Friends On All Sides…Sticking With My Friends

Interesting debate in New York yesterday where AEI’s I’m Rick Hess B*tch took charter advocates in New York to task for how they’re spinning charter data. He’s really kicking them while they are down since the legislature just adjourned without raising the charter school cap there. Hess’ point is right, point in time scores don’t tell you enough about charter school performance to draw causal inferences. Without knowing how the students were doing previously or having some sort of experiment or quasi-experiment, it’s just an isolated data point. But what I think Rick, a friend and colleague, is really doing here is taking an opportunity to distance himself from people who signed the 2004 NYT ad criticizing snapshot studies and then subsequently touted them (I sorta dissent from that consensus to begin with, that and a quick primer on charter research here).

That’s fine, and I don’t blame him, but what Rick fails to note is that I don’t think Bill Phillips, who is singled out in the piece (another friend and colleague, who sort of works for me because I’m on his board) ever claimed that this data was definitive or causal, just that the people saying that charter school kids were uniformly doing worse were wrong. And, Bill is not a researcher or policy analyst, didn’t sign the now-infamous ad, and is in fact just a guy trying to raise an arbitrary cap on the number of charter schools in New York in the face of parental demand. And, the data Rick wants doesn’t exist yet so Bill isn’t hiding anything.

So I’ve got friends on all sides of this one, and I’m sticking with my friends. Another guy with friends on all sides of this is Chalkboard’s Joe Williams, what does he think?

Update: Joe responds quasi-lamely! One other thought on this in Bill’s defense: The list of schools he put out included some with low scores. He didn’t cherry pick.

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