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2012 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.

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Reports & Reviews for 2012

Report Reviewed: New York State Special Education Enrollment Analysis Center on Reinventing Public Education
Publisher/Think Tank: The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), affiliated with the University of Washington – commissioned by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.
The report finds that differences in charter and district school special education enrollment rates are far smaller than is claimed in recent federal reports and other literature. It finds disparities between elementary and secondary enrollment patterns, and variation among charter authorizers. The report argues against one-size-fits-all 'enrollment targets.'
 
Think Twice Review Date: December 6, 2012
Reviewer: Bruce Baker, Rutgers University
Baker's review finds that the report's own findings do not support the main contention that enrollment rates among special education students is smaller than claimed on federal reports and other literature. The review further finds it inappropriate to derive cross-state policy recommendations from data primarily drawn from charter schools in New York City. The report's objective appears to be to convince policymakers across states that it would be unnecessary or wrongheaded to adopt 'enrollment target' policies for charter schools.


Report Reviewed:

The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America's Public Schools
Publisher/Think Tank: The Friedman Foundation
The report finds that although staffing in U.S. public schools dramatically increased, student achievement did not. The report concludes that more school choice would result in decentralized governance and a better allocation of resources – "so that individual parents, teachers and educators can decide how to best organize schools."
 
Think Twice Review Date: December 4, 2012
Reviewer: Joydeep Roy, Visiting Professor Teachers College – Columbia University & Senior Economist for the New York City Independent Budget Office
A new review finds that the report does not further the public's understanding of the issue, and does not offer any guidance for policymakers. Furthermore, it is based on faulty premises, lacks any analysis of why school staffing has grown, and promotes choice without offering any evidence that it would have altered the trend.


Report Reviewed: Measures of Effective Teaching—Asking Students About Teaching
Publisher/Think Tank: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
A recent report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project presents advice on administering and using information from student surveys to evaluate teachers and provide feedback to teachers.
 
Think Twice Review Date: November 15, 2012
Reviewer: Eric M. Camburn, The University of Wisconsin-Madison
Eric Camburn, an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, reviewed the report for the Think Twice think tank review project and found that the report makes many sensible recommendations for using student surveys for measuring teaching effectiveness. Unfortunately there is no body of literature (methodological or conceptual) that can be used to support the report's recommendations or using student surveys for data driven decision-making.


Report Reviewed:

The Effects of School Vouchers on College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence from New York City
Publisher/Think Tank: The Brookings Institution
Jointly released with the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, this report examines college enrollment rates of students participating in an experimental voucher program in New York City.
 
Think Twice Review Date: September 13, 2012
Reviewer: Sara Goldrick-Rab, The University of Wisconsin-Madison
A review of the report found that this new study's contribution to discussions of education policy is the opposite of what its authors intend. The evidence presented suggests that school vouchers did not improve college enrollment rates for African Americans.


Report Reviewed: Parent Power: Grass-Roots Activism and K-12 Education Reform
Publisher/Think Tank: American Enterprise Institute
This report reviews a narrow selection of education reform advocacy organizations (ERAOs), which seek to organize parents around market-based school reforms.
 
Think Twice Review Date: September 6, 2012
Reviewer: Michelle Fine, CUNY
Stan Karp, Education Law Center
The report suffers from several research defects, narrowly defines education advocacy groups as only those who advocate for market-based reforms, and mischaracterizes urban parents. The reviewers also found that the report is neither a credible research study nor a primer on "parent power."


Report Reviewed:

Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, Final Reports No. 29, 30 & 32
Publisher/Think Tank: School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP), University of Arkansas
The three reports are among more than 30 produced by the School Choice Demonstration Project, which has conducted a five-year longitudinal growth study of the Milwaukee voucher program.
 
Think Twice Review Date: April 19, 2012
Reviewer: Casey Cobb, University of Connecticut
Three recent reports on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), produced by the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas use largely sound methods, but the data they assemble provide little in the way of an endorsement for the 22-year-old school voucher program.


Report Reviewed: Teachers in the Digital Age of Digital Instruction: Creating sound policy for digital learning
Publisher/Think Tank: Thomas B. Fordham Institute
This report claims that effective teachers are central to the demands of online instruction and will be even more necessary in the digital age than in the current system.
 
Think Twice Review Date: April 3, 2012
Reviewer: Luis A. Huerta, Teachers College, Columbia University
The review found that the report's use of research was problematic and the report's claims of effectiveness on online instruction are inconsistent with the findings of the research cited. The review found that the report omitted important contrasting research and that the report lacks the empirical base necessary to serve as a preliminary foundation to guide policy and practice.

Report Reviewed: Our Immense Achievement Gap: Embracing Proven Remedies While Avoiding a Race-Based Recipe for Disaster
Publisher/Think Tank: Center for the American Experiment
This report claims that desegregation has failed and criticizes efforts to reduce concentrated poverty and achieve racial and socioeconomic integration in schools and housing in Minnesota.
 
Think Twice Review Date: March 29, 2012
Reviewer: Susan Eaton, Harvard University
Eaton's review finds that the report relies heavily on selected research literature to make its arguments but ignores dozens of the most important peer-reviewed research studies that suggest strong relationships between racial, ethnic, economic diversity/desegregation and academic gain

Report Reviewed: Overcoming the Governance Challenge in K-12 Online Learning
Publisher/Think Tank: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
This report provides steps to move the governance of K-12 online learning from the local level to the less restrictive state level and to create a free market for corporate innovation in K-12 online learning.
 
Think Twice Review Date: March 22, 2012
Reviewer: Michael K. Barbour, Wayne State University
Barbour's review finds that it provides no evidence to support its recommendations and concludes that the report is an advocacy document designed to advance an ideological agenda.


Report Reviewed: The Louisiana Recovery School District: Lessons for the Buckeye State
Publisher/Think Tank: Thomas B. Fordham Institute
This report claims that the charter school-driven Recovery School District in New Orleans can be replicated in other urban centers.
 
Think Twice Review Date: March 20, 2012
Reviewer: Kristen Buras, Georgia State University
Buras's review of this report finds that it ignores the fact that charters have not produced significant gains in student achievement and have been criticized by large segments of the African American community due to concerns over access, equity, performance and accountability.

Report Reviewed: Gathering Feedback for Teaching: Combining High Quality Observation with Student Surveys and Achievement Gains
Publisher/Think Tank: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
This report is the second to come out on the e Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project and focuses on an evaluation method in which videotaped lessons, evaluated by trained raters, are used to assess teachers.
 
Think Twice Review Date: March 13, 2012
Reviewer: Cassandra Guarino, University of Indianana
Brian Stacy, Michigan State University
Guarino and Stacy's review of this report concludes that it adds to the research base, but that it omits some relevant information and that key details regarding the study design and methodological approach are lacking.

 

Report Reviewed: The Costs of Online Learning
Publisher/Think Tank: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
This report analyzes the cost drivers of virtual and blended-learning schools compared to traditional brick-and-mortar schools and determines that it's far cheaper for students to be education online.
 
Think Twice Review Date: March 6, 2012
Reviewer: Jennifer King Rice, University of Maryland
Rice’s review of this report finds that it doesn’t use empirical evidence to determine if it’s cheaper for students to be educated online. Rice indicates that the approaches used in the report are too general and not evidence based.

 

Report Reviewed: On Her Majesty's School Inspection Service
Publisher/Think Tank: Education Sector
This report urges American educators to look to an English system of school inspections as a means of assessing schools and as a tool for better understanding and improving student achievement.
 
Think Twice Review Date: February 28, 2012
Reviewer: Steven Jay Gross, Temple University
Gross' review of this report finds that it lacks any research base and has little to offer in terms of informing education reform in the U.S.

 

Report Reviewed: The Long-Term Impact of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood
Publisher/Think Tank: National Bureau of Economic Research

This report concludes that teachers whose students show high gains on standardized test scores continue to have a positive impact on the students later in the form of reduced teenage pregnancy rates, increased college attendance and increased future earnings.

 
Think Twice Review Date: February 16, 2012
Reviewer: Dale Ballou, Vanderbilt University
Ballou's review acknowledges that the report is impressive in many ways, but that important tests for bias were omitted and it failed to account for external factors which could impact test scores such as good parenting.

 

Report Reviewed: What's Trust Got to Do With It? A Communications and Engagement Guide for School Leaders Tackling the Problem of Persistently Failing Schools
Publisher/Think Tank: Public Agenda
This report offers strategies for building public and parental support for federal school turnaround strategies.
 
Think Twice Review Date: February 7, 2012
Reviewer: William J. Mathis, University of Colorado-Boulder
Mathis's review of this report finds that it endorses turnaround strategies without addressing the large body of research that raises questions about their effectiveness and is dismissive of the views of those who do not support such strategies.

 

Report Reviewed: Assessing the Compensation of Public School Teachers
Publisher/Think Tank: Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute

This report claims that public school teachers are paid 52 percent more than fair market rates and that teachers are less intelligent than other workers of comparable education and experience.

 
Think Twice Review Date: January 31, 2012
Reviewer: Jeffrey H. Keefe, Rutgers University
Keefe’s review finds that the report is based on a faulty assessment that relies on “an aggregation of spurious claims” to make its case. Keefe concludes that the study isn’t merely useless, but that it could lead to ill-informed and harmful policy decisions that could further undercut public education.


Report Reviewed: Charter-School Management Organizations: Diverse Strategies and Diverse Student Impacts
Publisher/Think Tank: Mathematica Policy Research Inc. and Center on Reinventing Public Education
At the heart of this study of charter management organizations (CMOs), is an impact analysis which found that a small number of CMOs boosted middle-school student achievement.
 
Think Twice Review Date: January 19, 2012
Reviewer: Bruce Fuller, University of California-Berkley
Fuller's review of this study finds that though it offers insights into features of successful CMOs, it overreaches when interpreting key findings from the very small, selective subset of CMOs used.

 

Report Reviewed: Gateways to the Principalship: State Power to Improve the Quality of School Leaders
Publisher/Think Tank: Center for American Progress

This report from the Center on American Progress, proposes a range of state policies for improving principal effectiveness and student achievement.

 
Think Twice Review Date: January 10, 2012
Reviewer: Margaret Terry Orr, Bank Street College of Education
Orr's review of the report finds that it ignores existing research on the subject, lacks evidence for the approaches it advocates and sidesteps both state and professional policies that directly address the sorts of problems it purports to remedy.

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.

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