News Story

New York Times Cherry-Picks Data In Takedown Of Michigan Charter Schools

Third in a series. NYT article excludes observations from nation’s most authoritative research

In October 2016, the New York Times editorial board called out the NAACP for demanding a moratorium on public charter schools.

The newspaper’s editorial board based this on what it called “sound research” showing that “charter schools give families a desperately needed alternative to inadequate traditional schools in poor urban neighborhoods.”

The editorial also said, “This truth has been underscored in several studies by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes.”

Yet when the New York Times Magazine published a 7,000 word takedown of Michigan’s charter schools on Sept. 5, it contained no mention of Stanford CREDO's research and reports.

A 2015 CREDO report found that Detroit’s charter schools should serve as a model for other communities. The study analyzed data from 2006 and 2012 and found Detroit charter school students benefited from the experience. It said that children learned the equivalent a few weeks to as much as several months of extra instruction in reading and math compared to their peers in the city’s conventional public schools.

Arne Duncan, who was U.S. secretary of education during most of Barack Obama’s presidency, cited CREDO’s expertise at a 2009 conference, the year he joined the cabinet.

Yet Stanford’s CREDO was not mentioned by Mark Binelli, the freelance writer who authored the New York Times Magazine charter school article. But he did cite reports critical of charters, including one from a left-leaning entity called Education Trust-Midwest. In 2016, that organization published a story titled: “Michigan: The Poster Child For How Not To Do Charter Schools.”

It is common for Michigan media coverage of charter schools to exclude any mention of studies that run contrary to the anti-charter school narrative. CREDO research, in particular, is often left out. CREDO refers to itself as “the nation’s foremost independent analyst of charter school effectiveness,” an assertion supported by leaders such as Duncan.

Binelli and New York Times Magazine editor Jake Silverstein did not return emails asking for comment.

Editor’s note: This is the third story in a Michigan Capitol Confidential series pointing out the inaccuracies and false claims in this deeply-flawed article.

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies said it reached out to the writer in a bid to add some balance, but was rejected. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which publishes Michigan Capitol Confidential, was mentioned in the article.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.