a statement criticizing a recent study by a Stanford University research center about the growth and replication of charter schools, calling the report "highly misleading."

The Stanford study, released by the university's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, found that charter schools' academic success or failure during their first year of operation is a strong indicator of how they will perform in subsequent years.

But the Center for Education Reform, a Washington organization that advocates for charters and school choice, contends that the study did not account for the differences in states' charter laws when evaluating the performance of charters in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

The organization argues that the study's findings are skewed by not taking into account variations in charter school laws which govern such factors as who can authorize new charters, how much flexibility from rules and regulations charter schools receive compared to traditional public schools, and how much funding students in charter schools receive. In addition, the Center for Education Reform says the CREDO study did not account for the different ways that states assess student performance.

Margaret Raymond, the director of CREDO and a co-author of the study, said in an interview that while the question of how state charter school policies affect schools' performance is worth looking into, the study was focused on a different set of questions.

Stanford researchers drew their conclusions after tracking student-level performance in schools from the time they opened through their fifth year, mapping their academic progress against a "static set of performance thresholds" to illuminate academic trends. The analysis of the charter-management organizations evaluated in the CREDO study was based on a "virtual control record" method, which compares charter school students' performance to "virtual twins" who attend regular public schools that the charter students would have otherwise attended. Consequently, said Raymond, the charter school student is compared with a student in the same state under the same policy environment, making differences in state charter laws a moot point.

The Center for Education Reform's critique ignores "what the study was and what it intended to do," she said.

The Center for Education Reform also criticized the use of free-and-reduced-price lunch as a measure of poverty in charter schools in the CREDO study, saying that definition is flawed, but Raymond said for broad, large-scale studies, that is a common data point for measuring the poverty level of students in schools.

"Advocates have particular things they want to see happen, and there's a very strong role for advocacy, but that's not the role that we're trying to play," she said of the Center for Education Reform's objections to the study. "We try to be highly structured in the way we do our work and non-advocative when we look at the results. If it's possible to ride the middle line of neutrality that's what we try to do."

The Center for Education Reform has been critical of studies produced by CREDO in the past, devoting a page on their website to tracking what they perceive as flaws in the studies.

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