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Released : September 30, 2014

Review of A Meta-Analysis of the Literature on the Effect of Charter Schools on Student Achievement

A report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) attempted to examine whether charter schools have a positive effect on student achievement. The report reviewed 52 studies selected by the authors and found charters to be serving students well, particularly in math. An academic found the conclusions of the report to be overstated.
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Released : September 23, 2014

Review of The Efficiency Index

A report from GEMS Education Solutions scored and ranked national education systems worldwide based on their efficiency. The news media picked up on the report and asserted, based on the index, America's schools could be more efficient if teachers were paid less and class size was increased. However, a review out today, counters that the report does not advance our understanding of how to make education more efficient.
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Released : September 16, 2014

Review of Seeds of Achievement: AppleTree’s Early Childhood D.C. Charter Schools

A recent report from the Pioneer Institute argues that a particular charter school model is successful and that charter approaches should be used for preschool expansion across the nation. Specifically, the report suggests that AppleTree, a well-regarded early childhood program in the Washington D.C. area, be used as a model for large numbers of charter preschools. An academic review finds that the case may add to the preschool policy debates, but a more rigorous examination of the program is necessary.
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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 2013 include:


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


An Analysis of the Use and Validity of Test-Based Teacher Evaluations Reported by the Los Angeles Times: 2011
Catherine S. Durso,University of Denver

Catherine S. Durso of the University of Denver prepared the research brief for the National Education Policy Center. The brief was funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Policy Brief


Spending by the Major Charter Management Organizations: Comparing Charter School and Local Public District Financial Resources in New York, Ohio, and Texas.
Bruce D. Baker Rutgers University
Ken Libby and Kathryn Wiley, University of Colorado

Bruce Baker of Rutgers University, along with Ken Libby and Katy Wiley of the University of Colorado, prepared the research brief for the National Education Policy Center. The brief was funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice and the Albert Shanker Institute.

Policy Brief



Charting Equality: Using Charter School Legislation and Policy to Advance Equal Educational Opportunity
Julie F. Mead, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Preston C. Green III, Pennsylvania State University

The expansion of charter schools has led to classrooms being more segregated today than they were 30 years ago, according to this new policy brief. The brief provides policymakers with detailed recommendations on how to ensure all students have access to a quality education.

Accompanying this brief is a companion report which offers model legislation to carry out the author's recommendations contained in the policy brief.

Policy Brief
Model Legislation



Creating Teacher Incentives for School Excellence and Equity

Barnett Berry, Center for Teaching Quality (Policy Brief)
Jon Eckert, Wheaton College (Policy Brief)
Scott R. Bauries, University of Kentucky College of Law (Legislative Brief)

A newly released report highlights incentives that can be much more effective in attracting and retaining quality teachers than simple merit pay programs. The report shows how merit pay programs that reward teachers based on their students' standardized test scores do little to improve student achievement and offers information on other incentives that could be more successful.

Policy Brief
Model Legislation


More Policy Briefs

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A weekly selection of thought-provoking research and commentary focused on
education reform.

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