July 26, 2016

Terrenda White, (404) 661-2439, terrenda.white@colorado.edu
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

Report praising Denver school reforms not supported with evidence, review finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jul. 26, 2016) — A recent report from the Progressive Policy Institute advocated for expanded use of the "portfolio model" of school governance. The report drew on contemporary reforms adopted by the Denver Public Schools, which include aggressively closing public schools and expanding charter schools and charter networks. An academic review released today finds that the report oversteps its claims in an attempt to positively portray Denver's reforms.

The report, A 21st Century School System in the Mile-High City, was reviewed by Terrenda White, University of Colorado Boulder, for the Think Twice think thank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), is funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The report, funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, claimed that reforms enacted by the Denver Public Schools (viz., portfolio model, school closings, and charter expansion) positively impacted student test scores. The goal was to highlight Denver as a success story that should be copied elsewhere.

However, White's review raises serious concerns about the claims made. Most notably, White finds that the only data presented were simple charts that lacked any conventional statistical analysis. Regarding the report's use of research literature, White finds that the report drew primarily from advocacy publications from partisan foundations.

In her conclusion, White says: "Ironically, the report celebrates Denver's portfolio strategy and its expansion of charter schools as a model of 21st century reform at a time when other cities have discovered that charters are not panaceas."

Read the full review at:

Find A 21st Century School System on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & 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.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/