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NEPC Review: Public Education at a Crossroads: A Comprehensive Look at K-12 Resources and Outcomes (Reason Foundation, February 2024)

Aaron Garth Smith, Christian Barnard, & Jordan Campbell
Public Education at a Crossroads: A Comprehensive Look at K-12 Resources and Outcomes

A Reason Foundation report uses some superficial comparisons to conclude that there isn’t a consistent relationship between funding growth and outcomes across states. The report contends that, in order to move forward in the aftermath of the pandemic, it is important to understand key pre-pandemic trends, but it offers no arguments as to how those trends provide appropriate context for post-pandemic educational policy. The report is insubstantial and inconclusive and offers no useful new analyses; in fact, it reprises evidence that is already widely available. It does not account for any economic, social, or demographic trends within states or nationally. Its analysis is weak and in some cases nonexistent, resulting in vacuous conclusions.

Suggested Citation: Belfield, C. (2024). NEPC review: Public education at a crossroads: A comprehensive look at K-12 resources and outcomes. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date], from http://nepc.colorado.edu/review/crossroads

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NEPC Review: K-12 School Choice Calculator (Reason Foundation and EdChoice, January 2024)

Martin Lueken
K-12 School Choice Calculator

Reason Foundation and EdChoice’s Fiscal Research and Education Center offer a calculator as a tool to assist state policymakers and choice advocates in providing more accurate estimates of the expenses of adopting publicly financed private-school choice (i.e., voucher) programs. While the calculator embeds a reasonable set of assumptions, it fails to solve the central problem state policymakers face: How are they to determine estimates of students who will enroll, and what percentage of them will be students leaving public versus private schools? Along with other shortcomings, the calculator and associated materials provide little guidance to help users devise those estimates, and there is little empirical research available on the topic. What is more reliably clear is that using the calculator can reveal to policymakers the high additional expenditures triggered when large numbers of students already enrolled in private schools accept proffered public subsidies through voucher, education savings account, or tuition tax credit programs.

Suggested Citation: Baker, B.D. (2024). NEPC review: K-12 school choice calculator. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/review/calculator

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NEPC Review: Still a Good Investment: Charter School Productivity in Nine Cities (University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, November 2023)

Alison H. Johnson, Josh B. McGee, Patrick J. Wolf, Jay F. May, & Larry D. Maloney
Still a Good Investment: Charter School Productivity in Nine Cities

This report claims that charter schools get better results on standardized tests even as they receive less in revenues, making them more cost-effective. To support this claim, the report combines its own database of school revenues with results from another think tank that compares charter school students’ academic growth with matched students in public schools. There is substantial reason to question both the fiscal and academic outcome comparisons, but the report makes an additional critical error: When transforming academic outcomes into a common scale, it conflates test scores with academic “growth,” rendering its outcome measure invalid. It then compounds this error by using a simplistic “return on investment” measure that eschews the complexity found in serious research on education cost modeling. The report, consequently, is yet another methodologically flawed document that should be ignored by policymakers and stakeholders.

Suggested Citation: Weber, M. (2023). NEPC review: Still a good investment: Charter school productivity in nine cities. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from: http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/charter-productivity

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NEPC Review: The Cost-Effectiveness of Wisconsin’s Private School Choice Programs (School Choice Wisconsin, September 2023)

The Cost-Effectiveness of Wisconsin’s Private School Choice Programs

A report comparing the cost and academic performance of voucher recipients in Wisconsin to public school students concludes that the voucher programs are highly “productive,” achieving better academic outcomes at lower costs than public schools. But the report suffers from methodological shortcomings that undermine its conclusions. It ignores recent literature examining the effectiveness of voucher programs in other states, overlooks important considerations regarding true school funding costs, and fails to assess the voucher program against an appropriate comparison group of students. 

Suggested Citation: Kotok, S. (2023). NEPC review: The cost-effectiveness of Wisconsin’s private school choice programs. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/review/wisconsin-vouchers

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NEPC Review: From Surviving to Thriving: K-12 Choice and Opportunity for Rural Texas Students and Teachers (The Heritage Foundation, August 2023)

Matthew Ladner and Jason Bedrick
From Surviving to Thriving: K-12 Choice and Opportunity for Rural Texas Students and Teachers

A Heritage Foundation report claims increased competition has improved academic achievement in Arizona’s rural public schools and that similar policies will be good for rural Texas. However, this report overstates the similarities between Arizona and Texas, ignores relevant research literature, and presents simplistic and inaccurate analyses to support its claims. By addressing a narrow set of possible benefits of school choice, it also overlooks issues related to fiscal impacts for district schools, segregation, and exclusionary practices for students who require specialized services in schools. The report is an exercise in advocacy for expanding school choice policies, and its usefulness as a guide for policy and practice is minimal.

Suggested Citation: Potterton, A.U., Rogers, A., & Powers, J.M. (2023). NEPC review: From surviving to thriving: K-12 choice and opportunity for rural Texas students and teachers. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/review/rural-choice

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NEPC Review: Small Class Sizes for Improving Student Achievement in Primary and Secondary Schools: A Systematic Review (Campbell Collaboration, October 2018)

Trine Filges, Christoffer Scavenius Sonne-Schmidt, Bjørn Christian Viinholt Nielsen
Small Class Sizes for Improving Student Achievement in Primary and Secondary Schools: A Systematic Review

This systematic review of research literature estimates the impact of class size reduction on reading and math achievement, two of the many possible outcomes of reducing class size. The review surveyed all international research evidence up to 2017 and identified 10 research studies meeting its methodological standards. Beyond these studies, the review provides a comprehensive catalog of research on class size reduction, and a thorough assessment of each study’s methods. However, the study takes an extremely narrow view of what research is valid for determining the impact of reducing class size. Notably, more than 90% of studies relevant to the research question were not included. In addition, while related research has appeared in many countries, only three countries are represented in the body of evidence. The result is a very limited analysis of an already narrowed question.

Suggested Citation: Belfield, C. (2023). NEPC review: Small class sizes for improving student achievement in primary and secondary schools: A systematic review. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/review/class-size-reduction

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NEPC Review: Integrating Housing and Education Solutions to Reduce Segregation and Drive School Equity (Urban Institute, August 2023)

Megan Gallagher, Rachel Lamb, Alexa Kort, & James Carter
Tim DeRoche, Hailly T.N. Korman, & Harold Hinds
Integrating Housing and Education Solutions to Reduce Segregation and Drive School Equity
When Good Parents Go to Jail: The Criminalization of Address Sharing in Public Education

School attendance boundaries, like the district boundaries that encompass them, are politically and socially constructed, largely determined by state boards of education or local school boards. Two recent reports address issues associated with inequities that result from such tight coupling of housing and schooling. The first specifically focuses on inequitable school resources and educational outcomes tied to residential and school segregation. The second explores families’ use of an address other than their own to enroll a child in a more desirable school—a practice known as address sharing, punishable by law in many locales. Neither report is sufficiently nuanced to directly shape policy, although both can do much to inform it.

Suggested Citation: Castro, A.J. (2023). NEPC review: Integrating housing and education solutions to reduce segregation and drive school equity and When good parents go to jail: The criminalization of address sharing in public education. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/review/boundaries

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NEPC Review: The 123s of School Choice: What the Research Says About Private School Choice Programs in America, 2023 Edition (EdChoice, June 2023)

The 123s of School Choice: What the Research Says About Private School Choice Programs in America, 2023 Edition

An EdChoice report is billed as an overview of the varied and often contested research on outcomes in school choice programs, which it defines narrowly as vouchers plus voucher-style programs that provide public funding for private schools. The report examines research on student achievement, access, competitive effects, and other topics, purportedly to help policymakers and parents weigh the benefits and costs of these voucher programs. It claims to show that school choice “works,” based on finding more positive than negative studies, yet uses a simplistic, flawed approach that obscures important differences in studies and can create a misleading narrative about the research evidence.

Suggested Citation: Lubienski, C. (2023). NEPC review: The 123s of school choice: What the research says about private school choice programs, 2023 edition. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/review/school-choice

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NEPC Review: Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit: Economic Analysis (Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, June 2023)

Greg S. Griffin and Lisa Kieffer
Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit: Economic Analysis

A report examines the monetary costs and benefits of Georgia’s Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit (QEEC), a type of voucher policy that provides a public subsidy for families to pay for private school tuition. Though the report argues the QEEC provides a net fiscal benefit for the state budget, several methodological challenges limit the report’s usefulness—most notably, a lack of data about how many students per year actually switch from public to private schools because of the vouchers. If most of the vouchers are provided to students already planning to attend a private school, then the policy only subsidizes private school students with funding that could otherwise be returned to taxpayers or invested in the state’s public education system, which is open to all students. Because the report relies on unrealistic assumptions, its suggestion that program benefits outweigh costs is tenuous and risks misleading state education leaders.

Suggested Citation: Knight, D.S. (2023). NEPC review: Qualified education expense tax credit: Economic analysis. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/review/tax-credit

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NEPC Review: Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction (National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), June 2023)

Christie Ellis, Shannon Holston, Graham Drake, Hannah Putman, Abigail Swisher, & Heather Peske
Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction

An NCTQ report evaluates 693 out of the 1,146 elementary teacher preparation programs in the US. It claims to identify how well candidates are prepared to teach elementary reading based on NCTQ’s Reading Foundations standards for scientifically based reading practices. While addressing teacher preparation for initial reading instruction is a high priority as states increasingly adopt new reading legislation grounded in the “science of reading,” this report repeats patterns identified in external reviews of previous NCTQ reports over the past two decades. For instance, this report again relies on flawed research methodology grounded in selective use of evidence to promote NCTQ’s narrow education reform agenda. Policymakers as well as the media are strongly cautioned to view this report as narrowly constructed reform advocacy rather than a valid or scientific analysis of the quality of reading content in elementary teacher preparation programs.

Suggested Citation: Thomas, P.L. (2023, September). NEPC review: Teacher prep review: Strengthening elementary reading instruction. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date], from https://nepc.colorado.edu/review/teacher-prep

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NEPC Review: As a Matter of Fact: National Charter School Study III 2023 (Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), June 2023)

Margaret E. Raymond, James L. Woodworth, Won Fy Lee, & Sally Bachofer
As a Matter of Fact: National Charter School Study III 2023

A CREDO report compares charter school students’ learning in reading and math to students in traditional public schools. The report should be approached with caution by policymakers given the nonexperimental design that renders it unable to fully account for the factors that drive families to choose charter schools. In addition, the report presents its findings using an unconventional metric that makes it difficult to understand the policy implications, potentially misleading policymakers. The magnitude of the main findings fails to meet the minimum threshold experts consider to be a meaningful educational intervention.

Suggested Citation: Ferrare, J.J. (2023). NEPC review: As a matter of fact: National charter school study III 2023. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http:// nepc.colorado.edu/review/charter-study

 

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NEPC Review: Think Again: Is Education Funding in America Still Unequal? (Thomas B. Fordham Institute, July 2023)

Adam Tyner
Think Again: Is Education Funding in America Still Unequal?

A Fordham report claims that the problems of inequality and inadequacy of public school funding have largely been solved. Relying on national funding averages that can mask the shortchanging of districts serving vulnerable student populations, the report’s analysis is too coarse-grained to inform state-level policy, where inequities and inadequacies persist despite the report’s assertion otherwise. The report's other arguments ignore a vast literature on analyzing education costs while allowing for reasonable calculation of funding necessary to provide all students with genuinely equal educational opportunity. Overall, it lacks a sound evidentiary base and provides no reliable or useful guidance for policymakers.

Suggested Citation: Baker, B.D. (2023). NEPC review: Think again: Is education funding in America still unequal? Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/review/education-funding

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NEPC Review: Think Again: Do Charter Schools Drain Resources From Traditional Public Schools? (Thomas B. Fordham Institute, March 2023)

David Griffith
Think Again: Do Charter Schools Drain Resources From Traditional Public Schools?

A Fordham report examines whether charter schools impact traditional public schools' finances and efficiency. The report finds mixed impacts on district finances, but suggests that traditional public schools improve efficiency over time when faced with charter competition. However, the report's claims and policy recommendations are untested empirically and unwarranted based on research. It fails to consider other possible explanations for higher expenditures in a charter environment, and downplays the negative impact of public school closures resulting from competition. While the report identifies relevant studies, its unsupported claims and recommendations limit its usefulness to policymakers.

Suggested Citation: Jabbar, H. (2023). NEPC review: Think again: Do charter schools drain resources from traditional public schools? Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/review/think-again

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NEPC Review: School Choice Is Not Enough: The Impact of Critical Social Justice Ideology in American Education (Manhattan Institute, February 2023)

Zach Goldberg and Eric Kaufmann
School Choice Is Not Enough: The Impact of Critical Social Justice Ideology in American Education

A Manhattan Institute report presents results of a survey of U.S. adults aged 18-20 to determine the extent to which eight concepts the report equates with “critical social justice” (CSJ) theory—which the report frowns upon—are taught in schools. Because these CSJ concepts are being taught beyond public schools, the report argues that school choice is an ineffective option for shielding children. Given that the report's methods do not adequately isolate exposure in school from the many other sources in which young people encounter these eight concepts, and that no causal relationships are established, there is no support for the report’s highly intrusive policy recommendations.

Suggested Citation: Sleeter, C. & Garcia, D.R. (2023). NEPC review: School choice is not enough: The impact of critical social justice ideology in American education. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/review/csj

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NEPC Review: Assessing the National Landscape of Capital Expenditures for Public School Districts (Urban Institute, January 2023)

Kristin Blagg, Fanny Terrones, & Victoria Nelson
Assessing the National Landscape of Capital Expenditures for Public School Districts

A report analyzes equity patterns of school capital investment, relying primarily on school district annual capital outlay data reported in the U.S. Department of Education’s Common Core of Data. It also examines which state policies may promote more progressive investment patterns. Confirming other studies, it finds that school district capital expenditures vary from year to year and from state to state, each state has a unique approach and mix of policies governing state support for local capital outlay, and capital outlay is rarely equal or progressive. The report also finds that states with policies that aim to equalize capital spending are more likely to provide more or equal capital outlay for students from low-income backgrounds. These findings are all well-supported, and the report’s recommendations provide useful insights for state and federal policy that will promote more progressive capital spending.

Suggested Citation: Vincent, J.M. (2023). NEPC review: Assessing the national landscape of capital expenditures for public school districts. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/capital

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NEPC Review: Public Education Funding Without Boundaries: How to Get K-12 Dollars to Follow Open Enrollment Students (Reason Foundation, January 2023)

Aaron Garth Smith, Christian Barnard, & Jordan Campbell
Public Education Funding Without Boundaries: How to Get K-12 Dollars to Follow Open Enrollment Students

The report advocates for the increased “portability” of school revenues, allowing for “money to follow the students” and, therefore, the expansion of interdistrict choice programs. It attempts to show that many current features of state-level school funding formulas inhibit such portability. While there are sound policy reasons to facilitate greater interdistrict choice, this report’s prescriptions are not sound, in large part because they betray a lack of understanding of a core principle of school finance: Different students in different districts have different costs to achieve educational outcomes. The funding portability systems touted by the report do not account for many factors that determine student costs, and thus the report's recommendations should be avoided.

Suggested Citation: Weber, M. (2023). NEPC review: Public education funding without boundaries: How to get K-12 dollars to follow open enrollment students. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from: http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/portability

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