Thank you to Mike Goldstein (for spotting the issue) and Macke Raymond (for helping me with the data).
When the media gets a charter school story wrong, I usually suspect political bias.
Progressive media outlets often underplay the effectiveness of charter schools, while conservative outlets overstate their impact.
But sometimes everyone misses a major part of the story.
All of the following media outlets reported on Mathematica’s study of The Equity Project: Vox.com (leans left), the Wall Street Journal (leans right), National Public Radio (leans left), the National Review (leans right), Shanker Blog (leans left).
Most of these education writers are top notch.
But all of them, I think, missed the mark.
The Mathematica Study; The CREDO Study
The Equity Project is a charter school in New York City. It pays teachers $125,000.
Mathematica just completed a rigorous study and found that, over four years, The Equity Project delivered an additional 1.6 years of math gains and .4 years of ELA gains.
These are strong results.
But here’s the thing: CREDO’s study of the New York City charter sector found that, over four years, the sector as a whole delivers 1.5 years of math gains and .6 years of ELA gains.
Not one outlet that covered the Equity Project mentioned this very important point.
So let me say it from the rooftop: The Equity Project achieved nearly the exact same results as the NYC charter sector delivers as a whole.
Takeaways on The Equity Project Study
1. The Equity Project is doing good work. Their innovative compensation method (as well as presumably other aspects of their organization) is serving kids well.
2. On average, charter schools in NYC are performing at the same level as The Equity Project. There are about two hundred charter schools in NYC, many of which have different instructional and human capital models. There is clearly more than one way to increase student learning (even if all these methods don’t get as much press).
3. New York City should open up more charter schools. As it happens, there is a state charter school cap that might prevent this. If the Equity Project wants to open up another school and pay some more teachers 125K a year, it will likely be breaking the law.
4.Lastly, education reporters need to become more familiar with the relevant data when they are writing stories with major policy implications.
Takeaways on Our Public Education System
Our public education systems utilize an extremely rigid structure of school governance. The consequence of this structure is that educators often do not have the opportunity to create new schools.
This raises the very real possibility that the innovations that could transform public education currently exist in a cemetery of unrealized ideas.
How many transformational schools, innovative curriculums, brilliant compensation models, or excellent instructional practices have not come to fruition because educators could not launch new schools to pilot, adapt, and scale their innovations?
Or maybe we should not think of it as a cemetery of unrealized ideas.
Maybe we should think of it as a goldmine.
What we need to provide students with a rigorous education may already exist in the minds of great educators. But our bureaucracies keep these ideas buried.
Of course, perhaps this is not the case. Maybe this is as good as it gets.
But I doubt it.
Schools like The Equity Project – as well as the NYC charter sector as a whole – lead me to believe that, if we further empowered our educators, things could get much better for students in our country.
This is the story that needs to be told, over and over again.