Lexington Institute's New Jersey Report of Little Value to Policymakers
Shortcomings of current school reforms are exaggerated while problems with the report's favored reforms are ignored, according to new review
EAST LANSING, MI (February 10, 2011) – A review released today finds fundamental errors in a Lexington Institute report that condemns existing reforms in New Jersey and instead suggests its own reforms, such as merit pay for teachers and private school vouchers. According to the reviewer, the report offers only a one-sided presentation of the issue and ignores relevant research.
The report, Reform with Results for New Jersey Schools, by Lori Drummer and Don Soifer, was reviewed for the Think Twice think tank review project by Alan R. Sadovnik, a professor of education, sociology, and public administration and affairs at Rutgers University, Newark and co-director of the Institute on Education Law and Policy and the Newark Schools Research Collaborative
The review was produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Education, with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
The Lexington report claims to analyze the impact of reforms instituted as a result of New Jersey's Abbott v. Burke school funding litigation in the 1990s. The Abbott reforms included pre-school for three- and four-year-olds, funding to build new and renovate existing schools, and supplemental funding for up to 31 low-income school districts. The report states that these reforms have failed to significantly improve educational achievement, especially for African American students. It recommends replacing the reforms associated with Abbott with a variety of school-choice policies as well as tying teacher pay to student test results
Sadovnik found that the report largely avoids research-based conclusions, cherry-picks evidence, and "is a straightforward advocacy document for market-based and competition-oriented reforms." As one example of the report's research flaws, it overstates the per-pupil spending in Newark by $4,000 by crediting to the district money passed through to charter schools and to pre-kindergarten programs. Further, while advocating expansion of the charter school sector, the report ignores "a body of research indicating that Newark charter schools perform at similar levels to district schools, after controlling for family background and other variables," according to Sadovnik.
"Even an advocacy report has an obligation to reach conclusions based on all of the available evidence, not simply that which supports its point of view." Lacking the sort of "carefully collected evidence" and sound social science methodology that should drive school reform, Sadovnik concludes that "this report will be useful only to those already predisposed to its point of view."
Find Alan Sadovnik's review and a link to the Lexinton Institute report on the Great Lakes Center website at:
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The Think Twice think tank review project, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
The review is also available on the National Education Policy Center website at:
The mission of the Great Lakes Center is to improve public education for all students in the Great Lakes region through the support and dissemination of high quality, academically sound research on education policy and practices.
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