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Educational Freedom Institute Announces Governing Board Changes

For Immediate Release

January 24, 2020

Educational Freedom Institute Announces Governing Board Changes

Phoenix, Arizona— January 24, 2020The Educational Freedom Institute announced the addition of Dr. Jay P. Greene, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, to its governing board.

“EFI is honored to welcome Dr. Greene, a highly respected voice on education reform, to its Governing Board,” said Matthew Nielsen, Board President.

Dr. Burke, the board’s vice president, said, “Jay Greene is indisputably one of the greatest minds in the education policy debate. Saying we are lucky to have him on our board of directors is an understatement.”

Advisory Board

The organization has already benefitted greatly from the addition of several highly-respected and committed individuals to its Advisory Board, listed alphabetically: Jason Bedrick, Jonathan Butcher, Dr. Angela Dills, Robert Enlow, Dr. Matthew Ladner, Dr. Benjamin Scafidi, Inez Stepman, and Dr. Terry Stoops.

Founded in early 2019, Educational Freedom Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank that exists to research, document, and report the benefits that school choice provides to students, families, and communities. We support policies that protect and promote school choice, knowing that the free market, when allowed to flourish, will provide unparalleled education options of the highest quality to families from all walks of life. We pursue this mission using objective data and through publishing our findings.

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For more information, press only:

Corey DeAngelis, Executive Director

corey@efinstitute.org

For more information on EFI:

EFInstitute.org

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Opinion

Students’ Test Scores Unchanged After Decades of Federal Intervention in Education

by Lindsey Burke, PhD

Federal “Highly Qualified Teacher” mandates. Adequate Yearly Progress requirements. Smaller learning communities. Improving Teacher Quality State Grants. Reading First. Early Reading First. The dozens of other federal programs authorized via No Child Left Behind. School Improvement Grants. Race to the Top. Common Core.

All of that has been just since 2000. Over those past two decades, while federal policymakers were busy enacting new federal laws, creating mandates for local school leaders, and increasing the Department of Education’s budget from $38 billion in 2000 (unadjusted for inflation) to roughly $70 billion today, the math and reading performance of American high school students remained completely flat. That is to say, stagnant.

The U.S. is now above the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average in reading, but alas, not because U.S. reading performance has improved. Rather, other countries have seen declines in reading achievement, despite increases in education spending.

In mathematics, however, U.S. performance has steadily declined over the past two decades.

Those are the findings from the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA exams, released last week.

As The New York Times’ Dana Goldstein reported:

About a fifth of American 15-year-olds scored so low on the PISA test that it appeared they had not mastered reading skills expected of a 10-year-old, according to Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which administers the exam.

What’s more, the achievement gap between high- and low-performing American students has widened.

The international findings mirror last month’s National Assessment of Educational Progress report, which revealed that math and reading scores across the country have continued a yearslong stagnation, with students largely showing no progress in academic achievement.

Just one-third of students in the fourth and eighth grades reached proficiency in math and reading nationally on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is administered every two years.

As with the Programme for International Student Assessment’s findings that the achievement gap stubbornly persists for American students, the National Assessment of Educational Progress highlighted similar findings within the U.S.

The scores of students who are among the lowest 10% of performers on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have dropped significantly since 2009.

The stubborn achievement gap is not new, but the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the Programme for International Student Assessment provide additional data points on its persistence.

As Harvard professor Paul Peterson writes in The Heritage Foundation’s new book “The Not-So-Great Society”:

The achievement gap in the United States is as wide today as it was in 1971.

The performances on math, reading, and science tests between the most advantaged and the most disadvantaged students differ by approximately four years’ worth of learning, a disparity that has remained essentially unchanged for nearly half a century.

One of the more recent, major pieces of federal intervention sold as a way to improve American standing in education was the Common Core State Standards Initiative promoted during the Obama administration.

Common Core national standards and test, proponents argued, would catapult American students to the top of the math and reading pack. It was time, they argued, for the U.S. to have the same “epiphany” Germany did in the late 1990s, and adopt centrally planned national standards and tests.

Germany now lags the U.S. in reading, according to the new Programme for International Student Assessment data, and is far below Canada, a country that does not have national standards.

Indeed, our neighbor to the north has performed consistently well on the Programme for International Student Assessment since 2000, significantly outpacing the United States, and has neither national standards, nor a federal education department.

Canada’s is a decentralized education system, in which Canada’s 10 provinces set education policy.

The fact that Common Core didn’t catalyze improvements in the U.S. isn’t surprising. Large-scale government programs rarely, if ever, do.

But neither have the myriad federal programs created since No Child Left Behind in 2001, nor have the more than 100 federal K-12 education programs created since President Lyndon Johnson launched his Great Society initiative in 1965 designed, ostensibly, to narrow opportunity gaps between the poor and the affluent.

Heritage’s Jonathan Butcher and I detail Yuval Levin’s theory of government failure in “The Not-So-Great Society.” Levin explains that large-scale government programs fail for three reasons:

  1. “Institutionally, the administrative state is ‘dismally inefficient and unresponsive, and therefore ill-suited to our age of endless choice and variety.’”
  2. “Culturally and morally, government efforts to ‘rescue the citizen from the burdens of responsibility [have] undermined the family, self-reliance, and self-government.’”
  3. “Fiscally, large-scale federal programs supporting the welfare state are simply unaffordable, ‘dependent as it is upon dubious economics and the demographic model of a bygone era.’”

Federal government efforts to improve education have been dismal. Even if there were a constitutional basis for its involvement—which there isn’t—the federal government is simply ill-positioned to determine what education policies will best serve the diverse local communities across our vast nation.

The sooner we can acknowledge that improvements will not come from Washington, the sooner we’re likely to see students flourishing in learning environments that reflect their unique needs and desires.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal

Categories
Opinion

School Choice: Ideology vs. Reality

by Matthew Nielsen

In a recent article about how journalists frequently get school choice wrong, I included as one example Mr. Kris Nordstrom of NC Policy Watch. He was identified as a journalist in the piece, but he subsequently corrected me on Twitter. His official job title at the organization is “Senior Policy Analyst,” which creates more concerns about his work product than it does to alleviate them. Be that as it may, his continued employment in that position indicates that someone is pleased with his work product, irrespective of his proclivity for exaggeration and misinformation. Policy analysis seems to have a much wider spectrum of quality than might be hoped.

After deflecting on the two issues raised in my article during our exchange on Twitter, he chose to end the conversation by declining to “teach” me the “difference between achievement and growth,” another false assumption.

I created a document that addressed each of the nine points in his June 2019 article on school choice, in which he also attacked Mr. Joel Ford, a former Democratic state legislator and school choice supporter. I emailed the document to Mr. Nordstrom, which he declined to address.

**Mr. Nordstrom requests corrections to his article.

Below, I have included responses to each of his "nine ways" in which, he alleges, school choice harms public schools in North Carolina. It's worth noting that his chosen headline specifies that schools are hurt, rather than students--an assertion he wanders from periodically in his article. But, it's an important distinction to make--schools or students?

I will not include the full copy of his original article (available here), but you'll find each of his nine allegations along with my responses below.

What Mr. Nordstrom's work lacks in evidence and facts, it more than makes up for in volume--the below is a response to only one of his many anti-educational freedom blog posts:

1. Charter schools and vouchers create budgetary pressures on traditional public schools

a. From the research he cites in his article comes a rebuttal to his own assertion:

2. Charter schools exacerbate the racial segregation of public schools

a. From the research he cites in his article comes a rebuttal to his own assertion:

3. Choice advocates promote biased school performance grades to stigmatize traditional public schools

a. He impugns the motives of Mr. Ford and other school choice advocates without providing any evidence whatsoever. Further, the grading system rates district and charter schools based on the same formula and charters only affect integration minimally, as noted in the research he cited in the previous point.

4. Charters are increasingly turning into an investment scam for real estate investors

a. Baker, Black, and Green assume quite a lot in this piece by nudging speculation into surety. Terms like “as much as” or “up to” turn into “more than” and “over.” A mistake Mr. Nordstrom makes, as well. Further, AZ Republic is the wrong place to get an objective take on Mr. Way in Arizona. Harris, of the Republic, has been discredited time and again (see: here, here, & here).

5. As measured by standardized tests, charters appear to be delivering inferior results

a. By focusing only on growth, he ignores that a higher proportion of charter schools are rated A or B than district schools, statewide. To focus only on growth is deceptive and misleading. Charter schools have consistently shown promising results, as evidenced by their sustained and growing popularity among families throughout the state, and country.

6. The Opportunity Scholarship voucher program subsidizes discrimination and religious indoctrination while costing the state millions each year

a. The voucher program is intended to provide a child with a portion of the financial resources they would have benefited from in a district school. The school they select is their prerogative.

7. Charter advocates prioritize taking money from traditional public schools instead of trying to increase funding for all schools

a. He claims “most charters… get more local funding than their” TPS neighbors. He links to a 2016 article he wrote that never provides data on this. Where is the data to support this claim?

8. Voucher and charter advocates emphasize private benefits to education, eroding the idea of education as a shared, public good

a. Schooling is not a “public good” in the technical sense that you’re using. They’re not “non-rivalrous” and they’re not “non-excludable.” Educational freedom should be available to all families, not just the ones that can afford to live in a particular zip code, or devise ways to game the system.

9. Debates over choice distract policymakers from providing adequate funding and supports to help all students succeed

a. Adding dollars doesn’t seem to improve student learning. Even if it did, dollars have been added and districts are choosing to direct them outside of the classroom. For example, student-to-teacher ratios have decreased since 1992, giving teachers more time to spend with each student. From FY1992 to FY2014, per-student spending increased by 1% in NC, while teacher pay decreased by 8%. (See here)

Rather than stretching evidence beyond the breaking point, policy analysts should consider analyzing how policies actually affect students and families. Sooner, or later, readers will discover who has been attempting to pass ideology off as reality.