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The 'If Political Propaganda Counted as Research' Award

Center for American Progress for NEPC Review: Charting New Territory: Tapping Charter Schools to Turn Around the Nation's Dropout Factories (Center for American Progress, June 2011)

Competent social scientists base their findings and draw their conclusions from the evidence they have gathered using rigorous and appropriate research methods. This report reverses the process. Drawing on mysterious backwards-engineering techniques, the authors of this report were able to build a foundation for their findings and conclusions that (when looked at with just the right mood lighting) bears a glancing resemblance to real evidence. For this achievement, we felt they deserved our recognition.

The report’s citations to “research” literature about school turnarounds, for instance, consisted of four references: a blog, a consultant’s template, a non-peer reviewed case study, and an article from the Hoover Institution journal Education Next. The report also focused on the ostensibly inspiring improvements of one school that, after concentrated, intensive and skillful charter management, catapulted English Language Arts proficiency rates to 14.9% and math proficiency rates all the way to 7%.

Sadly, the inspired imagination of the authors was lost on our expert reviewer, who wrote, “The report is designed and presented in a manner more consistent with political propaganda than as a research document.”