ALEC's Report Card Receives Failing Marks
Policymakers should insist on referencing evidence-based research
EAST LANSING, Mich. (May 9, 2013) – Ranking states is a popular tool for education advocacy groups, with the goal of advancing a policy agenda based on ideologically driven pre-packaged reforms. These report cards receive considerable media attention, although few reflect research-based evidence on the efficacy of particular polices. The 18th edition of the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform is no different according to an academic review.
Christopher Lubienski, associate professor of education policy and Director of the Forum on the Future of Public Education at the University of Illinois, and T. Jameson Brewer, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois, reviewed ALEC's Report Card 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.
Lubienski and Brewer find that ALEC draws its grades exclusively not from research organizations, but from like-minded market-orientated advocacy organizations.
"Furthermore, when studies are highlighted in this report, they do not represent the peer-reviewed research on a given issue, are often of extremely poor quality, and generally unsuited for supporting their claim."
In their review, Lubienski and Brewer provide two key areas – alternative teacher certification and school choice – to highlight gaps between ALEC's agenda and empirical evidence. Despite multiple claims that a "growing body of research indicates…" – the report offers absolutely no supporting evidence. Math results, which have a lower pass rate, were used to compare traditionally-certified teachers to alternatively-certified teachers. Meanwhile alternatively-certified teachers were portrayed using their reading results.
"Many of the grades given to states reflect the level to which pro-market policies have been implemented while the grades systematically ignore meaningful measurements of equality and outcomes" according to the review.
Readers of ALEC's Report Card should consider it a statement of policy preferences and not an overview of research on education reforms.
The reviewers conclude, "At best, the report serves as an amalgamation of other like-minded think tanks' assessments of states' adoption of pro-market policies, and thus offers nothing new … it provides little or no usefulness to policymakers."
Find the report by Lubienski and Brewer on the Great Lakes Center website:
Find ALEC's Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform (18th edition) on the web:
Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers and the press timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
This review is also available on the NEPC website:
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.
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