I’m not sure I get this latest inside baseball ed research flap. Ed Week delivers the news that National Center for Educational Statistics honcho Mark S. Schneider is now saying that the agency shouldn’t be doing research like the recent public – private school report and everyone seems to agree. But why not? In the story AERA’s Gerry Sroufe says it’s because the agency could be seen to be pushing an agenda. But didn’t the opposite happen here? The study more or less undercut rather than bolstered one policy initiative of the administration. Everyone always assumes an agenda, it’s par for the course, just do good work and that will take care of itself.
Seems to me the most compelling case against the feds sponsoring this sort of work is the scarce resources argument: There are non-governmental folks wanting and able to do this sort of analysis, so let them do it on a non-governmental dime and focus scarce educational research dollars elsewhere. Fair enough. But, considering the dearth of high quality educational research out there, I’m all for the feds doing and sponsoring a lot more.
Also, while I was away, Harvard’s Paul Peterson released a reanalysis of the NAEP data (pdf) using some different coding and finding different results. Interestingly, while the usual suspects attacked Peterson (mostly ad hominem), the researchers who conducted the NCES study say he has a point. But, they argue that Peterson’s method also has flaws. The issue basically turns on how to count poor students since public and private schools (a) report differently and (b) participate differently in the Title I program namely because when poverty at a school hits a certain percentage of students the school can use Title I funds to offer services to all students in the building not just low-income ones. There is also debate about some of the variables. Stay tuned for more. Media round-up on this here.