Friday, December 21, 2012

Not even Treasury believes in charter schools

Treasury took the opportunity of the Friday before the holidays to dump a pile of documents - including advice showing that they think the government's charter schools are a bad idea:

However [the documents] also show Treasury is not convinced the benefits of introducing the schools will outweigh the costs and risks.

The papers express scepticism that increasing competition between schools will improve the education system.

The documents show both the Treasury and Ministry of Education opposed the Government's plan to allow partnership schools to hire unregistered teachers.

Treasury told the Government that teacher registration is an indication of a minimum level of quality.

The full documents are here [PDF]. And they're pretty damning. For example:
The evidence suggests that schooling systems that use strongly competitive elements such as vouchers, avoiding school zoning and ‘charter’ schools do not produce systematically better outcomes. This is driven by the risks associated with proliferation of small schools, lack of information for parents and government to assess quality and cost-effectiveness and drive competitive pressures in the right areas, and the use of market power by schools in the selection of students (“cherry picking”).

They go on to add that existing competition
takes place in a context of parents having poor information on which to base their choice of school and empirical evidence that suggests the gains from competition are minimal or negative.

Instead of wasting money on having schools compete against one another to attract rich students (which is always going to be an easier way of improving average grades than merely improving quality), they suggest collecting "value-add" data showing the difference a school makes to its input cohort. This actually let us see what works and what doesn't. But the government seems to have ignored this in favour of turning kids into guinea pigs in some demented capitalist experiment.