Virtual School Meanderings

March 14, 2019

Report Advocating For More Charter School Facilities Funding Offers Scarce Rationale For Doing So

Another press release on that new National Education Policy Center report.

March 12, 2019

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

Report Advocating for More Charter School Facilities Funding Offers Scarce Rationale for Doing So

Key Takeaway: Report’s flaws in comparison and reasoning hamper its usefulness in guiding Idaho charter school policy.

EAST LANSING, MI (March 12, 2019) – A recent report from Bellwether Education Partners contends that more funding should be given for charter school facilities. Focusing on a series of Idaho case studies, the report argues that charter schools are unfairly denied funding for the construction and renovation of their school buildings. These arguments, while focused on Idaho in this particular report, have been made with regard to charter school policies across the U.S.

Mark Weber of Rutgers and New Jersey Policy Perspective reviewed Fairness in Facilities: Why Idaho Public Charter Schools Need More Facilities Funding. He found several flaws that undermine its usefulness for policymakers looking to provide an adequate and equitable education.

The report makes comparisons of charter and public school facilities spending. But the examples it relies on are not “apples-to-apples” comparisons. It avoids discussing differences in student characteristics between the charter and public school district sectors, and it does not examine the issue of school governance and facilities ownership. This renders any statewide generalizations suspect, and it results in problematic recommendations.

The report bemoans the fact that charter school facilities are not part of local school districts’ bonds and tax levies, yet it does not acknowledge that charter facilities are often owned by private entities. Mandating that local taxpayers support charter facilities would, therefore, force them to pay for buildings they would not own.

Further, the report’s calculation of “costs-per-seat” ignores the reality that different students have different needs. For example, public district schools enroll proportionally more students with disabilities and English language learners, with one consequence being that they tend to have more support staff per pupil than charter schools. These additional staff require additional space to do their work, which may result in greater facilities expenses per pupil in public school districts than in charter schools.

Given these limitations, Dr. Weber concludes that the report provides little guidance for policymakers and other stakeholders at a time when Idaho is working to overhaul its school funding system.

Find the review, by Mark Weber, at: http://greatlakescenter.org/docs/Think_Twice/TT-Weber-Charter-Funding.pdf

Find Fairness in Facilities: Why Idaho Public Charter Schools Need More Facilities Fundingwritten by Kelly Robson, Juliet Squire, and Lynne Graziano, and published by Bellwether Education Partners, at:
https://bellwethereducation.org/sites/default/files/Bellwether_BFP-Idaho_CharterFacilitiesReport_Final.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/

March 11, 2019

Voucher “Myth” Report Distorts Its Questions And Its Answers

Notice of a National Education Policy Center report from last week.

March 7, 2019

Contact:
William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Christopher Lubienski: (217) 419-9311, clubiens@iu.edu

Voucher “Myth” Report Distorts Its Questions and Its Answers

Key Takeaway: Attempt by the Institute for Justice to muster pro-voucher evidence ignores the very research it cites, presenting a simplistic and one-sided treatment of the empirical record.

EAST LANSING, MI (March 7, 2019) – Researchers have built a substantial body of evidence about policies that use vouchers to fund private schooling, so an honest attempt to bring together that research could have real value. But readers will be disappointed if they look to the Institute for Justice (IJ) for that report.

Christopher Lubienski of Indiana University reviewed the IJ’s report, 12 Myths and Realities about Private Educational Choice Programs. He considers the merits of each of the 12 claims, and finds that the report fails to take advantage of this body of research, instead offering little more than a simplistic and one-sided treatment of the empirical record.

Setting out 12, often cartoonishly caricatured, “myths” about vouchers, the report proceeds to systematically dismiss each myth. The evidence presented in the report is based largely on previous work from other advocacy groups that curated evidence—much of it highly questionable—on the advantages of vouchers. Accordingly, the IJ report repeats earlier advocacy claims, even when flaws in those works have already been publicly explained. In doing so, the report makes claims that are not supported, and in fact sometimes contradicted, by evidence in the sources it cites.

The report provides a textbook case of echo-chamber advocacy. Professor Lubienski concludes that it offers nothing useful in furthering our understanding of school vouchers.

Find the review, by Christopher Lubienski, at:
http://greatlakescenter.org/docs/Think_Twice/TT-Lubienski-Voucher-Myth.pdf

Find 12 Myths and Realities about Private Educational Choice Programs, edited by Tim Keller and published by the Institute for Justice, at:
https://ij.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/school-choice-myths-and-realities-2nd-PRINTING-FINAL.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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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/

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