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NEPC Review: Pluck & Tenacity: How Five Private Schools in Ohio Have Adapted to Vouchers (Thomas B. Fordham Institute, January 2014)

The new Fordham report, Pluck & Tenacity, examines the impact of school vouchers on five private schools in Ohio. While the journalist who authored the report is primarily interested in the effect on this small set of schools, we focus here on an underlying assumption asserted in the executive summary of the report: that because of vouchers, “school outcomes will improve.” As presented in this report, this assumption about the beneficial impacts of vouchers is a case-study in how to engage in slanted selection and interpretation of research evidence. As we show in this review, the totality of three endnotes used in the report reflect not just an incomplete picture of the research literature on vouchers, but an extreme case of cherry-picking sources to support a contested policy agenda. Moreover, even with the few sources cited to put voucher outcomes in a favorable light, the report cherry-picks the findings that suit Fordham’s agenda, while ignoring the findings from those very same sources that do not support—and even contradict—the premise. Thus, the report is grounded in a twice-skewed and intellectually dishonest view of the research on vouchers and their academic outcomes. The subsequent journalistic celebration of five schools in Ohio then continues this unsystematic treatment of evidence, amounting to little more than cheerleading for vouchers.

Document Reviewed:

Pluck & Tenacity: How Five Private Schools in Ohio Have Adapted to Vouchers

Ellen Belcher (main report), Aaron Churchill and Chad Aldis (foreword, executive summary)
Thomas B. Fordham Institute