Sunday, August 29, 2004

If we don't collect the information, we won't ever know, will we?

Cutting back on the information collected on charter schools by the DOE is a very interesting development, as reported by the NYT.
The Department of Education is sharply cutting back on the information it collects about charter schools for a periodic report that provides a detailed national profile of public, private and charter schools.

Confirmation of the change, originally relayed in an e-mail message to a university professor, came on Wednesday from a spokeswoman for the Education Department. Last week, the first national comparison of test scores showed students in charter schools largely trailing comparable students in traditional public schools.

Certainly any nefarious intent was completely denied by the DOE. Of course. In my wildest dreams, I don't think they'll admit to statements like this: we really don't want more evidence showing that students at charters perform poorly on standardized tests.I can't imagine them saying this as well: we're doing this because of that last story on charters in the NYT which showed that charter schools suck.

The official reason is simply lame:
In an e-mail message, Susan Aspey, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said the decision to switch to a random sample had been made in the first year of the Bush administration "for technical reasons."
"There is nothing sinister or untoward about this," Ms. Aspey wrote, adding, "We are absolutely not cutting back on collecting information on charter schools."
Double speak. She's lying. Here's what's being cut:
In the future, however, the National Center for Education Statistics, which conducts the survey, will cover only a random sample of about 300 charter schools.
Versus what was previously surveyed:
The most recent survey, published in 2002, provides profiles of all 1,010 charter schools that federal researchers found operating for the two academic years ending in spring 2000. With it, researchers have been able to analyze types of charter schools, comparing the qualifications of teachers at urban charter schools, for example, with those at regular public schools or at other charters in the suburbs.
And the consequence:
But in an e-mail message to Dr. Fuller, Kerry Gruber, the author, wrote that for the next survey, researchers had canvassed a random sample of about 10 percent of about 3,000 charter schools. Doing so allows for national comparisons, she said, but not for more extended analyses of specific types of charters.
Since NCLB rigs the system for charters and vouchers, not collecting data about charter schools may be just one more way to rig the public education game.