Archive for the 'Research' Category

9th 2016
ESSA, Accountability, and High-Achieving Students

Posted under Accountability & Every Student Succeeds Act & Federal Government & Research & Student Achievement

Happy Friday, fellow policy explorers. I usually try to let you off easy on Friday afternoons when it comes to policy discussions, but this week’s ridiculous distractions in Douglas County forced me to push back a post I’ve been meaning to do for a while about ESSA and how it relates to high-performing students. With the next ESSA Hub Committee meeting scheduled for this coming Monday, it seems appropriate to talk about that interesting issue sooner rather than later. Plus, there’s no such thing as a bad day for policy discussions!

A big focus of the ESSA conversation has been on accountability systems. What will we measure? For whom? How? When? What about weights? In Colorado, we just had a major conversation about the notion of combined subgroups and what they might mean for accountability systems.

All these discussions tend to revolve around how we best help lower-performing kids, schools, and districts. And don’t get me wrong, that’s an incredibly important question for those of us who view education as an opportunity to provide every kid with a chance at a fair fight and an opportunity to build his or her own success story.

But what about the other side of the spectrum? What about our highest-performing students? Is there an opportunity in ESSA to incentivize more attention on those students? The Fordham Institute seems to think so based on a recent report entitled “High Stakes for High Achievers: State Accountability in the Age of ESSA.” Continue Reading »

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19th 2016
Louisiana’s Lesson: Attacking Private School Choice Hurts Public School Districts

Posted under Educational Choice & Research & School Finance & Vouchers

Buckle up, friends. We’re heading back to Louisiana for today’s post. Figuratively, of course—Louisiana isn’t exactly somewhere I’d like to be in person right now. Here’s hoping everyone stays safe down there.

The good news is that we get to remain dry (literally and figuratively) in our chairs and take a look at yet more research related to educational choice in Louisiana, this time on the financial consequences of scaling back the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP). Those who argue that private school choice sucks money out of public education may want to brace themselves; today’s post may cause severe damage to their inaccurate worldview. Continue Reading »

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18th 2016
New School Year, New Assessment Data

Posted under Colorado Department of Education & Grades and Standards & Research & Testing

As I mentioned last week, it’s back-to-school season in Colorado. As it turns out, it’s also get-your-test-scores-back season. Yes, that’s right. We have a whole raft of new data to dissect and discuss. Hooray!

I see you looking at your calendar, and I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t students take these tests like, last spring? Well, yes. Yes, they did. And you’re not the only one who finds the delay perplexing. As it turns out, that reporting lag causes some major problems for local school and district leaders looking to make adjustments for the new academic year. To make matters worse, the recently released PARCC scores only cover state-level data. That means district- and school-level data in English language arts and mathematics won’t be available until later this month.

In fairness, releasing the scores in August is significantly better than releasing them in, say, November. And I should mention that scores from the older TCAP tests were also released in August. Still, one of the promises of computer-based online testing was that it would get valuable data into the hands of educators faster. That simply hasn’t happened. Maybe the delay has something to do with the fact that 2015 testing compromise legislation added the option of taking a paper-and-pencil version of the test, but I’m not sure that explanation will do much to bolster support for the faltering PARCC assessments.

But we can save a discussion on the merits of PARCC itself for another time. We have data to look at, including data from Colorado’s own CMAS tests in social studies and science and from the venerable ACT. Continue Reading »

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10th 2016
CO Charter Schools Knocking It Out of the Park in Latest Report

Posted under Colorado Department of Education & Public Charter Schools & Research

It’s back-to-school season in Colorado. Some kiddos started class today, and many more will be hitting the books again over the next couple of weeks. By the time August is over, most of Colorado’s 900,000 PK-12 students will be back to learning and growing in the state’s public school system.

Well north of 100,000 of these students will be heading back to public charter schools. And as my policy friend Ross Izard points out in a recent column, that’s a pretty good place to be. Continue Reading »


28th 2016
Studies Bring Bad News for Vouchers… With Lots of Caveats

Posted under Educational Choice & Research & Vouchers

We’ve covered quite a bit of positive research regarding private school choice in recent months. Back in May, I wrote about a meta-study by researchers at the University of Arkansas that found positive effects from vouchers in the U.S. and a couple of other countries. The following month, we dug into the Friedman Foundation’s latest review of random-assignment studies on private school choice programs in the United States. Fourteen of the 18 studies included in that review found positive effects for at least some groups of students. Two found no visible effects, and two more—both from Louisiana—found significant negative effects.

As I’ve said before, there are good reasons to believe that program design and implementation issues played a role in the negative findings in Louisiana. Now, though, I’m sorry to report that I’ve become aware of less easily explained bad news on voucher programs in Ohio and Indiana. But don’t fret just yet; there are some major caveats that need to be considered before we start jumping to broad conclusions. Buckle up, today’s post will be a long and nerdy one.

Continue Reading »


15th 2016
New Report Reviews Research on Educational Choice

Posted under Education Savings Accounts & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

I know this isn’t a “cool” thing to say, but I get really excited about new research. I eat up statistical analyses like most people eat donuts (I eat those, as well). But do you know what is way more exciting than a single new study on a fascinating education topic? A review of a whole bunch of tasty research.

Enter the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice’s new edition of “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice.” Written by Dr. Greg Forster, these reports are a great way to stay up to date with the latest research on educational choice. The last report was published in 2013, so this new edition brings a bunch of new information to the table. Continue Reading »

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13th 2016
New Study Studies Studies on School Choice

Posted under Private Schools & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

Well, friends, the 2016 legislative session is officially a done deal. I’ll have an official wrap-up (autopsy?) for you next week, but for now we can all breathe a little easier knowing that the crush of state-level education politics will recede for the most part until the fall. That leaves plenty of time to nerd it up, and nerd it up we shall.

Let’s get the policy party started today with a new study out of the University of Arkansas’s Department of Education Reform. Written by M. Danish Shakeel, Kaitlin P. Anderson, and Patrick J. Wolf, the study takes a look at the effects of private school choice programs around the world. Or, rather, the study looks at studies on the effects of private school choice programs around the world. That makes it a “meta-study.” Today’s lesson in impenetrable academic jargon: Studying studies yields meta-studies. You’re welcome.

Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: I have a love-hate relationship with meta-studies. On one hand, comprehensive examinations of previous research are enormously valuable for those of us who swim in policy waters. On the other hand, they can easily fall victim to cherry picking, or the tendency to pick only studies that agree with whatever point you want to make. Then you have the issue of ensuring that the studies you are studying with your meta-study are actually decent—a question that often leads to screening processes that can, once again, easily fall victim to bias. That’s why you so often see meta-studies on the same subject reaching entirely different conclusions.

As a matter of fact, this particular meta-study is largely intended to correct what the researchers see as flaws in previous reviews of school choice research. Continue Reading »


10th 2016
New Study Examines Impacts of Evaluation Reform Across America, Findings Decidedly Unscary

Posted under Accountability & Research & Teachers & Testing & Union

You know that feeling you had when you were a kid and you got a new book? The excited rush to rip it open and start devouring it? Well, I’m that way with educational research. Some folks might say that makes me a “nerd.” Those folks would be right. Today I proudly embrace my nerdiness and present: Little Eddie’s Thursday Research Roundup.

Okay, “roundup” is probably overselling it a little. I actually just want to talk a single new study on teacher evaluation reform in America. The study, conducted by Matthew Kraft of Brown University and Allison Gilmour of Vanderbilt University, takes a look at the effects of evaluation reform on teacher effectiveness ratings in 19 states across the country. It also digs into the issue a little deeper with surveys and interviews in a large urban school district. Continue Reading »


11th 2016
Winning By Losing: New ECCI Ratings Raise Some Interesting Questions

Posted under Accountability & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

As you probably guessed from the long absence after my last post about two abominable “snowbills,” I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in the shiny hallways of the Colorado Capitol talking about the importance of choice and accountability.

Today, I’d like to take a break from politics and get back to policy. We’re going to do that by taking a look at the new Education Choice and Competition Index ratings from the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Everybody likes ratings, right?

I’d bet the folks at Denver Public Schools are especially fond of ratings these days. Why? Well, because they sort of won. First, they took third place in a Fordham Institute analysis of America’s best cities for choice. And last week, Denver was revealed to be the highest-scoring large district in Brookings’ 2015 ECCI report—a pretty significant improvement from the district’s fifth-place finish in last year’s report. It was also the second-best district overall, surpassed only by New Orleans. In fact, it only lost out to the pretty awesome “Recovery District” by a single point (81-80) on Brookings’ 100-point scale.

First off, congratulations Denver! Woot! Please conduct the obligatory victory dance now. I’ll wait.

With that out the way, we have to do a little nerding (nope, not a word) and dig into the info. That’s what we do here, after all. Brace yourselves, there be math ahead.  Continue Reading »

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15th 2016
New Study on LA Voucher Program Holds Important Lessons for Choice Advocates

Posted under Accountability & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

Welcome back, fellow policy explorers. I apologize for my absence these past few days, but the start of the 2016 legislative session and other pressing edu-business issues have kept me away from my keyboard this week. We’re back to work today, and will be looking at some new school choice research out of Louisiana.

First, a bit of bad news. We can no longer say no random-assignment study has ever found that private school choice programs have a negative effect on students. Until recently, there had been 12 random-assignment studies on the topic, of which six found positive impacts for all students, five found positive impacts for some students and not for others, and one found no visible effect.

Enter unlucky number 13. A working paper recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research examined the effects of the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), which provides vouchers for lower-income kids attending public schools with a C, D, or F grade under the state’s evaluation system. Started in 2008, the program was initially limited to just New Orleans—a place that many of you know I happen to see as something of a proof point in the reform conversation. The program went statewide in 2012, and now serves about 7,100 kids.

Because the LSP uses a lottery system to award vouchers at schools with more applicants than available seats, the researchers were able to easily compare randomly assigned (thus, “random-assignment”) voucher recipients and non-recipients in the program’s first statewide year. I’ll let you work your way through the full paper and its methodology on your own if you are so inclined. For now, we’ll settle for a snippet from the abstract:

This comparison reveals that LSP participation substantially reduces academic achievement. Attendance at an LSP-eligible private school lowers math scores by 0.4 standard deviations and increases the likelihood of a failing score by 50 percent. Voucher effects for reading, science and social studies are also negative and large. The negative impacts of vouchers are consistent across income groups, geographic areas, and private school characteristics, and are larger for younger children. Continue Reading »


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