Laura Chapman, retired educator and crack researcher, comments on the strange case of the millions (billions?) of dollars awarded to charter schools that have never been evaluated as to their use, misuse, or effectiveness:



I doubt if you will ever find an evaluation report for our charter school investments, from USDE or IES.
USDE shoved money out the door for anything charter–startup, replication (franchising), and facilities and facilities financing.

Negative reviews of the grant applications were ignored. I read some of these reviews. Even the questions for the reviewers were rigged to minimize “accountability.”

We paid federal dollars for absurdities, including advertising for charter students; cross-country junkets to recruit teachers and leaders; uniforms for the students including backpacks with logos, various goodies for “awards.”

I have yet to find any reports from states back to USDE on what happened to the money channeled to states. No federal reports on schools opened, closed, etc. No credible peer-reviewed independent studies on student outcomes.

USDE let the charter authorizers and franchisers call the shots. Some of the grant applications had redacted information–unreadable chunks of text blacked out because this information was “proprietary” and might “leak,” offering a competitive advantage to other charters. USDE rolled over on that request from the grant applicants. What was redacted? Test scores and enrollments were redacted.

I just checked the 2016 active contracts of USDE bearing on charters. Only two are there, and both have been granted extensions from the original contracts.

WESTAT, INC. The purpose of this procurement is to obtain technical services for the U.S. Department of Education Charter Schools Program to support the Credit Enhancement Program with grantee monitoring. Monitoring grant projects means examining policies, systems, and procedures to ensure compliance with Federal statutes, regulations, Guidance, grant applications, and performance agreements.

Dates: 9/25/15 to 9/24/17 extended to 9/24/19
Amount: $514,554. This is a very small contract for WESTAT: It is a major subcontractor for many federal agencies.

SAFAL PARTNERS, INC. The purpose of this contract is to obtain technical assistance for the U.S. Department of Education Charter Schools Program for a range of activities, including online assistance, meetings, reports, studies, and assistance in a variety of focus areas, that COULD include human capital resources, facilities, authorizing, accountability, students with disabilities, English learners, military-connected children, and others.
Dates: from 9/27/13 to 9/26/17 extended to 9/26/18-
Amount: $12,872,533.
SAFAL Partners leads the National Charter School Resource Center, which hosts other USDE subcontractors. SAFAL Partners appears to be the go-to outfit for charter-friendly research. Clients include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Education Pioneers, George W. Bush Institute, Teach for America Houston among others.

A 2016 report from SAFAL Partners titled “Student Achievement in Charter Schools: What the Research Shows” is a very limited and dubious “comparison” of five studies, with caveats dismissed (e.g., fewer ELL and special education students in charter schools, only math and reading scores, test scores not from the same tests, and more). This report is more PR more than credible research.