"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, January 11, 2007

LeFevre's "Report Card on Education" Earns an F

HT to Peter Farruggio:


Contact: Gene V Glass (480) 965-2692 (email) glass@asu.edu
Kevin Welner (303) 492-8370 (email) kevin.welner@gmail.com

TEMPE, Ariz and BOULDER, Colo. (January 8, 2007) -- The widely-touted Report Card on Education, 1983-1984 to 2004-2005 falls far short of valid or useful research, a new review finds. The reviewer concluded that the report’s “ineptness and naiveté in measurement and data analysis have thwarted any attempt to draw legitimate conclusions.”

The Report Card, which promotes a policy agenda that includes charter schools and vouchers, was written by Andrew T. LeFevre and published by The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The ALEC document was reviewed for the Think Tank Review Project by Gene V Glass, Regents' Professor at Arizona State University. Glass is past-president of the American Educational Research Association as well as the 2005 recipient of the organization’s award for “distinguished contributions to research in education.” He is also a member of the National Academy of Education.

The key policy claim of ALEC’s Report Card is its assertion that student achievement has not been improved by increased spending on education, smaller class sizes, or improved teacher salaries. It further asserts that “strong accountability measures” will help focus educational resources and that parental choice policies will lead to improved achievement. As Glass explains in his review, however, the policy agenda promoted by the Report Card lacks support.

“LeFevre presents a great deal of data, but the vast majority of these data are not analyzed,” Glass writes. Further, the Report Card “ignores, intentionally or unintentionally, the many studies that flatly contradict its findings and conclusions.” In fact, the Report Card fails to cite any research studies at all. “Particularly for a report with such sweeping, far-reaching recommendations, this oversight is indefensible,” Glass writes.

Examples of the report’s shortcomings include:
  • While citing data intended to support of the claim that per-pupil expenditures have increased without improvement in academic achievement, LeFevre makes “no attempt…to track whether those increasing dollars actually are spent on regular instruction of students.” Other research has found that the bulk of additional spending on education in the last two decades has been for items such as special education, dropout prevention, transportation, health insurance, school lunch programs, and security – leaving only modest gains for regular classroom instruction.
  • The report’s measure of educational success is a mish-mash of valid and invalid measures, with the result having very limited usefulness. In fact, if the author had used only the valid measure, he would have found substantial evidence that increased per-pupil expenditures correlate with improvements in 8th Grade Math state averages.
Glass concludes: “In spite of being clad with myriad numbers and statistics, the Report Card on American Education is rhetoric, not research. Legislators may find value in looking up education statistics for their own state and comparing them with other states. But they will find neither credible findings nor any firmly established facts on which to base policy decisions.”

Find Gene Glass’ review on the web at:

About the Think Tank Review Project

The Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org), a collaborative project of the ASU Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU) and the CU-Boulder Education and the Public Interest Center (EPIC) provides the public, policy makers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Kevin Welner, the project co-director, explains that the project is needed because, “despite their garnering of media attention and their influence with many policy makers, reports released by private think tanks can be of very poor quality. Too many think tank reports are little more than ideological argumentation dressed up as research. We believe that the media, policy makers, and the public will greatly benefit from having qualified social scientists provide reviews of these documents in a timely fashion.”

Gene V Glass, Regents' Professor
Arizona State University
(480) 965-2692

Kevin Welner, Professor and Director
Education and the Public Interest Center
University of Colorado at Boulder
(303) 492-8370

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