Virtual School Meanderings

March 24, 2017

News from the NEPC: Report Mistakenly Suggests Easy Path for Improving Teacher Quality Through Higher Admissions Standards

From yesterday’s inbox…

Report’s teacher education recommendations lack the research support its authors claim.
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Report Mistakenly Suggests Easy Path for Improving Teacher Quality Through Higher Admissions Standards

Key Review Takeaway: Report’s teacher education recommendations lack the research support its authors claim.

Contact:

Contact NEPC: William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Contact Reviewer: Marilyn Cochran-Smith: (617) 552-4591, cochrans@bc.edu

BOULDER, CO (March 23, 2017) – A recent report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) advocates for a higher bar for entry into teacher preparation programs. The NCTQ report suggests, based on a review of GPA and SAT/ACT requirements at 221 institutions in 25 states, that boosting entry requirements would significantly improve teacher quality in the U.S. It argues that this higher bar should be set by states, by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and by the higher-education institutions themselves.

However, the report’s foundational claims are poorly supported, making its recommendations highly problematic.

The report, Within Our Grasp: Achieving Higher Admissions Standards in Teacher Prep, was reviewed by a group of scholars and practitioners who are members of Project TEER (Teacher Education and Education Reform). The team was led by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, the Cawthorne Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools at Boston College, along with Megina Baker, Wen-Chia Chang, M. Beatriz Fernández, & Elizabeth Stringer Keefe. The review is published by the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

The reviewers explain that the report does not provide the needed supports for its assertions or recommendations. It makes multiple unsupported and unfounded claims about the impact on teacher diversity of raising admissions requirements for teacher candidates, about public perceptions of teaching and teacher education, and about attracting more academically able teacher candidates.

Each claim is based on one or two cherry-picked citations while ignoring the substantial body of research that either provides conflicting evidence or shows that the issues are much more complex and nuanced than the report suggests. Ultimately, the reviewers conclude, the report offers little guidance for policymakers or institutions.

Find the review by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Megina Baker, Wen-Chia Chang, M. Beatriz Fernández, & Elizabeth Stringer Keefe at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-admissions

Find Within Our Grasp: Achieving Higher Admissions Standards in Teacher Prep, by Kate Walsh, Nithya Joseph, & Autumn Lewis, published by the National Council on Teacher Quality, at:
http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Admissions_Yearbook_Report

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is 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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

March 20, 2017

News from the NEPC: Lessons from the Massachusetts Charter School Expansion Campaign

From the inbox late last week…

Results of campaign suggest dynamics and approaches that may impede similar efforts to expand market-based educational policies.
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Lessons from the Massachusetts Charter School Expansion Campaign

Key Takeaway: Results of campaign suggest dynamics and approaches that may impede similar efforts to expand market-based educational policies.

Contact:

NEPC: William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Author: Lawrence Blum (617) 868-3537, Lawrence.Blum@umb.edu

We’re sorry if you have received this email twice. Some people were unable to access our first email because of technical problems.

In What We Can Learn from the Massachusetts Ballot Question Campaign on Charter School Expansion, University of Massachusetts Boston professor Lawrence Blum discusses lessons from the Massachusetts campaign and its results—lessons that might inform the debate around future pushes for expansion of charter schools and other market-based reforms.

Professor Blum explains that while the charter expansion advocates supporting “Question 2” on the state ballot argued that charters were necessary for equity, the No side countered that charter schools drained resources from the larger public system. These opponents further contended that only by improving the public school system could we ensure that no students are written off and that equity is served. Opposition by the NAACP and influential local black leaders challenged the Yes side’s familiar narrative that black parents overwhelmingly favor charter schools.

Moreover, while charter expansion advocates outspent their opponents, the No side had many more local people involved, as part of an impressive grassroots ground operation, with organizing by teachers and their unions, by parents, and by students. Communications from the No side also successfully connected charter school expansion to “dark money” and to a market-based ideological agenda.

Acknowledging the localized elements of this campaign, it nevertheless holds possible lessons about the fault lines of the charter school debate and about how the public may be willing to respond to the Trump administration’s likely efforts to expand taxpayer support of privately run schools.

Find What We Can Learn from the Massachusetts Ballot Question Campaign on Charter School Expansion, by Lawrence Blum, on the web at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/ma-charter

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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

March 15, 2017

News from the NEPC: Lessons from the Massachusetts Charter School Expansion Campaign

An interesting item from yesterday’s inbox.

Results of campaign suggest dynamics and approaches that may impede similar efforts to expand market-based educational policies.
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Lessons from the Massachusetts Charter School Expansion Campaign

Key Takeaway: Results of campaign suggest dynamics and approaches that may impede similar efforts to expand market-based educational policies.

Contact:

NEPC: William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Reviewer: Lawrence Blum (617) 868-3537, Lawrence.Blum@umb.edu

BOULDER, CO (March 14, 2017) – In the November 2016 election, voters in Massachusetts decisively defeated a referendum that would have significantly increased the number of charter schools in the state. Early polls had “Yes” with a sizable lead, and the Yes side had a considerable financial advantage—$24 million versus $14 million—in the most expensive ballot question in state history.

In What We Can Learn from the Massachusetts Ballot Question Campaign on Charter School Expansion, University of Massachusetts Boston professor Lawrence Blum discusses lessons from the Massachusetts campaign and its results—lessons that might inform the debate around future pushes for expansion of charter schools and other market-based reforms.

Professor Blum explains that while the charter expansion advocates supporting “Question 2” on the state ballot argued that charters were necessary for equity, the No side countered that charter schools drained resources from the larger public system. These opponents further contended that only by improving the public school system could we ensure that no students are written off and that equity is served. Opposition by the NAACP and influential local black leaders challenged the Yes side’s familiar narrative that black parents overwhelmingly favor charter schools.

Moreover, while charter expansion advocates outspent their opponents, the No side had many more local people involved, as part of an impressive grassroots ground operation, with organizing by teachers and their unions, by parents, and by students. Communications from the No side also successfully connected charter school expansion to “dark money” and to a market-based ideological agenda.

Acknowledging the localized elements of this campaign, it nevertheless holds possible lessons about the fault lines of the charter school debate and about how the public may be willing to respond to the Trump administration’s likely efforts to expand taxpayer support of privately run schools.

Find What We Can Learn from the Massachusetts Ballot Question Campaign on Charter School Expansion, by Lawrence Blum, on the web at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/ma-charter

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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

March 9, 2017

News from the NEPC: Strategic Education Philanthropy Plan Offers Recommendations but Fails to Address Serious Concerns

From earlier in the week.

Report advocates a “big bet” on innovative schools but doesn’t confront likely challenges or limitations.
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Strategic Education Philanthropy Plan Offers Recommendations but Fails to Address Serious Concerns

Key Review Takeaway: Report advocates a “big bet” on innovative schools but doesn’t confront likely challenges or limitations.

Contact:

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Jeffrey W. Snyder: j.w.snyder3@csuohio.edu

BOULDER, CO (March 7, 2017) – Philanthropic involvement in K-12 education has grown into a powerful force shaping the direction of reforms pursued throughout the country. A recent report from the NewSchools Venture Fund offers a thought experiment on how philanthropists can dramatically shape education reform by making a “big bet” over the next decade on what they term “innovative schools.”

Jeffrey W. Snyder, a scholar of education philanthropy and an Assistant Professor of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, reviewed Reimagining Learning: A Big Bet on the Future of American Education for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

Professor Snyder cautions that the report overpromises. He explains that the report fails to provide a meaningful examination of research or a thorough basis for its recommendations. His critique focuses on six key concerns: the report fails to consider human capital constraints or to sufficiently consider obstacles confronting classroom technology usage; it overlooks equity concerns and past problems with dependence on external professional services; and it ignores both the potential for disruptive reform churn and the danger of philanthropic efforts altering public education systems in undemocratic ways.

Although the report provides valuable insights via a glimpse into where some of the most influential players in the philanthropic sector see investments heading, Professor Snyder concludes that its usefulness to policy and practice is limited.

Find Jeffrey W. Snyder’s review at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-philanthropy

Find Reimagining Learning: A Big Bet on the Future of American Education, by Stacey Childress and Meghan Amrofell, published by the NewSchools Venture Fund, at:
http://www.newschools.org/bigbet/

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is 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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

February 27, 2017

News from the NEPC: Center for American Progress Receives NEPC’s 2016 Bunkum Award For Shoddy Research

From the inbox late last week.

Center for American Progress receives 2016 Bunkum Award for shoddy research for its report: Lessons From State Performance on NAEP.
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Center for American Progress Receives NEPC’s 2016 Bunkum Award for Shoddy Research

Key Review Takeaway: Center for American Progress receives 2016 Bunkum Award for shoddy research for its report: Lessons From State Performance on NAEP.

Contact:

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net

BOULDER, CO (February 23, 2017) – The 89th Academy Awards will be celebrated this weekend, which means it’s also time to announce the winner of the 2016 National Education Policy Center Bunkum Award. We invite you to enjoy our 11th annual tongue-in-cheek salute to the most egregiously shoddy think tank report reviewed in 2016.

This year’s Bunkum winner is the Center for American Progress (CAP), for its report, Lessons From State Performance on NAEP: Why Some High-Poverty Students Score Better Than Others.

The CAP report is based on a correlational study with the key finding that high standards increase learning for high-poverty students. The researchers compared changes in states’ test scores for low-income students to changes to those states’ standards-based policy measures as judged by the researchers. Their conclusions were that high standards lead to higher test scores and that states should adopt and implement the Common Core.

Alas, there was much less than met the eye.

In choosing the worst from among the many “worthy” contenders competing for the Bunkum Award, our judges applied evaluation criteria from two guidelines for how to understand research, Five Simple Steps to Reading Research and Reading Qualitative Educational Policy Research.

Here’s how the CAP report scored:

  • Was the design appropriate?
    No: The design was not sensitive, so they tossed in “anecdotes” and “impressions.”
  • Were the methods clearly explained?
    No: The methods section is incomplete and obtuse.
  • Were the data sources appropriate?
    No: The variables used were inadequate and were aggregated in unclear ways.
  • Were the data gathered of sufficient quality and quantity?
    No: The report uses just state-level NAEP scores and summary data.
  • Were the statistical analyses appropriate?
    No: A multiple correlation with just 50 cases is too small.
  • Were the analyses properly executed?
    Cannot be determined: The full results were not presented.
  • Was the literature review thorough and unbiased?
    No: The report largely neglected peer-reviewed research.
  • Were the effect sizes strong enough to be meaningful?
    Effect sizes were not presented, and the claims are based on the generally unacceptable 0.10 significance level.
  • Were the recommendations supported by strong evidence?
    No: Their conclusion is based on weak correlations.

The fundamental flaw in this report is simply that it uses inadequate data and analyses to make a broad policy recommendation in support of the Common Core State Standards. A reader may or may not agree with the authors’ conclusion that “states should continue their commitment to the Common Core’s full implementation and aligned assessments.” But that conclusion cannot and should not be based on the flimsy analyses and anecdotes presented in the report.

Watch the 2016 Bunkum Award video presentation, read the Bunkum-worthy report and the review, and learn about past Bunkum winners and the National Education Policy Center’s Think Twice Think Tank Review project: http://nepc.colorado.edu/think-tank/bunkum-awards/2016
About the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project:

Many organizations publish reports they call research – but are they? These reports often are published without having first been reviewed by independent experts – the “peer review” process commonly used for academic research.

Even worse, many think tank reports subordinate research to the goal of making arguments for policies that reflect the ideology of the sponsoring organization.

Yet, while they may provide little or no value as research, advocacy reports can be very effective for a different purpose: they can influence policy because they are often aggressively promoted to the media and policymakers.

To help the public determine which elements of think tank reports are based on sound social science, NEPC’s “Think Twice” Think Tank Review Project has, every year since 2006, asked independent experts to assess strengths and weaknesses of reports published by think tanks.

Few of the think tank reports have been found by experts to be sound and useful; most, however, are found to have little, if any, scientific merit. At the end of each year NEPC editors sift through the reviewed reports to identify the worst offender. We then award the organization publishing that report NEPC’s Bunkum Award for shoddy research.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is 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 © 2017 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.
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