Virtual School Meanderings

September 26, 2022

School report cards

A “Think Twice” review of a think tank report from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

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School report cards have become a major component of federal and state school accountability systems. These school report cards are based on summative ratings that followed the enactment of the Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which allowed states more flexibility in designing their school accountability systems. While they can provide publicly available information on the performance of individual schools and comparisons among schools, the usefulness of rating schools depends on whether the ratings provide fair and valid indicators of school performance.
Sunderman makes recommendations for policymakers to consider in resolving the significant challenges of using a single score for schools that also take into account the complexity of teaching and learning.

Read on to learn more.

Maddie Fennell

Executive Director
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

SUMMARY

Gail L. Sunderman, co-founder and former director of the Maryland Equity Project at the University of Maryland, discussed the difficulties that can arise when states use summative ratings to evaluate schools.
Sunderman wrote that summative ratings are limited indicators of student learning that can misidentify schools, with the potential to lead to misappropriation of resources needed for school improvement.
ESSA requires states to develop systems that allow for differentiation among schools and use the information to identify schools that need resources for improvement. States would decide what kind of rating system – or report card – they use to relay information to the public.
The report cards are intended to show how well schools and districts meet goals that are intended to improve schools. For report card rating systems to be beneficial as a school improvement tool, they need to provide fair and valid indicators of school performance.
The flexibility allowed by ESSA means states follow different criteria that reflect their own interests, concerns and political perspectives, as well as their unique economic conditions.
This makes the summative rating problematic because there is little credible research on how well a single score captures the complexity of school performance and ways to improve. The consolidation of information into a single score misses variable information about school performance.
Research also suggests summative ratings fail to identify schools with high achievement that are also equitable in their learning opportunities, ignoring achievement gaps. They also favor schools serving higher-income students while obscuring the failure of these schools to serve all children.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Sunderman makes recommendations for policymakers to consider in resolving the significant challenges of using a single score for schools that also take into account the complexity of teaching and learning.
Recommendations for federal policymakers include:
  • Require that states conduct rigorous evaluations of their existing performance rating systems to determine the reliability, validity and fairness of summative ratings.
  • Fund research on state accountability rating systems that identifies system components capable of yielding valid inferences about school performance.
  • Adopt social and economic policies that consider out-of-school variables substantially related to school performance, such as policies that increase access to health care, address the concentration of disadvantage or advantage in different neighborhoods and expand the availability of housing and employment opportunities.
  • Design federal accountability policy that promotes equitable accountability systems among states, given the reality that state political and economic variables shape divergent state systems.
Recommendations for state policymakers include:
  • Evaluate state accountability systems to ensure they aren’t misidentifying schools and potentially leading to misappropriation of resources for school improvement.
  • Adopt education, social and economic policies that promote equitable education and address out-of-school variables related to school performance.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

SOCIAL SHARES

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School report cards don’t offer a full look at the performance of a #PublicSchool. Read more in a @nepctweet policy brief: School report cards don’t offer a full look at the performance of a #PublicSchool. Read more in a @nepctweet policy brief:
States using report cards to evaluate schools may not be getting all the information they need to provide resources to needy schools. Read more: States using report cards to evaluate schools may not be getting all the information they need to provide resources to needy schools. Read more:
A @nepctweet policy brief shows some state rating systems are missing the mark when it comes to evaluating schools and providing resources. A @nepctweet policy brief shows some state rating systems are missing the mark when it comes to evaluating schools and providing resources.
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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.
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September 14, 2022

Closing the Gap Between Research and Practice in the Science of Reading

A “Think Twice” review of a think tank report from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

September 13, 2022

Contact:

Alex Molnar: (480) 797-7261, nepc.molnar@gmail.com
Faith Boninger: (480) 390-6736, fboninger@gmail.com
Paul Thomas: (864) 294-3386, paul.thomas@furman.edu

Closing the Gap Between Research and Practice in the Science of Reading

Key Takeaway: Some research claims of the “science of reading” movement are overly simplistic, so policymakers should seek different approaches to legislating reading.

EAST LANSING, MI (September 13, 2022) – How students learn to read and how reading is best taught are often the focus of media, public, and political criticism. In a new NEPC policy brief, The Science of Reading Movement: The Never-Ending Debate and the Need for a Different Approach to Reading Instruction, Paul Thomas of Furman University explores the controversial history of the reading reform movement.

Throughout the decades, a striking amount of attention has sporadically been focused on how teachers teach reading-typically with a specific concern for phonics instruction. This attention has then spread to standardized test scores (including international comparisons) and a changing list of hypothetical causes for disappointing test scores (including progressivism, whole language, and balanced literacy).

Disappointing reading achievement has been sometimes attributed to how reading is taught, sometimes to social influences on students (such as technology and media), and sometimes to both. Widespread and ongoing criticism over the last 80 years has targeted a wide array of culprits:

  • State and federal reading policy;
  • The quality of teacher education and teacher professional development;
  • Theories of learning to read and reading instruction;
  • The role of phonics and other reading skills in teaching reading; and
  • The persistent gaps among classroom practices, reading policy, and the nature or application of science and research.

These discussions have not been evidence-free. In fact, scholars and literacy educators have over this time conducted extensive research into these and other issues. But the research has only limited impact on policy and practice.

Specifically, in contrast to much of the public debate and policymaking, these researchers have found reading instruction and learning to be complex, complicating the design of effective policy and classroom practice. Overall, this robust research base supports policies and approaches that acknowledge a range of individual student needs and that argue against “one-size-fits-all” prescriptions. Among literacy educators and scholars, then, important reading debates continue but do so without any identified silver-bullet solutions.

The current public debate is different. Since 2018, the phrase “science of reading” has been popularized as loosely defined shorthand for the broad and complex research base characterizing how children learn to read and how best to teach reading. Simplifying the issue for the public and for political readers, and failing to acknowledge the full complement of research findings, prominent members of the education media have used the term when framing the contemporary debate-often as pro-phonics versus no phonics. Various types of vendors have also found the shorthand term “science of reading” highly useful in branding and marketing specific phonics-oriented reading and literacy programs.

As the “science of reading” movement has grown, scholars have cautioned that advocates and commercial vendors often exaggerate and oversimplify both the problems and solutions around reading achievement and instruction. Yet these advocates have been extremely effective in lobbying for revised and new phonics-heavy reading legislation across most states in the U.S., producing rigid and ultimately harmful policy and practices. Still, in pursuing reform to address identified challenges, the movement does provide an opportunity for policymakers to investigate different approaches to reading instruction and to develop more nuanced policy.

Accordingly, Professor Thomas provides recommendations for state and local policymakers to provide teachers the flexibility and support necessary to adapt their teaching strategies to specific students’ needs.

Find The Science of Reading Movement: The Never-Ending Debate and the Need for a Different Approach to Reading Instruction, by Paul Thomas, 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: 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/

September 12, 2022

Private fundraising for K-12

A “Think Twice” review of a think tank report from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

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Sept. 8, 2022                                                                          READ IN BROWSER
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Research has suggested public schools serving advantaged students are more likely than others to benefit from private fundraising.
A report from Urban Institute analyzes the role of Parent Teacher Organizations and similar groups in Illinois public schools. The report amplifies existing critiques of private fundraising that say it exacerbates inequitable school funding. While the report highlights ongoing school funding inequities, a review of the report shows weaknesses prevent it from making a convincing case.

Read on to learn more.

Maddie Fennell

Executive Director
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

REPORT REVIEWED

Maia Cucchiara, a professor at Temple University, reviewed, “Documenting Inequitable Patterns in Spending by Parent Teacher Associations, Parent Teacher Organizations and ‘Friends of’ Fundraising Groups at Illinois Public Schools.”

WHAT THE REVIEWER FOUND

Private fundraising plays an important role in supplementing needed school resources while being a source of inequality for some schools.
Public schools that serve middle- and upper-class families have the potential to raise much more money than public schools serving lower-income families, even in schools within the same district. Because of this, some states and school districts have enacted policies designed to make fundraising benefits more equitable.
The Urban Institute report uses a thoughtful analysis of tax return data for 600 school-specific organizations in Illinois matched with school-level demographic data. It found fundraising organizations are more likely to exist in more advantaged schools, and that groups at wealthier schools and those with greater white student populations spend more per student than groups at other schools.
The report recommends state and district policymakers track private fundraising and consider strategies for resource sharing to make schools more equitable.
Cucchiara explains that while the report’s claims are consistent with other research on this topic and it makes valid recommendations, the report has problems with data presentation and analysis that prevent it from properly showing how much these patterns exist in Illinois schools.
The report fails to demonstrate two of its key claims, Cucchiara wrote: That schools serving wealthier students are more likely to have private fundraising groups and that larger numbers of white students equate to increased private spending. These problems with data severely undermine the report’s validity.
Despite these flaws, the report’s use of per-pupil spending calculations to estimate the magnitude of spending by private fundraising organizations could be useful for understanding the impact of school-specific fundraising organizations.

Read the full review on the Great Lakes Center website or on the National Education Policy Center website.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

The Urban Institute report covers valid concerns and offers helpful recommendations, so it’s unfortunate that it fails to demonstrate its claims. Research on private fundraising would be helpful to policymakers to ensure all public schools are receiving the benefits of private fundraising, especially those which already struggle with filling needs, whether it be for supplies or additional staff.

TALKING POINTS TO REMEMBER

  1. Research has shown public schools serving advantaged students are more likely than others to benefit from private fundraising.
  1. An Urban Institute report analyzes the role of private fundraising, amplifying existing critiques that say it exacerbates inequitable school funding.
  1. A review of the report found that it highlights important points and makes useful recommendations but relies on weak data to make its case.

SOCIAL SHARES

Want to share this Think Twice Review with your social networks? We drafted some sample social media posts for your use.
Research suggests private fundraising benefits wealthier #PublicSchools the most. How can we make fundraising for schools more equitable? Read more: Research suggests private fundraising benefits wealthier #PublicSchools the most. How can we make fundraising for schools more equitable? Read more:
Private fundraising plays an important role in getting #PublicSchools resources they need, but it can also be a source of inequality. Learn more: Private fundraising plays an important role in getting #PublicSchools resources they need, but it can also be a source of inequality. Learn more:
A @nepctweet review finds a report about private fundraising for #PublicSchools highlights school inequities but has data weaknesses. A @nepctweet review finds a report about private fundraising for #PublicSchools highlights school inequities but has data weaknesses.
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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.
Copyright © 2019 Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website.Our mailing address is:
Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice
PO Box 1263
East Lansing, MI 48826-1263

August 29, 2022

Voucher programs

A “Think Twice” review of a think tank report from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

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Aug. 25, 2022
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During the last three decades, private school voucher programs have grown in popularity, serving nearly 608,000 students in 2021. This growth in popularity has been fueled by voucher advocates claiming expansion can result in significant cost reductions for states.

A recent report from EdChoice argues for the expansion of voucher policies, reasoning that those private institutions could provide equal or better student outcomes at reduced costs. However, a review of the report finds the cost savings are based on unsubstantiated data and assumptions.

Read on to learn more.

Maddie Fennell

Executive Director
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

REPORT REVIEWED

Luis A. Huerta and Steven Koutsavlis of Teachers College, Columbia University, reviewed “Fiscal Effects of School Choice: Analyzing the Costs and Savings of Private School Choice Programs in America,” published by EdChoice.

WHAT THE REVIEWER FOUND

EdChoice’s report claims state and local governments have saved billions of dollars from reduced numbers of students in public schools due to their switch to private schools.
The report estimates the net fiscal effects of various private school choice programs through 2018 and contends that voucher programs saved local and state governments $12.4 billion-$28.3 billion through that time via “switchers,” or students who leave public schools and enter private schools. EdChoice claims the savings result from fewer students in public schools as well as lower per-student costs.
Huerta and Koutsavlis conclude the EdChoice report’s estimates and conclusions are based on assumptions, rendering them useless for policymakers. States operating private-school subsidy programs for the most part do not track the previous enrollment of students who use vouchers to subsidize their enrollment in private schools. This means the number of students who switched to private schools and associated cost savings are estimates at best.
Huerta and Koutsavlis caution policymakers against buying into EdChoice’s claims because they are not based on valid data. They recommend more detailed accounting and the use of nuanced methods to calculate the numbers to give a more accurate picture.

Read the full review on the Great Lakes Center website or on the National Education Policy Center website.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

It’s easy for lawmakers to be led astray by flashy claims of cost savings for state and local governments. However, if the claims aren’t based on valid, factual data, implementing policies associated with those claims could have detrimental effects on funding for public schools, leaving students, teachers and public-school districts with fewer resources in order to publicly fund private schools.

TALKING POINTS TO REMEMBER

  1. Private school voucher programs have grown in popularity in part due to advocates making unsubstantiated claims about their significant cost reductions for state and local governments.
  1. These claims are used again in an EdChoice report, and a review of the report found its claims are based on unsubstantiated data and assumptions.
  1. The review recommends a more detailed accounting of the numbers to give an accurate picture before policymakers act on unfounded conclusions.

SOCIAL SHARES

Want to share this Think Twice Review with your social networks? We drafted some sample social media posts for your use.
A report from @edchoice makes unfounded claims about costs savings associated with #schoolvoucher programs. Read a review of the report: A report from @edchoice makes unfounded claims about costs savings associated with #schoolvoucher programs. Read a review of the report:
A review from @nepctweet found more research is needed on private school #voucherprograms so policymakers can make the best choices about funding. A review from @nepctweet found more research is needed on private school #voucherprograms so policymakers can make the best choices about funding.
Data used to support public funding for #privateschools should be based on facts, not assumptions. Read more: Data used to support public funding for #privateschools should be based on facts, not assumptions. Read more:
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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.
Copyright © 2019 Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website.Our mailing address is:
Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice
PO Box 1263
East Lansing, MI 48826-1263

July 15, 2022

Report Uses Flawed Research to Paint Michigan Neovoucher Proposal in a Positive Light

A “Think Twice” review of a think tank report from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

July 14, 2022

Contact:
Michelle Renée Valladares: (720) 505-1958, michelle.valladares@colorado.edu
Christopher Saldaña: (303) 492-2566, cmsaldana@wisc.edu

Report Uses Flawed Research to Paint Michigan Neovoucher Proposal in a Positive Light

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Problematic assumptions undermine analyses of the fiscal impact of neovoucher policies.

EAST LANSING, MI (July 14, 2022) – A recent Mackinac Center report claims that the proposed Michigan Student Opportunity Scholarship (MSOS) neovoucher program has the potential to create fiscal benefits for the state of Michigan and its school districts. Its conclusions were examined in a new review, however, and found faulty.

Christopher Saldaña of the University of Wisconsin-Madison reviewed Michigan Student Opportunity Scholarships: Overview and Fiscal Analysis. He found it to be more misleading than useful, with poorly grounded assumptions and a narrow use of research.

States fund neovoucher programs through tax-credited donations, which sets up a more complicated fiscal analysis that requires more assumptions than a conventional voucher policy. To inform its key assumptions about the factors influencing the fiscal impact of neovoucher policies, the report relies overwhelmingly on problematic reports and approaches produced by think tanks that regularly advocate for school choice.

Because of this, Professor Saldaña concludes, the report paints a misleadingly rosy picture of how the MSOS will impact the state’s finances and the finances of its school districts. On closer examination, the assumptions the analysis relies upon are flawed in several ways, rendering the report’s results, conclusions, and broad policy recommendations useless for Michigan policymakers.

Legislation creating the MSOS program was passed by the Michigan legislature in 2021 but vetoed by the state’s governor. A group called “Let MI Kids Learn” is now attempting to revive it through a petitioning (signature-gathering) process unique to Michigan. With enough signatures, the legislature can again pass the legislation and it would become law without the governor’s approval.

Find the review, by Christopher Saldaña, at:
https://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find Michigan Student Opportunity Scholarships: Overview and Fiscal Analysis, written by Ben DeGrow and Martin Lueken and published by the Mackinac Center, at:
https://www.mackinac.org/archives/2022/s2022-05.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://www.greatlakescenter.org/

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