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The National Education Policy Center reviewed a report about the relationship between school choice and equity. Basically, equity is an afterthought, not a goal.

Rhetorically, school choice advocates regularly claim that these policies advance equity. Yet a new research report of school choice policies in five geographically and demographically diverse states found that equity has been little more than an afterthought in the development and implementation of these policies.

The study is based on interviews conducted with 58 state policymakers and experts in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Oregon. The states were selected with an eye to including a diverse set of geographic, demographic, and school choice policy settings.

Authored by NEPC Fellow Katrina Bulkley of Montclair State University in New Jersey, and by Julie A. Marsh and Laura Mulfinger of the University of Southern California, the report, States Can Play a Stronger Role in Promoting Equity and Access in School Choice, was published in December by the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH) at Tulane University in Louisiana.

The researchers found that, rather than equity, lawmakers in the five states emphasized factors such as local control, innovation, efficiency, and parental freedom when designing school choice policies.

These policies have a predictable impact. “A very large number of the charter schools in Colorado serve and explicitly are designed to serve middle-class or even upper middle-class students,” a staff person with the Colorado School Boards Association told the authors of the report.

There are more than a handful who are, for all practical purposes, college prep programs for high-income families. And out of the way we’ve written our laws and the way they’re structured, there’s no reason for them not to do that.

Although the researchers found that state choice policies were neither created with equity in mind nor consistently made more equitable over time, they did suggest several steps that policymakers throughout the United States can take in order to make school choice more accessible, and perhaps therefore more equitable.

  • Accountability: Schools of choice—including charter and voucher schools—should be held accountable for, and incentivized in the direction of, providing high-quality options to historically underserved student populations that too often encounter limited or low-quality school options in or near the neighborhoods where they live.
  • Information: The researchers found that information on schools of choice and school choice policies can be difficult to find and understand. This information needs to be widely available and comprehensible.
  • Enrollment: Burdensome enrollment processes can shut out students from historically underserved groups. States should step in to ensure that this is not the case. The researchers positively highlight a policy in Oregon that financially incentivizes schools of choice to enroll students from underserved populations.
  • Teaching: States should promote teacher quality measures for all schools of choice while also acknowledging the need for teachers who understand culturally relevant pedagogy and other measures designed to serve students from underserved populations.
  • Transportation: Families are often required to provide their own transportation to schools of choice. This can effectively shut out lower-income students whose parents lack the means to help them get to and from school.

These recommendations align with some of those offered in the new book, School’s Choice: How Charter Schools Control Access and Shape Enrollment, by Wagma Mommandi and Kevin Welner. Yet addressing accessibility within school choice systems is best thought of necessary but not sufficient for reaching larger education-equity goals, which must be focused on children’s actual experiences in school as well as the health of the overall system of choice schools and neighborhood public schools.NEPC Resources on School Choice ->

The National Education Policy Center is a think tank known for its incisive reviews, studies, and reports. In this post, it demolishes five myths about teaching.

Myth 1: Evaluating teachers based on student test results is fair, objective, and effective. Wrong.

Myth 2: We’d get better performance out of teachers and attract better candidates to the profession if we handed out bonuses. Doesn’t work.

Myth 3: Five or so weeks of training prepares you to start teaching. Experience and preparation matter.

Myth 4: Education is more equitable and more rigorous when teachers are required to use a scripted curriculum that tells them what to say and when. Bad idea.

Myth 5: Teaching is easy—after all, you get the summers off and you play with kids all day! Try it for a day.

The National Education Policy Center frequently engages independent scholars to review think tank reports, which are often advocacy reports.

In this report, the NEPC scholars review the latest report from the National Center on Teacher Quality, which was formed about 20 years ago to take down teachers’ colleges. See this post.

NEPC Review: 2020 Teacher Prep Review: Clinical Practice and Classroom Management (October 2020)

Reviewers: Jamy Stillman and  Katherine Schultz March 16, 2021

NCTQ’s 2020 Teacher Prep Review focuses on two areas of teacher preparation: clinical practice and classroom management. The report uses an approach that is now familiar to readers of NCTQ publications: asserting a set of preferred practices and then applying those criteria to teacher education programs. Although NCTQ reports have been critiqued for their limited use of research and highly questionable research methodology, this report employs the same approaches as earlier NCTQ reports. Rather than analyzing the characteristics of successful programs preparing teachers for a wide range of contexts, the report is based exclusively on adherence to or compliance with NCTQ internal standards that are neither widely accepted nor evidence-based. Thus, the report’s value is diminished and is unlikely to transform teacher preparation

The National Education Policy Center produces a series of podcasts about current issues.

In this one, Christopher Saldaña interviews historian Jack Schneider and journalist Jennifer Berkshire about their new book A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School. Schneider and Berkshire have produced a podcast called Have You Heard? and they are skilled interviewers and discussants of their work.

The podcast raises important issues about the assault on public education and what comes next.

In A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door, the authors discuss the political actors who have advocated for market-oriented policies in order to privatize public schools. They explain that the goal of the book is to examine powerful but less well-known state-level groups who have sought to influence and shape the governance of schools, educational policy, and educational practice. The authors argue that it is these state-level interest groups that have consistently and meticulously undermined the public-ness of public schools.

According to Schneider and Berkshire, the desire to make individual choices about education private, as opposed to collective, is at the heart of the privatization agenda. They argue that advocates of privatization seek to narrow the purpose of schooling to the accumulation of human capital for individual gain. Within this approach to schooling, parents decide where their child should learn, what they should learn, and how they should be taught. Like a market for cars or groceries, parents as consumers – not the larger public – determine what are successful schools. The authors explain this approach strips away the democratic purpose of schools. Where democratic schooling is designed to ensure all children receive equal educational opportunities and do so in an environment that integrates students of different backgrounds, a system that relies purely on parental choice – such as universal school vouchers – is designed to segregate students solely by parental preference.

Schneider and Berkshire see signs of hope in the collective movements organized by teachers unions and communities. In their view, if public schools are to survive and thrive, they require a well-organized collective to identify and push back against the contradictions inherent in market-oriented policies. They recommend that readers and listeners familiarize themselves with the groups advocating for privatization and consider how these groups work to influence policy in order to develop long-term strategies that successfully oppose privatization.

Chris Saldana of the National Education Policy Center interviewed Frank Adamson on privatization of education in an international context. If you have 30 minutes in your busy day, this is definitely worth listening to.

BOULDER, CO (May 19, 2020) – In this month’s NEPC Education Interview of the Month, NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña interviews Frank Adamson, Assistant Professor of Education Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University, Sacramento. Adamson is an expert in education privatization in the United States and international contexts and the editor of Global Education Reform: How Privatization and Public Investment Influence Education Outcomes.

Adamson argues that the foundation for privatizing schools has been laid over many decades through federal policies such as No Child Left Behind. He points out that with this foundation in place, crises have been used to promote privatization in cities such as Oakland and New Orleans, just as the COVID-19 pandemic is now being used to promote the use of virtual education and private digital platforms in public schools.

He notes that alternatives to privatization exist. The Abidjan Principles, developed by experts in law, human rights, and education, for example, outline the responsibility of countries to provide high-quality, free public education to all children. According to Adamson, if policymakers were guided by these principles, they could craft policies that fostered a more equitable educational system in the United States and other international contexts.

It is important, Adamson argues, that community members inform themselves and engage in educational policy discussions in their communities, especially because the decentralized system of public education in the United States requires an engaged and informed public to ensure that students receive the best possible public education.
A new NEPC Education Interview of the Month, hosted by NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña, will be released each month from September through June.

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All NEPC Education Interview of the Month podcasts are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

Frank Adamson was a co-author of the most devastating critique of the privatization of the New Orleans public schools that I have ever read.

The National Education Policy Center issued a statement today about teaching reading.

The bottom line: There is no “science of reading.”

It’s time for the media and political distortions to end, and for the literacy community and policymakers to fully support the literacy needs of all children.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Joint Statement Regarding
“Science of Reading” Advocacy


It’s time for the media and political distortions to end, and for the literacy community and policymakers to fully support the literacy needs of all children.

William J. Mathis:
(802) 383-0058

Kevin Kumashiro

BOULDER, CO (March 19, 2020) – The National Education Policy Center and the Education Deans for Justice and Equity (EDJE) today jointly released a Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading.”

For the past few years, a wave of media has reignited the unproductive Reading Wars, which frame early-literacy teaching as a battle between opposing camps. This coverage speaks of an established “science of reading” as the appropriate focus of teacher education programs and as the necessary approach for early-reading instruction. Unfortunately, this media coverage has distorted the research evidence on the teaching of reading, with the result that policymakers are now promoting and implementing policy based on misinformation.

The truth is that there is no settled science of reading. The research on reading and teaching reading is abundant, but it is diverse and always in a state of change. Accordingly, the joint statement highlights the importance of “professionally prepared teachers with expertise in supporting all students with the most beneficial reading instruction, balancing systematic skills instruction with authentic texts and activities.”

This key idea of a “balanced literacy” approach stresses the importance of phonics, authentic reading, and teachers who can teach reading using a full toolbox of instructional approaches and understandings. It is strongly supported in the scholarly community and is grounded in a large research base.

The statement includes guiding principles for what any federal or state legislation should and should not do. At the very least, federal and state legislation should not continue to do the same things over and over while expecting different outcomes. The disheartening era of NCLB provides an important lesson and overarching guiding principle: Education legislation should address guiding concepts while avoiding prescriptions that will tie the hands of professional educators.

All students deserve equitable access to high-quality literacy and reading instruction and opportunities in their schools. This will only be accomplished when policymakers pay heed to an overall body of high-quality research evidence and then make available the resources as well as the teaching/learning conditions necessary for schools to provide our children with the needed supports and opportunities to learn.

The Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading” can be found on the NEPC website at:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at:

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

The National Education Policy Center
School of Education, University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309

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The National Education Policy Center publishes reviews of research and reports from think tanks and advocacy groups.

In this post, Professor Jaekyung Lee of SUNY, Buffalo, reviews a report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on the academic progress of children of color. To the surprise and delight of many, including me, TBF concluded that poverty reduction played a role in the academic gains in the past two decades.

Jaekyung Lee
University at Buffalo, SUNY
November 2019
Executive Summary
A recent Fordham report highlights the historic academic progress of Black and Hispanic
groups over the past two decades at the elementary school level on the NAEP exam. From
this, the report offers the major claim, based on its author’s eyeball test, that the academic
progress of students of color is attributable “mostly” to poverty reduction. The report, how-
ever, also acknowledges that correlation is not causation and calls for systematic statistical
analysis to test the author’s proposition. This review responds to that call by examining the
validity of the report’s arguments around progress and causes, looking to expanded data
sources, including both family income and school expenditures. The review notes uneven
patterns of achievement among grade levels and refutes the report’s claim that flat achieve-
ment trends among 12th graders are a result of dropout reductions. My own analysis with
data suggests that poverty reduction has indeed been important, as has increased school
funding. Further, I raise critical questions about national progress towards both excellence
and equity. First, academic progress at the elementary school level is undercut by an off-
setting slump at the high school level. Second, in spite of the greater academic progress of
Black and Hispanic groups during the 1990s and 2000s, Black-White and Hispanic-White
achievement gaps remain substantial across all grades in core subjects. Third, despite prog-
ress in poverty reduction, racial inequalities in social and educational opportunities as well
as racial differences in economic returns to educational investment persist. Overall, the re-
port helpfully brings attention to the significant academic progress of Black and Hispanic
students over the past two decades, although it is incorrect to downplay the persisting racial
gaps or the phenomenon of the high school slump.


The National Education Policy Center published a review of a pro-voucher brief by the Institute for Justice, which publishes advocacy pieces on behalf of school choice. The author of the review, Christopher Lubienski of the University of Indiana, is a national authority on the subject.

There is one fact about vouchers that discredits all the debates: In Florida, which has an expansive voucher program, voucher schools may hire teachers who have not graduated college and are not certified. Voucher schools do not take state tests. Vouchers seems to be a code word for deschooling, not exactly what Ivan Illich had in mind.


BOULDER, CO (March 7, 2019) – Researchers have built a substantial body of evidence about policies that use vouchers to fund private schooling, so an honest attempt to bring together that research could have real value. But readers will be disappointed if they look to the Institute for Justice (IJ) for that report.

Christopher Lubienski of Indiana University reviewed the IJ’s report, 12 Myths and Realities about Private Educational Choice Programs. He considers the merits of each of the 12 claims, and finds that the report fails to take advantage of this body of research, instead offering little more than a simplistic and one-sided treatment of the empirical record.

Setting out 12, often cartoonishly caricatured, “myths” about vouchers, the report proceeds to systematically dismiss each myth. The evidence presented in the report is based largely on previous work from other advocacy groups that curated evidence—much of it highly questionable—on the advantages of vouchers. Accordingly, the IJ report repeats earlier advocacy claims, even when flaws in those works have already been publicly explained. In doing so, the report makes claims that are not supported, and in fact sometimes contradicted, by evidence in the sources it cites.

The report provides a textbook case of echo-chamber advocacy. Professor Lubienski concludes that it offers nothing useful in furthering our understanding of school vouchers.

Find the review, by Christopher Lubienski, at:

Find 12 Myths and Realities about Private Educational Choice Programs, edited by Tim Keller and published by the Institute for Justice, at:

The National Education Policy Center in Boulder interviewed two scholars about the effects of mass privatization in Chile. This is a 30-minute podcast, perfect for drive-time listening. If that link doesn’t work, <a href="http://“>try this one.

William J. Mathis:
(802) 383-0058

Rick Mintrop:
(510) 642-5334
TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO – In this month’s NEPC Education Interview of the Month, Lewis and Clark College Emeritus Professor of Education Gregory A. Smith speaks with Drs. Rick Mintrop and Miguel Órdenes of the University of California Berkeley about their NEPC policy brief analyzing the effects of school privatization and vouchers in Chile.
At a time when both vouchers and privatization have the support of the U.S. Department of Education, it’s important to consider what their expansion from a reform at the margins to an increasingly dominant position might mean for education in this country.
Mintrop and Órdenes describe the origins of their research project in Chile. Observing the school choice debate in the U.S., they noticed that people were using evidence from fairly peripheral results of voucher experiments. Because the evidence from U.S. voucher programs was not strong enough to show what would happen if a whole state or country were to implement vouchers, they examined the impacts of Chile’s country-wide voucher program as a way of understanding what might be expected if voucher programs in the U.S. were widely adopted. They created a systematic review of several studies of Chile’s voucher program, guided by questions about its effect on the middle class, on disadvantaged groups, on professionalization of teachers, and on the impact on the nation as a whole.
Looking at how school choice played out once it became universal in Chile, Mintrop and Órdenes found pernicious effects on public education. Using the selection mechanisms of school choice does not lead to higher quality of education, but instead forces middle-class families into a yearly competition. While public education used to serve about 80% of students in the 1980s, it has now shrunk to 20% in Chilean cities. Despite government attempts to shore up education, once the competitive dynamics were put in place, Mintrop and Órdenes describe what resulted as a “bottom rung that is associated with the public option.”
By looking at the deepening divisions across socioeconomic groups in Chile and its impact on public life, we can imagine what might happen if the U.S. were to take the route of universal privatization and vouchers.

This is a useful summary by the National Education Policy Center that demonstrates the connections among poverty, race, and college preparatory courses.

It shows the proportion of students from different racial and ethnic groups enrolled in high-poverty and low-poverty schools, and how the poverty of the students is related to college-prep course offerings.