The Origin Story of Education Savings Accounts

August 19, 2019

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Over at Redefined I decided it would be a good idea to get the history of Education Savings Accounts written before any of us involved get hit by a bus. In the first post Dan Lips returns from walking the earth like Kung Fu (aka working on stuff other than K-12) to recount the school choice debates which helped inspire him to develop an account based choice proposal. In a sequel post I explain the circumstances by which we on the ground in Arizona put the ESA theory to practice.

American Legislative Exchange Council releases Report Card on American Education

September 1, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The American Legislative Exchange Council released the Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress and Reform today coauthored by yours truly, Andy LeFevre and Dan Lips. Follow the link and check out our rankings of state NAEP performance based on the overall math and reading scores and gains of general education low-income children, and our “poll of polls” grades for K-12 policy in each state.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush penned the foreward. After losing a bet Stanford Political Scientist Terry Moe gave the book a very kind endorsement:

Everyone interested in education reform should read this book. Using a method that—by focusing on the achievement of low-income children—allows for apples-to-apples comparisons across the states, the authors present a treasure trove of eye-opening performance data and arrive at a ranking of state performance that reveals both surprising success and shocking failure. The book is well worth reading for the data alone. But it also offers a good deal more, from research summaries to methodological clarifications to model legislation—and concludes with an insightful discussion of the high-powered reforms that have helped some states out-perform others, and that offer the nation a path to improvement. I should add, finally—and with genuine admiration—that the book is beautifully written and a pleasure to read: something I can rarely say about a data analysis.

JPGB readers will of course realize that this is quite a tribute to Andy and Dan, given your painfully intimate knowledge of my garbled writing. Thanks also to Jeff Reed and Dave Myslinski from ALEC (Jeff is now rocking and rolling at the Foundation for Educational Choice), Jay and my Goldwater Institute comrades.

Check it out and let me know what you think. Be nice though: today is my birthday, which makes me even more emotionally volatile than usual.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the PDF.

Sneak Preview: Report Card on American Education

August 30, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Later this week the American Legislative Exchange Council will release Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress and Reform written by yours truly, Dan Lips and Andy LeFevre.

As suggested by the title, we grade each state by their academic performance, their academic gains and their K-12 reform policies. On the later, we use a “poll of polls” technique and average the grades assigned for particular policy areas on academic standards, teacher quality, charter school laws, private choice, digital education etc.

Sneak peak: a B+ was the highest grade.

On the performance and progress, we utilize NAEP with an eye to maximizing comparability  between states. After all, no one can be shocked that Connecticut has higher NAEP scores than Mississippi, given the huge disparities in income between the two states.

We therefore judge each state based on the scores of free and reduced lunch eligible general education students on all four main NAEP exams: 4th grade reading and math, 8th grade reading and math. We use the period for which all 50 states and the District of Columbia have participated in NAEP (2003-2009). Using free or reduced lunch eligibility keeps the income range of students under a known limit, whereas non-free and reduced lunch kids can vary in income from still relatively hardscrabble to billionaires.

We made no effort to control for race or ethnicity despite the well-known existence of racial achievement gaps. This is because we believe that such gaps can in fact be closed. We believe that the gaps exist due to policy and cultural factors, all of which can be changed. Schools in particular are in the business (or should be) of promoting a strong academic culture focused on learning-aka controlling the culture of the school.

You’ve never heard of a racial combat effectiveness gap in the United States Marines Corps because it doesn’t exist. The fact that the Marines are a well-led organization with a strong culture has a great deal to do with that, as does the fact that every Marine is a part of the Corps by choice.

In any case, we do not claim that our NAEP rankings provide perfect comparability  just enormously better comparability  than looking at raw NAEP scores.

So you are dying to know whether your state rocked or sucked wind in the rankings. Calm down- pace yourself!

All will be revealed later in the week.

The Silence of the Lame

January 22, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Dan Lips on the mainstream media and the head start evaluation. Money quote:

When a Congressionally-mandated study released in 2008 found that President Bush’s favorite reading program was a failure, it was national news.  An article by Greg Toppo in the USA Today blared the headline “Study: Bush’s Reading First Program Ineffective” and reported that the results could be a “knockout punch” for the program.  Similar articles appeared in the New York Times (by Sam Dillon) and Washington Post (by Maria Glod).

But when a similarly devastating report was published last week that undercuts a pillar of President Obama’s education plans, none of these papers has bothered to report it.   As we have reported, the Department of Health and Human Services finally released the results of a national evaluation of the Head Start program that Congress mandated in the late 1990s.

Phony Numbers

September 1, 2009

A chronic problem with centralized accountability systems is that they require accurate information from the agent that is being held accountable.  But because people don’t like to squeeze vises on their own hands, they are often tempted to slip out of the vise by fudging the numbers.  And because the centralized authority is often reluctant to squeeze the vise anyway, preferring the happy story that schools are reforming but never reformed, obvious fudging of the numbers is tolerated.

I’ve documented this problem when it comes to graduation rates, which have often been misreported to avoid political embarrassment and accountability sanctions. 

Now David Muhlhausen, Don Soifer, and Dan Lips over at Heritage (with help from Jonetta Rose Barras at the Washington Examiner) have uncovered a new type of phony numbers — school crime and safety information. 

The Heritage report used Freedom of Information requests to the D.C. police to find reports of violence and criminal activity at DC schools.  The prevalence of violence and criminal activity is shocking and helps explain why students may be so eager to get vouchers for private schools or switch to charter schools.

But if you look at the officially reported numbers that D.C. schools report to the U.S. Department of Education in the “Indicators of School Crime and Safety,” as they are required to do by our centralized accountability law, you’d get a completely different (and almost certainly misleading) picture.

According to the Heritage report based on FOI requests of police records, there were 860 violent incidents at D.C. public schools during the 2007-08 school year, including 1 murder, 41 sex offenses, and 608 assaults.  But according to the office that submits the official D.C. crime and safety information to the U.S. Dept of Ed, there were only 40 violent crimes during that same period.  What happened to the other 820 that were reported to the police?

The difference between the crime and safety numbers reported for accountability purposes and those discovered through FOI requests to the police is huge.  They differ by a factor of 20!

I have to confess that stories like this shake my confidence in our ability to improve public schools through centralized accountability systems.

CORRECTION — I wrote “vice” when I meant “vise.”  That’s a great Freudian slip.

Synchronize Your Watches…

June 8, 2009

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

James Sherk and Dan Lips point out that the Obama administration is lowering the amount of transparency for unions even as the Indiana swindle unfolds.

Meanwhile the NEA seems to have shifted its position from “we will take care of this” to “it sucks to be you disabled teachers” back to “we will take care of this.”

Synchronize your watches for 15 minutes and we will see what they say next.

Dan Lips and Lindsey Burke = Will Muschamp

April 22, 2009

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So the University of Texas has a defensive coordinator named Will Muschamp. Muschamp is known as “Coach Boom” because a clip of him reacting to a big hit went viral on youtube. Going nuts after one of his players delivered a bone crunching hit, Muschamp ran out on to the field happily screaming “BOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!” in a voice louder than I would have ever expected humanly possible, with the possible exception of the Ladner children
Texas fans now happily yell “BOOM!” from the stands when they see a big hit.
This is the reaction I had when I read Dan Lips and Lindsey Burke in the NRO today. The lines from President Obama’s open letter to his daughters is priceless. I take that back. They are beyond priceless:

“In the end, girls, that’s why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation. I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential – schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college – even if their parents aren’t rich.”