It’s summer — time to break the routine. So, in that spirit, let me begin this column with a subject that is truly dear to my heart:
Interesting Facts About Your Week in Blogs Editor
Readers, did you know that:
A) I’m a champion swimmer*
* in the struggle-across-the-pool category
B) My wife says I have distinctive taste when it comes to home decorating*
* distinctively bad taste
I could go on, but, you get the point: Place a qualifying asterisk (*) after almost any assertion, and you can pretty much claim anything. It doesn’t make much difference when the subject is my swimming ability or home decorating prowess. But if I did the same with, say, a piece purporting to compare the relative advantages of charter school start ups to traditional public school turnarounds, the consequences might be greater.
To his credit, Mike Petrilli does indeed qualify his assertion in a Fordham Institute blog entitled Charter start-ups are 4 times as likely to succeed as district turnarounds* (Note big asterisk). But that doesn’t stop him from making sweeping policy pronouncements based on data from just 19 schools. That’s the number of schools (in 10 states studied) in which 1) the start up charter was near a traditional school with state reading and math proficiency in the bottom 10 percent, and 2) either school subsequently increased its performance to above the state average.
Those 19 schools further break down to 15 charters and just four traditional schools, meaning, Petrilli concludes, that serious questions must be raised, “about the wisdom of the federal government pumping $3 billion into school turnaround efforts instead of using some of the money to replicate and scale up successful charters.”