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Reauthorization of the ESEA Demands Less Rhetoric, More Understanding of Research

Susan Notes:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) changes its name and publishes an important new book. Here's material to help you fill your letters to the editor with facts to rebut corporate-politico hot air.

New Book from NEPC Provides Analysis of Obama Administration's Education Blueprint, Offering Valuable Scrutiny of Education Policy Claims

Boulder, CO (September 29, 2010) â€" As Congress and the Obama administration prepare to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), high-quality research is not informing the process. In May, the U.S. Department of Education released six research summaries in support of its "Blueprint for Reform" -- its proposals for ESEA reauthorization. But a new book from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), The Obama Education Blueprint: Researchers Examine the Evidence, finds that the research cited by the Department does not provide solid support for its proposals.

The book provides a topic-by-topic research review, with analysis by some of the top scholars on the respective topics. Its publication is accompanied by a congressional briefing held today at the Hart Senate Office Building (SH-216) at 1:30pm.

"When No Child Left Behind was signed into law nearly a decade ago, it was a triumph of rhetoric over sound research," said William J. Mathis, NEPC’s managing director and co-editor of the new book. "With ESEA now up for renewal, our children and our nation require we not make the same mistakes again. NEPC is committed to the idea that policy should be based on sound evidence. The reviews offered in this book will provide our elected officials with a clear understanding of what the research truly says about proposals in the Obama administration’s Education Blueprint."

The NEPC book offers six reviews, written by independent scholars. Yet, as Welner notes, "while each review has its own specific findings, it is striking that strong overarching themes emerged from the individual reviews." Each reviewer found, for instance, that the research she or he examined was of inadequate quality. Other themes include:

  • Key omissions, such as the Blueprint's accountability system and the rationale for competitive grants, as well as an undeveloped explanation and support for intervention models â€" despite these being centerpieces of the administration’s education reform efforts;

  • A focus on problems, as opposed to providing research to support the Blueprint's proposed solutions;

  • Extensive use of non-research and advocacy sources to justify policy recommendations; and

  • An overwhelming reliance, with little or no research justification, on standardized test scores as a measure of student learning and school success.

  • The Obama Education Blueprint: Researchers Examine the Evidence includes the following chapters:

    - Assessing the Research Base of "A Blueprint for Reform,”"William J. Mathis and Kevin G. Welner
    - A Review of "College- and Career Ready Students," Diane Ravitch and William J. Mathis
    - A Review of "Great Teachers and Great Leaders," Paul Shaker
    - A Review of "A Complete Education," Beth Warren
    - A Review of "Meeting the Needs of English Learners and Other Diverse Learners," Janette Klingner
    - A Review of "Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students," Gene V Glass, W. Steven Barnett, and Kevin G. Welner
    - A Review of "Fostering Innovation and Excellence," Clive Belfield

    The book, edited by William J. Mathis and Kevin G. Welner of the University of Colorado at Boulder, is published by Information Age Publishing. http://www.infoagepub.com/products/The-Obama-Education-Blueprint

    Funding for the NEPC's Think Tank Review Project is provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

    The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. For more information on NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu .

    — National Education Policy Center
    Press Release


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