Brookings NYC Choice Study Reviewed
The report offers little in the way of useful guidance for policymakers
EAST LANSING, Mich. (Nov. 19, 2013) – The New York City public schools demonstrate a valuable source of information to study the impact of recent school reforms and choice policies. A recent study from the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings claims that school choice and competition contributed to improved student outcomes on test scores and graduation rates in New York City since 2004. An academic review released today finds that the paper lacks the research evidence to support the claims made.
School Choice and School Performance in the New York City Public Schools: Will the Past be Prologue, authored by Grover J. Whitehurst and Sarah Whitfield, uses findings from several recent studies to make a case for expansion of school choice and competition in NYC schools. Dr. Patricia Burch of the University of Southern California reviewed the report for the Think Twice think tank review project. The review was produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
Because of the explosion of charter schools, the closing of schools due to low performance, and other related policy changes that increase competition, NYC's choice and competition initiative is of national significance. New York City saw the number of charter schools increase from 22 in 2003-4 to 159 in 2012-13.
Burch finds that the paper is more of an advocacy piece to support school choice rather than research. The review also notes that the original report states that causality cannot be established by existing studies – yet the report's causal inferences make up much of rationale for the expansion of current choice policies. The conclusions of the report are based in part on a pro-choice rating scale also authored by Whitehurst and Whitfield.
The report ignores relevant research and selectively presents the data, which has the effect of creating an overly positive picture of the reports referenced. The review notes that discussing the rationale for selecting certain studies over others could strengthen the report.
Burch says "The report does not present or evaluate the methodological strengths and weaknesses of the research used to support their arguments, and therefore the report's readers cannot understand the credibility of the evidence without doing further research."
The review also finds that many of the report's recommendations are not linked in any way to the analyses presented in the paper.
Burch concludes, "The usefulness of this report for both policy and practical purposes is limited by the lack of support provided for the recommendations." The report offers little in the way of useful guidance for policymakers.
Find this Think Twice Review on the Great Lakes Center website:
The review can also be found on the NEPC website:
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