Virtual School Meanderings

April 2, 2020

Little Research, But Lots Of Advocacy In New Report About Child Safety Accounts

Another notice of that National Education Policy Center thinktank report review.

March 31, 2020

Contact:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos: (760) 405-3983, ojimenez@trinity.edu

Little Research, but Lots of Advocacy in New Report About Child Safety Accounts

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: In its push for a new voucher-like program, report offers little guidance for policymakers.

EAST LANSING, MI (March 31, 2020) – A recent Heartland Institute report argues for Child Safety Account (CSA) programs that would enable parents to access taxpayer dollars by asserting that their child feels unsafe in school. The CSA money could be used by the parents to transfer the child to another school, be it public, private, magnet, charter, or homeschool.

Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos and Gabriella Garriga of Trinity University reviewed Child Safety Accounts: Protecting Our Children through Parental Freedom, and found it to be lacking in research to substantiate its policy recommendations.

The proposed CSA program is a version of the education savings account programs that began in Arizona in 2011. The report begins with the well-supported finding that students encounter various forms of abuse throughout their school trajectory, including violent assaults, bullying, and sexual abuse. But it then offers a conclusion that is not well supported: that CSAs are a sound way to alleviate students’ suffering from these various forms of abuse in school.

The report does not explain how the new policy will be funded, nor does it provide criteria that must be met to access the CSA. Because eligibility appears to rest on a mere claim of safety concerns, the proposed policy could immensely change the landscape of school funding and complicate school politics by removing students from public schools.

While the report’s discussion about school bullying and other forms of abuse is timely, it fails to provide a clear set of steps to bring about change, opting instead to simply advocate for this form of taxpayer-funded vouchers. It also does not engage with the large body of research about evidence-based ways to address assaults, bullying and other safety issues. Accordingly, it is of little use to policymakers concerned about either school safety or school choice.

Find the review, by Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos and Gabriella Garriga, at:
https://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find Child Safety Accounts: Protecting Our Children through Parental Freedom, written by Vicki Alger and Timothy Benson and published by the Heartland Institute, at:
https://www.heartland.org/_template-assets/documents/publications/CSAccountsPB.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: https://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center 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: https://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 https://ww

March 19, 2020

Report Provides Weak Justification For Expansion Of Newark Charters

Another notice on that recent National Education Policy Center report.

March 17, 2020

Contact:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Mark Weber: (908) 358-5828, mark.weber@gse.rutgers.edu

Report Provides Weak Justification for Expansion of Newark Charters

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Though it credibly estimates the magnitude of a charter school test score effect, report’s failure to address critical policy questions limits its use for policymakers.

EAST LANSING, MI (March 17, 2020) – A recent Manhattan Institute report attempts to estimate the effects of charter school enrollment on student test scores in Newark, NJ – a city whose charter sector has been under intense scrutiny – and finds positive effects on English language and math test scores. The report deems these effects “large” as compared to other types of educational interventions.

Dr. Mark Weber of the New Jersey Policy Perspective and Rutgers University reviewed Charter Schools in Newark: The Effect on Student Test Scores, which uses a random component of Newark’s school enrollment system to isolate the effect of charter schools on test score outcomes.

The report’s method creates a natural experiment that compares outcomes between students who were offered charter seats and those who were not. This creates strong internal validity for the report’s positive test score findings. However, the generalizability of the findings is undermined by the fact that students who apply to charter schools differ significantly from the greater Newark student population. Students who are offered seats in charter schools are, for example, less likely to be English language learners or have special education needs. But the report never addresses this core issue of external validity.

The report also fails to address a key issue of scalability and sustainability. Teachers in the studied charter schools are less likely to remain in their jobs more than a few years, resulting in schools employing relatively few experienced teachers. This allows the schools to have lower overall personnel costs, even as they pay their inexperienced teachers more than comparably inexperienced public district school teachers, and even as they provide longer school days.

More time in school, in all likelihood, will positively impact test scores. However, can the studied charter schools maintain this financial model as they expand and enroll a different student population? While the report confirms previous work showing a positive charter effect on test scores in Newark, it fails to address these and other critical issues that stakeholders must understand to formulate good charter school policy in New Jersey and elsewhere.

Accordingly, even for policymakers who equate test scores with overall learning, Weber concludes that while the report has credible internal validity, it has only limited policy use.

Find the review, by Mark Weber, at:
https://www.greatlakescenter.org/

Find Charter Schools in Newark: The Effect on Student Test Scores, written by Marcus A. Winters and published by Manhattan Institute, at:
https://media4.manhattan-institute.org/sites/default/files/charter-schools-newark-effect-on-student-test-scores-MW.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), a university research center 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: https://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 https://www.greatlakescenter.

March 12, 2020

Report Offers An Inventive Argument For Expansion Of Wisconsin’s School Choice Programs

Another notice of that National Education Policy Center report.

March 10, 2020

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

Report Offers an Inventive Argument for Expansion of Wisconsin’s School Choice Programs

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Report creatively builds a mountain of speculation into claimed economic benefits from an expanded school voucher plan.

EAST LANSING, MI (March 10, 2020) – A recent report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) claims a chain of benefits will purportedly follow if the current cap on voucher enrollment for the state of Wisconsin is increased. It describes a “ripple effect of economic benefits that will reverberate throughout the state.”

William J. Mathis, Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, reviewed Ripple Effect: How Expanding School Choice Programs Can Lead to More College Graduates and a Stronger Economy. He found a “failing of logic” in how this ripple effect would actually occur.

The report presumes a causal chain of: raising the voucher cap from four percent to 20% → more voucher students in K-12 schools → higher graduation rates from college → higher lifetime earnings → more consumer spending → increased state and local taxes collected. The resulting benefits to Wisconsin are asserted to be $3.2 billion over 20 years. The final three steps are based on solid research, although the specific numbers are in some dispute. That is, when students graduate from college, they will have higher average incomes and will spend more, and pay more taxes, over their lifetimes. The numbers get complicated, however, when we start to consider factors like job market opportunities that can accommodate the increased percentage of college graduates.

The real problem with the analysis, however, lies in the first two steps. As Mathis explains, these steps are highly speculative and are based on very skimpy evidence.

First, raising voucher cap may not drive much of an increase in voucher students, since less than one percent of Wisconsin’s districts currently reach the four percent voucher cap. That is, there appears to be very little demand-side need for the voucher growth initiative. Even more troubling is the report’s reliance on one problematic study for its key argument that voucher use leads to a specific determined increase in graduation rates from four-year colleges (a 38% increase).

Adding to these problems, the trumpeted dollar figure in the report literally doesn’t add up. Lifting the voucher cap, readers are told, will generate a $3.2 billion increase in consumer spending and personal gains. But the figures presented in the report come up exactly $91 million short of $3.2 billion. This is undoubtedly just arithmetic carelessness (and it’s not clear which figures are the source of the error), but does further undermine one’s faith in the research.

In addition to Mathis’ explanation that the report’s causal links are weakly explained and lacking in support, he points to other prominent unaddressed issues: social stratification, inequitable selection effects, the cost of running two school systems, and the effects of the vouchers on learning. For all of these reasons, Mathis explains, the report offers no assistance to policymakers or others.

Find the review, by William J. Mathis, at:
https://www.greatlakescenter.org/

Find Ripple Effect: How Expanding School Choice Programs Can Lead to More College Graduates and a Stronger Economy, written by Will Flanders and published by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, at:
http://www.will-law.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/will-ripple-effect-v3.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), a university research center 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: https://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 https://www.greatlakescenter.org/

March 5, 2020

Report On Student Poverty Measures Provides Important Snapshot But Not The Whole Picture

Another notice from that National Education Policy Center item.

March 3, 2020

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

Report on Student Poverty Measures Provides Important Snapshot but Not the Whole Picture

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: New report is useful, but misses an opportunity to explore the need for a standardized measure of student poverty.

EAST LANSING, MI (March 3, 2020) – A recent Urban Institute report highlights how legislative changes have led to the steady decline of the usefulness, as a measure of student poverty, of participation in the free- and reduced-price lunch (FRPL) program.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act mandates that schools enrolled in CEP have at least 40% of their students eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch in the year before enrolling. CEP schools provide free breakfasts and lunches to all students regardless of any given student’s household income or enrollment in safety net programs. Thus FRPL participation is 100% in a school and can no longer be sensibly used as a poverty measure.

Michael Harwell of the University of Minnesota reviewed Measuring Student Poverty: Developing Accurate Counts for School Funding, Accountability, and Research. The report looks at how states now make poverty-related determinations for school funding and accountability purposes. Professor Harwell found the report to be useful in providing an important snapshot of the crazy quilt pattern of enrollment in safety net programs.

The report, however, does not fully address a question that should significantly influence its methods, conclusions, and impact: Is it sufficient to rely on enrollment in safety net programs to define and measure student poverty, or is a change needed in its definition and measurement? The report seems to lean towards the latter, but no definition (new or otherwise) of student poverty is provided, and alternative measures of poverty are presented without critique. The report is also silent on whether a poverty measure should be related to important student outcomes such as achievement.

As such, the report is very useful in describing the current dilemma, but it offers little specific guidance on how to move forward.

Find the review, by Michael Harwell, at:
https://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find Measuring Student Poverty: Developing Accurate Counts for School Funding, Accountability, and Research, written by Erica Greenberg, Kristin Blagg, and Macy Rainer and published by the Urban Institute, at:
https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/101430/measuring_student_poverty.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), a university research center 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: https://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 https://www.greatlak

February 27, 2020

Evolution Of Career And Technical Education: How To Connect School To Work But Avoid Past Mistakes

Another release from that National Education Policy Center item from earlier in the week.

February 25, 2020

Contacts:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Emily Hodge: (973) 655-3698, hodgee@montclair.edu
Shaun Dougherty: (615) 322-1894, shaun.dougherty@vanderbilt.edu

Evolution of Career and Technical Education: How to Connect School to Work but Avoid Past Mistakes

A NEPC Policy Brief Funded By the GLC

Key Takeaway: As the popularity of CTE grows, so does the need to ensure that it avoids stratification of the past.

EAST LANSING, Mich. (February 25, 2020) — In one of the few bipartisan applause lines of his January State of the Union address, President Trump asked Congress to support his “plan to offer vocational and technical education in every single high school in America.” This bipartisan support for Career and Technical Education (CTE) is also seen in state houses and school districts throughout the US. But despite the popularity of CTE, concerns remain about the availability of resources for different CTE pathways, their relative status, and the degree to which adults working within schools are problematically sorting students explicitly or implicitly into different course-taking pathways.

February is Career and Technical Education Month, a time to better understand CTE education. Accordingly, NEPC today is releasing a policy brief, Tracking and the Future of Career and Technical Education: How Efforts to Connect School and Work Can Avoid the Past Mistakes of Vocational Education, authored by Professors Emily Hodge of Montclair State University and Shaun Dougherty of Vanderbilt University, and Dr. Carol Burris, Executive Director of the Network for Public Education. The brief examines the tension that has often arisen between the desire to link learning to post-high-school work and the desire to avoid low academic expectations for students perceived as unlikely to attend college.

The brief’s authors explore the question of how schools might meaningfully support career exploration and preparation, while avoiding the tendency of prior vocational education to disproportionately sort students into distinct tracks by ethnic, racial, and/or socioeconomic characteristics.

After summarizing the history of vocational education and its relation to tracking, the brief describes how vocational education evolved into CTE, which has emerged as a variety of school-based efforts as also described in the brief. The authors conclude with recommendations for enacting CTE in ways that support the equitable distribution of educational opportunity:

  • In whole-school models of CTE, school and district leaders should monitor enrollment at the school and program levels by student subgroups to ensure equitable access.
  • In comprehensive high schools, administrators should build a schedule that allows for participation in CTE electives without de facto tracking of students. Students should have access to a broad variety of coursework with minimal or no levels within subjects.
  • School district and state policymakers must ensure equitable distribution of resources across schools and for students across districts to avoid de facto tracking of specific subgroups of students into specific careers.
  • To avoid mistakes of the past that replicated social stratification, researchers should carefully monitor the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic patterns of CTE in all of its forms.

Find Tracking and the Future of Career and Technical Education: How Efforts to Connect School and Work Can Avoid the Past Mistakes of Vocational Education, by Emily Hodge, Shaun Dougherty, and Carol Burris, at:
https://www.greatlakescenter.org/

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), a university research center 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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