Think Tank Research Quality

Lessons for Policy Makers, the Media, and the Public

Edited by:
Kevin G. Welner, University of Colorado - Boulder
Patricia H. Hinchey, Pennsylvania State University
Alex Molnar, Arizona State University
Don Weitzman, Independent Researcher

Published 2010

Education policy over the past thirty years has been powerfully influenced by well-funded and slickly produced research reports produced by advocacy think tanks. The quality of think tank reports and the value of the policies they support have been sharply debated. To help policymakers, the media, and the public assess these quality issues, the Think Tank Review Project provides expert third party reviews. The Project has, since 2006, published 59 reviews of reports from 26 different institutions. This book brings together 21 of those reviews, focusing on examining the arguments and evidence used by think tanks to promote reforms such as vouchers, charter schools and alternative routes to teacher certification. The reviews are written using clear, non-academic language, with each review illustrating how readers can approach, understand and critique policy studies and reports. The book will be of interest to practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and anyone concerned with the current debates about educational reform.

Introduction: Bringing Think Tank Research Into the Scholarly Debate, Alex Molnar and Kevin G. Welner. Part 1: School Choice and the Benefits of Competition. A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on How Vouchers Affect Public Schools, Christopher Lubienski. The Effect of Special Education Vouchers on Public School Achievement, John T. Yun. Part 2: Private School Supremacy and Voucher Achievement Gains. Are Private High Schools Better Academically Than Public High Schools? Jaekyung Lee. Markets Versus Monopolies in Education, Clive Belfield. Part 3: Contracting Out and Private Management. A School Privatization Primer for Michigan School Officials, Media and Residents, Clive Belfield. Two Philadelphia Reports, Derek Briggs. Part 4: Vouchers Save Money. Freedom and Saving Money: The Fiscal Impact of the DC Voucher Program, Christopher Lubienski. School Choice by the Numbers, Bruce Baker. Series of Reports on The Fiscal Impact of Tax-Credit Scholarships, Luis Huerta. Part 5: Charter Schools. Schools in Eight States: Effects on Achievement, Attainment, Integration, and Competition, Derek C. Briggs. Trends in Charter School Authorizing, Ernest R. House. Public Charter Schools: A Great Value for Ohio’s Public Education System, Gary Miron. Part 6: School Funding. Weighted Student Formula Yearbook 2009, Bruce Baker. How Much Are Public School Teachers Paid? Sean P. Corcoran and Lawrence Mishel. Part 7: No Child Left Behind and Standards-Based Accountability. End It, Don’t Mend It: What to Do With No Child Left Behind, Bruce Fuller. Answering the Question That Matters Most: Has Student Achievement Increased Since No Child Left Behind? John T. Yun. Part 8: Report Cards: Bad Grades Make Headlines. The State of State Standards 2006, Kenneth R. Howe. Report Card on American Education, Gene V Glass. Part 9: Preschool. Sound an Investment: An Analysis of Federal Prekindergarten Proposals, W. Steven Barnett. Part 10: Teacher Quality. Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification, Sean P. Corcoran and Jennifer L. Jennings. Giving Students the Chaff: How to Find and Keep the Teachers We Need, Raymond Pecheone and Ash Vasudeva. Conclusion. Junk Social Science: Its Patrons and Its Audience, Kevin G. Welner and Alex Molnar. About the Authors.

"At a time when private think-tanks seek to advance their ideological agendas through what is often shoddy research, this book is both a welcome corrective to and a reminder of the dangers of the mis-use of data in significant educational policy debates." Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin, Madison

"Democracy thrives when a nation insures itself of a well-informed populace. The Think Tank Review Project helps our nation meet that goal by debunking bad social science, much of which emanates from the many highly partisan and well-funded think tanks that have developed over the last few decades. This book presents the best of the Project's reviews in a compelling indictment of think tank reports and their influence." David Berliner Arizona State University