Virtual School Meanderings

September 2, 2015

News From The NEPC: Charter School Program Diversity Unproven

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Research and analysis to inform education policy
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Charter School Program Diversity Unproven

Report’s claims find little support in evidence

Contact:

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

Arnold Danzig, (408) 924-3722,arnold.danzig@sjsu.edu

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/pxcyrxg

BOULDER, CO (September 1, 2015) — Program diversity has long been touted as an advantage of charter schooling. In a recent American Enterprise Institute report, authors Michael McShane and Jenn Hatfield advocate for the expansion and deregulation of charter schools on the basis that they provide greater variety and are more responsive to parental desires. The report, however, comes up short in providing evidence of greater program diversity or of over-regulation.

Arnold Danzig and William J. Mathis reviewedMeasuring Diversity in Charter School Offeringsfor the Think Twice think tank review project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

By examining charter school websites, the report finds schools evenly split between Specialized (e.g., “no excuses” or STEM) and General. It finds small to moderate correlations between city demographics and certain types of charters but also finds that specialized schools tend to morph into homogenized general schools. In relying on the schools’ own websites, the authors admit that coding schools in this manner can be error-prone, yet no accuracy check of the data is used.

The reviewers found several additional weaknesses with the report. It claims the superior program diversity of charters but fails to empirically compare charter offerings with those of traditional public schools. It claims that charter schools are hampered by red tape, but again offers no evidence.

The correlations between charters and city demographics are based on only a sample of 17 cities, which provide a weak base for supporting the report’s conclusions. There are minimal citations, mostly to charter school advocacy organizations.

The reviewers conclude that the report is an advocacy piece with methodology problems that “render the report of little validity or utility.”

Find Danzig and Mathis’s review on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-charter-diversity
Find Measuring Diversity in Charter School Offerings, by Michael Q. McShane and Jenn Hatfield,  on the web at:
http://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Measuring-Diversity-in-Charter-School-Offerings.pdf

The Think Twice think tank review project (http://thinktankreview.org) of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. The Think Twice think tank review project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information on the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.

This review is also found on the GLC website athttp://www.greatlakescenter.org/.


The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Its mission is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information about the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.


 

Copyright © 2015 National Education Policy Center, All rights reserved.
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Boulder, CO 80309-0249

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National Education Policy Center · School of Education, 249 UCB · University of Colorado · Boulder, CO 80309-0249 · USA

July 14, 2015

News from the NEPC: New Orleans Recovery School District Not Quite as Recovered as Advertised

From yesterday’s inbox…

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New Orleans Recovery School District Not Quite as Recovered as Advertised

Higher test scores may come at a steep price

Contacts: 
William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058wmathis@sover.net
Huriya Jabbar, (512) 475-8586jabbar@austin.utexas.edu
Mark Gooden, (512) 475-8574gooden@austin.utexas.edu

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/p5ecoc5
Boulder CO (July 13, 2015) – This year marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,800 people. The tragic events exposed many Americans to the class and racial inequities in New Orleans––failed levees, an inadequate evacuation plan, and a paralyzed federal response. The pre-Katrina injustices also included a massive opportunity gap that resulted in large achievement gaps for New Orleans’ children.

Following this tragedy, an extraordinary experiment in market-driven governance of public schools was imposed on the city. On this anniversary, advocacy groups and think tanks have issued numerous reports touting the claimed success of the New Orleans model, pointing to test scores that are higher than those before Katrina, and championing its export to other disadvantaged communities.

Past claims put forward by these groups have rarely been supported by rigorous, objective research. In fact, independent researchers have disputed these claims, arguing that the massive out-migration of students may have resulted in inflated scores for those remaining. Other scholars have noted that the test standards were changed and the gains were exaggerated.

“Recently, the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, an organization at Tulane University dedicated to objective analysis of the New Orleans reforms, shared preliminary results from a study that reported meaningfully higher test scores following the post-Katrina reforms, even after accounting for population changes,” said Professor Huriya Jabbar, who has studied the New Orleans reforms. “However, the authors also report that the gains were not equal across groups: white students gained more than black students from the reforms.

“Furthermore, researchers have not yet determined which features of the reforms were successful (e.g., autonomy, teacher labor market reforms, and increased resources, including the influx of private philanthropic funds), as well as the role of other citywide changes in housing and employment.”

Moreover, groups of students, parents, and community members remain skeptical of the reform movement and have raised concerns that the new school system remains inequitable. For example, students and parents have raised concerns with some charter schools that have been unresponsive to students and too harsh in their disciplinary policies. After years of complaints lodged by parents about the treatment of students with special needs in the charter system, including physical and emotional abuse and “counseling out,” the parties settled a lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, acknowledging these grievances and requiring independent monitoring and auditing of charter schools’ special education services. According to news reports, the decentralized, fragmented school system in New Orleans has also been particularly unprepared to serve the growing percentages of English Language Learners in the city.

Further, within the choice system family income exerts a strong influence. A recent study found that low-income families make schooling decisions differently than affluent families. Low-income families are much more constrained in their choices because of practical considerations such as after-school care and distance, and therefore measured academic outcomes play a smaller role their decisions.

Schools have also engaged in behaviors that constrain parents’ choices. A recent study revealed that school leaders in New Orleans, facing the combined pressure of recruiting more students and raising test scores, cream-skimmed the more affluent or high-achieving students through, for example, selective advertising and recruitment.

Mass layoffs that occurred after Katrina dramatically changed the composition of the teaching force. Recent reports have confirmed that there was a large reduction in the percentage of black teachers, from 70% African American to about 50%. The number of teachers with more than 10 years of experience also fell from about 50% to 30%. The long-term effects of these staffing changes on student outcomes and on the New Orleans community more broadly are still unclear, but these patterns have deepened longstanding local concerns about the racial make-up (overwhelmingly White) of the reform leaders.

There are also political implications of the education reforms. The state-run Recovery School District (RSD) now operates more than 70 percent of New Orleans schools, formerly run by the locally elected school board. Voters in New Orleans have lost control over the majority of their public schools, and have almost no say in whether they will get those schools back.

Despite advocates’ arguments that the post-Katrina reforms “hand power back” to local actors, parents and community members are concerned about their inability to participate in school decisions, the diminished local control, and the lack of transparency. Charter-school boards have been criticized for violating open-meetings laws, and the public does not elect charter board members, even though these boards hold authority over publicly funded schools. Indeed, in some cases, these boards have voted against the recommendations of school leaders, teachers, and parents in the charter network. Some local leaders and parents want to return to local control, in which the majority black voting population would elect board members to oversee the city’s traditional as well as charter schools.

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent reforms, there remain more questions than answers. Even if the reforms implemented under such a hyper-politicized arrangement show some clear gains in student achievement, as seems to be the case, it is important to attend to the serious equity concerns that remain in the system, and to examine other outcomes, beyond test scores. The preliminary evidence, from a combination of news reports and research studies, suggests that the New Orleans reforms disproportionately benefit more advantaged students, relative to the most at-risk and under-served students. In light of these concerns, there is a need for more research that systematically examines whether the reforms have truly altered the structure of opportunities for students who are low-income, of color, English Language Learners, or have disabilities. Given the additional resources and the unique New Orleans experience, there are also questions about how sustainable and replicable the New Orleans model is, even though many cities are adopting similar reforms.

It is also important to ask how much local, democratic oversight the public is willing, or should be willing, to trade for somewhat higher test scores. In New Orleans, as well as in many other cities and states seeking to adopt a “recovery” or “portfolio” model, policymakers should ensure that the temporary turnaround measures do not permanently disenfranchise local actors.

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.
Please forward this to anyone you think might be interested. You can learn more about NEPC and sign up for publication updates by visitinghttp://nepc.colorado.edu/. To learn more about the Think Twice think tank review project, visit http://thinktankreview.org.

 
If you wish to unsubscribe from this list or to update your profile, see the links below.

This email was sent to mkbarbour@gmail.com
National Education Policy Center · School of Education, 249 UCB · University of Colorado · Boulder, CO 80309-0249 · USA

June 17, 2015

News From The NEPC: Reviewed Ohio Study Suggests Possible Benefits of School Closure on Test Scores

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and promote democratic deliberation
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Reviewed Ohio Study Suggests Possible Benefits of School Closure on Test Scores

Despite encouraging results, concerns limit study’s application

 

Contact:

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

Ben Kirshner, (303) 492-6122, kirshner@colorado.edu

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/o6b6fq6BOULDER, CO (June 15, 2015) – A recent report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute investigated school closures in Ohio for urban district and charter schools. The report found a general increase in the test scores of displaced students. An academic review of the report finds that, despite the encouraging results, they leave un-addressed core questions about closure policy.The report, School Closures and Student Achievement: An Analysis of Ohio’s Urban District and Charter Schools, was authored by Deven Carlson and Stéphane Lavertu. It was reviewed for the Think Twice think tank review project by Professor Ben Kirshner of University of Colorado Boulder and Matthew Gaertner a senior research scientist at Pearson’s Research and Innovation Network. Think Twice is a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the CU Boulder School of Education.

The Fordham report found that students displaced from closed district schools showed greater gains in math and reading relative to students from non-closed schools, after controlling for student characteristics; students displaced from closed charter schools showed gains in math but not reading. Achievement gains associated with closure were greater for those displaced students who transferred to schools with higher levels of test performance (“higher-performing schools”). The overall achievement growth of students in the receiving schools, however, decreased in the year that they accommodated displaced students.

Although the finding that displaced students showed improvement in test scores is encouraging, several factors limit the policy implications of the study. The report itself cautions that the potential for test score gains is dependent on the availability of higher-performing schools for displaced students, a condition that was only partly met in the Ohio case and is not assured in other major urban districts. Forty percent of students in closed schools transferred to schools that were not higher performing; the study did not separately report the academic performance of this sub-population of students. School closure also raises moral and political questions about who gets to make such consequential decisions, which are not answered by empirical data alone.

The reviewers conclude that the report offers some guidance for policy, though they offer four cautions. First, the study suggests benefits only if higher-quality receiving schools are available. Second, nearby schooling options must be accompanied by a guarantee of reliable transportation options. Third, understanding whether the closure resulted in students attending a truly better school requires looking at more than just test scores.

Finally, the nature of the closed and receiving schools in the Fordham study suggests that closure may have resulted in students leaving schools with relatively greater concentrated poverty and racial isolation and then attending more economically and racially integrated schools. This alternative explanation, which would suggest policy implications for reducing segregation and poverty, was not explored in the study. If integration is the goal, then surely there are other strategies than the blunt instrument of school closure.

The reviewers stress that “until people’s fundamental moral right to be part of decisions that affect their children’s lives are taken seriously, discussions about changes in test score performance are important but insufficient.”

Find  Review of School Closures and Student Achievement  by Kirshner and Gaertner on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
thinktank/review-school-closures
.The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information on NEPC, please visit
http://nepc.colorado.edu/.
This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (greatlakescenter.org).

If you are not already subscribed to this newsletter and would like to receive it regularly, click
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
and then click the button in the upper right-hand corner that looks like this: 


The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Its mission is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information about the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.


 

Copyright © 2015 National Education Policy Center, All rights reserved.
You’re receiving this email because you have opted in at our website or sent a personal request to be included. Thank you.
Our mailing address is:

National Education Policy Center

School of Education, 249 UCB
University of Colorado

Boulder, CO  80309-0249

Add us to your address book

For all other communication with NEPC, write to nepc@colorado.edu.
This email was sent to mkbarbour@gmail.com
National Education Policy Center · School of Education, 249 UCB · University of Colorado · Boulder, CO 80309-0249 · USA

June 11, 2015

News from the NEPC: Have the Vergara Plaintiffs Unwittingly Helped Their Reform Adversaries?

From Tuesday’s inbox…

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Have the Vergara Plaintiffs Unwittingly Helped Their Reform Adversaries?

Contact:
Kevin Welner: welner@colorado.edu; (303) 492-8370
William J. Mathis: wmathis@sover.net; (802) 383-0058

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/ppjo6rw
Boulder, CO (June 9, 2015) – The California Court of Appeals is currently considering arguments about whether the uphold or reverse the trial court decision in Vergara v. State of California, which declared unconstitutional a set of state statutes that provide teachers with due process protections, seniority-based layoffs, and a two-year review period before a tenure decision. Yet a new law review article contends that the Vergara plaintiffs, in their eagerness to take on teachers, may be inviting litigation by those with rival goals for school policy and reform.

When the Vergara decision was first handed down last August, it was met with celebration among advocates who see a need to boost the process of teacher dismissal, particularly dismissal of teachers with low results derived from value-added models of gains in students’ standardized test scores. These accountability-focused reformers have been engaged in a pitched battle with a very different set of reformers, who argue for enriched learning opportunities and more resources for students.

Kevin Welner contends in the new article, titled Silver Linings Casebook: How Vergara’s Backers May Lose by Winning, that Vergara’s advocates of test-based accountability and easier teacher dismissal may be unwittingly setting the legal table for those who seek student resources and opportunities.

Welner is an attorney and professor of education policy at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, where he also directs the National Education Policy Center. Although he is critical of legal and factual reasoning in the trial court’s written opinion, he contends that the legal rule as outlined and applied by the trial court judge would – if embraced by the appellate court – open the door for considerable progress by a wide variety of education rights litigants.

Among other possibilities, Welner points to litigation challenging (a) tracking systems that ration college-prep classes, (b) disparities in working conditions between teachers in wealthier and in lower-income communities, (c) laws and policies that result in inequities in class size, (d) access to high-quality preschool, (e) grade retention, (f) exclusionary discipline, (g) access to enriched and engaging curriculum, (h) transportation, (i) buildings and facilities, (j) funding formulas, (k) access to and use of technology, (l) testing and accountability policies, and (m) school choice policies.

“The Vergara case itself may be poorly targeted, but there are plenty of worthy targets roaming in the fields,” said Welner.

His article, titled, Silver Linings Casebook: How Vergara’s Backers May Lose by Winning, is published in the Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class available at http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/silver-linings-casebook and at http://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1243&context=rrgc.

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.
Please forward this to anyone you think might be interested. You can learn more about NEPC and sign up for publication updates by visiting http://nepc.colorado.edu/. To learn more about the Think Twice think tank review project, visit http://thinktankreview.org.

 
If you wish to unsubscribe from this list or to update your profile, see the links below.

This email was sent to mkbarbour@gmail.com
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National Education Policy Center · School of Education, 249 UCB · University of Colorado · Boulder, CO 80309-0249 · USA

June 10, 2015

News From The NEPC: Testing, Students With Disabilities, And Causal Confusion

From Monday’s inbox…

Research and analysis to inform education policy
and promote democratic deliberation
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Testing, Students with Disabilities, and Causal Confusion

Report wrongly ties test-based accountability policies to better student outcomes
 

Contact:

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

Edward Fierros, (610) 519-6969,edward.fierros@villanova.edu

URL for this press release:BOULDER, CO (June 8, 2015) — A recent report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) claims that the quality of education for students with disabilities has improved and that stringent accountability measures are somehow behind those improvements. Yet a review published today explains that, while some student outcomes have improved, the report’s data and analyses are far too weak to provide any causal evidence.

Edward G. Fierros and Katherine Cosner of Villanova University reviewed ESEA Reauthorization: How We Can Build Upon No Child Left Behind’s Progress for Students with Disabilities in a Reauthorized ESEA for the Think Twice think tank review project. The CAP report was authored by Chelsea Straus. The review is published by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

Dr. Fierros is an Associate Professor and Chairperson in the Department of Education and Counseling at Villanova University. Katherine Cosner is a graduate assistant at Villanova.

As Congress considers the reauthorization of the ESEA, the new CAP report tries to convince legislators that they must continue a test-based system designed to hold students with disabilities to high standards. The argument is based on superficial comparisons—the year 2000 versus the year 2013—of NAEP performance outcomes (average NAEP scale scores), graduation rates, and dropout rates for students with disabilities.

While the report correctly states, “We cannot demonstrate causality” (p. 2), it then proceeds to strongly imply causality (i.e., that NCLB-like policies must be continued in order to sustain increases in educational outcomes for students with disabilities). Professor Fierros explains, “This report tries to have it both ways. Its entire reason for existence is to convince readers of a causal link between these policies and the improved outcomes. But it carefully includes a statement saying that it can’t do just that.”

The reviewers point out that aggregating national data over a 14-year period obscures a number of possible other interpretations and variations. There was “not a single reference to a peer reviewed or generally accepted research report” that would have provided a more complete picture of the performance of students with disabilities. Education Week’sDiploma Counts 2015 Report finds a great deal of state variation in the percentage of students with disabilities graduating with a standard diploma. Moreover, states use a variety of ways to determine what constitutes “graduating” for students with disabilities.

Because of the failure to use all available data, consider intervening variables, or utilize a more focused research approach, the report’s interpretations and conclusions are unjustified and cannot be used to advance public policy.

Find Fierros and Cosner’s review on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
thinktank/review-ESEA-reauthorization
Find ESEA Reauthorization: How We Can Build Upon No Child Left Behind’s Progress for Students with Disabilities in a Reauthorized ESEA by Chelsea Straus on the web at:
https://cdn.americanprogress.
org/wp-content/uploads/
2015/04/NCLB-Students
Disability-brief1.pdf
.

The Think Twice think tank review project (http://thinktankreview.org) of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC)provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. The Think Twice think tank review project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information on the NEPC, please visithttp://nepc.colorado.edu/.

This review is also found on the GLC website athttp://www.greatlakescenter.org/.

If you are not already subscribed to this newsletter and would like to receive it regularly, click
http://nepc.colorado.edu/
and then click the button in the upper right-hand corner that looks like this: 


The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Its mission is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information about the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.


 

Copyright © 2015 National Education Policy Center, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this message because you have opted in at our website or have asked to be added to this list. To subscribe or unsubscribe, see the links in the footer below. To communicate with NEPC about our work, use our main email address.
Our mailing address is:

National Education Policy Center

School of Education, 249 UCB
University of Colorado

Boulder, CO 80309-0249

Add us to your address book

For all other communication with NEPC, write to nepc@colorado.edu.
This email was sent to mkbarbour@gmail.com
National Education Policy Center · School of Education, 249 UCB · University of Colorado · Boulder, CO 80309-0249 · USA
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