Virtual School Meanderings

January 28, 2019

Report About “Opportunity Myth” Faults Educators But Lacks Rigor

Another notice of that NEPC think twice report from last week.

January 24, 2019

Contact:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Amanda Datnow: (858) 534-9598, adatnow@ucsd.edu

Report about “Opportunity Myth” Faults Educators but Lacks Rigor

Key Takeaway: Though a unique contribution, report’s inconsistency and lack of clarity make many of its conclusions questionable.

East Lansing, MI (January 24, 2019) – A recent report from TNTP, formerly The New Teacher Project, aims to expose what it labels the “opportunity myth” in American education: that while schools purport to prepare students well, they don’t deliver.

Amanda Datnow of the University of California, San Diego reviewed The Opportunity Myth: What Students Can Show Us About How School Is Letting Them Down—and How to Fix It. Professor Datnow notes that the report conveys a great sense of urgency, with descriptions of students spending significant time on below-grade-level assignments, lacking strong instruction and high expectations, and being disengaged in school. It paints a dramatic picture of American students being misled by false promises of opportunity, when they could make significant learning gains if they experienced grade-level content, strong instruction, deep engagement, and high expectations. In this sense, the report addresses important issues.

Yet the report’s claims are not fully supported by evidence, and there are questions about how key constructs are measured and how data are analyzed. Professor Datnow found its conclusions reported in a way that seems to be aimed at creating a sense of crisis around the claims rather than reporting nuanced, in-depth research findings based on rigorous methods.

The report also focuses primarily on educators’ daily decisions. Professor Datnow concludes that the report does not sufficiently account for larger systemic and societal impediments to opportunity that serve to establish and maintain many of the obstacles and problematic patterns it observes.

Moreover, the report’s practical implications relate only to the aspects of the opportunity myth on which that the authors chose to focus. While educators’ daily decision-making could undoubtedly be improved, large-scale improvement will depend on addressing larger systemic and societal impediments to opportunity.

Find the review, by Amanda Datnow, at: http://greatlakescenter.org/docs/Think_Twice/TT-Datnow-Opportunity-Myth.pdf

Find The Opportunity Myth: What Students Can Show Us About How School Is Letting Them Down—and How to Fix It, published by TNTP, at:https://www.publicagenda.org/files/PublicAgenda_OurNextAssignment_2018.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/

About The Great Lakes Center
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.  Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org.   Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/greatlakescent.  Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesCenter.

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/

January 17, 2019

Report Gauging Public Opinion On K-12 Education Is A Flawed But Helpful Starting Point For Future Research

Another release on that National Education Policy Center report.

January 15, 2019

Contact:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Gustavo E. Fischman: (602) 330-9629, fischman@asu.edu
Great Lakes Center: (517) 203-2940, greatlakescenter@greatlakescenter.org

Report Gauging Public Opinion on K-12 Education Is a Flawed but Helpful Starting Point for Future Research

Key Takeaway: Though a unique contribution, report’s inconsistency and lack of clarity make many of its conclusions questionable.

Lansing, MI (January 15, 2019) – A recent report from Public Agenda compiled public opinion surveys to show where the American public stands on education issues. The report notes the importance of gauging current public understandings about education, particularly given three major policy changes in the past 10 years: Race to the Top, the Common Core State Standards, and the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Gustavo E. Fischman and Kevin Winn of Arizona State University reviewed Our Next Assignment: Where Americans Stand on Public K-12 Education: A Review of Recent Opinion Research. They find that the report makes a unique contribution in its gathering of many surveys into a single report, as well as its inclusion of interviews with employers. But a lack of methodological clarity makes many of the report’s conclusions questionable.

The report is also inconsistent in how it addresses respondents from different demographic groups (e.g., race, class, political affiliation) and in how it treats disaggregated data, resulting in an inability to generalize to the population or to any subgroup. Therefore, the conclusions are cursory and incomplete, requiring further study and research.

For these reasons, Fischman and Winn do not recommend that the report be used to make policy, but they do see the report as a good starting point for understanding where more research should be undertaken. As the report’s authors accurately point out, this includes incorporating the often-ignored voices of students and parents.

Find the review, by Gustavo E. Fischman and Kevin Winn, at: http://greatlakescenter.org/docs/Think_Twice/TT-Fischman-K12-Surveys.pdf

Find Our Next Assignment: Where Americans Stand on Public K-12 Education: A Review of Recent Opinion Research, written by Rebecca Silliman and David Schleifer and published by Public Agenda, at:
https://www.publicagenda.org/files/PublicAgenda_OurNextAssignment_2018.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/

About The Great Lakes Center
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.  Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org.   Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/greatlakescent.  Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesCenter.

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/

December 11, 2018

Review: Report Fails To Sufficiently Address The Evidence

More on that NEPC report from yesterday.

December 6, 2018

Contacts:
William J. Mathis: 
(802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Julie F. Mead: (608) 263-3405, jmead@education.wisc.edu
Great Lakes Center: (517) 203-2940, greatlakescenter@greatlakescenter.org

When Publicly Funded Schools Exclude Segments of the Public

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Dec. 6, 2018) – In Indiana, a private religious school receiving over $6.5 million in public funds via the state’s voucher program placed an LGBT counselor on leave because she had married her same-sex partner. In Milwaukee, where students with disabilities constitute 12-20% of public school enrollments, they constitute only 2% of enrollments in private schools participating in the city’s voucher program. Similarly, charter schools enroll a lower percentage of students with disabilities (particularly more severe disabilities) when compared to traditional public schools. In response to these and other issues of access and discrimination, some defenders of these schools have argued that the schools have broken no laws—and they are often correct. How can this be?

To answer that question, professors Julie F. Mead of the University of Wisconsin and Suzanne E. Eckes of Indiana University authored a policy brief, titled How School Privatization Opens the Door for Discrimination, which analyzes discrimination in an era of education privatization.

The brief’s review of relevant laws reveals that voucher and charter school programs open the door to discrimination because of three phenomena. First, federal law defines discrimination differently in public and private spaces. Second, state legislatures have largely neglected issues of discrimination while constructing voucher laws; charter laws are better, but they fail to comprehensively address these issues. Third, because private and charter schools are free to determine what programs to offer, they can attract some populations while excluding others.

After briefly examining the history of discrimination in schools, the brief analyzes each of these three enabling factors and then outlines recent developments. Finally, based on its analyses, the brief offers the following recommendations to help address the issue of publicly funded programs currently failing to serve all segments of the public:

  1. Congress should amend federal anti-discrimination laws to clarify that states supporting charter schools and states directly or indirectly channeling public funds to private schools must ensure that those programs operate in non-discriminatory ways.
  2. Federal agencies should explore whether governmental benefits should be withheld from private schools failing to meet non-discrimination standards.
  3. State legislatures should include explicit anti-discrimination language in their state voucher laws to ensure that participating private schools do not discriminate against students and staff on the basis of race, color, sex, race, class, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, national origin, or primary language.
  4. State legislatures should adopt or amend charter school laws to ensure that policies and practices are reviewed throughout the process of approval and renewal. Schools failing to attract and retain reasonably heterogeneous student populations should be directed to address the problem and should be considered for non-renewal if the problem is not corrected.

Find How School Privatization Opens the Door for Discrimination, by Julie F. Mead and Suzanne E. Eckes, at: http://greatlakescenter.org/

This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (http://greatlakescenter.org/).

About The Great Lakes Center
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.  Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org.   Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/greatlakescent.  Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesCenter.

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/

December 6, 2018

Review: Report Fails To Sufficiently Address The Evidence

Another notice of this National Education Policy Center report from earlier in the week.

December 4, 2018

Contacts

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Amy N. Farley: (513) 556-5111, amy.farley@uc.edu
Great Lakes Center: (517) 203-2940, greatlakescenter@greatlakescenter.org

Report Fails to Sufficiently Address the Evidence Surrounding Teacher Evaluation

BOULDER, CO (December 4, 2018) – A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) highlights six teacher evaluation systems purportedly “yielding substantial benefits.” This comes at the end of a decade when reformed teacher evaluation systems that link teacher performance to measures of student growth have been at the center of educational debate.

Amy Farley and Leah Chamberlain of the University of Cincinnati reviewed Making a Difference: Six Places Where Teacher Evaluation Systems Are Getting Results. They find that the report does little to enrich an already tired conversation about linking teacher evaluation to student achievement.

Overall, the research regarding teacher evaluation is mixed, at best. Most notably, a recent multi-year RAND report suggests that a $500 million investment in teacher evaluation that heavily weighted student growth measures, with considerable funding from the Gates Foundation, did not improve student outcomes. In fact, the reform may have exacerbated unequal access to effective teachers for low-income students and students of color.

While the NCTQ report promotes these approaches to teacher evaluation, Farley and Chamberlain explain how it fails to seriously counter the groundswell of academic literature critiquing these systems. It also does not present a compelling justification for its site selection or the criteria used for inclusion of evidence.  Instead, it appears to rely on a limited set of data drawn mostly from internal reports or interviews with district or state representatives and does not adequately consider disconfirming or contradictory evidence.

These methodological flaws limit the validity of the report’s findings, they conclude, which ultimately diminishes its usefulness for policy and practice.

Find the review, by Amy Farley and Leah Chamberlain, at: http://greatlakescenter.org/

Find Making a Difference: Six Places Where Teacher Evaluation Systems Are Getting Results, written by Hannah Putman, Kate Walsh, and Elizabeth Ross and published by the National Council on Teacher Quality, at: https://www.nctq.org/dmsView/NCTQ_Report_-_Making_a_Difference

About The Great Lakes Center
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.  Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org.   Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/greatlakescent.  Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesCenter.

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/

November 29, 2018

Review: School Rankings Based On Spending And Outcomes Suffers From Severe Methodological Flaws And Insufficient Research

Another notice of the recent National Education Policy Center review.

November 27, 2018

Contacts

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Bruce D. Baker: (732) 932-7496, x8232, bruce.baker@gse.rutgers.edu
Great Lakes Center: (517) 203-2940, greatlakescenter@greatlakescenter.org

School Rankings Based on Spending and Outcomes Suffers from Severe Methodological Flaws and Insufficient Research

BOULDER, CO (November 27, 2018) – The Reason Foundation recently published a policy brief that offers an alternative ranking of states’ education systems. The brief, which was based on a working paper from the Department of Finance and Managerial Economics at the University of Texas at Dallas, purports to offer needed adjustments and nuance, but makes its own serious mistakes, according to a new review.

Rutgers professor Bruce D. Baker reviewed Everything You Know About State Education Rankings Is Wrong and the underlying working paper, Fixing the Currently Biased State K-12 Education Rankings. He found the analyses provided did little or nothing to advance the conversation about the effectiveness of state education systems.

The twin reports begin with the presumption that high average test scores combined with lower school spending should be the basis for state rankings, which are reasonable premises, depending upon how the analyses are approached. But the reports then head off the rails, Professor Baker explains.

Offering a ‘corrected’ representation of student outcomes and a crude analysis asserting that spending has no relation to those outcomes, the reports declare states such as New Jersey and Vermont to be poor-performing, highly inefficient systems by comparison to many states. The reports then estimate a regression model and assert that the higher performing states are those with (a) weaker teachers’ unions and (b) more children in charter schools.

However, Baker’s review details how the reports’ so-called corrections involved unreasonable and illogical assumptions and adjustments. For example, the reports re-weight racial and ethnic subgroups so that it inappropriately places equal weight in states like Vermont or Wyoming on students comprising 1 to 2% of the population as the other 98 to 99%. Other problems concern a decision to ignore economic status entirely and a poorly executed adjustment for cost of living.

Regressing multiple, highly related, interdependent measures against a specious outcome measure leads to even more suspect findings and, Baker concludes, would only mislead policymakers.

Find the review, by Bruce D. Baker, at: http://greatlakescenter.org/

Find Everything You Know About State Education Rankings Is Wrong, written by Stan J. Liebowitz and Matthew L. Kelly and published by the Reason Foundation, at: https://reason.com/archives/2018/10/07/everything-you-know-about-stat

Find Fixing the Currently Biased State K-12 Education Rankings, written by Stan J. Liebowitz and Matthew L. Kelly and published by the Department of Finance and Managerial Economics at the University of Texas at Dallas at: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3185152

About The Great Lakes Center
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.  Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org.   Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/greatlakescent.  Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesCenter.

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/

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