Pagani starts off with similar criticisms to Dim-Post linked to by Eric yesterday: Charter schools will cherry pick the best students and then use raw achievement results to trumpet their success; they will charge top-up fees to provide be able to afford better resourced schools, etc. He may be right, he may not be; the devil is in the details that have not been worked out yet. I hope he is wrong, but I will avoid cheering the policy before the details are known. But this is not why I say that Pagani is clearly wrong. It is this comment that misses the point:
The problem is this: If there is something that a charter school can do better than a state school, why don't we make the state school do it?This is where I fear that Key and Banks are making the same mistake. The point is not that there is clear evidence that there is an alternative way of doing things that are better and that charter schools will deliver on this. Eric has pointed to useful U.S. studies, but we don't know anything in a New Zealand context. We simply don't know what will work, and experimenting with different approaches will give us useful information. So here is my plea to all the parties involved:
- Please, all read Tim Harford's Adapt.
- Involve competent social scientists in the design of the policy, with a view to making sure that useful data is available by which different schools and the system as a whole can be judged. This will involve both making sure that there is some random assignment of students to schools, and also making sure that similar data is collected in areas where the system isn't trialed to tease out whether any differences in outcome between charter and state schools is because of an effect on both with no change in the aggregate.
- To the Government: make it your stated policy that this is a trial and that you are not committed to the model if it doesn't seem to work;
- To the Opposition: make it your stated policy that you accept that this is a trial and that, while you have doubts, you are interested in investigating anything that might help our education system, and will keep an open mind while waiting to see outcome data.