2011 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 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.
Reports & Reviews for 2011
|Report Reviewed:||Organizing Schools to Improve Student Achievement|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Brookings Institution (Hamilton Project)|
This report examines three school organizational reforms – moving from middle schools to K-8 schools, delaying the start time of high school classes and increasing teacher specialization by grade and subject.
|Think Twice Review Date:||November 29, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Patrick J. McEwan, Wellesley College|
|McEwan praises the report for using sound research to judge the value of each of the three organizational reforms and indicates that they deserve careful consideration alongside more hotly debated reforms such as charters and cyber schools.|
|Report Reviewed:||Buyer Beware: The Risks to Teacher Effectiveness from Changing Retirement Benefits|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Center for American Progress|
|These two reports consider the potential costs and benefits of eliminating traditional defined benefit pension plans for teachers and replacing them with cash-balance plans.|
|Think Twice Review Date:||November 22, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Teresa Ghilarducci, New School for Social Research, Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis|
|Ghilarducci concludes that the two reports are important contributions to the policy debate over pensions, however less for the proposals they set forth and more for the issues they raise.|
|Report Reviewed:||Chartering and Choice as an Achievement Gap-Closing Reform: The success of California charter schools in promoting African American Achievement|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||California Charter Schools Association|
This report claims that California charter schools are narrowing the Black-White achievement gap and that charter schools are centers of innovation.
|Think Twice Review Date:||November 10, 2011|
|Reviewer:||David R. Garcia, Arizona State University|
|A review of this report by Professor Garcia finds that its conclusions are misrepresented and exaggerated.|
|Report Reviewed:||Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude?|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Fordham Institute, Northwest Evaluation Association|
This report claims that the academic performance of high-achieving students is being undermined by a policy focus on lower-achieving students.
|Think Twice Review Date:||October 13, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Jaekyung Lee, University at Buffalo, SUNY|
|A review by Prof. Lee finds that the report's conclusions rest on biased methodology and misleading arguments. Lee concludes that this report is of little value to policymakers.|
|Report Reviewed:||Incomplete: How Middle Class Schools Aren't Making the Grade|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Third Way|
This report claims that so-called "middle-class schools" are disadvantaged compared with wealthier and poorer schools.
|Think Twice Review Date:||September 22, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Bruce Baker, Rutgers University|
|A review by Prof. Bruce Baker of Rutgers University finds that the report's authors have an absurd view of who makes up the middle class and that the Third Way researchers misread their own data.|
|Report Reviewed:||Charting New Territory: Tapping Charter Schools to Turn Around the Nation’s Dropout Factories|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Center for American Progress|
This report advocates for turning struggling public schools into charter schools.
|Think Twice Review Date:||September 13, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Tina Trujillo, University of California, Berkley|
|Trujillo's review finds that the report is biased and ignores extensive contrary evidence.|
|Report Reviewed:||Florida Formula for Student Achievement: Lessons for the Nation|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Foundation for Excellence in Education|
The Bush presentation claims that six "reforms" caused gains in fourth-grade reading scores in Florida.
|Think Twice Review Date:||June 30, 2011|
|Reviewer:||William J. Mathis, University of Colorado-Boulder|
|A review by William J. Mathis finds that Bush's presentation "is clearly an advocacy tool designed for advancing a particular set of reform proposals. This has resulted in a misleading presentation, with Bush promoting several policies that reputable research has shown to be ineffective or even harmful.|
|Report Reviewed:||Class Size: What Research Says and What It Means for State Policy|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Brookings Institution|
This report argues that schools can save money by increasing class sizes without seriously affecting student achievement.
|Think Twice Review Date:||June 16, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Northwestern University|
|In her review, Schanzenbach finds that the report's claims are based on a misleading summary of prior research and that the report puts too much emphasis on poor quality studies.|
|Report Reviewed:||The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program: Summary of Fourth Year Reports|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP), University of Arkansas|
This report summarizes the SCDP's own earlier research on the Milwaukee voucher program.
|Think Twice Review Date:||June 2, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Clive Belfield, Queens College, City University of New York|
|Belfield's review deems the SCDP report of little value because it relies only on the project's previous reports and ignores extensive research on vouchers.|
|Report Reviewed:||Yearning to Break Free: Ohio Superintendents Speak Out|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Thomas B. Fordham Institute|
This report uses a survey of Ohio school superintendents to argue for an increase in district authority instead of increased school resources. The report suggests that academic achievement would improve if superintendents were freed from state mandates and union contracts.
|Think Twice Review Date:||May 3, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Catherine Horn and Gary Dworkin, University of Houston|
|The reviewers find that the Fordham report relies on a flawed survey and that its conclusions are not well-grounded in the survey responses. The reviewers conclude that this report has very little to offer policymakers.|
|Report Reviewed:||Going Exponential: Growing the Charter School Sector's Best|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Progressive Policy Institute|
This report argues that charters schools should be expanded rapidly and exponentially and uses the growth of molds, viruses and companies such as Starbucks as models for charter sector growth.
|Think Twice Review Date:||April 21, 2011|
|Reviewer:||David Garcia, Arizona State University|
|Garcia's review finds that the report provides almost no evidence nor provides a credible research base to support its recommendations.|
|Report Reviewed:||Spend Smart: Fix Our Broken School Funding System|
This report asserts that the Connecticut system for public school funding is broken and should be fixed by adopting a very simple weighted student funding formula where the money follows the student to whatever type of school he/she attends.
|Think Twice Review Date:||April 14, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Bruce Baker, Rutgers University|
|Baker's review indicates that the report makes unsubstantiated and false claims and goes on to say that the system of funding forwarded by this report would divert funding from low-income students and unfairly boost the funding of charter schools. Baker indicates that the report is of "negligible value for informing policy decisions."|
|Report Reviewed:||Cross-Country Evidence on Teacher Pay for Performance|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Harvard program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG); also published in an abridged form in Education Next|
This report claims that students in nations where teachers are paid on "merit" score higher on an international achievement test.
|Think Twice Review Date:||March 31, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Mattias von Davier, Education Testing Service|
|Von Davier concludes that the study uses numbers that are "unreliable and invalid" and "leaves too many questions unanswered." He also found that the study compares apples and oranges, making comparisons between nations that have different standards and are socially, economically and culturally distinct. He recommends that this study not be used to guide policy.|
|Report Reviewed:||District Awards for Teacher Excellence: Final Report|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||National Center for Performance Incentives|
This report evaluates the D.A.T.E. performance pay system for Texas teachers.
|Think Twice Review Date:||March 3, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Donald B. Gratz, Curry College|
|Gratz's review finds although the report is thorough and presents some interesting findings, "it suffers from two major constraints: data not collected and questions not asked." Gratz cautions against using this report for policymaking.|
|Report Reviewed:||Reform With Results for New Jersey Schools|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Lexington Institute|
This report presents findings on the effectivenss of New Jersey's Abbott v. Burke court decisions. The report argues that the reforms ordered by the court have failed to increase student achievement despite what it terms dramatic spending increases. Based on this, the report argues for instituting such reforms as charters schools, changes to union contracts and vouchers.
|Think Twice Review Date:||February 10, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Alan R. Sadovnik, Rutgers University|
|Sadovnik's review finds that the report provides little or no empirical evidence to support its critiques or recommendations and omits important parts of existing research literature. Overall, Sadovinik indicates that, "… the report has little or no use for informing education reform in Newark, New Jersey or nationally."|
|Report Reviewed:||Charter Schools: A Report on Rethinking the Federal Role in Education|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Brookings Institute at Brown|
This report summarizes evidence from five studies of student achievement in popular urban charter schools and two studies on charter school revenues and combines it with the authors' judgment and experience to make recommendations regarding the federal role in charter schools.
|Think Twice Review Date:||January 20, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Gary Miron, Western Michigan University|
|Miron's review finds that while some of the recommendations are reasonable, two key recommendations related to charter school facilities and funding are poorly developed and based on a narrow and misleading view of the evidence which undermines the utility of the report.|
|Report Reviewed:||Measures of Effective Teaching - Learning about Teaching: Initial Findings|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation|
This study indicates that classroom effectiveness can be reliably estimated by gauging students' progress on standardized tests.
|Think Twice Review Date:||January 13, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Jesse Rothstein, University of California at Berkeley|
|Rothstein's review finds that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation report is seriously flawed. His analysis found the MET report draws conclusions that are not supported by its own facts, with some data in the report pointing "in the opposite direction" from what is indicated in its "poorly-supported conclusions."|
|Report Reviewed:||U.S. Math Performance in Global Perspective: How Well Does Each State Do at Producing High-Achieving Students|
|Publisher/Think Tank:||Harvard University PEPG and Education Next|
This report compares the performance of high-achieving math students domestically and internationally, using data from the 2005 NAEP and PISA.
|Think Twice Review Date:||January 11, 2011|
|Reviewer:||Jeremy Kilpatrick, University of Georgia|
|Kilpatrick's review finds that the PEPG report's deceptive comparisons and exaggeration of small differences make it useless in terms of helping educators improve U.S. students' math performance. He recommends that policymakers who are interested in obtaining data on student performance go to the website of the National Center for Education Statistics and ignore the flawed PEPG study.|
The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) released a reply by Jeremy Kilpatrick as part of an exchange with Paul Peterson about Kilpatrick's damning review of U.S. Math Performance in Global Perspective: How Well Does Each State Do at Producing High-Achieving Students?, a report authored by Peterson, Eric Hanushek, and LudgerWoessman.
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