New Report Tries to Move the Goalposts for School Choice

BOULDER, CO (May 3, 2018) – Do Impacts on Test Scores Even Matter?, published by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), examines whether student achievement scores on math and English language arts tests align with “long-run” attainment outcomes such as high school graduation rates, college enrollment, and college graduation rates. It concludes that the impacts of school choice programs on test scores are not strongly associated with such attainment outcomes, which are presented as more positive. Thus, the report argues, we should no longer focus on measures of learning. 

Professors Christopher Lubienski of Indiana University and T. Jameson Brewer of the University of North Georgia reviewed the report and found several issues with both consistency and evidence.

Regarding evidence, Lubienski and Brewer found numerous inconsistencies in the report’s discussion and treatment of a set of attainment studies that were selected by questionable methods.

Regarding consistency, Professors Lubienski and Brewer determine that the report’s assertion – that achievement scores should play a smaller role in determining the efficacy of school choice models – represents a stunning effort to move the goalposts in search of new justifications for supporting its preferred policies.

After decades of pro-school-choice research and advocacy promoting test score comparisons with public schools as the primary justification for advancing school choice models (e.g., charters and school vouchers), the report now suggests that less attention be given to these learning outcomes. This argument follows from years of disappointing test score outcomes for school choice reforms, including several recent studies showing students falling behind after receiving vouchers for private schools.

In view of the 180-degree turn based on questionable evidence, the report is of little use to policymakers.

Find the review, by Christopher Lubienski and T. Jameson Brewer, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-goalposts

Find Do Impacts on Test Scores Even Matter? Lessons from Long-Run Outcomes in School Choice Research: Attainment Versus Achievement Impacts and Rethinking How to Evaluate School Choice Programs, written by Collin Hitt, Michael Q. McShane, & Patrick J. Wolf and published by American Enterprise Institute, at:
http://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Do-Impacts-on-Test-Scores-Even-Matter.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

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