Virtual School Meanderings

February 19, 2018

School Discipline Report Distorts in Push for Policy Rollback

Note this research brief.

New report misleads when it could have informed, review finds.
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School Discipline Report Distorts in Push for Policy Rollback

BOULDER, CO (February 15, 2018) – The Academic and Behavioral Consequences of Discipline Policy Reform: Evidence from Philadelphia, published by the Fordham Institute, investigated the impact of a reform in the School District of Philadelphia that eliminated suspensions for certain low-level misbehaviors.

Yolanda Anyon of the University of Denver and Kathryn E. Wiley of the University of California San Diego reviewed the reportand found it “plagued by logical fallacies, overly simplified interpretations of findings, and inflammatory language.”

The report considered whether the change in discipline policy was associated with any of the following: (a) district-wide out-of-school suspension rates, (b) academic and behavioral outcomes for students (looking separately at students who had a record of prior suspensions and those with no prior suspensions), and (c) racial disparities in suspensions.

While the report concluded that the reform was a failure, the actual results were mixed, with the positive trends for students who were earlier suspended being much stronger in magnitude than evidence of negative outcomes for students who were not. A strength of the report is the use of advanced statistical methods and a longitudinal dataset to answer the questions of interest.

However, Anyon and Wiley explain, the report uses misleading causal (“consequences”) language in the title and to describe study results, even though the study design is limited by unmeasured confounding factors and inappropriate comparison groups. Thus, while the analyses upon which the report is based have some technical merits, the narrative seems more of an attempt to advance a political agenda opposed to the reform studied than to improve understanding of complex policy issues.

Find the review, by Yolanda Anyon and Kathryn Wiley, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-discipline-reform

Find The Academic and Behavioral Consequences of Discipline Policy Reform: Evidence from Philadelphia, by Matthew P. Steinberg & Johanna Lacoe, and published by the Fordham Institute, at:
http://edex.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/publication/pdfs/%2812.05%29 The Academic and Behavioral Consequences of Discipline Policy Reform Evidence from Philadelphia.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


Copyright © 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

February 16, 2018

NEPC’s February Education Interview of the Month Podcast Explores Education Savings Accounts

Note this from the inbox earlier in the week.

NEPC Education Interview of the Month is a great teaching resource; engaging drive-time listening; and 30 minutes of high-quality policy information for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.
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NEPC’s February Education Interview of the Month Podcast Explores Education Savings Accounts

Key Takeaway: NEPC Education Interview of the Month is a great teaching resource; engaging drive-time listening; and 30 minutes of high-quality policy information for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

Contact:

William J. Mathis(802) 383-0058wmathis@sover.net
Greg Smith(503) 758-1020gasmith@lclark.edu
Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos(602) 543-6366jimenez-castellanos.asu.edu

BOULDER, CO (February 14, 2018) – In February’s NEPC Education Interview of the MonthGreg Smith discusses Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) and school privatization with Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos of Arizona State University.

Along with Bill Mathis and Kevin Welner, Jimenez-Castellanos recently authored The State of Education Savings Account Programs in the United States, a policy brief assessing the education savings account strategy being used in a growing number of states to make it possible to use public funds to help pay for private education.

Smith and Jimenez-Castellanos discuss the key findings of the brief, including the lack of empirical evidence that ESAs are effective. Only one peer-reviewed study has been published, and it was theoretical in nature. ESA “research” has been dominated by organizations with a specific pro-ESA bias or perspective.

Overall, voucher research has found that academic performance by students in voucher programs does not increase. Both in ESAs and traditional vouchers, Jimenez-Castellanos contends, there are few accountability mechanisms. As a result, there is little data collected, and thus it is very difficult to evaluate the program’s effectiveness.

Along with a dearth of research, Jimenez-Castellanos’ concerns include “the impact ESAs will have on public education, the fact that there is no cap on ESA expansion, and ultimately, that public school students could be shortchanged in terms of funding, quality of programs, and services they receive.”

A new NEPC Education Interview of the Month, hosted by Gregory A. Smith, Lewis and Clark College Emeritus Professor of Education, will be released each month from September through May.

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All NEPC Education Interview of the Month podcasts are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

Coming Next Month

In March, Greg’s guest will be NEPC Fellow Warren Simmons, who will discuss factors that support or inhibit school and community transformation.

Stay tuned to NEPC for smart, engaging conversations about education policy.

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


Copyright © 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

February 9, 2018

Report About Segregation Falls Short In Tackling Complicated Relationship Between Schools And Housing

Note this research brief.

Shaky grounding in research, law, and methodology limits report’s usefulness when it comes to policy and practice.
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Report about Segregation Falls Short in Tackling Complicated Relationship Between Schools and Housing

Key Review Takeaway: Shaky grounding in research, law, and methodology limits report’s usefulness when it comes to policy and practice.

Contact:

William J. Mathis(802) 383-0058wmathis@sover.net
Genevieve Siegel-Hawley(804) 828-8213gsiegelhawley@vcu.edu

BOULDER, CO (February 8, 2018) – Balancing Act: Schools, Neighborhoods, and Racial Imbalance, published by the Brookings Institution, takes up the important task of considering school and residential segregation by exploring the racial makeup of schools compared to their proximate neighborhoods.

Professors Genevieve Siegel-Hawley of Virginia Commonwealth University and Erica Frankenberg of Pennsylvania State University reviewed the brief and found that its shaky grounding in the research, law and methods that inform school desegregation limits its usefulness when it comes to policy and practice.

The report suggests that racially concentrated schools are the result of residential segregation and how school district boundaries are drawn in ways that separate populations. It also explores the possibility that charter schools, which are freed from the constraints of traditional boundaries, can interrupt the school-housing relationship. Yet it finds that charter schools are, on average, more racially imbalanced than other public schools.

Siegel-Hawley and Frankenberg found that the report’s methodological decisions, such as its treatment of metro areas as the same as rural ones and its definitions of neighborhoods, either are not fully explained or lack a research-based rationale. This weakness undermines the utility of the newly created database—which its authors view as a vital contribution of the report.

Though the reviewers believe that the report deserves credit for tackling the complicated relationship between school and housing segregation and for bringing renewed attention to issues that are often considered separately, they conclude that the report ultimately represents a missed opportunity to accurately explore the connection.

Find the review, by Genevieve Siegel-Hawley and Erica Frankenberg, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-school-segregation

Find Balancing Act: Schools, Neighborhoods, and Racial Imbalance, by Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Richard V. Reeves, Nathan Joo, & Pete Rodrigue, and published by the Brookings Institution, at:
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/es_20171120_schoolsegregation.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


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Copyright © 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

February 1, 2018

Policy Brief Explores SES Measures Used By Researchers And Policymakers

Note this research-based policy brief.

Brief suggests ways to promote a deeper understanding and more effective use of socioeconomic status measures.
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Policy Brief Explores SES Measures Used by Researchers and Policymakers

Key Takeaway: Brief suggests ways to promote a deeper understanding and more effective use of socioeconomic status measures.

Contact:

William J. Mathis(802) 383-0058wmathis@sover.net
Michael Harwell(612) 625-0196harwe001@umn.edu

BOULDER, CO (January 30, 2018) – Measures of socioeconomic status (SES) are widely used in educational research and policy applications, in large part due to overwhelming evidence linking SES to student achievement. SES is usually conceptualized as an unobservable factor—a construct—measured using variables such as parental education, occupation, income/wealth, and home possessions to take into account disparities between students, classrooms, and schools.

The National Education Policy Center released a brief today that examines the usefulness of common SES measures. Researchers and policymakers agree on the importance of SES in educational settings, but the available measures that we use belie that importance.

Professor Michael Harwell of the University of Minnesota authored the brief, titled Don’t Expect Too Much: The Limited Usefulness of Common SES Measures and a Prescription for Change. He explores the factors that undermine the usefulness of common SES measures in ways that can bias or muddy research and policy conclusions, and he considers what changes might promote a deeper understanding and more effective use of SES in research and policy.

Professor Harwell’s recommendations include the following:

  • A theory-grounded model of SES should be adopted to define this construct in ways consistent with the purpose of the research or policy application.
  • Correlations between SES measures and outcomes should be examined to assess the usefulness of these measures as control variables in statistical analyses.
  • Researchers and policymakers wishing to employ existing SES measures should consider a composite index of SES, perhaps in conjunction with common measures, or turn to alternative measures such as either students’ perception of their SES or poverty estimates at the district level. Those interested in developing new measures should use a theory-grounded SES model as a guide to help ensure new SES measures do in fact measure what they are intended to (i.e., show evidence of construct validity).
  • The development of new SES measures guided by a theory-grounded model of SES requires assembling a multidisciplinary team with expertise in a substantive area of education (e.g., mathematics education) as well as expertise in psychometrics, statistics, and the SES literature.
  • Eligibility for a free- or reduced-price lunch should not be used as a student-level SES measure, but aggregating this variable to reflect the percentage of students receiving subsidized meals produces a crude but useful index to compare the economic need of a school or district with other schools or districts.

Find Don’t Expect Too Much: The Limited Usefulness of Common SES Measures and a Prescription for Change, by Michael Harwell, at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/SES

This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (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


Copyright © 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

January 29, 2018

Karma is a…Possibility, Explains New Policy Memo

An item from the NEPC from last week’s inbox.

Voucher advocates inadvertently paved the way for Democrats’ plans to skirt a punitive element of the new tax law.
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Karma is a…Possibility, Explains New Policy Memo

Key Takeaway: Voucher advocates inadvertently paved the way for Democrats’ plans to skirt a punitive element of the new tax law.

Contact:

BOULDER, CO (January 24, 2018) – When Republicans in Congress pieced together the new tax law, they included a particularly partisan element, placing a disproportionate tax burden on taxpayers in so-called Blue states—those that voted for Hillary Clinton in the last election. The provision caps the federal deduction for the payment of state and local taxes (called “SALT”) at $10,000, and the 10 states with the most SALT deductions all supported Clinton.

But the leaders in these higher-tax states are turning to a loophole that pro-voucher Republicans themselves perfected over the past couple decades, explains Professor Kevin Welner of the University of Colorado Boulder. In How Voucher Advocates Created a Blue-State Loophole to Trump’s Tax Law, Welner, who directs the National Education Policy Center, tells the story of how these voucher advocates developed and spread a system of dollar-for-dollar tax credits for donations to private voucher-granting organizations, as a way to evade prohibitions in state constitutions against spending public state money on religious schools.

Taxpayers who make these “charitable” donations—which effectively transform tax payments into payments to voucher-granting organizations—can deduct them from their federal taxes, even if they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to deduct a state tax payment.

Now states that would be harmed by the provision limiting SALT deductions are looking to create similar tax credits for donations to state-created, charitable “public-purpose” funds that support state spending. As with the pro-voucher donations, the tax payment is converted into a federally deductible charitable donation.

“These voucher advocates have done an enormous favor for state legislators and taxpayers in places like California, New York, and New Jersey,” said Welner. “They’ve already crafted these mechanisms and even defended them in court. The states are left with doing little more than a ‘search and replace’ to substitute their state charities for the voucher charities.”

In the new policy memo, Welner considers possible approaches that might be used in these state laws, but the upshot of each approach is the same. “The fiercely pro-voucher Trump Administration is now facing the possibility of a large decrease in expected revenue, and they have voucher advocates to thank,” he concludes.

Find How Voucher Advocates Created a Blue-State Loophole to Trump’s Tax Law, by Kevin Welner, on the web at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/SALT

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


Copyright © 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.
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