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Released: July 5, 2017

A review of Back to the Staffing Surge: The Great Teacher Salary Stagnation and the Decades-Long Employment Growth in American Schools

A recent report from EdChoice, formerly the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, concluded that non-teaching staffing growth in schools after the Great Recession has outpaced enrollment growth and student performance. The report recommended increasing teacher pay, at the expense of non-teaching staff, and more school choice. An academic review finds that the report presents no logical relationship between the staffing trends presented and the solutions proposed in the report.
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Released: June 20, 2017

A review of Renewing our Cities: A Case Study on School Choice’s Role in Urban Renewal and CPR Scholarships: Using Private School Choice to Attack Concentrated Poverty, Crime, and Unemployment

EdChoice and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) released reports suggesting that expanded school choice would promote economic development in economically distressed urban areas. The EdChoice report was a case study on the relocation decisions of families in an urban charter school, while the AEI report calls for a voucher-like program to spur economic development by luring higher income families into neighborhoods. An academic review of the reports finds that both reports make unsupported claims that rely on flawed logic and data.
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Released: June 15, 2017

A review of Hidden Money: The Outsized Role of Parent Contributions in School Finance

A report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) investigated private fundraising by parent groups, a source of inequality in education that receives scant attention. The report called on district leaders to take actions to address funding disparities between wealthy and low-income schools. An academic review of the report finds the report’s findings about the scope and beneficiaries of private fundraising are credible and important.
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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 2017 include:

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


Student Mobility: Causes, Consequences, Solutions
Russell W. Rumberger, University of California, Santa Barbara

This brief explores the causes and consequences of student mobility, a widespread, and often-unheralded, problem facing American schools. According to the brief, written by Russell W. Rumberger, professor of education in the Gervirtz Graduate School of Education at the University of California Santa Barbara, student mobility can negatively impact student achievement on test scores, high school graduation prospects, and even student behavior. Multiple moves and those accompanied by family disruptions produce more severe impacts.

Policy Brief


Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2015: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence
Alex Molnar, University of Colorado Boulder (editor)
Gary Miron, Western Michigan University
Luis Huerta, Teachers College, Columbia University
Michael Barbour, Sacred Heart University

Virtual schools are today a focal point for policymakers interested in expanding education choice and making public schools both more efficient and more technologically current. In 2013, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, released the first of a planned series of annual reports on the policy issues that virtual schools raise, the available research evidence on K-12 virtual teaching and learning, and the performance of such virtual schools. The third report on virtual education in the U.S. is being released today.

Research Brief


New Brief Examines A-F Accountability Systems
Kenneth R. Howe and Kevin Murray University of Colorado Boulder

As states adopt or revise school accountability systems, some organizations are calling for simple, easy to understand A-F grading systems. A new brief, Why School Report Cards Merit a Failing Grade, identifies substantial problems with letter grades as a measure of school quality and finds that expressing school quality in a single composite grade is flawed. Authors Ken Howe and Kevin Murray, University of Colorado Boulder, examined A-F accountability systems with respect to three kinds of validity. They find that A-F accountability systems fail to empower parents and community members to promote school improvement and may serve to alienate parents from democratic participation in the education of their children.

Policy Brief


Personalized Instruction: New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results – Time for a New Direction for Computer-mediated learning
Noel Enyedy, University of California – Los Angeles

As schools increasingly look to tech-based Personalized Instruction for use in the classroom, a new policy brief cautions that the method doesn’t always translate to clear improvements or cost savings – in large part because it lacks a clear definition. Noel Enyedy, associate professor of education and information studies at the University of California-Los Angeles, authored the brief. Enyedy cautions that without a clear definition of what Personalized Instruction is, policymakers and educators should be wary of advocacy promoting computerized instruction to an extent that oversteps the current research.

Policy Brief


Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2014: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence
Alex Molnar, University of Colorado Boulder (editor)
Gary Miron, Western Michigan University
Luis Huerta, Teachers College, Columbia University
Jennifer King Rice, University of Maryland
Michael Barbour, Sacred Heart University

Second annual virtual schools report cautions against unchecked expansion: As virtual education has become a focal point for policymakers interested in expanding educational choices and improving the efficiency of public education, virtual schools have attracted a great deal of attention. In 2013, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, released the first of a planned series of annual reports on the policy issues that virtual schools raise, the available research evidence on K-12 virtual teaching and learning, and the performance of such virtual schools. The second report on virtual education in the U.S. is released today.

Research Brief


Does Class Size Matter?
Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Northwestern University

In a new policy brief, professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach points out that class size reduction is an important determinant of student outcomes, one that can be directly determined by policy. Schanzenbach indicates that the evidence suggests that increasing class size will not only harm children's test scores in the short run, but also their long-run human capital formation. "Money saved today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational costs in the future." Furthermore, Schanzenbach finds that the pay-off from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children. Increases to class-size for those populations will likely be harmful.

Policy Brief


Data-driven Improvement and Accountability
Andy Hargreaves, Boston College
Henry Braun, Boston College

In a report released today, Andy Hargreaves and Henry Braun of Boston College describe how data-driven accountability initiatives have created "perverse" incentives for educators. The legislative brief highlights the flawed use of DDIA in much, though not all, of the U.S. education system. To restore focus on improvement, schools should consider systematic reforms that capture the full range of learning and assess educational values holistically, instead of relying on narrow metrics to define success that punish teachers and students. The brief includes twelve recommendations for establishing more effective systems and processes of Data-Driven or Evidence-Informed Improvement and Accountability. Model legislation by attorney Kathy Gebhardt accompanies Data-Driven Improvement and Accountability.

Legislative Brief
Model Legislation


Financing Online Education & Virtual Schooling: A Guide for Policymakers & Advocates

School Finance 2.0: Flexible Financing for a Virtual World
Bruce D. Baker, Rutgers University
Justin Bathon, University of Kentucky

How much do online schools cost? A new brief investigates the funding of online education and virtual schools and provides a new, unified conceptual approach to funding online education. As supplemental online education and full-time virtual schools become more prominent in education, policymakers must address the key challenge of determining a fair and effective way to allocate funds for these institutions. Policymakers should develop new funding formulas based on the actual costs of operating virtual schools and link funding to accountability so cost-effectiveness can be determined. Bruce Baker of Rutgers University and Justin Bathon of the University of Kentucky provide tenets of a reformed online school financing system, designed to serve as a practical guide for state and local subsidies. Model legislation, based on their recommendations, is also provided.

Legislative Brief
Model Legislation


Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2013: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence
Alex Molnar, University of Colorado Boulder (editor)
Gary Miron, Western Michigan University
Luis Huerta, Teachers College, Columbia University
Jennifer King Rice, University of Maryland
Larry Cuban, Stanford University

Major virtual schools report uncovers underperforming schools: In the last decade, virtual schools have expanded rapidly although there is little data to support their growth. The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, released the first of a planned series of annual reports on the performance of virtual schools, the policy issues that virtual schools raise, and the available research evidence on virtual education. Authors urge policymakers to slow or stop the growth of these schools until more research is done and accountability measures can be put into place.

Policy Brief


What Does It Take to Scale Up Innovations? An Examination of Teach For America, Harlem Children's Zone, and the Knowledge is Power Program
Ben Levin, University of Toronto

What Does It Take to Scale Up Innovations? A new brief investigates whether innovations are scalable and able to make a difference widely, using three commonly proposed innovations as examples. Ben Levin, University of Toronto, analyzes Teach For America (TFA), KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), and the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), which has already spawned the U.S. Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods program. Levin determined that there are barriers and opportunities to the scalability of these programs. The brief cautions policymakers to avoid the temptation of proclaiming small-scale innovative programs as solutions to large-scale problems in education.

Policy Brief


Policy Reforms and De-Professionalization of Teaching
H. Richard Milner IV, Vanderbilt University

Policies Undermining Teacher Professionalism

Policy brief finds three education policies, now in vogue, have the likely effect of de-professionalizing teachers and teaching: At the same time that public opinion polls show strong support for teaching as a profession, America's teachers increasingly feel that teaching is being de-professionalized. The brief, written by Richard Milner of Vanderbilt University, addresses the impact of three of today's most trendy education polices, (1) policies that evaluate teachers based on annual gains in students' standardized test scores, (2) fast-track teacher preparation and licensure programs, and (3) the use of narrowly focused curricula. This new brief concludes that those three polices have the likely effect of de-professionalizing teachers and teaching.

Policy Brief


Democracy Left Behind: How Recent Education Reforms Undermine Local School Governance and Democratic Education
Kenneth Howe, University of Colorado-Boulder
David Meens, University of Colorado- Boulder

Kenneth Howe and David Meens, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, examine the suppression of local control by policymakers and what it means for our democracy. A new report presents a comprehensive review of research on two key elements—democratic policymaking and democratic education. The evidence surveyed in this report suggests that contemporary reforms "run afoul of democratic principles in several critical ways."

Policy Brief


School Turnarounds
Legislative Brief: Tina Trujillo, Michelle Renée
Model Legislation: Tara Kini

School Improvement Grant program in need of reform. A new brief by Tina Truillo of the University of California at Berkeley and Michelle Renée of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University finds that standardized test scores are not a reliable measure for student growth and are even more problematic as a measure of whether a turnaround was successful or not, because test scores ignore social, civic and broader academic aspects of schooling. Model legislation accompanies this brief to create state-level school improvements that foster equitable, democratic, and sustainable school turnarounds in priority schools.

Legislative Brief
Model Legislation


More Policy Briefs