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Released: April 16, 2015

Review of Measuring and Understanding Education Advocacy

A recent report from the Brooking Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy attempted to examine the influence and approach of education advocacy organizations in three states. The report looked at the causal influence of organizations for and against education reform in Louisiana, Tennessee, and North Carolina. An academic review of the report finds there is a gap between the evidence and the conclusions presented, however, the methods used in the report may be useful in education policy research.
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Released: April 13, 2015

Review of Paying the Best Teachers More to Teach More Students

A recent report from the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University proposed that school districts pay top performing teachers a bonus for accepting additional students into their existing classes. The report claimed that larger classes and reductions to the teaching force would create significant savings. However, an academic review of the report finds that the report is largely unsubstantiated, ignores what is known about teacher pay, and fails to offer guidance for policymaking.
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Released: March 31, 2015

Teacher Leadership: Research, Preparation and Policy Seminar

The Great Lakes Center invites you to participate in an interactive seminar Saturday, April 18, 2015 from 12:30 to 3:00pm at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago. Participants will work collaboratively to identify strengths and weaknesses in the field of teacher leadership research, begin to map an agenda for future research and development, and establish connections that can lead to progress in this area.

Teacher Leadership: Research, Preparation and Policy Seminar

Think Twice Think Tank Review Project


Think Twice is one of the nation's first efforts to serve as a watchdog to review think tank research on public education issues and policies, ensuring that published work meets the quality and standards of university scholarship.

The goal of the Think Twice project is to provide the public, policy makers and the press with timely academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications.

The Think Twice project is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. The reviews that are a part of this project are expert third party reviews produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC).

More Think Twice Reviews

Policy Briefs


The Center funds policy briefs and reports on important education issues. Policy briefs and reports are written by recognized academic experts in each topic and include a summary of existing research available as well as policy recommendations. Briefs published in 2015 include:


Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2015: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence
Alex Molnar, University of Colorado Boulder (editor)
Gary Miron, Western Michigan University
Luis Huerta, Teachers College, Columbia University
Michael Barbour, Sacred Heart University

Virtual schools are today a focal point for policymakers interested in expanding education choice and making public schools both more efficient and more technologically current. In 2013, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, released the first of a planned series of annual reports on the policy issues that virtual schools raise, the available research evidence on K-12 virtual teaching and learning, and the performance of such virtual schools. The third report on virtual education in the U.S. is being released today.

Research Brief


New Brief Examines A-F Accountability Systems
Kenneth R. Howe and Kevin Murray University of Colorado Boulder

As states adopt or revise school accountability systems, some organizations are calling for simple, easy to understand A-F grading systems. A new brief, Why School Report Cards Merit a Failing Grade, identifies substantial problems with letter grades as a measure of school quality and finds that expressing school quality in a single composite grade is flawed. Authors Ken Howe and Kevin Murray, University of Colorado Boulder, examined A-F accountability systems with respect to three kinds of validity. They find that A-F accountability systems fail to empower parents and community members to promote school improvement and may serve to alienate parents from democratic participation in the education of their children.

Policy Brief


Personalized Instruction: New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results – Time for a New Direction for Computer-mediated learning
Noel Enyedy, University of California – Los Angeles

As schools increasingly look to tech-based Personalized Instruction for use in the classroom, a new policy brief cautions that the method doesn’t always translate to clear improvements or cost savings – in large part because it lacks a clear definition. Noel Enyedy, associate professor of education and information studies at the University of California-Los Angeles, authored the brief. Enyedy cautions that without a clear definition of what Personalized Instruction is, policymakers and educators should be wary of advocacy promoting computerized instruction to an extent that oversteps the current research.

Policy Brief


Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2014: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence
Alex Molnar, University of Colorado Boulder (editor)
Gary Miron, Western Michigan University
Luis Huerta, Teachers College, Columbia University
Jennifer King Rice, University of Maryland
Michael Barbour, Sacred Heart University

Second annual virtual schools report cautions against unchecked expansion: As virtual education has become a focal point for policymakers interested in expanding educational choices and improving the efficiency of public education, virtual schools have attracted a great deal of attention. In 2013, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, released the first of a planned series of annual reports on the policy issues that virtual schools raise, the available research evidence on K-12 virtual teaching and learning, and the performance of such virtual schools. The second report on virtual education in the U.S. is released today.

Research Brief


Does Class Size Matter?
Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Northwestern University

In a new policy brief, professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach points out that class size reduction is an important determinant of student outcomes, one that can be directly determined by policy. Schanzenbach indicates that the evidence suggests that increasing class size will not only harm children's test scores in the short run, but also their long-run human capital formation. "Money saved today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational costs in the future." Furthermore, Schanzenbach finds that the pay-off from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children. Increases to class-size for those populations will likely be harmful.

Policy Brief


Data-driven Improvement and Accountability
Andy Hargreaves, Boston College
Henry Braun, Boston College

In a report released today, Andy Hargreaves and Henry Braun of Boston College describe how data-driven accountability initiatives have created "perverse" incentives for educators. The legislative brief highlights the flawed use of DDIA in much, though not all, of the U.S. education system. To restore focus on improvement, schools should consider systematic reforms that capture the full range of learning and assess educational values holistically, instead of relying on narrow metrics to define success that punish teachers and students. The brief includes twelve recommendations for establishing more effective systems and processes of Data-Driven or Evidence-Informed Improvement and Accountability. Model legislation by attorney Kathy Gebhardt accompanies Data-Driven Improvement and Accountability.

Legislative Brief
Model Legislation


Financing Online Education & Virtual Schooling: A Guide for Policymakers & Advocates

School Finance 2.0: Flexible Financing for a Virtual World
Bruce D. Baker, Rutgers University
Justin Bathon, University of Kentucky

How much do online schools cost? A new brief investigates the funding of online education and virtual schools and provides a new, unified conceptual approach to funding online education. As supplemental online education and full-time virtual schools become more prominent in education, policymakers must address the key challenge of determining a fair and effective way to allocate funds for these institutions. Policymakers should develop new funding formulas based on the actual costs of operating virtual schools and link funding to accountability so cost-effectiveness can be determined. Bruce Baker of Rutgers University and Justin Bathon of the University of Kentucky provide tenets of a reformed online school financing system, designed to serve as a practical guide for state and local subsidies. Model legislation, based on their recommendations, is also provided.

Legislative Brief
Model Legislation


Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2013: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence
Alex Molnar, University of Colorado Boulder (editor)
Gary Miron, Western Michigan University
Luis Huerta, Teachers College, Columbia University
Jennifer King Rice, University of Maryland
Larry Cuban, Stanford University

Major virtual schools report uncovers underperforming schools: In the last decade, virtual schools have expanded rapidly although there is little data to support their growth. The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, released the first of a planned series of annual reports on the performance of virtual schools, the policy issues that virtual schools raise, and the available research evidence on virtual education. Authors urge policymakers to slow or stop the growth of these schools until more research is done and accountability measures can be put into place.

Policy Brief


What Does It Take to Scale Up Innovations? An Examination of Teach For America, Harlem Children's Zone, and the Knowledge is Power Program
Ben Levin, University of Toronto

What Does It Take to Scale Up Innovations? A new brief investigates whether innovations are scalable and able to make a difference widely, using three commonly proposed innovations as examples. Ben Levin, University of Toronto, analyzes Teach For America (TFA), KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), and the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), which has already spawned the U.S. Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods program. Levin determined that there are barriers and opportunities to the scalability of these programs. The brief cautions policymakers to avoid the temptation of proclaiming small-scale innovative programs as solutions to large-scale problems in education.

Policy Brief


Policy Reforms and De-Professionalization of Teaching
H. Richard Milner IV, Vanderbilt University

Policies Undermining Teacher Professionalism

Policy brief finds three education policies, now in vogue, have the likely effect of de-professionalizing teachers and teaching: At the same time that public opinion polls show strong support for teaching as a profession, America's teachers increasingly feel that teaching is being de-professionalized. The brief, written by Richard Milner of Vanderbilt University, addresses the impact of three of today's most trendy education polices, (1) policies that evaluate teachers based on annual gains in students' standardized test scores, (2) fast-track teacher preparation and licensure programs, and (3) the use of narrowly focused curricula. This new brief concludes that those three polices have the likely effect of de-professionalizing teachers and teaching.

Policy Brief


Democracy Left Behind: How Recent Education Reforms Undermine Local School Governance and Democratic Education
Kenneth Howe, University of Colorado-Boulder
David Meens, University of Colorado- Boulder

Kenneth Howe and David Meens, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, examine the suppression of local control by policymakers and what it means for our democracy. A new report presents a comprehensive review of research on two key elements—democratic policymaking and democratic education. The evidence surveyed in this report suggests that contemporary reforms "run afoul of democratic principles in several critical ways."

Policy Brief


School Turnarounds
Legislative Brief: Tina Trujillo, Michelle Renée
Model Legislation: Tara Kini

School Improvement Grant program in need of reform. A new brief by Tina Truillo of the University of California at Berkeley and Michelle Renée of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University finds that standardized test scores are not a reliable measure for student growth and are even more problematic as a measure of whether a turnaround was successful or not, because test scores ignore social, civic and broader academic aspects of schooling. Model legislation accompanies this brief to create state-level school improvements that foster equitable, democratic, and sustainable school turnarounds in priority schools.

Legislative Brief
Model Legislation


More Policy Briefs

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