Tag Archives: positive results

Healthy Skepticism about Magical Money Tree and Education Reform

The federal government’s “magical money tree” can make untold billions of dollars out of thin air to spend on a wide array of pork projects and various government programs. But what will the money earmarked for education do to promote lasting and effective reform to help student success? Plenty of lip service has been given to this notion. Don’t worry. You aren’t alone in having good reason to be very skeptical of the “stimulus” leading to real education reform. Months ago, when the stimulus was first passed, my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow made the observation: While unconditionally dumping more funds into schools may help to guarantee jobs, it won’t help the ones who need it the most. We’re all in good company now. In the first edition of “Education Stimulus Watch” (PDF) released this week, American Enterprise Institute adjunct fellow Andy Smarick makes a strong case for the unprecedented federal spending package to produce little or no positive results:

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Jay Mathews Inspires My Radical Ideas to Spend $100 Billion on Education

In today’s Washington Post, education columnist Jay Mathews raises the question: If you had $100 billion to fix our schools, what would you do? Faithful readers know I was skeptical of the federal government’s “magical money tree” a few months ago. My sentiment hasn’t changed. Some ideas for spending 100 billion (that’s a 1 followed by 11 zeroes) new smackeroos in the education bureaucracy inevitably will be better than others, and some may end up yielding some positive results. In his column, Mathews grades five proposals for spending the money, realistically noting of those who submitted the proposals: Their goal is to get the biggest change by January 2012. I think they are dreaming. The federal stimulus is designed to save jobs, not raise student achievement. But some (not all) of the ideas are so good some states might (repeat, might) be tempted to try them. To rate the five proposals yourself, as well as five others Mathews invented, check out his blog post.

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Secretary Duncan, Please Stop the Madness: Save the D.C. Scholarships

Okay, I’m throwing Legos again (sorry). I just can’t throw them far enough to hit Education Secretary Arne Duncan. First, he ignored and downplayed the positive results of the D.C. voucher program in helping to improve students’ reading skills. Now comes the insulting letter from the U.S. Department of Education that swipes opportunity away from untold numbers of poor kids in our nation’s capital. When will the madness stop? Liberal pro-Obama Fox News commentator Juan Williams shares the outrage. Check out this Cato at Liberty post to read what he had to say, and click on his picture to watch the video. Just so you know that we’re not alone (not nearly alone), Jay Greene also has been rounding up other responses to the Obama-Duncan hit on D.C. vouchers here and here and here. Not sure why this issue is so important? Listen to Virginia Walden Ford from D.C. Parents for School Choice about what’s at stake. Watch some of the D.C. scholarship students tell you themselves. There’s more, lots more out there. But I think I need to stop, give myself a timeout and go to my room so I can calm down.

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More Clarity Doesn't Give Arne Duncan Free Pass on Voucher Study Release

When I wrote yesterday with questions about Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s handling of the release of the D.C. voucher study, I didn’t necessarily expect such a fast answer. But former U.S. Department of Education official Russ Whitehurst has posted “Secretary Duncan Is Not Lying”. It’s a worthy read, and puts to rest the more extreme hypothesizing that Duncan knew about the positive results and intentionally hid them from Congress during the important debate on reauthorizing the program. While it seems clear that extreme case isn’t true, Jay Greene also rightly observes that other unsettling issues remain: Why did Duncan suppress the positive results in a Friday afternoon release with no publicity and a negative spin? Why falsely claim that the WSJ never attempted to contact him? The Secretary may well not be lying about his knowledge of the study but his credibility in general is very shaky right now. I’m too young to really grasp it all, but it seems politics lies at the center of the controversy. The D.C. voucher issue raises the specter of divisions within the Democratic Party and therefore causes some adults discomfort. But downplaying the results of the research doesn’t serve either the kids in […]

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Deconstructing Arne Duncan and the Release of the D.C. Voucher Program Study

I’ve pointed out to you the sad story of national education officials ignoring the positive results from the D.C. voucher program as they let the ax fall on opportunity for some very needy kids. The Wall Street Journal raised serious questions about the complicity of Education Secretary Arne Duncan in hiding the results so Congress could go ahead with shutting down the program. Questioning Duncan directly, the Denver Post‘s David Harsanyi pressed the issue further, finding that the Secretary’s story on one important count didn’t match the record: When I had the chance to ask Duncan — at a meeting of the Denver Post editorial board on Tuesday — whether he was alerted to this study before Congress eradicated the D.C. program, he offered an unequivocal “no.” He then called the WSJ editorial “fundamentally dishonest” and maintained that no one had even tried to contact him, despite the newspaper’s contention that it did, repeatedly. When I called the Wall Street Journal, I discovered a different — that is, meticulously sourced and exceedingly convincing — story, including documented e-mail conversations between the author and higher-ups in Duncan’s office. The voucher study — which showed progress compounding yearly — had been around […]

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Milwaukee School Choice Research Yields a Lot of Interesting Results

School choice doesn’t provide all the answers to our education challenges, but it’s becoming very hard to deny that choice in itself yields some positive results. Look at the new results (PDF) from the University of Arkansas’s School Choice Demonstration Project for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Milwaukee isn’t just famous for that show about two women who work as brewery bottlecappers. The Wisconsin city is the granddaddy of school choice programs, and probably the best place for in-depth studies of all sorts of issues surrounding choice. And the School Choice Demonstration Project has brought together some of the best and most experienced education researchers – including Patrick Wolf, John Witte, and Jay Greene – to do just that. The series of studies released this week focus on everything from fiscal impacts to parental satisfaction to academic growth and real estate prices. Some of the more interesting findings:

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Barack Obama's "Stimulus" Plan Would Grow Union Jobs, Hinder School Reform

The big story in the news is about President-elect Obama’s giant “stimulus” plan – better known as a giant spending spree that hangs even more debt on the shoulders of me and other kids growing up around America. That part is bad enough. But three leading education reformers – Michael Petrilli, Checker Finn, and Frederick Hess – see other serious problems that it will create for trying to improve our schools and help students learn. In the column they wrote for National Review yesterday, the authors challenge the suggestion that tons of federal government money “invested” in education will yield more positive results down the road: In concept, of course, well-delivered education eventually yields higher economic output and fewer social ills. But there’s scant evidence that an extra dollar invested in today’s schools delivers an extra dollar in value — and ample evidence that this kind of bail-out will spare school administrators from making hard-but-overdue choices about how to make their enterprise more efficient and effective.

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