Virtual School Meanderings

January 18, 2017

News from the NEPC: Public Education, Democracy, and the Role of the Federal Government: A Declaration of Principles

Also from last week’s inbox…

Education deans nationwide release Declaration of Principles calling on Congress and the Trump Administration to advance democratic values in America’s public schools.
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Public Education, Democracy, and the Role of the Federal Government: A Declaration of Principles

Key Takeaway: Education deans nationwide release Declaration of Principles calling on Congress and the Trump Administration to advance democratic values in America’s public schools.

Contact:

BOULDER, CO (January 13, 2017) – As the nation watches this month’s transition to a new administration and a new Congress, a growing alliance of deans of colleges and schools of education across the country is urging a fundamental reconsideration of the problems and possibilities that surround America’s public schools.

In a Declaration of Principles released today, 175 deans sounded the alarm: “Our children suffer when we deny that educational inequities exist and when we refuse to invest sufficient time, resources, and effort toward holistic and systemic solutions. The U.S. educational system is plagued with oversimplified policies and reform initiatives that were developed and imposed without support of a compelling body of rigorous research, or even with a track record of failure.” The deans called upon federal leaders to forge a new path forward by:

  • Upholding the role of public schools as a central institution in the strengthening of our democracy;
  • Protecting the human and civil rights of all children and youth, especially those from historically marginalized communities;
  • Developing and implementing policies, laws, and reform initiatives by building on a democratic vision for public education and on sound educational research; and
  • Supporting and partnering with colleges and schools of education to advance these goals.

Signing the statement are current and former deans of colleges and schools of education from across the United States, as well as chairs of education departments in institutions with no separate school of education.

The statement was authored by Education Deans for Justice and Equity (EDJE) and prepared in partnership with the National Education Policy Center. EDJE was formed in 2016 as an alliance of deans to address inequities and injustices in education while promoting its democratic premises through policy, research, and practice.

The entire Declaration of Principles by Education Deans for Justice and Equity on Public Education, Democracy, and the Role of the Federal Government, as well as an online form for additional education deans to sign on, can be found on the NEPC website at http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/deans-declaration-of-principles.

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.

January 16, 2017

News from the NEPC: ESSA Report about Evidence-Based Reform Lacks Evidence and Specifics

I know that today is a holiday, but I have entries lined up for half of the week already.  So this will likely be a busy blogging week (and I’m just getting an early start to it).

Methodologically weak report raises important issues but leaves practical and important work undone in examining ESSA’s evidence-based school improvement practices.
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ESSA Report about Evidence-Based Reform Lacks Evidence and Specifics

Key Review Takeaway: Methodologically weak report raises important issues but leaves practical and important work undone in examining ESSA’s evidence-based school improvement practices.

Contact:

BOULDER, CO (January 12, 2017) – A recent report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Knowledge Alliance focuses on the evidence-based research provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Although the report underscores the significant challenges facing state education agencies in the current policy climate, the advice provided to guide policymakers and practitioners is too thin and unsubstantiated to be of much use.

Assistant Professor Terri S. Wilson of the University of Colorado Boulder reviewed Better Evidence, Better Choices, Better Schools: State Supports for Evidence-Based School Improvement and the Every Student Succeeds Act for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at CU Boulder’s School of Education.

The CAP report aims to provide guidance for the state and local education agencies now tasked with implementing evidence-based school improvement practices. The new ESSA provisions ask districts and schools to consider various sources of evidence, make judgments about the strength and reliability of that evidence, and use that evidence to justify their choices of interventions. The report contrasts these new standards with the scientifically based research requirements featured in previous federal legislation. It argues that the move from federal mandates to greater state and local autonomy is a positive change but also poses new challenges.

Though helpful in framing the challenges, the report’s general recommendations for implementing evidence-based reform strategies remain relatively vague, and these recommendations are grounded in neither the existing research literature nor the empirical study featured in the report. The broad idea of evidence-based policy is an easy thing to agree about, but Professor Wilson explains that the more difficult questions involve what counts as evidence and who is able (and authorized) to determine what kinds of evidence are most relevant to local contexts.

Professor Wilson concludes, therefore, that while the CAP report raises a number of important issues, it leaves these more difficult questions unexplored.

Find Professor Wilson’s review at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-CAP

Find Better Evidence, Better Choices, Better Schools: State Supports for Evidence-Based School Improvement and the Every Student Succeeds Act, by Steve Fleischman, Caitlin Scott & Scott Sargrad, published by the Center for American Progress and the Knowledge Alliance, at:
https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/30141500/EvidenceESSA-report.pdf

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.

January 5, 2017

News from the NEPC: University of Arkansas Researchers Recycle Debunked Voucher Claims Regarding Crime Reduction

From yesterday’s inbox…  Those familiar with the Walton bought and paid for department at Arkansas shouldn’t be surprised by this!

Report uses unwarranted causal language throughout, while cheerleading for “Education Savings Account” legislation.
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University of Arkansas Researchers Recycle Debunked Voucher Claims Regarding Crime Reduction

Key Takeaway: Report uses unwarranted causal language throughout, while cheerleading for “Education Savings Account” legislation.

Contact:

BOULDER, CO (January 4, 2017) – A new report from the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform claims that Texas voucher legislation would reduce crime and thereby save the state a cumulative $194 million by the end of 2035. This claim is not warranted and has, in fact, already been discredited.

The report’s calculations arise from another University of Arkansas analysis, by the same authors. The Arkansas researchers had argued that some subgroups of voucher-receiving students in Milwaukee, Wisconsin were less likely to commit crimes as adults. That earlier analysis was reviewed in April 2016 by Clive Belfield, Professor of Economics at Queens College, City University of New York.

There exist multiple errors and limitations in the two Arkansas analyses, but perhaps the most important are the poorly grounded claims regarding causation. As Professor Belfield explained, no causal inferences can be drawn from the type of data and analyses used by the researchers. This means that the researchers cannot responsibly make claims about “results” and “impacts”, as they do in their Texas report.

Professor Belfield observed that, far from establishing a causal relationship between voucher program participation and a reduction in criminal behavior, the Arkansas researchers had not even established meaningful and consistent correlations. As Belfield pointed out, one valid interpretation of the data and analyses presented in the earlier report is that vouchers and crime are, in fact, not correlated.

Instead of engaging with Professor Belfield’s critique of their Milwaukee report, the Arkansas authors used the unconvincing results of that study, plugged in crime numbers from Texas, and estimated that if that state’s legislators were to create a type of voucher program called “Education Savings Accounts” they would (19 years from now) have, in the aggregate, saved their state almost two-hundred million dollars.

“This is a textbook example of garbage-in, garbage-out,” said Professor Kevin Welner of the University of Colorado Boulder, who directs the National Education Policy Center. “A figure derived from a study that does not allow for causal inference cannot then be brought back from the dead and magically support a causal inference in another study six months later. This sort of zombie causation could not possibly be of use to lawmakers looking for trustworthy information.”

Find Professor Belfield’s review on the web at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-school-choice

Find the recent Arkansas report on the web at:
http://www.uaedreform.org/whether-to-approve-an-education-savings-account-program-in-texas-preventing-crime-does-pay/

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.

December 20, 2016

News from the NEPC: Report Represents False Choice Between Integration and High-Quality Schools

From yesterday’s inbox…

Selective review and interpretation of the literature on race and poverty limits report’s utility for policymakers.
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Report Represents False Choice Between Integration and High-Quality Schools

Key Review Takeaway: Selective review and interpretation of the literature on race and poverty limits report’s utility for policymakers.

Contact:

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Erica Frankenberg: (814) 865-5862, euf10@psu.edu

BOULDER, CO (December 19, 2016) – A recent report from the Brookings Institution assumes a tension between policies that address school segregation and policies aimed at improving achievement for students of color. The report argues that school segregation has remained flat for decades and also argues that students of color have lower achievement because of their disproportionate exposure to low-income students. Instead of attending to school segregation to address achievement gaps, the report argues policy should attend to improving the quality of schools that students of color and low-income students attend, with a focus on expanding urban charter schools in particular.

Erica Frankenberg, associate professor of education and demography at the Pennsylvania State University, and co-director of the Center for Education and Civil Rights, reviewed Segregation, Race, and Charter Schools: What Do We Know?  for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at CU Boulder’s School of Education.

Professor Frankenberg’s review finds that the report omits significant research directly related to the topic and includes other studies that are less relevant. Moreover, the report draws questionable conclusions from studies that are included—conclusions that are not reflective of the research consensus.

Frankenberg notes that issues of racial equity and segregation have gained renewed interest in recent years, but she finds that the new Brookings report has little policy value. “This report is more a distraction than a contribution,” she cautions.

The report’s selective interpretation of existing research leads to two erroneous conclusions about improving educational outcomes for students of color: (1) that focusing on school integration is relatively unimportant; and (2) that attending to school quality via school choice, rather than addressing the complex array of policies to combat racial segregation, should instead be pursued. In fact, Frankenberg points out, “since most forms of school choice further segregation, the report’s recommendation will likely only further segregation and inequality for students.”

Find Erica Frankenberg’s review at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-segregation

Find Segregation, Race, and Charter Schools: What Do We Know? by Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Richard V. Reeves, & Edward Rodrigue, published by the Center on Children and Families at Brookings, at:
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/ccf_20161021segregation_version-10_211.pdf

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 © 2016 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

November 18, 2016

News from the NEPC: ESSA: Learning from the Past

The second in a series being released by the NEPC this week…

In order for ESSA to achieve significant equity-minded improvements, state-level policymakers must be willing to significantly depart from NCLB practices and norms.
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ESSA: Learning from the Past

Key Takeaway: In order for ESSA to achieve significant equity-minded improvements, state-level policymakers must be willing to significantly depart from NCLB practices and norms.

Contact:

BOULDER, CO (November 17, 2016) – Motivated out of strong concerns about the shortcomings and federal overreach of the No Child Left Behind law, supporters of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) enthusiastically embraced it as a suitable replacement. Yet, the new legislation maintains a predominately test-based accountability system with a federal mandate for interventions in well over five thousand public schools every year.

In a brief released today, Lessons from NCLB for the Every Student Succeeds Act, William J. Mathis of the University of Colorado Boulder and Tina Trujillo of the University of California Berkeley draw primarily from their book, Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act, to offer recommendations on how states and districts can most effectively implement the statute.

The brief comes at a key moment in our national affairs. In light of the recent election results, it is imperative that education agencies understand what evidence-based strategies they can use to preserve the institution of public education, and to limit efforts to privatize elements of their systems. This brief details how policymakers can do that.

ESSA continues to disaggregate data by race, wealth, English learner status, and special needs status (and adds new sub-groups), but the law and the anticipated appropriations show little promise of remedying the systemic under-resourcing of needy students. That is, the focus remains on measuring and holding accountable, as opposed to providing the resources needed to close opportunity gaps. Students’ opportunities to learn inside and outside of schools depend on addressing the economic bifurcation in the nation and in the schools.

Mathis and Trujillo offer more than a dozen comprehensive recommendations for state policymakers on both broad and focused implementation issues. Here are five of the most significant:

  • Above all else, each state must ensure that students have adequate opportunities, funding and resources to achieve state goals. Funds must be available in an equitable manner and must be sufficient to meet students’ needs. Schools and school personnel must not be evaluated on elements where they are denied the resources and supports they need to be successful.
  • Under ESSA, school performance will now be measured using a system that incorporates one or more non-academic indicators—chosen separately by each state. These non-academic indicators provide states their strongest new tool for maximizing educational equity and opportunity and bringing attention to the nation’s broader educational purposes.
  • States and districts must collaborate with social service and labor departments to ensure adequate personal, social and economic opportunities. Without a livable wage and adequate support services, social problems will be manifest in the schools. Public and private schools must adopt assignment policies and practices that ensure integration and that disperse pockets of poverty.
  • Charter schools should not be expanded, and state caps on their approval should be reduced. On average, charter schools do not perform at higher levels than public schools, yet they segregate, remain prone to fiscal mismanagement, and often have opaque management and accountability.
  • States should establish, develop, train and implement school visitation teams that address both quantitative and qualitative factors. Sites most in need of improvement should be prioritized. Standardized test scores can be validly used to establish initial priorities.

Find Lessons from NCLB for the Every Student Succeeds Act, by William J. Mathis and Tina M. Trujillo, on the web at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/lessons-from-NCLB

Find the book Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms, by William J. Mathis and Tina M. Trujillo, at http://www.infoagepub.com/products/Learning-from-the-Federal-Market%E2%80%90Based-Reforms

When ordering the book, use discount code LFMBR 30350.

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 © 2016 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.
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