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Released: April 30, 2019

Personalized Learning: The Promise and the Reality

In Personalized Learning and the Digital Privatization of Curriculum and Teaching, Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar, and Christopher M. Saldaña, of the University of Colorado Boulder, consider how we got to this point. Beginning with an examination of the history of personalized learning and the key assumptions made by its proponents, they review the research evidence and reflect on the roles and possible impacts of the digital technologies deployed by many programs.
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Released: April 18, 2019

A review of: The Michigan Context and Performance Report Card: High Schools 2018

A recent report from Mackinac Center for Public Policy seeks to measure and publicize high school performance by ranking schools according to their test scores after attempting controlling for students’ “economic status.” Associate Professor John T. Yun of Michigan State University reviewed The Michigan Context and Performance Report Card: High Schools 2018. He concluded that while the stated goal of the report is laudable, the reality falls far short due to several shortcomings.
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Released: April 2, 2019

A review of: Education System Alignment for 21st Century Skills: Focus on Assessment

A report from the Brookings Institution uses international examples to make the case for the importance of “21st century skills” as goals for education systems. It focuses specifically on the development of new assessment methods as a primary means to help countries integrate these 21st century skills – such as critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and communication – into curricular reforms. Lorrie Shepard, of the University of Colorado Boulder, reviewed Education System Alignment for 21st Century Skills: Focus on Assessment. Professor Shepard found the report very useful if the reader understands that it tells only part of the story.
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Think Twice Think Tank Review Project


Think Twice is one of the nation's first efforts to serve as a watchdog to review think tank research on public education issues and policies, ensuring that published work meets the quality and standards of university scholarship.

The goal of the Think Twice project is to provide the public, policy makers and the press with timely academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications.

The Think Twice project is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. The reviews that are a part of this project are expert third party reviews produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC).

More Think Twice Reviews

Policy Briefs


The Center funds policy briefs and reports on important education issues. Policy briefs and reports are written by recognized academic experts in each topic and include a summary of existing research available as well as policy recommendations. Briefs published in 2018 include:


Personalized Learning: The Promise and the Reality
Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar, and Christopher M. Saldaña, of the University of Colorado Boulder

In Personalized Learning and the Digital Privatization of Curriculum and Teaching, Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar, and Christopher M. Saldaña, of the University of Colorado Boulder, consider how we got to this point. Beginning with an examination of the history of personalized learning and the key assumptions made by its proponents, they review the research evidence and reflect on the roles and possible impacts of the digital technologies deployed by many programs.

Policy Brief


How School Privatization Opens the Door for Discrimination
Julie F. Mead, University of Wisconsin Suzanne E. Eckes, Indiana University

The brief's review of relevant laws reveals that voucher and charter school programs open the door to discrimination because of three phenomena. First, federal law defines discrimination differently in public and private spaces. Second, state legislatures have largely neglected issues of discrimination while constructing voucher laws; charter laws are better, but they fail to comprehensively address these issues. Third, because private and charter schools are free to determine what programs to offer, they can attract some populations while excluding others.

Policy Brief


State-Level Assessments and Teacher Evaluation Systems after the Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act: Some Steps in the Right Direction
Kevin Close, Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, and Clarin Collins

A policy brief published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) found minor but positive changes in state assessment and teacher evaluation practices after enactment of the ESSA on January 1, 2016. The new law reduced federal oversight and gave states more control over their state assessment and accountability systems.

Policy Brief


A policy brief published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) found minor but positive changes in state assessment and teacher evaluation practices after enactment of the ESSA on January 1, 2016. The new law reduced federal oversight and gave states more control over their state assessment and accountability systems.

Policy Brief


The Limited Usefulness of Common SES Measures and a Prescription for Change
Michael Harwell, University of Minnesota

A new policy brief from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) examines the usefulness of common socioeconomic status (SES) measures in educational settings. Measures of SES have been linked to student achievement on high-stakes standardized tests. SES is generally associated with parental educational attainment, parental occupational status, and household family income. The measures are designed to take into account disparities and economic disadvantage facing students in schools.

Policy Brief


The State of Education Savings Account Programs in the United States
Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos, Arizona State University, and
William J. Mathis and Kevin G. Welner, University of Colorado Boulder.

A new policy brief from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) explores the research on Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), a form of private-school vouchers first adopted in Arizona in 2011. Through December 2017, ESA laws have been enacted in six states and have been strongly promoted by school voucher advocates. The brief examines ESA policies, their similarities and differences with other voucher approaches, and examines the legal issues created by these programs. The authors conclude, “policymakers should be extremely wary of adopting or expanding an ESA program. When considering ESAs, policymakers from all perspectives must carefully weigh the evidence on their impact on key elements of U.S. education.”

Policy Brief


Assessing the Fiscal Impact of Wisconsin’s Statewide Voucher Program
Ellie Bruecker, University of Wisconsin-Madison

A new peer-reviewed policy memo explores the financial effects of Wisconsin’s expanded statewide Parental Choice Program (WPCP). The memo describes how the voucher program alters the relative share of public education spending borne by the state and by local districts and estimates the differential impact of the program on Wisconsin school districts. The author, Ellie Bruecker, University of Wisconsin-Madison, finds that the program will likely exacerbate school funding inequities for public schools in Wisconsin.

Policy Memo


Law and Order in School and Society: How Discipline and Policing Policies Harm Students of Color, and What We Can Do about It
Janelle Scott, UC Berkeley; Michele S. Moses, Colorado-Boulder; Kara S. Finnigan, University of Rochester; Tina Trujillo, UC Berkeley; and Darrell D. Jackson, University of Wyoming.

A new policy brief produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) explores how zero-tolerance discipline policies and other injustices inflict violence on students of color. The authors find that systematic violence and disparate school discipline policies hinder equitable, just, and safe schooling. The brief closely examines the relationship between violence and education policy, and provides an alternative set of state and local policies to create more just and safe environments in schools and communities. According to the authors, school contexts and broader social policies set up conditions in which young people of color experience violence in regularized, systematic, and destructive ways. Using critical race theory as a lens, the authors raise awareness that these policies do not happen in isolation, but are part of larger social inequalities.

Policy Brief


Community Schools: An Evidence-Based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement
Jeannie Oakes, National Education Policy Center and the Learning Policy Institute
Anna Maier, LPI; and Julia Daniel, NEPC.

A new policy brief, co-produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) and the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), explores the research on community schools. Community schools represent a partnership and school improvement strategy to integrate resources provided by community agencies and local government for improved student learning, stronger families, and healthier communities. According to the authors, community schools are strongly supported by research, and can be a particularly important strategy for transforming high-poverty schools. Further research on community schools and the conditions required for successful implementation is needed

Policy Brief


School Closure as a Strategy to Remedy Low Performance
Gail L. Sunderman, University of Maryland; Erin Coghlan, University of California Berkeley; and Rick Mintrop, University of California Berkeley.

Closing a “low-performing” school and sending students to a “better-performing” one has been offered as a school improvement strategy, which the logic suggests will motivate schools to improve. A new policy brief released today investigates whether closing schools is an option that policymakers should pursue. According to the brief, the limited evidence base suggests that school closures are not a promising strategy for remedying low performance. The authors write, “School closures have at best weak and decidedly mixed benefits; at worst they have detrimental repercussions for students if districts do not ensure that seats at higher-performing schools are available for transfer students.”

Policy Brief


Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017
Alex Molnar, University of Colorado Boulder (Editor). Gary Miron, Western Michigan University; Charisse Gulosino, University of Memphis, Christopher Shank, Western Michigan University, Caryn K. Davidson, Western Michigan University; Michael K. Barbour, Touro University; Louis Huerta, Teachers College - Columbia University; Jennifer King Rice, University of Maryland, David Nitkin, Teachers College - Columbia University; and Sheryl Rankin Shafer.

Virtual schools in the United States have been growing rapidly in recent decades. Their growth has been fueled in part by the belief that an online curriculum can better meet the needs of individual students, and that virtual schools are cost effective and educationally sound. As virtual schools have grown, so too has the need for additional research to develop better policies. On April 11, 2017, the National Education Policy Center released its 5th annual report on virtual education. The three-section report, Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017, funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, provides: (a) a detailed inventory of full-time virtual schools in the U.S.; (b) an exhaustive review of the literature on virtual education and its implications for virtual school practices; and (c) a detailed review and analysis of state-level policymaking.

Research Brief


Independent Teacher Education Programs: Apocryphal Claims, Illusionary Evidence
Ken Zeichner, University of Washington

Teacher education, typically provided by colleges and universities across the U.S., has been criticized for some time for its uneven quality. In response, there has been a policy push to deregulate the preparation of teachers in the U.S. and expand independent, alternative routes into teaching. The proliferation of independent, private programs raises the real possibility of dismantling the university system of teacher education. A new brief reviews five prominent independent teacher education programs in the U.S.

Policy Brief
Newsletter


Virtual Schools Report 2016: Directory and Performance Review
Gary Miron, Western Michigan University and Charisse Gulosino, University of Memphis

The Virtual Schools Report 2016: Directory and Performance Review report is the fourth in an annual series of research briefs on the fast-growing U.S. virtual school sector. This year’s report provides a comprehensive directory of the nation’s full-time virtual and blended learning providers. The report finds little research has examined the inner workings of these schools. Also, the report finds that students attending these schools differ from those in traditional public schools, and the school outcomes are consistently below traditional public schools.

Research Brief


Holding Teacher Preparation Accountable: A Review of Claims and Evidence
Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Boston College

A new policy brief underscores the importance of using research evidence to drive teacher education policy. The brief explores four major national initiatives intended to improve teacher quality by “holding teacher education accountable” for arrangements and outcomes. Regarding evidence, three of the four initiatives (HEA regulations, CAEP accreditation, and NCTQ’s reviews) revealed thin evidence to support the claims made. More evidence was found to support the fourth initiative (edTPA), but widespread implementation and professional acceptance may be challenging to accomplish. “We conclude that for the most part, they [the initiatives] are based on both thin evidence and a thin notion of equity that does not adequately account for the complex and long-standing out-of-school factors that produce and reproduce educational inequality.”

Policy Brief


Diverse Housing, Diverse Schooling:
How Policy Can Stabilize Racial Demographic Change in Cities and Suburbs

Amy Stuart Wells, Teachers College Columbia University

Throughout history, a child’s zip code has determined their educational opportunities, due to the tight relationship between racially segregated and unequal housing and schools. Research has revealed that racial inequality in American housing and schools is sustained by an iterative relationship between intangible and tangible factors in the housing-school choice process. According to a brief by Amy Stuart Wells, Teachers College, the nation may now have the ideal opportunity to address this housing-school nexus.

Policy Brief


Investing in Equal Opportunity: What Would It Take to Build the Balance Wheel?
Jennifer King Rice, University of Maryland

For more than 150 years, Horace Mann’s vision of public education becoming the “balance wheel” of the social structure has been a driving force behind education policymaking in the U.S.  Mann envisioned the education system to be the one institution to address inequalities in larger society.  However, substantial disparities in educational resources, opportunities, and outcomes undermine his vision in today’s schools. A new brief, Investing in Equal Opportunity: What Would It Take to Build the Balance Wheel?, written by Jennifer King Rice, University of Maryland, investigates the elements necessary for more universal equality of opportunities.

Policy Brief

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