Peter Greene writes here about an exceptionally silly “study” that Betsy DeVos is using to drum up fading public support for charter schools.

The study, by choice advocates Patrick  Wolf and Corey DeAngelis, attempts to measure “success” by return on investment, converting taxpayer dollars into NAEP scores.

Sounds crazy, no?

Greene writes:

This particular paper comes out of something called the School Choice Demonstration Project, which studies the effects of school choice.

A Good Investment: The Updated Productivity of Public Charter Schools in Eight U.S. Cities pretends to measure school productivity, focusing on eight cities- Houston, San Antonio, New York City, Washington DC, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Boston, and Denver. In fact, the paper actually uses the corporate term ROI– return on investment.

We could dig down to the details here, look at details of methodology, break down the eight cities, examine the grade levels represented, consider their use of Investopedia for a definition of ROI. But that’s not really necessary, because they use two methods for computing ROI– one is rather ridiculous, and the other is exceptionally ridiculous.

The one thing you can say for this method of computing ROI is that it’s simple. Here’s the formula, plucked directly from their paper so that you won’t think I’m making up crazy shit:

Cost Effectiveness=Achievement Scores divided by Per-Pupil Revenue.

The achievement scores here are the results from the NAEP reading and math, and I suppose we could say that’s better than the PARCC or state-bought Big Standardized Test, but it really doesn’t matter because the whole idea is nuts.

It assumes that the only return we should look for on an investment in schools is an NAEP score. Is that a good assumption? When someone says, “I want my education tax dollars to be well spent,” do we understand them to mean that they want to see high standardized test scores– and nothing else?? Bot even a measure of students improving on that test. The paper literally breaks this down into NAEP points per $1,000. Is that the whole point of a school?

It gets worse, and Greene explains why.

I am reminded of a fad in the 1920s to compute the dollar value of different subjects. The curriculum experts of the day calculated that teaching Latin was a total waste of time because it was expensive and produced no return on investment.

The whole thing called “education” got left out of the calculus.