But I didn't. My sworn nemesis did, though, talking about how great it was, whereas I would have pointed out how difficult it would be to judge anything based on one year's (two years ago, even) data. But the site does show that Wisconsin outperform the rest of the country on pretty much every measure.
But what was interesting about Owen's post is in the comments, though, which are not permalinkable, so scroll down. The only comments so far are from someone named Patrick who says he "recently worked for an organization that runs a charter school in Milwaukee." That's not what's astounding, though. What's astounding is that we have an insider admitting to what we already know. He writes,
[A] test score/dollars-per-pupil ratio, such as this Standard & Poors metric, is better left as topic for debate on school funding rather than a measurement parents should use to weigh the best schools. Why? In my time working with the local charter school, and discussions with others in similar positions at charter schools, I came to learn the “games” that charter/choice schools (or, more importantly, their parent organizations) play with “cost” numbers. Many of us on staff with the parent organization spent countless hours of our work days to support the school, yet none of our salaries or benefits were ever included in official reports of school expenditures. “Official” school expenditures didn’t show any marketing costs, fund raising costs, custodial services, security costs, etc.--these dollars were in fact spent and necessary, but they were applied to the parent organization.(My emphasis throughout.)
* Many charter schools, including the one I worked for, purposely avoid costs that public schools must incur. For example, the charter school I worked for provided no busing, bought no library books (the very small library contained only donated books), and had no students with physical disabilities (a dirty little secret among many small private and charter schools--if you don’t have a special education program, parents of special ed students won’t apply to have their kids come to your school.)
* The school I worked for received private money in addition to the public money it received. Yet the “cost-per-pupil” figures we provided were based only on the public monies provided.
* Charter/private schools know that their private donors can be fooled by the test score numbers you give them. Each year I worked with the charter school, we publicized only those test scores that looked good. If 3rd Grade reading and 5th Grade Math scores were good, that’s what we publicized in articles and letters. If the Iowa Standard tests were good but the WKCE tests weren’t, we pretended the latter scores didn’t exist. In developing ideas on how to publicize scores, I examined materials another well-known local charter school put forth--after reviewing scores on the state DPI’s site, I found that they were actually lying about their scores by quite a bit. [. . .]
* Charter/private schools can and do accept academically talented students ahead of poor students--something public schools cannot do. The charter school I worked for had more interested parents than it did open slots for students. What did it do? “Unofficially,” it accepted the students with the highest grades from their previous school work.
Having been paid to “play with” testing results to make them look good for a charter school, I offer this advice to parents who want to use testing results intelligently as one indicator of the quality of a school:
* Ask to see all cumulative testing results at all grade levels, not just what the school gives you. [. . .]
* Don’t let the school play the “year” trick. For example, if a school had terrible test results this school year but great test results last school year, they might give you the “2004” test results, which are actually the 2003-2004 school year test results based on tests students took in November 2003 and results the school received in 2004. If this school year’s test results were better than last school year’s, they might give you the “2004” test results, which are the results of the tests students took in November 2004 as part of the 2004-2005 school year.
Thanks, Patrick, for the honesty. I keep saying, charter and choice schools are not the answer everyone thinks they are. Sure, public schools also "play" with the numbers. But they are, at bottom, fully transparent and fully accountable to you, me, the DPI, voters, taxpayers, and parents. These "private" schools simply are not. They make promises and represent themselves one way ("The school will be safe. [. . .] We don't have a bad school. We have a great school," said the guy from Academic Solutions) while the reality is completely different (riots in the halls, anyone?). And what kind of transparency can we ask from these schools? What kind of accountability?