The editorial “A bad idea on charter schools” (March 18) stated that a proposal to make charter schools a separate line item in the budget “would hurt the Commonwealth’s charter schools, and education more generally, and doesn’t belong in a conversation that should be focused on how best to meet the pent-up demand for charter seats.” This misses a major point.
To know which charter schools to fund, we need to know which charter schools are successful. But we are not evaluating charter school performance in a meaningful or systematic manner.
Charter schools have a self-selection bias, in that their applicants are motivated to seek seats there. There is no good way to eliminate a self-selection bias except through the random assignment of students. Without doing a proper outcome evaluation, we can’t know whether specific charter schools are in fact doing better because of their instruction or they are doing better because of the self-selection.
The state should be keeping track of scores of all applicants to charter schools. The state should then compare the scores of all students who were randomly granted admission to a charter school with those of all students who were randomly not granted admission. Doing this would compare apples to apples.
Each charter school is different and uses different practices, has students with different backgrounds, and has different teaching cultures. As such, each school needs to be evaluated independently so that we know which charter schools to fund.
The editorial stated that “separating charters into a separate category would tend to foster the very dynamic that charter opponents say they’re against — pitting public schools against one another.” Good, let’s do it! Because right now they are already pitted against each other, and creating a separate line item would at least level the playing field. Then it would become an issue of legislators’ priorities. That is how a budget should be crafted.