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Ed Knows Policy

EKP -- a local (Washington, DC) and national blog about education policy, politics, and research.

Who is Ed Researcher?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Cleveland Vouchers Reanalysis -- "released"

Clive Belfield just "released" a re-analysis of the effects of the Cleveland school voucher program on student achievement (full text in pdf here). I put released in quotes because it somehow got in Education Week($) as a study that was "issued this month" even though it's not been through any kind of peer review. Ed Week made no mention of the Belfield paper's status, which is basically working paper. Maybe the paper is fine, I don't know. I plan to read it and comment on it here.

But the disturbing thing is how Ed Week goes ahead and treats all research equal, whether it's been vetted or not, whether the paper is a major contribution or a clever opinion piece dressed up with some numbers. They give the reader no clue about whether a study is authoritative or not. If Joe Shmo writes a working paper on a hot button issue and sends a press release to newspaper editors with a link to the Joe Shmo Center for Recent Research, the editors shouldn't just reprint the news release with a few quotes from their usual roster of reactors who have read only an abstract (if that). This is pure laziness and is shameful. My question is: Why does Ed Week not read and heed their own piece on this sloppy journalistic practice?

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Who Evaluates Education Policies?

According to the What Works Clearinghouse, it's these guys.

What do you think?

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Spreading Corniness While Studying DC Vouchers

Cato Institute researchers Susan Aud and Leon Michos just came out with a report last month on the DC Voucher program (read it here). The title, "Spreading Freedom and Saving Money: The Fiscal Impact of the D.C. Voucher Program," sort of made me want to puke, but the content actually isn't that bad. The analysis is not very sophisticated--they just figured out how much cheaper a voucher school can educate a kid for and multiplied it by the number of voucher kids--but still, it's important to do this math.

The bottom line is that vouchers save the city $258,402. (Hey, at least they rounded off the pennies) and would save $3 million if they were made universal.

Since their assumptions are just a bit too freedom lovin' and optimistic, I'd just change the assumptions and hit the Recalculate button. Would probably get a different policy conclusion, but hey, credit to them for putting together a template for how to think about how possible efficiency gains could add up, but the paper itself is just naked hackery. They could have hid it better by dropping the first part of that title. Yuck.

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The Virginia, I mean, DC Public Charter School Board

The DC Public Charter School Board is one of two bodies that serves as a gatekeeper for prospective and current public charter schools in Washington, DC. They decide who gets public money to start a school. They are nominated by the U.S. Secretary of Education (huh?) and "selected" by the Mayor of DC. Why the U.S. Secretary of Education has squat to do with DC's local education is a mystery to me.

So, what do these people on the Board have in common?

If you guessed that they all live in Washington, DC, the community whose high stakes educational decisions they make... you would be wrong. I suppose they're fine and talented people, but Tom Nida, the chair, lives in Front Royal, VA, wherever that is. Anthony Colon? Greenbelt, MD. Will Marshall? A policy wonk who goes home to his family in Virginia every night and pays his taxes to Richmond.

That's half the Board imported from out of state. What self-respecting community would go out of state for people to serve on a Board like this? I invite readers to find me one.

So, is Washington, DC so lame that it can't find 7 intelligent people to fill these slots? I don't think so. I think the federal government uses DC as its playground, and this is no different.

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