Washington Fourth-graders in traditional public schools nationwide did somewhat better on average than those in charter schools in reading and mathematics in 2003, a long-awaited federal report said Tuesday.
Earlier versions of the data have been used as weapons in a lively political and academic war between charter school advocates and opponents, but the new National Center for Education Statistics study appeared to provide little new ammunition for either side and little guidance for people trying to judge their schools.
"What does the report say to a parent? Not much, frankly," said Mark Schneider, commissioner of the center, in a telephone news conference Tuesday.
The center looked at 6,764 traditional public schools and 150 charter schools, which are public schools that operate independently of the school system. It said traditional schools scored 4.2 points higher in reading and 4.7 points higher in math on the 500-point National Assessment of Educational Progress test for fourth-graders, after adjusting for such student characteristics as family income. This was the first time such adjustments had been reported for the 2003 data.
The study emphasized that the results could have been distorted by several factors it could not adjust for, such as the lack of a random sample, different levels of parental support and different levels of learning before the students reached fourth grade.