“The Grading Game,” or a Think Tank Report Review Addendum

The think tank report review by Ken Libby and me is up on the National Education Policy Center website today. This is a review of the StudentsFirst State Policy Report Card from January, and there isn't too much more to say than what is in it, but for what it's worth:

  • Ken (a doctoral student at the University of Colorado-Boulder) is a joy to write with -- if you have the chance to work with him, do so. Usually the TTR reviews appear a little faster after the initial report; this has been about six weeks in the works. Blame me, not Ken, for the delay. 
  • Supplementary documents are available online for the state-by-state "grade" variations and the citations in the section of the report talking about StudentsFirst's policy preferences.
  • We used a generous definition of research (and research review) when looking at the citations in the section on SF's policy preferences. As they say in the (American) car ads, your mileage may vary.

I am skeptical of the value of "grading the states" exercises. Yes, I understand the value of the news hook, to give reporters across the country a local angle even when the report is from a national organization. But once you have dueling "grading the states" press releases in the same month, there is a Dali-like quality to the third press release. "What's the grade this time, and why should our readers care?" is the logical question any editor should ask at that point.

Not directly connected with Ken's and my review: someone needs to conduct a meta-analysis of voucher evaluations, with separate "what happened to students?" and "is there a competitive effect?" analyses. The piece cited by StudentsFirst as a review is not a meta-analysis, and I could not find one in searching for it. When a USF doctoral student took her best shot at one a few semesters ago, neither she nor I could find a published meta-analysis then, so it is not just my inadequate search skills this month.

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Sherman Dorn

Sherman Dorn is the Director of the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation at the Arizona State University Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and editor of the Education Policy Analysis Archives. His research interests include how schools educate children they have treated poorly in the past and how we define...