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The 'Three’s a Harm' Award

Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice for The School Staffing Surg

After being shut out of the 2010 and 2011 Bunkum Award, four-time winner Friedman has returned in spectacular fashion. Seldom does a report hit the “trifecta:”

  • Erroneous information
  • Faulty reasoning
  • Inspired chutzpah

The problems begin with the report’s claims that test scores and dropouts have not shown any visible improvement between 1992 and 2009, during which time school staffing increased 2.3 times. Even setting aside problems with the staffing claim itself, our reviewer points out that the report’s fundamental premises asserting no improvements in test scores and an increase in the drop-out rate are flat wrong. In reality, there has been clear improvement in NAEP scores for all student subgroups, particularly students of color and younger students. And despite the change to a more stringent definition of drop-outs, graduation rates have increased, helping to raise college attendance to historic highs.

Soaring on the wings of flawed reasoning, with a strong updraft of chutzpah, the report’s author jumps from his platform of sham evidence to deliver three unsupported recommendations: a call for class size increases, a call for cuts in administrative and teaching staff and a call for increased school choice. As our reviewer points out, US public school class sizes are larger than those in our “competitor” OECD countries and are, in fact, larger than the idealized and attractive small classes in the private schools the Friedman Foundation touts. Small class sizes are apparently only bad and wasteful when they are in public schools. Similarly, there is the inconvenience that charter schools divert a higher proportion of their spending into administrative largesse.

Accordingly, not only does the report’s call for increased school choice have no visible relation to the data, it undermines two other recommendations from the same report. It uses bogus information to draw ungrounded causal conclusions that in turn lead to an unsupported series of recommendations that are in conflict with one another. Our judges were amazed.