Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Charter School Discussion- Hoboken High School and Hoboken Charter School

When charter schools started in the early 1990s, their supporters promised that they would unleash a new era of innovation and effectiveness. Now there are some 5,000 charter schools, which serve about 3% of the nation's students, and the Obama administration is pushing for many more.

But the promise has not been fulfilled. Most studies of charter schools acknowledge that they vary widely in quality. The only major national evaluation of charter schools was carried out by Stanford economist Margaret Raymond and funded by pro-charter foundations. Her group found that compared to regular public schools, 17% of charters got higher test scores, 46% had gains that were no different than their public counterparts, and 37% were significantly worse. Full Article here.

In a comparison of the Hoboken Charter School and Hoboken High School we find similar results. When you look at the latest data publicly available (2007- Before the current district administration, known as "BC" in Hoboken) we see the Hoboken High School significantly and statistically outperforms the Hoboken Charter School in town on every measure (Schoolwide Reading Proficiency, Schoolwide Math Proficiency, Schoolwide Combined Reading and Math Proficiency) and by every subgroup (Female, Male, White, Black, Hispanic) with the sole exception of Math Proficiency for white students.

A close look at the demographic information indicates that the Hoboken Charter School has 8 times more Pacific Islander students than Hoboken High School, 50% LESS Hispanic students, LESS black students and 3 times MORE white students than Hoboken High School. For such a small town, it is statistically highly unlikely that the population of students in the Hoboken Charter School is drawn from the same population of students that go to Hoboken High School. Nevertheless, Hoboken High School students outperform their Charter School cohorts. Perhaps it is the teachers? Perhaps it is the facilities? Perhaps it is the administration?

At a time when the common rhetoric has been anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-tenure, these results need to be looked at closely and with due diligence. The full explanation is complex and multi-factorial. Additionally, caution must ALWAYS be made when using a single indicator (such as a single test score). But, the perception that charter schools deliver more for less, is not a given locally in Hoboken or nationally across this country.

The data is included below.