Archive for the 'Research' Category

January
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 »

No Comments »

December
31st 2015
Little Eddie’s Look Back at 2015

Posted under Accountability & Edublogging & Education Politics & Just For Fun & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & State Legislature & Testing & Union

I can’t believe I’m already saying this, but 2015 is almost over! It’s been such a busy, exciting year that it feels like it started just yesterday. I hope all my faithful readers are getting ready to launch into a 2016 full of prosperity, happiness, and better education for Colorado kids! For now, let’s pause and take a look back at the top five most exciting edu-happenings of 2015. Continue Reading »

No Comments »

December
29th 2015
Little Eddie the Liar?

Posted under Edublogging & Just For Fun & Research & Testing

Have you ever been accused of saying something you didn’t? You know, like the time your mom thought you nodded slightly after she asked if a new dress made her look fat, but you were really just looking at a ball of fuzz on the floor? Or when someone accused you of being a data-distorting Common Core supporter when you actually aren’t?

Wait, you mean that second thing hasn’t happened to you? I guess it must just be me. We six-year-olds are always getting picked on!

I returned from Christmas break yesterday to find a trackback on a post I wrote back in October about what this year’s NAEP results do and do not mean. In that post, I chided anti-reform activists—at that point in full rhetorical tilt just days before the catastrophic November elections—for leaping to unfounded statistical conclusions about the NAEP scale score drops in math that Colorado experienced in 2015.

The trackback led me to a Breitbart article by Ze’ev Wurman, a prominent national critic of Common Core. I was initially happy to see Little Eddie’s informal work picked up by a national education writer, but that excitement evaporated when I looked a little more closely and saw this:

Even before the recent NAEP results were published, Common Core proponents urged us not to engage in what they called “misnaepery” – or, jumping to unsubstantiated conclusions based on preliminary data.

Some were reasonably cautious, others were not beyond presenting visually misleading data to prop their claim that nothing has changed (in these charts, for example, the author draws NAEP with a 50 points/grid, where 10-12 points equal a grade level; in other words, it takes 4-5 grades difference to move the chart one grid. Small wonder the NAEP charts look flat there.)

That third link—the one serving as an example of not being reasonably cautious—leads you back to my October blog post on NAEP scores, apparently concluding that I was deliberately trying to obscure the data, claim that scores didn’t change on the 2015 NAEP, and defend Common Core.

Yeah, let’s talk about that. Continue Reading »

2 Comments »

December
17th 2015
New Study Skewers the Poverty Excuse in American Education

Posted under International & Research

I’m only six years old, but even I know that poverty is a terrible thing. I see the other kids at school whose clothes have holes in them, or who can’t afford new toys like the ones I have, or who are having serious family issues unlike anything I’ve experienced. And yes, I’ve noticed that they tend to do worse in school than my friends from higher-income families.

Out in the big wide world of education policy, you won’t find anyone credible who will argue that poverty does not have a significant impact on academic achievement. For proof, all you need to do is take a look at the familiar income-related achievement gaps seen in last year’s PARCC scores, or the data illustrating these gaps on the most recent NAEP exam.

But why? Do we have an education problem, or a poverty problem? Are we talking about the chicken, or the egg?

Most of you know that I absolutely loathe the common argument that we have to fix poverty before we can fix achievement gaps. I fully reject the argument that low-income kids are liabilities who should be simply shuffled through a school system that callously shrugs its shoulders and says, in essence, “there’s nothing we can do with these kids.” And I think there’s plenty of reason to believe that effective schools—private, charter, and traditional—can help low-income kids defy the odds and build successful lives that break the malicious cycle of poverty rather than perpetuate it.

With the release of a new Education Next study on poverty and education in America, we have yet another piece of evidence contradicting the idea that the United States is experiencing a poverty crisis rather than an education crisis. Continue Reading »

No Comments »

November
19th 2015
New Research Shows Negative Union Impact on Education Outcomes

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Research & School Board & Teachers & Union

Starting discussions about the role and effects of teachers unions certainly is one way of pouring cold water on a party or social event. A lot of the topics surrounding K-12 education policy and reform can be emotionally charged.

But if you want to step back from the heated discussions and consider what the research has to say… well, frankly, there isn’t a huge record to fall back on. If you remember back a couple years (when I was still 5), I shared about a new study that purported to draw a connection between higher teacher union dues collection and lower student proficiency.

At that time, I also highlighted the only two other known pieces of quality research that spoke to the question. Back in 2007, Dr. Terry Moe from Stanford found that at the local level, restrictive collective bargaining provisions negotiated by teachers unions “has a very negative impact on academic achievement,” especially among more challenging student populations.

Then there’s the ideal state-level laboratory test case of New Mexico, which Benjamin Lindy’s analysis for the Yale Law Journal demonstrated “mixed results from union bargaining power, better SAT scores but more poor kids dropping out of high school.”

Well, a new, rigorous state-level analysis reassures us that Colorado’s education labor terrain stands us in stronger stead to help students succeed than many other states do.

Writing for Education Next, Michael Lovenheim and Alexander Willen unpack the long-term effects of states that mandate school districts give unions local bargaining monopolies. Removing other factors from the equation, the authors reach some interesting conclusions about the impacts of going to school in a “duty-to-bargain” state: Continue Reading »

1 Comment »

November
13th 2015
New PARCC Scores Are Ugly, but the Real Question Is Why

Posted under Accountability & Research & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & Testing

(An important note for today’s post before we get started: PARCC results cannot and should not be compared to previous TCAP or CSAP results. Seriously, don’t do that. Yes, I’m looking at you.)

A lot of kids my age would love to go to the park on a fine Friday like this one. I, however, feel obligated to spend some time trudging through a PARCC of a different sort today. Buckle your seatbelts for some intense nerdery.

Yesterday saw the release of Colorado’s first-ever PARCC results. For those not in the edu-loop, PARCC is Colorado’s new statewide assessment in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. It officially supplanted the TCAP last school year.

Many of you probably know that PARCC hasn’t exactly been happily embraced. A great many states have run away from it like scalded dogs (note that the number of PARCC states is now six, with D.C. tacked on for good measure) despite recent changes designed to make the test less onerous.

Given all the hubbub, saying that folks on all sides of the issue were anxiously anticipating these results would be an understatement. Unfortunately (though not unexpectedly), those results were less than flattering. I’ll let you dig through the nitty gritty numbers if you’re so inclined. For now, we’ll just hit some highlights and look at a couple of nifty charts from an excellent Chalkbeat Colorado article on yesterday’s score release. You should definitely go read that article, and this one, if you’re into charts as much as I am. You can also play around with their cool database tool if scrolling through PDFs isn’t your thing.

Chart from Chalkbeat Colorado

Chart from Chalkbeat Colorado

Continue Reading »

2 Comments »

November
12th 2015
Federal Court Voids Intrusive Anti-Choice Order, Makes Me Smile

Posted under Courts & Federal Government & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice

In the recent busy season, there hasn’t necessarily been a lot of different things to tell you about. But the coverage has been thick. And after all that — including everything from telling reformers to keep their chins up to unpacking ugly smear columns — little me is eager, practically desperate, to talk about good news and spread a little cheer.

Yesterday I ran across just such a story that made me smile. I first learned of the big judicial win for Louisiana kids from, of all places, the American Federation for Children:

“Today’s decision is a win for children, especially the more than 7,100 children who rely on the Louisiana Scholarship Program to attend a quality school of their parents’ choice,” said Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel to the American Federation for Children. “The U.S. Department of Justice attempted to play politics and was caught red handed and reprimanded by this Court.”

Bingo. What exactly is the backstory? Well, I’m glad you asked. Continue Reading »

No Comments »

October
30th 2015
Don’t Fall Victim to MisNAEPery

Posted under Accountability & Edublogging & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Research & Testing

It’s NAEP season, my friends. The 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress results were released this week to a barrage of spin, rhetoric, and general “misNAEPery.” I’ve mostly seen this misNAEPery pop up in the form of certain folks using the data to show that education reform efforts aren’t working. (For now, we’ll ignore the crushing irony of using test scores to prove that testing isn’t valuable.) That’s a bummer, so let’s spend a few minutes today talking about what this year’s results do and do not mean.

First, let’s talk briefly about the results themselves. Chalkbeat ran a pretty good piece on Colorado’s 2015 NAEP scores that included some nifty graphs. Nifty or not, however, I take some issue with the graphs’ reliance on percentages of kids scoring proficient or better rather than scale scores. Not that I blame Chalkbeat for going this way; graphs showing what appears to be actual change are a lot more exciting than what you get when you look just at scale scores over the past ten years. Those graphs look like this:

Continue Reading »

3 Comments »

October
12th 2015
Can’t We Just Get Colorado on the CER Tax Credit Report Card… Please?

Posted under Federal Government & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Parents & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

Imagine this scenario: The teacher has posted the grades for the final exam on the wall outside the classroom. There, standing and staring at the paper is a young student crying. “What’s the matter? Did you not get a passing grade?” the passerby asks. The weeping student, struggling for composure, simply shakes her head. “Then what’s wrong?”

Finally, the answer comes out. The student explains that she was sad not because she got a poor grade, but because she never got a chance to take the course, and thus received no grade at all.

That’s kind of how I felt upon seeing the Center for Education Reform’s new Education Tax Credit Laws Across the States Ranking and Scorecard 2015.

Continue Reading »

No Comments »

October
8th 2015
Tennessee Study Sequel Pours More Cold Water on Pre-K Enthusiasm

Posted under Early Childhood & Federal Government & Journalism & Research

I’m going to be honest with everyone. Getting education policy right is hard work. There are no silver bullets out there. Some things (like school choice) show small but consistent benefits in study after study. Other practices (like paying teachers to earn masters degrees) represent large outlays of money with no return.

Today I’m looking at pre-K or early childhood education. Some recent research further calls into question the prevailing line on increasing tax subsidies for preschool. Chalkbeat Tennessee last week reported on a landmark study that challenged some conventional wisdom. Since as a 5-year-old edublogging prodigy I tend to be more than a little unconventional, it seemed like a reasonable idea to bring it to your attention:

A new Vanderbilt University study suggests that public pre-kindergarten programs in Tennessee might actually negatively impact students as they advance through school, surprising experts and advocates alike. But the study’s lead researchers say that policymakers shouldn’t abandon pre-K as they seek to close the achievement gap between minority and lower- and higher-income students.

A careful read through the executive summary of the Vanderbilt University report raises some significant caution flags. Studying a randomly assigned group of more than 1,000 kids, researchers essentially found that the initial advantages provided to Tennessee pre-K participants washes away by the end of kindergarten. By first grade, teachers observed worse “non-cognitive” (aka attitude and behavioral) outcomes for the pre-K kids, followed by a similar statistically negative result in “cognitive” (or academic) results in second grade.

This study, which follows its subjects through third grade, is not the original. It’s a sequel. Continue Reading »

No Comments »

Next »