Data first: Yes and no. By itself the “new” state data proves little, you can’t make causal claims from it because it tells us nothing about how the kids were doing before they came to charters. But, because the line in New York from charter foes is basically that they’re unproven, uneven, etc…in other words that they are pretty consistently not as good as other public schools, then this data does have some real resonance in the political debate because it at least gives the lie to those claims. And sure, as Rick Hess noted recently (click through for relevant disc.), charter proponents shouldn’t oversell the data, but they also need not fight with one hand behind their backs either. And it’s OK to say that while this data doesn’t prove anything positive about charter schools it surely debunks some of the outlandish and negative claims about them.
Politics: Kaus busts the Center for American Progress for being in bed with some folks who want to bust teachers’ unions. Perhaps, but it seems to me that the whole teachers’ union issue wouldn’t have the resonance it does if Democrats were not frequently so entirely tethered to them. Put another way, I don’t think CAP is in the union busting business but because there is frequently so little daylight between the teachers’ unions and Democrats any effort to do much of anything interesting on education policy almost inevitably runs afoul of them and their constant habit of crying wolf about anti-unionism only fuels that fire. I’ve got other concerns about this ranking project, but I don’t see how it is by definition anti-teachers’ union — yet I have great faith in the ability of today’s leadership at the teachers’ union to make it so.