View pdf of article @ http://sandera.ucsd.edu/news-and-events/Science-2012-Betts-171-2.pdf
A new study on the effectiveness of public charter schools concludes that most of the research on the subject has been conducted with methods that “tell us little about causal effects.”
The study, just published in the journal Science, was conducted by two well-known researchers: Julian Betts, an educational economist at the University of California at San Diego and executive director of the San Diego Education Research Alliance, and Richard Atkinson, president emeritus of the University of California, former director of the National Science Foundation and professor emeritus of cognitive science and psychology at UC San Diego.
They wrote in their study, “Better Research Needed on the Impact of Charter Schools,” that charter schools have been embraced by the Obama administration — and by the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations before it — as “the saviors of a broken educational system.” But, they said, researchers still can’t answer the question: Does attendance at a charter school improve student outcomes?
“Which charter schools, or even types of charter schools, are more effective than others? We don’t really know,” they wrote.
Researchers (one of them was Betts) conducting a recent meta-analysis of charter research studies ended up throwing out about 75 percent of them because they didn’t take into account differences between the backgrounds and academic histories of students attending charter schools and those attending traditional public schools...
They argue that more lottery-based studies are needed as well as more longitudinal work, which means that researchers should be able to routinely access student data — and obtain lottery data from charter schools.
Until better research is done, policymakers simply won’t have the appropriate data to make decisions about which charters to replicate and which to shut down, Betts said in a university press release.