Anti-Semitism and Religious Schools

November 18, 2015

Yesterday AEI hosted an event at which I presented a new paper by Cari A. Bogulski and me examining the relationship between the type of school people attended when they were children and their attitudes toward Jews as adults.  We find that the more people attended religious private schools as children, the less anti-Semitic they are.  Secular private schools resemble public schools in the average level of anti-Semitism among their former students.

Of course, we were not able to randomly assign people to different types of school, so we cannot be confident that this relationship is causal.  But the relationship holds true after controlling for a variety of background characteristics.  It is still possible that adults who attended religious schools have more favorable attitudes toward Jews because of unobserved advantages but this seems unlikely given that the generally more advantaged families who send children to non-religious private schools do not appear to yield lower anti-Semitism.  And we do not typically think of families who choose to send their children to mostly Christian religious schools as doing so because of a particular affinity toward Jews .

Why might religious schooling be associated with lower anti-Semitism?  Prior research has found a general link between private education and higher tolerance, so this may just be consistent with that.  But the fact that the effect is restricted to religious schools is somewhat unexpected.  Perhaps religious institutions that operate schools, most of which are Christian, have adopted a much more favorable orientation toward Jews than is widely appreciated.

Many Jewish organizations have been slow to recognize that historically hostile groups may now be allies (and some traditional allies may be turning more hostile). Perhaps these findings may motivate several Jewish organizations to reconsider their opposition to private school choice programs.

For more details be sure to read the paper and watch the video above.

More on the Over-Confidence of Portfolio Management

November 14, 2015

Actually, it was Friedrich Hayek who said this, but this image seemed a lot funnier.  Hayek — the economist with the funny mustache, not the movie star — was briefly a professor at the University of Arkansas before going on to the University of Chicago and winning a Nobel Prize.  Go Hogs!  As far as I know, Salma Hayek has never taught at the University of Arkansas and has also never won a Nobel Prize.  I think we can all see the causal connection.

While we are on the topic of the difficulty of drawing causal connections and being reminded of how little we know about what we imagine we can design, I’d like to add another piece of evidence to my previous post on “The Over-Confidence of Portfolio Management.” The central idea of portfolio management is to identify and close under-performing schools while opening and expanding higher quality schools.

The problem I noted in my previous post, is that portfolio management (PM) does not have a reliable tool for identifying which are the “good” and “bad” schools.  In New Orleans they identify “bad” schools based on the state’s school grading system, which is determined almost entirely by the level of student achievement on math and reading tests (and almost not at all on the growth in learning).  There is no reason to believe that schools with low levels of scores are “bad” schools, so there is no reason to believe that portfolio management is effectively identifying and closing  bad schools.  And if PM in NOLA can’t effectively distinguish between good and bad schools, there is no reason to believe that whatever progress has been made in New Orleans is due to portfolio management.

But this is not holding back PM supporters from adopting portfolio management as the “best practice” and hoping to implement it in Detroit and elsewhere.  They’re confident that they can identify bad schools for closure by focusing on growth in standardized test results, even if that was not what was done in NOLA.  The problem I noted in my last post is that even annual growth in test performance does not seem to be strongly predictive of later-life success.  Looking at 7 rigorous studies of long-term outcomes for charter and private school choice programs, we find that programs that produce large test score gains produce little or no gain in educational attainment while other programs with modest or no gains in test scores make large gains in high school graduation, college attendance, and even workplace earnings.

Well, now we have an 8th rigorous study and it fits the same pattern as the previous 7.  Joshua M. Beauregard’s Harvard doctoral thesis examines college outcomes for students applying by lottery for admission to High Tech High (HTH) School in San Diego.  High Tech High is a widely-lauded charter school that receives significant financial support from many of the big education reform foundations.  It’s a model of the kind of school that portfolio managers are supposed to open and expand.

So what is the effect of HTH on whether its students attend college?  Beauregard finds: “I detect no impact on the probability of enrollment in college of any type, which includes two-year and four-year colleges, for my aggregate sample. My estimates are consistent when including baseline demographics and ELA scores.” (p. 28) Similar to Angrist, et al’s results from studying “no excuses” charter schools in Boston, Beauregard does find that attending HTH seems to shift college-going students from two to four-year colleges, but it has no overall effect on post-secondary education.  He describes the increase in four-year college attendance as “statistically significant” although the results in Table 5 show that this is only at p<.1.  And we have no idea whether shifting students from 2 to 4 year colleges is good if students are unable to complete a 4 year degree. Beauregard also reports no increase in attendance at “competitive” four-year colleges as a result of attending High Tech High.

With HTH we have another example of a school of choice with impressive test score performance that does not produce commensurate improvements in long-term outcomes for students.  The central flaw of portfolio management is that the tool it uses to identify which schools should be closed and which should be opened and expanded is not well-connected with long-term success for students.  PM can’t improve outcomes for students by closing “bad” schools if it can’t accurately determine which are the bad schools.

Maybe Salma Hayek should explain to them “how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

Moynihan’s Moment

November 12, 2015

Daniel Patrick Moynihan was many things — scholar,  ambassador to India and then the United Nations, United States Senator, and, of course, he was an alum of Tufts University where he earned his bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees.  He was author of The Negro Family: The Case For National Action, also known as the Moynihan Report, which examined the rise of single parenthood and its consequences, particularly for African-Americans.  Education Next recently devoted an entire issue to the Moynihan Report on the 50th anniversary of its release.

This week we are noting another anniversary.  It has been 40 years since Moynihan gave his passionate speech at the United Nations denouncing United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, which infamously asserted that “Zionism is a form of racism…”  The UN revoked that resolution in 1991, but its hateful legacy lives on at the United Nations and among anti-Semites everywhere.

His speech that Zionism is not racism was, as Gil Troy’s book calls it, Moynihan’s Moment.  On its 40th anniversary I thought I would reproduce key parts of that speech.  It’s remarkable not just for its content but also for its style.  Let’s hope that school children will also be taught to remember the legacy of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and that current and future leaders may be inspired to uphold his ideals.

Speech to the United Nations General Assembly, by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, November 10, 1975. Source: U.S. Congressional Record.

The United States rises to declare before the General Assembly of the United Nations, and before the world, that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.

Not three weeks ago, the United States Representative in the Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee pleaded in measured and fully considered terms for the United Nations not to do this thing. It was, he said, “obscene.” It is something more today, for the furtiveness with which this obscenity first appeared among us has been replaced by a shameless openness.

There will be time enough to contemplate the harm this act will have done the United Nations. Historians will do that for us, and it is sufficient for the moment only to note the foreboding fact. A great evil has been loosed upon the world. The abomination of anti-semitism — as this year’s Nobel Peace Laureate Andrei Sakharov observed in Moscow just a few days ago — the Abomination of anti-semitism has been given the appearance of international sanction. The General Assembly today grants symbolic amnesty — and more — to the murderers of the six million European Jews. Evil enough in itself, but more ominous by far is the realization that now presses upon us — the realization that if there were no General Assembly, this could never have happened.

As this day will live in infamy, it behooves those who sought to avert it to declare their thoughts so that historians will know that we fought here, that we were not small in number — not this time — and that while we lost, we fought with full knowledge of what indeed would be lost.

Nor should any historian of the event, nor yet any who have participated in it, suppose, that we have fought only as governments, as chancelleries, and on an issue well removed from the concerns of our respective peoples. Others will speak for their nations: I will speak for mine….

The proposition to be sanctioned by a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations is that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Now this is a lie. But as it is a lie which the United Nations has now declared to be a truth, the actual truth must be restated.

The very first point to be made is that the United Nations has declared Zionism to be racism — without ever having defined racism. “Sentence first — verdict afterwards,” as the Queen of Hearts said. But this is not wonderland, but a real world, where there are real consequences to folly and to venality….

What we have here is a lie — a political lie of a variety well known to the twentieth century, and scarcely exceeded in all that annal of untruth and outrage. The lie is that Zionism is a form of racism. The overwhelmingly clear truth is that is it not.

The word “racism” is a creation of the English language, and relatively new to it…. The term derives from relatively new doctrines — all of them discredited — concerning the human population of the world, to the effect that there are significant biological differences among clearly identifiable groups, and that these differences establish, in effect, different levels of humanity. Racism, as defined in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, is “The Assumption that . . . traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from one another.” It further involves “a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its right to dominate over others.”…

Now it was the singular nature — if, I am not mistaken, it was the unique nature — of this [Zionist] national liberation movement that in contrast with the movements that preceded it, those of that time, and those that have come since, it defined its members in terms not of birth, but of belief. That is to say, it was not a movement of the Irish to free Ireland, or of the Polish to free Poland, not a movement of the Algerians to free Algeria, nor of Indians to free India. It was not a movement of persons connected by historic membership to a genetic pool of the kind that enables us to speak loosely but not meaninglessly, say, of the Chinese people, nor yet of diverse groups occupying the same territory which enables us to speak [o]f the American people with no greater indignity to truth. To the contrary, Zionists defined themselves merely as Jews, and declared to be Jewish anyone born of a Jewish mother or — and this is the absolutely crucial fact — anyone who converted to Judaism. Which is to say, in terms of International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted by the 20th General Assembly, anyone — regardless of “race, colour, descent, or nationally or ethnic origin …..”

The state of Israel, which in time was the creation of the Zionist Movement, has been extraordinary in nothing so much as the range of “racial stocks” from which [it has drawn its citizens.  There are black Jews, brown Jews, white Jews, Jews from the] Orient and Jew[s] from the West. Most such persons could be said to have been “born” Jewish, just as most Presbyterians and most Hindus are “born” to their faith, but there are many Jews who are …converts. With a consistency in the matter which surely attests to the importance of this issue to that religio[u]s and political culture, Israeli courts have held that a Jew who converts to another religion is no longer a Jew. In the meantime the population of Israel also includes large numbers of non-Jews, among them Arabs of both the Muslim and Christian religions and Christians of other national origins. Many of these persons are citizens of Israel, and those who are not can become citizens by legal procedures very much like those which obtain in a typical nation of Western Europe.

Now I should wish to be understood that I am here making one point, and one point only, which is that whatever else Zionism may be, it is not and cannot be “a form of racism.” In logic, the State of Israel could be, or could become, many things, theoretically, including many things undesirable, but it could not be and could not become racism unless it ceased to be Zionist.

Indeed, the idea that Jews are a “race” was invented not by Jews but by those who hated Jews. The idea of Jews as a race was invented by nineteenth century anti-semites such as Houston Steward Chamberlain and Edouard Drumont, who saw that in an increasingly secular age, which is to say an age made for fewer distinctions between people, the old religio[u]s grounds for anti-semitism were losing force. New justifications were needed for excluding and persecuting Jews, and so the new idea of Jews as a race — rather than as a religion — was born. It was a contemptible idea at the beginning, and no civilized person would be associated with it. To think that it is an idea now endorsed by the United Nations is to reflect on what civilization has come to.

It is precisely a concern for civilization, for civilized values that are or should be precious to all mankind, that arouses us at this moment to such special passion. What we have at stake here is not merely the honor and the legitimacy of the State of Israel — although a challenge to the legitimacy of any member nation ought always to arouse the vigilance of all members of the United Nations. For a yet more important matter is at issue, which is the integrity of the whole body of moral and legal precepts which we know as human rights.

The terrible lie that has been told here today will have terrible consequences. Not only will people begin to say, indeed they have already begun to say that the United Nations is a place where lies are told, but far more serious, grave and perhaps irreparable harm will be done to the cause of human rights itself. The harm will arise first because it will strip from racism the precise and abhorrent meaning that it still precariously holds today.

An audio of the full speech can be found here:

5th Circuit Court Rejects “Disingenuous” DOJ Anti-School Choice Lawsuit

November 10, 2015

[Guest Post by Jason Bedrick]

For a few years, the Obama administration’s Department of Justice has been trying to shut down or at least seriously constrain Louisiana’s school voucher program. The DOJ unironically used anti-segregation laws to attack the school choice law, even though the DOJ’s “success” would mean keeping black kids in failing schools. After two studies showed that the voucher program actually improved integration, the DOJ backpedaled a bit but still went forward with its lawsuit to give the feds greater control over the voucher program.

That effort ended today.

According to our friends at the Goldwater Institute, which was defending the voucher program from the DOJ, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled against the DOJ. Here is their press release:

New Orleans—In a case with national implications for parental choice programs in hundreds of school districts that still are subject to federal desegregation decrees, today the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Department of Justice can’t limit enrollment in a state private school scholarship program.

The Department of Justice was attempting to use an unrelated, decades-old desegregation case to assert federal jurisdiction over the state program. When it initially filed the case, DOJ asked for an injunction to block students in school districts under desegregation orders from using vouchers. DOJ backed off its request for an injunction, but pressed ahead with its case, placing a cloud of uncertainty over the school options for Louisiana scholarship families.

In the 2-1 decision written by Judge Edith Jones, the court referred to the Department of Justice’s tactics as “disingenuous,” purporting merely to seek information and enforce desegregation while “imposing a vast and intrusive reporting regime on the State without any finding of unconstitutional conduct.” The decision also called the process as “burdensome, costly, and endless.”

“This is a victory for minority and low-income schoolchildren, not only in Louisiana but around the country,” said Clint Bolick, vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute, which is representing the Black Alliance for Educational Options and voucher families. “The decision should put an end to efforts to use long-ago desegregation decrees to thwart educational opportunities for their intended beneficiaries, whether through vouchers or charter schools. The educational horizon just brightened.”

The Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program was created in 2012. The statewide program provides private school tuition vouchers to children from families with incomes below 250 percent of the poverty line and who otherwise would attend public schools that the state has graded C, D or F. In the 2013-14 school year, nearly 6,800 students were awarded scholarships, a 20 percent increase from the year before. More than 85 percent of the children receiving scholarships that year were African American, nearly twice their representation among the Louisiana public school population.

Bolick argued and won the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case before the U.S. Supreme Court, upholding the constitutionality of school vouchers more than a decade ago. He now leads the litigation efforts at the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation. [emphasis added]

UPDATE: Here is the full decision (h/t Ze’ev Wurman). The challenge was actually an expansion of a 40-year-old desegregation lawsuit that the administration cynically used to attack Louisiana’s school voucher program. However, Judge Edith Jones wasn’t having it. Here she notes that there is no evidence that the voucher law impeded the desegregation effort:

Louisiana hired an expert to produce reports on the voucher program’s impact for the 2012–2013 and 2013–2014 school years. The expert, Christine Rossell, is a professor of political science at Boston University who has 26 years’ experience designing and analyzing school desegregation plans. For both school years facing scrutiny, she found that the program “had no negative effect on school desegregation in the 34 school districts under a desegregation court order.” The DOJ has produced no evidence to the contrary.

The circuit court overturned a lower court’s ruling on several grounds, including the lower court’s erroneous assumption that the voucher program is intended to aid private schools. In actuality, as the circuit court found, the vouchers aid students. Likewise, the point of SNAP is to aid poor people, not grocery stores, even though grocery stores benefit when people spend their SNAP funds there.

In the 1975 order, the district court retained continuing jurisdiction for the remedial purpose laid out in the order, which was to prevent future state aid to discriminatory private schools. For three reasons, the April 8 Order goes beyond correcting— and indeed has nothing to do with—the violation originally litigated in this case. First, the voucher program’s potential impact on desegregation orders for public schools in separate federal desegregation cases is distinct from eliminating public funding for discriminatory private schools. Second, the voucher program aid is for students rather than private schools. Finally, even if the voucher program aids private schools, it is not being given to discriminatory private schools. The district court’s order exceeded the constitutional infirmity on which this case was predicated and is therefore void. [emphasis added]

The court continues:

The state’s voucher program is also outside the scope of this case because it provides aid to students rather than to private schools. First, the voucher program allows students to state their preference for public or private schools on their applications. It is then the students’ choice to accept the state scholarship so no money is given to a school, public or private, without the approval of the students’ families. Second, the scholarship pays for the individual student’s education; it does not aid private school operations. That is made clear by the fact that the scholarship is capped at the amount the state would have spent on the child had the child attended a local public school. La. Rev. Stat. § 17:4016. The scholarship covers the marginal cost of educating an additional child.

Exactly so.

The court concludes that the DOJ was disingenuous:

DOJ’s attempt to shoehorn its regulation of the voucher program into an entirely unrelated forty-year-old case represents more than ineffective lawyering. Despite the district court’s contrary conclusion, it seems plain that DOJ’s expressed concern—how the voucher program affects statewide public schools racially—has nothing to do with the narrow issues considered in the Brumfield litigation. DOJ’s bold strategy, if upheld, would circumvent the ordinary litigation process…


Education Paternalists: Choice Is Only for Us

November 10, 2015


Googled “paternalism” and found this – seemed appropriate!

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Education paternalists are bending over backwards to shame philanthropists who support school choice, and they show their true colors as the new Bull Connor. Check this out:

“Choice makes sense to so many of us in positions of privilege, who direct philanthropic investments and public policy. Markets have worked for us: we have the financial and social capital to choose the supermarket we want to shop in, the kind of work we want to do or where we want to live,” [Lori Bezahler] writes. “However, unless we examine the relationship between privilege and access to markets, we will ignore the constraints that many families face in a market driven education system.”

Therefore, she concludes, those who are not elites should not be given a choice!

If government is going to expand access to services for the poor – as it sometimes should, and education is one of those cases – giving them a subsidy and then sending them into the marketplace is precisely the way to break down “privilege” and elevate the poor to equal standing. The contrasting models here are food stamps or Section 8 housing vouchers (which allow the poor to walk into the same marketplace as everyone else and get served as a customer alongside everyone else) versus public housing or government-run medical “insurance” cartels (which trap the poor in an alternate universe, cut off from the mainstream cultural world within which that precious “social capital” Bezahler claims to be worried about is available).

There is definitely someone who should be ashamed here, but it isn’t philanthropists who support school choice.

HT Jason Bedrick

Matching Method and the Gold Standard

November 9, 2015

Anna Egalite and Matthew Ackerman have a new study out that examines whether the matching methodology used by CREDO to evaluate charter schools is “a reasonable alternative when the gold standard is not feasible or possible.”  They conclude that it is.  Using data from FL, they consider and rebut a series of common criticisms that have been made against the CREDO methodology.

They find that using multiple students when matching does not change results much from using a single match.  They also find that matching on administrative classifications, like special education and English language learner, also does not distort results much even though those classifications are systematically different across sectors.  And they find that more rigorous methodologies, like using exogenous instruments, yield similar results in FL to using CREDO’s matching method.

Anna and Matthew have done excellent work and convincingly demonstrated their case.  Since Anna is a former student, who is now an Assistant Professor at North Carolina State (via a post-doc at Harvard), and another former student of mine, James (Lynn) Woodworth, is a researcher at CREDO and author of reports using this methodology, this superb analysis of CREDO’s approach fills me with pride in their accomplishments.

But I’m concerned that they or others may over-interpret what this study finds.  It does not demonstrate that matching generally gives you the same result as randomized experiments or other gold standard methodologies.  All that it demonstrates is that matching yielded similar results in this particular context.  In this circumstance, the selection of students into charter schools did not produce important differences between treatment and control students on unobserved characteristics.  And in this case, systematic differences in how charter and traditional public schools classify students into special ed, ELL, and free lunch did not bias the result.  But the next time we use a matching methodology, the situation could be completely different.  In the next matching study, the types of students who attend charters may be significantly different in unobserved ways and administrative classifications could produce strong bias.

People have a very bad habit of declaring that matching or another observational method is just as good as gold-standard research designs whenever the two produce similar results.  They did this after Abdulkadiroğlu, et al produced their Boston charter results.  But declaring that both methods are just as good ignores why we have gold-standard research in the first place.  The bias of observational methods is typically unobserved.  And those biases certainly exist some of the time even if they are not present all of the time.  Finding similar results for matching methods in one circumstance does not erase this fact.

To their credit, Ackerman and Egalite are careful to emphasize that matching should only be considered when more rigorous approaches are not available.  My strong preference is that we should avoid sub-par methodologies, especially when the same policy has been subject to at least some gold-standard evaluations.  We don’t need a study on every charter school in every state.  We should rely on the rigorous research where we have it and then extrapolate those results to other schools and states.  I’d rather be guided by theory supported by rigorous evidence than demand sub-par evidence for all things.  Demanding evidence for every school in every state gives us a false sense of confidence that we really know how each state and school are doing.

Unfortunately, in their drive to make “evidence-based” decisions and feel “scientific,” ed reform policymakers and leaders have demanded that evidence be produced  for each school in each state.  Some have gone so far as to demand evidence on the effectiveness of each teacher.  We can’t produce rigorous evidence all of the time, so these demands for evidence are driving us toward lower quality research designs.  That may produce unbiased results some of the time, but it certainly won’t all of the time.  So, in the desire to be evidence-based and scientific we are likely to undermine the quality of evidence and science.  Let’s stick to gold-standard work for policy questions where we have those studies.

“Testing” Is Not a Synonym for Common Core

November 6, 2015

[Guest Post by Jason Bedrick]

Over at the Cato-at-Liberty blog today, I dissect the results of BAEO’s recent survey of black voters’ views of education policy. BAEO is a fantastic organization, but this isn’t their best work. Although their question about school vouchers was straightforward (when asked “Do you support school vouchers/scholarships?” more than 60 percent answered in the affirmative), the survey question that they claim shows support for Common Core actually does no such thing.

BAEO claims the survey “indicated solid support among Black voters that believe educational standards such as Common Core and its related assessments is essential to holding education stakeholders responsible for student learning outcomes.”

It does not. As I explained at the Cato blog:

If the wording of the survey question was identical to how it appears on their website, then it says absolutely nothing about black support for Common Core. The question as it appears on their website is: “Do you think that testing is necessary to hold schools accountable for student achievement?” The question doesn’t mention Common Core at all. For that matter, it doesn’t mention standardized testing specifically, nor explain how the testing is meant to “hold schools accountable.” Perhaps it means publishing the score results so parents will hold schools accountable. Or perhaps it means the state government will offer financial carrots or regulatory sticks. Or maybe it means whatever the survey respondent wants it to mean.

If Acme Snack Co. asked survey respondents, “Do you like snacks that are delicious and nutritious?” and then claimed “two-thirds of Americans enjoy delicious and nutritious snacks such as Acme Snack Co. snacks,” they would be guilty of false advertising. Maybe the survey respondents really do like Acme Snacks–or Common Core–but we can’t know that from that survey. Just as some people may enjoy carrots (delicious and nutritious) but find Acme Snacks revolting, lots of parents may support some measure of testing while opposing Common Core testing for any number of reasons.

“Testing” is not a synonym for Common Core. Supporting the former does not imply supporting the latter. (Just ask the Pioneer Institute.) If BAEO wanted to ask about Common Core, they should’ve asked about Common Core. Instead, they asked about mere “testing.” Making any claims about support for Common Core based on this question is irresponsible. BAEO can do better.


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