We Win! NEPC & Lubienski Admit Choice Improves Outcomes

HVherald

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

As long as we’re talking about ridiculous hit pieces, the servants of the edu-blob at NEPC have published a hatchet job by Christopher Lubienski attacking the new edition of my Win-Win report reviewing the evidence on school choice, as well as another recent research review by three authors at U.Ark.

Guess what? Both Lubienski and (in their press release) NEPC now admit that school choice improves educational outcomes!

Don’t believe me? Check out how the press release opens:

The degree to which students benefit from voucher programs, which allow parents to use taxpayer dollars to send their children to private schools, has been debated for years. Most studies have found only modest benefits, at best. Two new reports claim to offer empirical support for the effectiveness of vouchers.

That’s right – what’s debated is not whether school choice improves students’ academic outcomes but the degree to which they improve outcomes.

It’s over, folks. Just like Jay said years ago…

WE WIN!

 

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Let’s also note that they shamelessly ignore four of the five sections of my report. The research on how school choice affects outcomes in public schools (it improves them), taxpayers (it saves money), segregation (it breaks down racial barriers) and civic practices (it strengthens democracy) is dismissed without notice:

While the report weighs in on a number of outcomes from voucher programs, including the competitive and fiscal impacts on public schools, the effects on civic values, and on racial segregation, these issues have not been seen as central to questions of voucher efficacy, and are not always illuminated by randomized studies.

Segregation and impact on taxpayers hasn’t historically mattered in choice debates? That will come as a surprise to a lot of legislators and activists I know!

The hit piece itself is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, as we’ve come to expect from the all-hat-and-no-cattle Lubienski and NEPC. They make a lot of noise about “misrepresentations of the research literature,” but if you actually read their report (which they’re counting on you not to do) they bring no substantial allegations that might back that up – only pedantic interpretive quibbles that aren’t even worth responding to here.

Their only real accusation is the old “cherry-picking” routine. As always, they say we cherry-picked the research that supports our conclusions. Of course we didn’t; in my report I bent over backward, methodologically speaking, to ensure I didn’t exclude anything. Doesn’t matter. Whatever method researchers use to discover studies, they say it’s “cherry picking.” If they saw me walk right past a cherry tree without touching it, they’d accuse me of cherry picking.

Lubienski and NEPC know that most reporters don’t understand or even read research reports, so they can say what they want and get away with it. I’m content to let my work stand for itself; anyone who reads my report will see that the cherry-picking accusation is false, and none of Lubienski’s other accusations adds up to much beyond quibbling over issues where reasonable people can disagree, none of which (singly or jointly) affects the overall finding of my report.

My personal favorite part of the hatchet job was this gem. My method is to count a study as having found a positive effect if any of its reported results were positive, and to count it has having found a negative effect if any of its reported results were negative. I do this to avoid cherry-picking which of the results “really count” and which don’t. Lubienski complains, in the context of discussing a report that was put into the positive column under my method:

Nevertheless, the Friedman Foundation classifies this report as demonstrating “positive effects” if it has any single positive estimate, even when a “study typically includes multiple analytical models — sometimes many of them, occasionally even more than 100.” (While a single negative estimate could also place a study in the “negative effect” category, there are no such instances of this in the Friedman Foundation report.)

Got that? There were no studies of this kind that had any negative findings reported, at all, and that somehow tells against my positive finding because it means my method never put one of those studies in the negative column.

If that doesn’t discredit Lubienski, I’m not sure what would.

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