New Jersey Charter Schools Association gets angry over… data?

For some time now, I’ve been pulling together data from the National Center for Education Statistics and from the New Jersey Department of Education on New Jersey Charter Schools. Why do I do it? Mainly out of frustration that no-one else seems to be playing a monitoring role. I’ve not seen any good compilations or presentations of the various types of data that exist on New Jersey Charter Schools. That said, the data aren’t great. They aren’t worthy of high level academic research. But they are what we’ve got, and they are from the primary government sources charged with collecting these data. So, here are a series of my slides compiled from the data:

Link to PDF slides: CHARTER SCHOOLS_OCT2010

CHARTER SCHOOLS_NOV2010 (Includes updated slides)

Updated Figures:



On second look, it appears that this first graph matches the 2008-09 data from the spreadsheet linked above (not the 2007-08 as originally labeled).



Previous posts and additional figures on NJ charters can be found throughout my blog at:

1. Math Trends over Time by District Factor Group:

2. Playing with Charter Numbers:

3. Replicating Robert Treat Academy:

My general conclusions from these previous posts and the above graphs?

  1. New Jersey Charter Schools generally serve smaller shares of children qualifying for free lunch than schools in their host district and schools in their immediate surroundings.
  2. New Jersey Charter Schools serve very few children with disabilities.
  3. New Jersey Charter School performance, like charter school performance elsewhere is  a mixed bag. Some of the highest performers are simply not comparable to traditional public schools in their districts because they serve such different student populations (far fewer low income children and few or no special education students). So, even if we found that these schools produced greater gains for their students than similar students would have achieved in the traditional public schools, we could not sort out whether that effect came from school quality differences or from peer group differences (which doesn’t matter from the parent perspective, but does from the policy perspective).

A colleague of mine shared these data with an interested reporter. I spoke with the reporter. And the reporter requested a response from a representative of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association.

The New Jersey Charter Schools Association responded:

The New Jersey Charter Schools Association seriously questions the credibility of this biased data. Rutgers University Professor Bruce Baker is closely aligned with teachers unions, which have been vocal opponents of charter schools and have a vested financial interest in their ultimate failure.

Baker is a member of the Think Tank Review Panel, which is bankrolled by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. Great Lakes Center members include the National Education Association and the State Education Affiliate Associations in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Its chairman is: Lu Battaglieri, the executive director of the Michigan Education Association.

There are now thousands of children on waiting lists for charters schools in New Jersey. This demand shows parents want the option of sending their children to these innovative schools and are satisfied with the results.

Wow. That’s quite interesting. These data can’t be credible simply because I sit on the Think Tank Review Panel and I am – ACCORDING TO THEM (news to me) – closely aligned with teachers’ unions. According to this statement, these data are necessarily “biased,” even though the statement provides no evidence whatsoever to that effect. Heck, I’ve merely graphed and mapped NCES and NJDOE data. Did my mapping software introduce some devious union bias? Damn that ArcView!

By the way, I don’t get any kind of ongoing pay for doing this Think Tank Review stuff. I do get contracted to write a policy brief or critique on occasion, and it’s a relatively small sum of money for each brief or critique.  I consult for a lot of groups around the country and a long list can be found on my vitae, here: B.Baker.Vitae.October5_2010

I don’t take any money for this blog or reprints/re-posts of it, and quite honestly, when I do take contract money to write a policy brief or report – whoever it’s for – I go to extra lengths to make sure that the data and analysis are defensible, typically opting for the most conservative representation of the data, knowing full well that the instinct of any opposing critic will be to pounce.

Hey… these data are what they are. I’m just making graphs of them. This official statement of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association is a childish personal attack from an organization that apparently has little else to stand on.


For free lunch data and enrollments:

Use the “build a table” function (under CCD Data tools)

For special education count data:

General NJDOE site:

For 2007 classification rates:

First link:

Note that same link is dead for 2008 and 2009:

For test score data:


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