2008 - Think Tank Review Project

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.

Previous Years:  2007 · 2006

Review of: "A School Privatization Primer for Michigan School Officials, Media and Residents"

Date:
June 27, 2007
Author:
Michael D. LaFaive
Think Tank:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy
Think Tank Review:
Date:
February 19, 2008
Reviewer:
Institution:
Queens College, City University of New York
Issued by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A School Privatization Primer for Michigan School Officials, Media and Residents" examines the "contracting out" of public school support services — specifically food, transportation, and custodial services. The report describes the prevalence of contracting out and sets forth the practical steps in hiring a contractor and the benefits in allowing districts to focus on their core mission of instruction. This information may help districts already committed to contracting out. However, the report presupposes that the practice is beneficial. It relies primarily on testimony from district officials rather than direct data or research. And it does not consider the significant transactions costs associated with contracting out or the risks in ceding control to an outside vendor. Overall, the report is prone to overstatement and misleading contentions, resulting in a report that greatly over-simplifies how education systems operate and the purported benefits of contracting out education-related services.
Review of: "Feeling the Florida Heat? How Low-Performing Schools Respond to Voucher and Accountability Pressure"
Date:
November 2007
Authors:
Cecilia Elena Rouse, Jane Hannaway, Dan Goldhaber, and David Figlio
Think Tank:
Urban Institute’s National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research
Think Tank Review:
Date:
January 15, 2008
Reviewer:
Institution:
Boston College
This study examines the relationship between high-stakes school accountability and its effects upon student test scores and school policies. The authors seek to understand the extent to which accountability sanctions and incentives for the poorest-performing schools in Florida explain subsequent changes in school practices and policies as well as achievement — measured by state assessment data, Stanford-10 assessment data and surveys of public school principals. Based on statistical analysis of the lowest-performing schools, the authors report that accountability incentives and sanctions are related to school practice and policy as well as to student achievement. The report uses comprehensive data sources and applies appropriate methodologies to address the research question. Its analyses demonstrate a mediating relationship for school policies between accountability and achievement gains, a finding consistent with both the literature on the subject and common sense. However, the report overstates and makes causal claims about the relationship between accountability sanctions and improvements in school achievement. In this way, the report’s title and some causal statements in the body of the report are unfortunate in that they overstate the report’s sound findings and suggest that vouchers and other accountability measures are shown to be the cause of achievement gains in some of Florida’s lowest-performing schools.
Review of Five Reports:
Report: The High Cost of Failing to Reform Public Education in Missouri

Date:
March 1, 2006
Author:
Brian J. Gottlob
Think Tank:
Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation
Report: The High Cost of Failing to Reform Public Education in Indiana

Date:
October 1, 2006
Author:
Brian J. Gottlob
Think Tank:
Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation
Report: The High Cost of Failing to Reform Public Education in Texas

Date:
February 1, 2007
Author:
Brian J. Gottlob
Think Tank:
Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation
Report: The High Cost of South Carolina’s Low Graduation Rates

Date:
June 1, 2007
Author:
Brian J. Gottlob
Think Tank:
Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation
Report: The High Cost of Low Graduation Rates in North Carolina

Date:
October 25, 2007
Author:
Brian J. Gottlob
Think Tank:
Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation
Think Tank Review:
Date:
January 9, 2008
Reviewer:
Sherman Dorn
Institution:
University of South Florida
Five sister reports published by the Friedman Foundation over the past two years have ignored the relevant research literature in asserting that private-school voucher programs can reduce the social costs of dropping out while increasing graduation rates. The reports are state-specific, targeting five different states. But each report follows a parallel structure, arguing that the state in question overestimates its graduation rate, that the costs of drop-ping out are dramatic and that a private-school voucher program can increase graduation and address the dropout problem by generating competition. Yet the reports largely ignore the existing research literature on the personal and social benefits of educational attain-ment, the effects of school competition, and the factors associated with either completing or dropping out of high school. Further, each report does not provide sufficient information about how the author estimated the statistical claims made for each state, and the author fails to compare the alleged benefits of private-school vouchers with plausible alternatives, such as increasing public-school choice programs or improving graduation through other programs. State policymakers interested in increasing graduation would be better served by seeking out the available, well-researched scholarship on the topic.