News Story

‘The 74’ Repeats Anti-Charter School Rhetoric, Misses On Facts

Researchers praised Detroit charters, website translates that as ‘profiteering’ and no improvement

Earlier this month, a New York-based nonprofit that reports on education produced a nearly 2,500-word article that imagined the upcoming election in Michigan as a “blue wave” Democratic Party victory that would enable a dismantling of the state’s charter school system.

But in addition to prognosticating, the article on The 74 website included a number of assertions about Michigan’s school system that deserve a much closer look and one that was simply inaccurate.

The article repeated often-cited claims by notable critics of the state’s charter schools, such as Democrat John Austin, former president of the Michigan State Board of Education, and the policy organization known as The Education Trust-Midwest.

When contacted by Michigan Capitol Confidential, The 74 did make one correction to the article.

Stanford University’s Center for Research On Education Outcomes published studies on Michigan’s charter schools in 2013 and 2015. CREDO’s 2015 study reported that charter school students in Detroit received the equivalent of a few weeks to as much as several months of additional learning in reading and math compared to their peers at the city’s conventional public schools. The 2013 study’s conclusions were similarly positive. CREDO also said in 2015 that Detroit’s successful charter schools could serve as a model for other communities.

But The 74’s article initially reported the CREDO findings in this manner: “Stanford’s CREDO research initiative, point to a charter sector marred by profiteering, inefficiency, and a lack of meaningful improvement over Michigan’s district public schools.”

The 74 did correct that story, and the corrected portion reads, “The question of school quality is a contentious one. Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that Michigan charter students achieve larger average gains in math and reading than those in traditional public schools.”

There were other assertions in The 74’s story that were questionable. In two upcoming articles, Michigan Capitol Confidential will offer a follow-up on some others.