Virtual School Meanderings

May 17, 2016

Mackinac Center Report Lacks Depth and Rigor, Review Finds

Notice of a report from the end of this past week…

May 13, 2016

Contact: 
Bruce D. Baker, (732) 932-7496, x8232,bruce.baker@gse.rutgers.edu
Daniel Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

Mackinac Center Report Lacks Depth and Rigor, Review Finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (May 13, 2016) – A report released in April by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy made the claim that spending more on Michigan schools doesn’t increase achievement. The report asserted that there is little or no relationship between student achievement and marginal increases in school spending in the state. However, an academic review of the report, released today, finds that the report clashes with existing research about the positive impact of funding nationally and in Michigan.

The report, School Spending and Student Achievement in Michigan: What’s the Relationship?, was reviewed by Bruce D. Baker for the Think Twice think tank review project with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. Baker is Professor in the Department of Educational Theory Policy and Administration in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. He is widely recognized as one of the leading scholars in the field of education finance.

The report characterizes spending levels in Michigan as “high,” but never substantiates the claim. In summary, the report argues that spending increases in Michigan would provide little or no gain in student achievement, and that spending on increased salaries or reduced class sizes would be inefficient or ineffective.

In his review, Baker says that the report lacks evidence to substantiate the claims.  According to Baker, the Mackinac report “wrongly assumes that all Michigan districts are now high spending and that none could benefit from any marginal increase to funding; it fails to evaluate thoroughly the overall level of spending in context, nor does it adequately consider whether and to what extent spending varies across children and contexts within Michigan.”

Baker also finds that the report mischaracterizes a substantial body of major peer-reviewed works, including studies of Michigan. He concludes that the empirical evidence presented in the report lacks depth and rigor when compared to four other studies – three of which were peer-reviewed – each finding positive effects of prior school finance reforms in Michigan.

In closing, Baker recommends to policymakers: “Policy solutions moving forward should focus on areas of greatest need, and some children, schools and districts may face greater deficits and have greater needs than others in the current policy context, as was the case in the early 1990s.”

Find the review on the Great Lakes Center website:
http://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find the Mackinac Center report on the web:
https://www.mackinac.org/22332

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:
http://nepc.colorado.edu

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