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2006 Think Twice Reviews

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. As think tank research becomes increasingly important reference sources in public policy debates, media and other critics have called for increased scrutiny to ensure validity and objectivity (click here to see related stories).

The Think Twice project is funded by the Great Lakes Center which commissions the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) to conduct expert third party reviews of think tank publications for the project. NEPC is directed by University of Colorado at Boulder professor Kevin Welner. Its publications director is Arizona State University professor Alex Molnar.

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Reports & Reviews for 2006

Report Reviewed: Immersion Not Submersion: Can a New Strategy for Teaching English Outperform Old Excuses?
Think Tanks: Lexington Institute
This report claims that the Structured English Immersion technique mandated by California's Proposition 227 is responsible for a "significant improvement in English proficiency across the state" among English Language Learners. The report goes also asserts that SEI strategies can overcome the effects of poverty and lower per-pupil funding.
 
Think Twice Review Date: December 14, 2006
Reviewer: Jeff MacSwan, Arizona State University
In this review, MacSwan indicates that the report is riddled with flaws. He points out that neither the data presented nor could the author's analysis of that data support the conclusions drawn in the report. MacSwan indicates that the report suffers from poorly sampled data, inaccurate descriptions of district-level policies, failure to account for alternative explanations of observed changes in district testing data, and lack of any serious analysis of the data presented.
Press Release Link name=Review Link

 

Report Reviewed: Giving Students the Chaff: How to Find and Keep the Teachers We Need
Think Tank: Cato Foundation
This report asserts that school choice, in the form of private-school vouchers and charter schools, will improve the quality of teachers.
 
Think Twice Review Date: October 25, 2006
Reviewer: Raymond Pecheone & Ash Vasudeva, Stanford University
This review concludes that the CATO report's initial premise that teacher quality plays a large role in improving educational outcomes is well founded in educational research. However, the report's subsequent conclusion that competition and choice lead to improved hiring practices which will attract and retain high quality teachers lacks evidentiary support and ignores other important evidence.
Press Release Link name=Review Link

 

Report Reviewed: Getting Farther Ahead by Staying Behind: A Second-Year Evaluation of Florida's Policy to End Social Promotion (2006)
Think Tanks: Manhattan Institute
This report concludes that Florida's policy of retaining third-grade students based on their scores on a standardized reading test has helped them to improve their reading.
 
Think Twice Review Date: October 10, 2006
Reviewer: Derek Briggs, University of Colorado at Boulder
In this review, Briggs points out that though the findings in the report are suggestive and merit further investigation, it contains some principal shortcomings which undermine the validity of the conclusions drawn. Among the shortcomings is the fact that the authors are unable to isolate the effect of repeating the same grade from the effects of attending summer school and receiving intensive reading instruction which are mandatory parts of Florida's retention policy.
Press Release Link name=Review Link

 

Report Reviewed:
Think Tanks: The Friedman Foundation and the Buckeye Institute
This report finds that private schools participating in the Cleveland voucher program are less segregated than the city's public schools.
 
Think Twice Review Date: October 5, 2006
Reviewer: Gary Ritter, University of Arkansas
Ritter's review indicates that though the methodology and analysis in the report appear sound, the conclusions drawn by its authors should have been more cautious and that some "overreach" the data presented. He cautions that with regard to the effect of school choice plans on segregation, the Cleveland and national data in the report offer only a small piece of a very large puzzle.
Press Release Link name=Review Link

 

Report Reviewed: The State of State Standards 2006
Think Tank: Fordham Institute
The report assigns grades to the academic content standards in each state and claims that higher content standards lead to better student test scores.
 
Think Twice Review Date: September 11, 2006
Reviewer: Kenneth Howe, University of Colorado
In his review of the report, Howe finds no evidence to support the validity of the grades and also found no support for the report’s claim that higher content standards lead to an increase in student achievement.
Press Release Link name=Review Link

 

Report Reviewed: On the Public-Private School Achievement Debate
Think Tank: Program for Education Policy and Governance
This report claims that private schools outperform public schools.
 
Think Twice Review Date: August 30, 2006
Reviewer: Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski, University of Illinois
The Lubienskis’ review of the report finds that the evidence and claims made in the report are critically flawed. Among other things, the researchers did not control for key student demographic data and student-reported data neglected to include key information.
Press Release Link name=Review Link

 

Report Reviewed: The Financial Impact of Ohio’s Charter Schools
Think Tank: The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions
This report claims that charter schools in the “Big Eight” urban school districts in Ohio are producing greater student achievement gains, increasing revenues for traditional public schools, and operating at lower costs.
 
Think Twice Review Date: August 1, 2006
Reviewer: Gene V Glass, Arizona State University
Glass’s review of the report reveals that its claims are without merit and should not be used to guide public policy. Among other things, the review reveals a lack of scholarly research to support the claim of increased student achievement in charters.
Press Release Link name=Review Link

 

Report Reviewed: Assessing Proposals for Preschool and
Kindergarten: Essential Information for Parents, Taxpayers and Policymakers
Think Tank: Reason Foundation
This report reviews studies and accounts of early childhood programs and presents an argument against universal pre-school and all-day kindergarten programs.
 
Think Twice Review Date: May 31, 2006
Reviewer: W. Steven Barnett, Rutgers University
Barnett’s review finds that though some of the report’s findings have merit, the overall report, “…misleads the reader, relying on distortions, selective citation of research and inconsistent use of standards for quality research.”
Press Release Link name=Review Link

 

Report Reviewed: Playing to Type? Mapping the Charter School Landscape
Think Tank: Fordham Foundation
This report developed a unique typology to compare charter schools types by their enrollment, demographic background of students and performance.
 
Think Twice Review Date: May 11, 2006
Reviewer: Gary Miron, Western Michigan University
Miron’s review finds major weaknesses in the study’s statistical findings. In addition, Miron points out that the study is limited in its ability to inform policy because it fails to compare charter schools to traditional public schools.
Review Link

 

Report Reviewed: Trends in Charter School Authorizing
Think Tank: Fordham Foundation
This report surveyed charter school authorizers to explore how they rated on factors that the report’s authors considered important.
 
Think Twice Review Date: May 11, 2006
Reviewer: Ernest House, University of Colorado
House’s review finds serious problems with the author’s analysis of the survey results noting that a 33 percent survey response rate is very low. Equally as important, the report’s main conclusion, which trumpets nonprofits and independent chartering boards as the highest quality authorizers is not supported by the data.
Review Link

 

Report Reviewed: Getting Ahead by Staying Behind: An Evaluation of Florida’s Program to End Social Promotion
Think Tank: Hoover Institution and Manhattan Institute
For Policy Research
This Education Next article summarizes the Manhattan’s Institute’s 2004 study, An Evaluation of Florida’s Program to End Social Promotion. The authors analyze the test scores of two third-grade cohorts over the period of one year and conclude that there are major positive effects associated with retention in the program.
 
Think Twice Review Date: February 23, 2006
Reviewer: Ed Wiley, University of Colorado
Wiley’s review finds several major flaws in the study, each of which threatens the validity of the study’s results and seriously weakens the authors’ claims regarding the effectiveness of Florida’s retention policy.
Review Link

 

Report Reviewed: Spreading Freedom and Saving Money: The Fiscal Impact of the D.C. Voucher Program
Think Tank: Cato Institute and Friedman Foundation
This report evaluates the impact of the D.C. public schools’ voucher program after its first year and its impact on educational spending.
 
Think Twice Review Date: February 20, 2006
Reviewer: Christopher Lubienski, University of Illinois
Lubienski’s review concludes that the report’s findings are partially premised on questionable analyses and largely grounded in ideological assumptions about schooling and markets.
Review Link

 

Report Reviewed: The State of High School Education in Wisconsin: A Tale of Two Wisconsins
Think Tank: Wisconsin Policy Research Institute
This report calls for sweeping reforms in the state’s effort to reduce the widening achievement gap between rich and poor schools districts by increasing rigor in coursework.
 
Think Twice Review Date: February 17, 2006
Reviewer: William Mathis, University of Vermont
Mathis’s review concludes that the report’s findings are riddled with ideological assumptions not substantiated by extensive previous research and socio-economic data and analyses.
Press Release Link name=Review Link

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