Archive for the 'Research' Category

July
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.

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June
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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May
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 »

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March
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 »

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February
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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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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