2010 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.
Reports & Reviews for 2010
|Report Reviewed:||The 2010 State School Report Card: A state-by-state analysis of learning, efficiency, and standards|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||The Heartland Institute|
This report ranks states on four indices of school performance: learning, education expenditure, quality of state standards, and an overall achievement grade based on the average of the first three indices. The authors use the data to advocate for Parent Trigger legislation and school choice policies.
|Think Twice Review Date:||December 14, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Edward Fierros and Bridget Ann Rooney, Villanova University|
|Fierros and Rooney find that the report and its grades are very poorly grounded. They note that the report cites very limited, partisan research, provides no rationale to support its methods and fails to control for underlying variations from state to state in demographics and other characteristics. They conclude that the report is of no use in guiding policy or practice.|
|Report Reviewed:||Closing the Racial Achievement Gap: Learning from Florida's Reforms|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||The Heritage Foundation|
This report contends that Florida's "far-reaching" education policies have caused test scores to increase and the achievement gap to narrow. In particular, the report focuses on fourth-grade reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
|Think Twice Review Date:||November 30, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Madhabi Chatterji, Teachers College at Columbia University|
|In her review, Chatterji finds that "The report's key conclusions are unwarranted and insufficiently supported by research." Most importantly, she points out the very direct effects of the state's grade-retention policy, causing the report's comparisons to be largely meaningless.|
|Report Reviewed:||An Analysis of Arizona Individual Income Tax-credit Scholarship Recipient's Family Income,
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Harvard University Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG)|
This report attempts to counter claims made by two AZ newspapers that the state's tuition tax credit voucher program has failed to increase private school access for low-income families.
|Think Twice Review Date:||November 18, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Casey D. Cobb, University of Connecticut|
|In his review, Cobb indicates that though the report makes a reasonable attempt to determine the income of families receiving scholarship, it overstates the newspapers' claims. He also finds that the report's validity is uncertain because of questions regarding accuracy and representativeness of the data used.|
|Report Reviewed:||Teacher Evaluation 2.0|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||The New Teacher Project|
This guide analyzes how to fix teacher evaluations, proposing six design standards that any rigorous and fair evaluation system should meet. It offers states and school districts a blueprint for better evaluations that can help every teacher thrive in the classroom.
|Think Twice Review Date:||November 16, 2010|
|Reviewer:||H. Richard Milner, Vanderbilt University|
|In his review, Milner notes that the report suffers from several problems. Among them: It assumes teacher evaluation reform can be a panacea for resolving far greater educational problems. The result, Milner concludes, is a report that "does not tell us anything that is not already suggested or asserted in the teacher evaluation discourse."|
|Report Reviewed:||The six research summaries supporting the "Blueprint for Reform"|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||U.S. Department of Education|
Released by the DOE in May, these six research summaries support the education reform proposals included in the Obama administration's "Blueprint for Reform" for ESEA reauthorization.
|Think Twice Review Date:||October 5, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Clive Belfield, Gene V Glass, W.Steven Barnett, Kevin G. Welner, Paul Shaker, Beth Warren, Janette Klingner, William J. Mathis, Diane Ravitch|
|Though each of the six reviews has its own specific findings, strong overarching themes emerged from the individual reviews. For instance, each author found the research that he/she examined to be of inadequate quality and that the six summaries made extensive use of non-research and advocacy sources to justify the policy recommendations made.|
|Report Reviewed:||The Impact of a Universal Class-Size Reduction Policy: Evidence from Florida's Statewide Mandate|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Program for Education Policy and Governance at the Kennedy School, Harvard University|
This report analyzes statewide achievement data for school districts in Florida and purports to find that Florida's constitutional amendment limiting class size, "had little, if any, effect on cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes."
|Think Twice Review Date:||July 14, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Jeremy D. Finn, The University of Buffalo- SUNY|
|Finn finds that the study doesn't actually address the effect of class size reduction on student achievement and has four major flaws which, when taken together, invalidate it as an evaluation of class-size reduction.|
|Report Reviewed:||Charter School Autonomy: A Half-Broken Promise|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Thomas B. Fordham Institute, with Public Impact|
This report argues that autonomy is a prerequisite for there to be innovative, effective charter schools.
|Think Twice Review Date:||May 26, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Charisse Gulosino, University of Massachusetts-Boston|
|In her review, Gulosino finds that the report assumes the positive impact of autonomy, but provides no empirical evidence to support this. She indicates that the report is of very little value to anyone concerned with charter schools including policy makers, school leaders, parents and charter supporters.|
|Report Reviewed:||Has Progress Been made in Raising Achievement for English language Learners|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Center for Education Policy|
This report urges finds that states have generally made progress in raising the achievement of English Language Learners (ELLs) under No Child Left Behind.
|Think Twice Review Date:||May 19, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Jeff MacSwan, Arizona State University|
|MacSwan finds that the CEP report has significant weaknesses in its research methods which undermine its findings. Further, he indicates that given the limitations in the data, it is inappropriate to draw conclusions from the data summarized in the report.|
|Report Reviewed:||Teacher Layoffs: Rethinking "Last-Hired, First-Fired" Policies|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||National Council on Teacher Quality|
This report urges making teacher layoff decisions on the basis of teacher quality and performance as opposed to the seniority system used by most school districts.
|Think Twice Review Date:||May 12, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Richard Ingersoll and Lisa Merrill, University of Pennsylvania|
|The reviewers credit the report for being straightforward and reasonable, but point out that the reforms it proposes are neither new nor unique and are very challenging to implement.|
|Report Reviewed:||They Spend WHAT? The Real Cost of Public Schools|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Cato Institute|
This report contends that the figures most commonly associated with spending on K-12 public education do not include all relevant expenditures, and that the real costs are much higher than reported.
|Think Twice Review Date:||May 5, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Vaughn Altemus, University of Vermont|
|Altemus concludes that the report's claim that public education is overpriced is much overstated because it counts capital expenditures twice. Altemus indicates when this error is eliminated, the report's main argument collapses rendering it virtually useless for policymaking.|
|Report Reviewed:||Behind the Curtain: Assessing the Case for National Standards|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Cato Institute|
This report argues that national curriculum standards will have a very limited effect on education reform and concludes that universal school choice (free market model) is the best way to reform education.
|Think Twice Review Date:||April 21, 2010|
|Reviewer:||William J. Mathis, University of Colorado, Boulder|
|Mathis applauds the report's useful summary and critique of the research on national standards, but says its conclusion that the free market is the best way to reform education is simply unsupported. Mathis writes that, as logic, this conclusion, "is the equivalent of saying that since elephants can't fly, frogs will."|
|Report Reviewed:||Fix the City Schools: Moving All Schools to Charter-Like Autonomy|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Reason Foundation|
This report argues for the decentralization of urban school districts and cites increased student achievement in post-Katrina New Orleans as support for city schools moving toward a "portfolio" of schools model.
|Think Twice Review Date:||April 15, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Katrina E. Bulkley, Montclair State University|
|In her review, Bulkley points out that the heavy reliance on New Orleans is a significant weakness of the report as there are numerous reasons unrelated to the portfolio approach that can explain some or all of the student gains. Additionally, Bulkley criticizes the report for its reliance on selected, biased examples as opposed to systematic research.|
|Report Reviewed:||Stuck Schools|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Education Trust|
This report aims at providing a framework for identifying schools that are simultaneously low-performing and low-improving and in most need of school turnaround strategies.
|Think Twice Review Date:||April 7, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Jaekyung Lee, University at Buffalo, SUNY|
|Lee's review of this report finds it relies on misleading data and unreliable methodology. Lee indicates that, "the report's methods are so simplistic, arbitrary and poorly fitting to the report's own assumptions that it is more harmful to sound policymaking than helpful."|
|Report Reviewed:||Graduation Rates for Choice and Public School Students in Milwaukee, 2003-2008|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||School Choice Wisconsin|
This report argues that Milwaukee students who use vouchers to attend private schools graduate in larger numbers than do students who attend traditional Milwaukee public schools.
|Think Twice Review Date:||March 31, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Casey D. Cobb, University of Connecticut|
|Cobb's review of this report praises it for its technically sound analysis and results that are descriptively useful. However, Cobb cautions that any real claims about whether the voucher program is actually causing higher graduation rates must depend upon a much stronger research design.|
|Report Reviewed:||America's Private Public Schools|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Thomas B. Fordham Institute|
This report identifies public schools across the U.S. that enroll very few students from low-income families (private public schools) and argues that the existence of these "exclusive" schools justifies the support of publicly funded vouchers to private schools.
|Think Twice Review Date:||March 24, 2010|
|Reviewer:||John T. Yun, University of California, Santa Barbara|
|Yun's review concludes that the report's policy arguments are based on tenuous logic, oversimplification and "critical omissions of fact, context and prior research."|
|Report Reviewed:||The Shaping of the American Mind: The Diverging Influences of the College Degree and Civic Learning on American Beliefs|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Intercollegiate Studies Institute|
This report argues that colleges are failing to provide and adequate education in civic knowledge and is also influencing graduates to become less supportive of American values.
|Think Twice Review Date:||March 17, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Gregory J. Marchant, Ball State University|
|Marchant's review of the report finds that it ignores contradictory findings, omits key information, wrongly argues causation and confuses civic knowledge with conservative political values. Marchant warns that the report "may, in fact, be destructive of the very ideals of education the authors ascribe to the Founding Fathers – particularly informed democratic participation."|
|Report Reviewed:||Connecticut's Charter School Law and Race to the Top|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCan)|
This report argues for lifting the charter school cap and increasing funding for charter schools in Connecticut.
|Think Twice Review Date:||March 10, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Robert Bifulco, Syracuse University|
|Bifulco's review of this report finds that it ignores relevant research and offers no evidence to support its claim that expanding charters would increase low-income student achievement.|
|Report Reviewed:||Expanding Choice in Elementary and Secondary Education: A Report on Rethinking the Federal Role in Education|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Brookings Institution|
This report calls for a federally led, universal expansion of school choice programs and makes the argument that increased choice is what the majority of parents want in federal education reform.
|Think Twice Review Date:||March 3, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Janelle Scott, University of California at Berkeley|
|Scott's review of this report finds that it lacks the evidence to support the call for an expansion of school choice. Scott identifies three major shortcomings in the report: it relies too heavily on research in progress and research produced by advocacy organizations; it neglects prior research concerning the nature of parental choice; and it fails to acknowledge that unconstrained school choice has segregative effects.|
|Report Reviewed:||How School Choice Can Create Jobs for South Carolina|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||South Carolina Policy Council Education Foundation|
|This report argues that school choice, in the form of vouchers to attend private schools, would create significant job opportunities in five poor, rural counties in South Carolina.|
|Think Twice Review Date:||January 14, 2010|
|Reviewer:||Joydeep Roy, Georgetown University|
|Roy's review of the South Carolina report finds that it is built on seriously flawed assumptions and offers little insight into the effects of school vouchers. Roy writes that the report relies more on rhetoric and less on authentic research and concludes that it is significantly biased and of little value to policymakers.|
These articles and/or reports are copyrighted material, the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of educational issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Worth A Read
A weekly selection of thought-provoking research and commentary focused on
Enter your email address to receive the latest news and information from The Great Lakes Center. We value your privacy and do not share email addresses with any other organizations.