Steve Nelson has written a brilliant commentary on the way we judge school “success.”

He begins by discussing the Moskowitz-de Blasio battle and notes that the $5 million attack ads were sponsored by “Families for Excellent Schools.”

He writes:

“This campaign is calculated propaganda. The only “family” materially involved in this organization is the Walton family which, through the Walton Family Foundation, is a major contributor to “Families for Excellence.” The Walton family, along with their billionaire peers the Broad family, the Koch family and the Gates family, are funding so-called school reform efforts like this around the country. The parents and children who appear in these ads may well be sincere, but they are pawns in a much larger game. Charter school operators, particularly Eva Moskowitz, head of the Success charter network, shamelessly use their students to promote their political agenda, as seen in the recent demonstrations in Albany.”

The point of the campaign is to persuade the public that charter schools are better than public schools, which is not true.

Nelson points out that the allegedly “better” schools have selection mechanisms–like Ivy League colleges or selective schools-that recruit selective populations.

He writes:

“All of these comparisons are based on the unquestioned assumption that the success of a school’s students — standardized test scores, SAT scores, college placement — is a direct reflection of the quality of the school. By this measure, Stuyvesant and Bronx Science are superb schools and PS 106 is abysmal; Scarsdale schools are wonderful, public schools in Harlem are awful; Columbia University is much better than City College. This is the way we have been conditioned to judge educational institutions… and it is absolutely meaningless.”