Monday, June 22, 2009

Flawed Research: Friedman Tax-Credit Reports

Friedman Tax-Credit Reports Inaccurate and Unsubstantiated

Reports’ conclusions highly suspect, according to new review

EAST LANSING, Mi., June 22, 2009. – A recent series of reports focused on Georgia, Indiana and Montana conclude that programs awarding tax credits to donors funding private school vouchers will reduce government expenditures and make the finance system more efficient. A new review of the reports finds their conclusions highly suspect and sharply criticizes them for presenting unsubstantiated claims and failing to adequately consider short- and long-term costs of such tax-credit programs.

The reports are The Fiscal Impact of Tax-Credit Scholarships in Montana and The Fiscal Impact of Tax-Credit Scholarships in Georgia, and The Fiscal Impact of a Corporate & Individual Tax-Credit Scholarship Program on the State of Indiana. All three are published by the Friedman Foundation, a think tank which advocates free-market approaches to education. The three reports were reviewed for the Think Twice project by Luis Huerta of Teachers College, Columbia University.

Tax-credit voucher programs – sometimes dubbed neovouchers – provide a non-refundable tax credit to individuals or corporations contributing to non-profit corporations, which then distribute the money to students attending private schools. These neovouchers (often called “scholarships” in the state laws) now exist in six states—Arizona, Pennsylvania, Florida, Rhode Island, Iowa, and Georgia—and others, including Indiana and Montana, are considering them.

The three Friedman reports claim that implementing such programs would result in a net financial saving to the states. They base their conclusions, Huerta observes, on assumptions about the sensitivity of public school revenues and expenditures to enrollment declines, as well as assumptions about a pent-up demand for publicly funded private school choice and the nature and degree of supply and demand pressures. Huerta tests all these assumptions and finds them to be largely groundless and frequently at odds with established research.

In fact, Huerta notes that the reports’ use of research is largely confined to work from advocacy groups like the Friedman Foundation itself. He observes that this “insular approach further calls into question the validity of the new reports’ conclusions.” While the report on Indiana offers a “more thoughtful” approach to research, Huerta continues, the literature it cites is poorly used and doesn’t clearly support the report’s estimates and conclusions.

Huerta’s review hits particularly hard on the reports’ failure to consider key factors concerning private school supply and demand if neovoucher programs were to be implemented. Specifically, these factors are crucial to the reports’ analyses, and the review shows them to be highly problematic. Similarly, the reports fail to adequately account for the additional expenditures of a tax-credit program when it subsidizes families who were going to choose a private school anyway, making their expenditure calculations almost worthless.

“Policymakers should be cautioned to look beyond the seductive promises of increased fiscal savings and efficiency, which are unsubstantiated and inaccurately estimated in these reports,” Huerta concludes. “Instead, policymakers should seek more balanced and empirically robust assessments that would allow them to make informed decisions about how to proceed with effective school reform polices.”

Find Luis web at:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Good-bye Pookie

Yesterday evening, Katherine and I said good-bye to Pookie, our 13 year-old golden retriever. Pookie became sick a few days ago and her condition deteriorated so quickly that we had her euthanized to ease her suffering.

Pookie came to us when she was just about two years old. She came from less than ideal conditions, but for the most part, adjust well and became a beloved member of our family. In the photo of her, I believe you can see the contentment in her face. We will miss her.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Flawed Research: Preschool Juggernaut by Chester Finn

Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut is a new book published online by the Hoover Institution and authored by the Fordham Institution’s Chester Finn. It is an inaccurate and poorly reasoned attack on the movement to secure all children a good preschool education. The book cherry-picks a few weak studies to fit its preconceptions, and it builds the case for targeted programs based on errors, exaggeration, misrepresentation, and logical inconsistency. Below, I set forth 14 points to consider which together demonstrate these flaws and explain why an even-handed review of all costs and benefits tends to support preschool for all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Report on Charter Schools and Student Achievement

Charter Schools Found Not To Have Raised Student Achievement Significantly

The Washington Times (6/16, Billups) reports, "Even as the president has touted the growth of charter schools and his education secretary has decried state caps on their numbers, a new study from Stanford University has found that the nation's charter schools have not significantly raised student achievement when compared with traditional public schools. The study of collective reading and math progress in 2,403 charter schools in 15 states and cities, including the District of Columbia was released Monday by researchers at Stanford's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO)." Findings "showed that almost half of the charter schools produced results similar to those from comparable public schools, and schools producing worse results than the traditional schools outnumbered those with better numbers by more than 2 to 1."

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Summer Reading Recommendations

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King: You can see this movie played over and over on tv but put it on your reading list. This was originally published as a novella in Different Seasons. I usually enjoy reading the book before the movie but this is one was an exception to my rule--I had no idea it was a work of Stephen King. Getting narration from Red's point of view is very special. This novella is only 106 pages long but it is well worth it.

A Painted House by John Grisham: This isn't a legal thriller and is vastly different from Grisham's original works. It is a coming of age story told by a 7 year old Arkansas boy as his family works to get the years cotton harvested. A great read.

Three Nights in August by Buzz Bissinger: A must read for Cardinal baseball fans--especially for those who have a tough time figuring out what manager Tony LaRussa is thinking. It provides tremendous insight into the game of baseball during a three game series with the Chicago Cubs.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Recommended Summer Reading

Here is a list of summer reading recommended by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. I'll put together my list this weekend.

Dennis Van Roekel: Whatever your summer plans - and I hope they include some well-deserved R&R -- a good book is a great way to pass the time. From bestsellers to classics to everything in between, books are a fun way to enjoy a hot summer day without breaking a sweat. For your enjoyment and reading pleasure, here are my top 5 summer reading picks.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Would You Teach Here for $125,000?

The Equity Project charter school in New York City’s Washington Heights will open this fall with 120 5th graders chosen by lottery. Preference was given to students from surrounding neighborhoods and to weak academic performers. Most children will be from low-income Hispanic families. The school will grow to 480 children in Grades 5 to 8, with 28 teachers. The eight teachers who will open the school were selected in a nationwide search and will be paid a $125,000 annual salary, with potential bonuses in the second year. [Full Article]

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Western Heights Acknowledges Dropouts

This story appeared in the Oklahoman today. Western Heights Superintendent Joe Kitchens is an OEA member and strong advocate for public schools.

District’s telling symbol Western Heights’ dropouts gone but not forgotten

By Christy Watson

Most everything about the Western Heights High School graduation was typical. Valedictorian Ashley Ozment spoke of good memories and exciting futures. The band played "Rise and Shine” in tribute to the graduates. And Principal Jean Adams offered words of wisdom and encouragement.

But as the 133 graduates made their way across the Cox Convention Center stage and back to their seats, they had to pass by what made the ceremony most unusual: empty chairs. One for each of the 56 former Western Heights students the school counted as Class of 2009 dropouts.
At some point during the past four years, 339 students were part of the Class of 2009, Superintendent Joe Kitchens explained to graduates and the crowd. School officials confirmed that 146 of those students ended up at another school. Four received a GED. That left the 133 graduates and 56 students the school officially counts as dropouts. They were gone but not forgotten. They still had chairs.

Kitchens is frustrated at the district’s 29 percent dropout rate. But two years ago, the rate was 40 percent. In real numbers, 97 kids from the Class of 2007 dropped out. That fell to 81 last year. Behind those numbers are real kids with a shot at a better future.
In a few years, all Oklahoma schools will have to follow the more rigorous dropout formula Western Heights has embraced. Will all be as brutally truthful?

Western Heights is a district well known for its impressive student data system. The data are telling. Students who didn’t begin ninth grade at Western Heights dropped out at twice the rate of other students. These mobile students also failed classes at twice the rate of their peers.
Those figures mean little without action. "We know who the mobile students are and we know when they come into our school system,” Kitchens said. "It is our job to effectively identify those students and put people out there who are specifically charged with helping them the day they enter our school system.” It’s working.

Kitchens acknowledges the pressure that his focus on dropouts puts on school staff. Despite some criticism about the empty chair display, he isn’t ignoring the success of graduates. Most have college plans, and some already have several hours of college credit through a partnership with Oklahoma City Community College. But he doesn’t want parents and patrons to miss the big picture. With an entire section of empty chairs at graduation, that picture was impossible to ignore.

Watson is an editorial writer for The Oklahoman.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Secretary Duncan's Response to "The Condition of Education"

United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has issued the following statement in response to “The Condition of Education” report for 2009 released today by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES):

“These findings clearly show the need for us to make college available to all young people and adults and the bottom line benefits of a higher education. Over the last three decades immediate college enrollment increased for all income levels, although we still need to help close the gap between those who need financial help and those who don’t. The enrollment gap between students from low- and high-income families shrunk by nearly 50 percent, which means more low-income students are accessing college. This is extremely encouraging, as they have the potential to lift families out of circumstances of poverty. The financial advantages provided by a college education are clear. Young people with a bachelor’s degree earn twice as much as those without a high school diploma, according to this research.

President Obama has set a goal that by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. This requires more college enrollment right out of high school and more adults going back to college as our workforce reinvents itself. Stimulus funds and our proposed 2010 budget are targeted to do just that by increasing access to college and reducing high school and college dropout rates.

While the findings of the 2009 Condition of Education report show that young students are showing some progress, we can’t overlook the fact that adults need more help in preparing for the work world or further education.

As I reflect on these findings, I am confident that we are on the right course as the Administration implements a comprehensive cradle-to-career education agenda to prepare our citizenry to compete in the global economy. Every single child deserves the very best education possible and our job is to give it to them.”

The Condition of Education 2009 summarizes important developments and trends in education using the latest available data. To view the report, visit <>.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Condition of Education 2009

An interesting article about the new National Center for Education Statistics report.

Washington Post: A Changing Student Body
(Maria Glod, News, National)
“Public school enrollment across the country is hitting a record this year with just less than 50 million students, and classrooms are becoming more diverse, largely because of growth in the Latino population, according to a new federal report.”