Myth 1. International tests show that the United States has a second-rate education system. Complete balderdash! Not so. There are so many things wrong with these international comparisons that you could fill an encyclopedia with the criticisms. Finland is up one year and down the next. Idiots rush to Singapore to find the education Holy Grail, and all they find is the highest per capita rate of millionaires of any place on earth. Journalists compare test scores on reading tests written in different languages. The testers assure us that the different tests are equally difficult — sure they are — but they don’t let us see the questions. This whole international testing nonsense has gone too far. It’s time for the nations — all of them — to get together and say, “Stop!”
Myth 2. Private schools are better than public schools. Once having accounted for the enrollment of higher-SES students in private schools, and considering other variables such as race/ethnicity and disability status, Chris Lubienski and Sarah Lubienski found that public school students on average outperformed their peers in private schools. Check out their book: The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools.
Myth 3. Charter schools teach and achieve better than public schools. FALSE! Claims like these embody a couple of myths. Charter schools ARE public schools, though they want to act like private schools when it is to their advantage. (More about this later.) Second, when you equate two groups as much as possible and compare their achievement test scores, traditional public schools come out on top. Here’s why. There are a bunch of studies that make it look like charters and traditional publics score almost exactly the same on tests. Jeanne Powers at Arizona State University has shown this and will say more about it soon. But charters have an advantage that in itself won’t lift their scores above publics. It’s called the “regression effect” by statisticians, but it’s really a very simple idea. It says that if your attention is attracted to someone because they are extreme in some group, they will be less extreme the next time you look at them. The tallest mothers have slightly less tall daughters. The shortest fathers have slightly taller sons. When a student is having an awful time in a traditional public school, he is more likely to withdraw and enter a charter. Believe it. It’s a big clientele for the charter school marketers. So when you check that student's scores after a semester or two in the charter school, the scores will have benefitted from the upward drift of the regression effect. (After the drift has settled down in a couple semesters, watch the charter students re-enroll in the traditional public school they came from. It happens in big numbers.)
Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
University of Colorado Boulder