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Mark Paige, (508) 910-9037,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Public Agenda Report Embraces "No Excuses" Rhetoric, Misleads Policymakers and the Public

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jan. 15, 2013) – A recent report from Public Agenda attempted to study why some schools in high-poverty communities succeed while other fail. Carolin Hagelskamp and Christopher DiStasi completed the report, sponsored by the Ohio Business Roundtable, the Ohio Department of Education and The Ohio State University, for Public Agenda. The study looked at nine high-achieving, high-poverty Ohio schools – it summarizes key attributes and practices found through interviews.

But a new review finds that the report, Failure Is Not an Option: How Principals, Teachers, Students, and Parents from Ohio's High-Achieving, High-Poverty Schools Explain Their Success, fails to propose remedies that address equity needs or poverty. The review finds that the report simplistically embraces "no excuses" reform rhetoric and offers a set of generic recommendations that are not sufficient to resolve inequities in schools.

Mark Paige, who researches legal issues in education and education policy at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, prepared the review for the National Education Policy Center with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Paige points out that the report lacks an objective, concrete definition of "sustained success" and fails to acknowledge the influence of outside-of-school factors. Moreover, the report ignores overwhelming research on outside-of-school factors and data contained within the study itself.

In his review, Paige suggests that the report does deserve some recognition, because it reiterates several of the "best practices" that contribute to improved teaching and learning. However, the report lacks any evidence to address the "no excuses" narrative: "that with dedicated teachers and administrators, schools alone can solve educational inequities."

The report misleads policymakers and the public into thinking that a set of generic recommendations and attributes, found in successful schools, can overcome poverty and inequity.

Find the Think Twice Review on the Great Lakes Center website:

Find Failure is Not an Option 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.

This review is also found on the NEPC website:


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

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