Anything to push their own agenda.
Report’s Alarm over U.S. Education Lacks Support
Review finds Education Olympics of little value to policymakers
EAST LANSING, Mi. (Oct. 15, 2008)—A report released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute following the Summer Olympic Games awards gold, silver and bronze medals to top-performing countries in various academic “events.” A new review of that report questions the rankings but saves its harshest criticism for the report’s leap to unsupported policy recommendations.
The report, Education Olympics 2008: The Games in Review, was reviewed for the Think Twice project by professors Edward Fierros of Villanova University and Mindy Kornhaber of Penn State University.
Education Olympics compares student achievement in American schools against that of other nations. Based primarily on standardized test results, it awarded the U.S. only one gold medal (for civics education). With this one medal, the U.S. was ranked 20th among the 77 participating nations.
The Fordham report acknowledges that it isn’t based on new research and that it takes some shortcuts to arrive at its rankings. Also not new is its conclusion that low U.S. rankings threaten the nation’s standing in the global economy. But the report offers little or no support for that conclusion or the associated recommendations.
The core of the report consists of tables showing how countries rank on various student achievement measures, as well as accompanying descriptive text. Supplementing the tables and narrative are ten sidebars that make a number of claims about education and economic performance. Fierros and Kornhaber point out that the sidebar assertions overlap with Fordham Institute policy initiatives for American schools and “raise doubts about the use of educational resources in the U.S., while praising other countries’ school choice policies and Canada’s lack of a federal role for education.” The review discusses, as an example, a sidebar largely focused on promoting school choice. The sidebar’s content “is driven by ideology rather than reasoned argument,” the reviewers write. As evidence, they point to the fact that Finland—the highest ranking of all the countries in the report—in fact has the lowest rate of school choice. The sidebars lack any analysis of the needs of students, teachers, communities, or families, and also lack any foundation of analysis of previous reform efforts.
In short, the report “does not attempt to provide clear guidance for policy or practice on the basis of its findings and conclusions,” Fierros and Kornhaber write. “The Education Olympics report, driven by predetermined positions and lacking any rigorous demonstration of argument, theory, evidence or methods, provides no basis for generating constructive policy for improving our nation’s educational performance.”
Find by the review by Edward G. Fierros and Mindy Kornhaber and a link to Education Olympics 2008 on the web at: http://mail.okea.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.greatlakescenter.org/.