Fittingly, we have a double winner in this plural category.
In Fix the City Schools, the Reason Foundation argues for "portfolio" school districts focused on closing low-performing schools and opening new ones under the management of autonomous corporations and sings Hosanna praises to the improvements in student achievement in New Orleans in the post-Katrina era. However, assuming real gains were made, there are myriad reasons unrelated to the portfolio approach that could explain some or all of them, including the massive exodus of low-income children from the city, plus a significant increase in resources. Miraculously, the findings from New Orleans, supplemented by examples from other cities, all evangelically testify to the healing powers of the portfolio school approach.
Not to be outdone, the Fordham Institute, in Charter School Autonomy,contends that charter schools have been deprived of the autonomy necessary for them to deliver on the innovative practices they promised. How could charters truly be innovative if they are still laboring under the yoke of bureaucratic control? It’s an interesting excuse for the not-particularly-impressive results of charter schools. But outside of anecdotes and rhetoric, there is nothing in this report that addresses autonomy in relation to financial performance, resource allocation, academic results, or other key school characteristics and outcomes. The authors simply fail to address their research question – whether and how authorizers’ constraints have had an adverse impact upon charter school autonomy and success.
Now, if we were being completely fair, this award would also be shared by the Blueprint research summaries published by the U. S. Department of Education. All six reviews noted the paucity of research evidence, and the department’s documents were replete with shadowed boxes providing war stories and anecdotes of “success.” In some cases, the boxed anecdotes were actually longer than the accompanying text. But in the “share the wealth” spirit of the administration, we decided that others should be allowed to bask in the glory of this Bunkum Award.