Archives for category: National Education Policy Center

The National Education Policy Center, headed by scholar Kevin Welner, wonders why the charter lobby has been so intransigent in fighting the reasonable regulations proposed by the Biden administration. The lobbyists have falsely characterized the regulations as an attempt to “destroy” or “eliminate” charter schools, but the regulations would apply only to new charters that seek federal funding. Most charters have been funded by foundations and billionaires, not the federal government. The proposed regulations would improve the new charters.

NEPC writes:

Why is the Charter Lobby So Upset About Biden’s Proposed Regulations?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been observing the conspicuous hand-wringing among prominent charter school advocates. They’re expressing outrage that the Biden Administration is trying to rein in some past abuses and problems within the charter sector. This aggrieved reaction might make sense if the regulations were designed to harm the sector, but the proposals are in fact quite modest and will even help charters thrive in the future.

Understanding the outrage is difficult. This is in part because the Biden Administration already sided with charter advocates by resisting calls to eliminate the federal Charter School Program (CSP) or decrease its funding. I will not here rehash the arguments against charter sector expansion, but those arguments tend to focus on segregation, fraud and waste, self-dealing and private enrichment, harm to local public school districts, exaggerated claims about performance, under-enrollment of students with special needs, and other access and push-out issues.

Notwithstanding these concerns, the Administration’s budget request keeps CSP funding at its historic high of $440 million. This means that the same level of federal taxpayer dollars will continue to promote the expansion of charter schooling, which is already dominant in many metropolitan areas.

But the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations do attempt to address some of these concerns, even while fully funding the program. One key proposal, for example, attempts to fulfill a Biden campaign promise to crack down on CSP funding for charters being operated by for-profit corporations.

The proposed regulations also provide additional points for applications that feature “community school” elements and for those that provide evidence of cooperation or collaborations with the local school district(s).


Notwithstanding some false claims to the contrary, these are all priorities—not requirements. We can anticipate that plenty of charter schools without these elements will still get CSP funding.

The above-mentioned attempt to keep CSP money away from for-profit EMOs has raised some hackles among charter school advocates, but the pushback has been relatively muted. Perhaps the advocates are feeling sanguine in trusting the ingenuity of attorneys to find loopholes and work-arounds. One more layer of shell companies or sister corporations or real estate schemes may do the trick. Or perhaps charter advocates know that these for-profits are awful poster children for their cause, so an overt public campaign might be counterproductive.


This is nonsense. Yes, the Community Impact statement is required, but even if the statement shows zero benefits of the proposed school to the community, the consequence is merely a loss of potential points in the scoring of the application. The provisions being attacked by the charter advocates are priorities, not requirements. They would change how a given proposal is scored and thus prioritized or ranked among different applications for CSP funding. All other things being equal, a proposal that shows how a charter school will broadly serve—and not harm—a local community will be scored higher than one that cannot make that showing. So our federal tax dollars would be more likely to support the opening of schools that are beneficial to local communities.

Yet the same $440 million would still be disbursed. The same number of new charter schools would presumably still be opened. That’s (one would assume) what the charter lobby most cares about. For the rest of us, there’s good news as well; if the Community Impact process works, the charter schools that do open will be more consistent with the long-time rhetoric of charter school advocates about how charters are a beneficial part of the overall public school system.

So why the objections? What’s the real reason the charter lobby is upset about President Biden’s proposed regulations?

My hunch is that it’s a matter of principle—the principle that they should never give an inch.

For decades, charter schools have occupied a political sweet spot, enjoying the affections of politicians from both major parties. In that position, charter advocates were fully appeased. Compromise was not needed, so it was rebuffed. Like pampered royalty who never learn to listen and empathize, the charter lobby used its political capital to shut down discussions about addressing the sorts of ongoing problems listed earlier.

Over the years, little has changed—except perhaps the effectiveness of these tactics that resist any reform of the status quo for charter policy. For many outside the charter bubble, the sense of entitlement has grown old.

That entitlement was on full display last week. The charter school lobby organized a twitter campaign against the proposed regulations. It choose to use the hashtag #BackOff. If we had a “No Whining” jar, we could have funded next year’s CSP. The advocates’ tweets repeatedly asserted that the “overregulation” would “make it nearly impossible to open new charter schools.” This was accompanied by a newspaper commentary alleging that the proposed regulations were written by “Bureaucratic Gremlins” who had “burrowed” into the federal bureaucracy—rather than just a follow-through on candidate Biden’s campaign promises.

On Fox News, a school choice advocate contended that, through the regulations, the Biden Administration was “waging war on charter schools” in order to protect “unionized government schools.” Meanwhile, two editorial boards that have long pushed for charter school growth—The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post—continued to misrepresent the regulation’s proposed priorities as requirements, labeling the regulations as “charter school sabotage” (the WSJ) and “a sneak attack on charter schools” (the Post).

The charter lobby’s never-give-an-inch strategy has long been successful in forestalling policies that might mitigate existing problems. But assuming the strategy ever was wise, it no longer is. Potential allies have become frustrated enemies. A once diverse coalition has withered away to expose a core group that appears to be the same anti-public-education and privatizing interests that have long pushed school vouchers.

This obstinacy, even when successful in its immediate aims, is counterproductive. The charter lobby is wrong to see thoughtful regulations as existential threats—or even as anything but beneficial. Reasonable public policy concerns about access, stratification and fiscal impact on students in other schools should never have been minimized or dismissed. The charter lobby should have been in the forefront in efforts to rein in fraud and abuse.

The charter sector still includes many schools that we can and should celebrate. The NEPC’s own Schools of Opportunity program has recognized several charter schools that exemplify how high schools can close opportunity gaps. For the charter approach to have a bright future, these are the sort of schools the CSP should prioritize—and the proposed regulations are a step in that direction.

For now, unfortunately, the charter sector as a whole continues to be under-regulated and often harmful. The Biden Administration’s proposals can help change this. They can help charter schools become a beneficial part of public school systems—a role that can be broadly embraced.

I personally decided to submit a “formal” comment. The process is easy—just fill out the quick form and include your comment. The comment window is currently scheduled to close next Monday, April 18th. NEPC Resources on Charter Schools ->

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

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 2022 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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Recently, a pro-voucher organization released a report claiming that vouchers save money. The National Education Policy Center assigned the report to two scholars, and they found that the report’s claims were untrue. In addition, numerous studies have shown that students who use vouchers are likely to fall behind their peers in public schools, especially in mathematics. If you care about educating the next generation, vouchers are a big step backward.

BOULDER, CO (March 15, 2022)—A recent report from EdChoice argues for expansion of policies that publicly fund private schools, contending that private schools could provide equal or better outcomes at lesser cost. A review released today examines the report’s methodology to determine the soundness of its claims, and it finds the cost-saving estimates to be based on unsubstantiated assumptions.
Luis A. Huerta and Steven Koutsavlis of Teachers College, Columbia University reviewed Fiscal Effects of School Choice: Analyzing the Costs and Savings of Private School Choice Programs in America, and found its accounting procedures to be based on conjecture.

The report asserts that voucher and voucher-like (tax credit scholarship and education savings account) programs have saved state and local treasuries some $12.4 to $28.3 billion dollars as student “switchers” use those programs to leave public schools and enter private schools. The report claims that the purported savings result from the lower numbers of students in public schools coupled with lower variable per-student costs.

However, Huerta and Koutsavlis point out that the cost-saving estimates of private school choice programs are based on speculative assumptions. In particular, the report guesses in estimating the number of switchers across programs and for determining resulting variable cost fluctuations. With some limited exceptions, states operating these private-school subsidy programs do not track the previous enrollment status of students who use the vouchers to subsidize their enrollment in private schools. Such lax accountability standards mean that the number of switchers and estimated fiscal savings are necessarily based on conjecture.

Consequently, the report’s findings do not provide a sound base for policy decisions. Huerta and Koutsavlis provide suggestions for more detailed accounting procedures and more nuanced methodologies for calculating reliable variable student costs.

Find the review, by Luis A. Huerta and Steven Koutsavlis, at:
Find Fiscal Effects of School Choice: Analyzing the Costs and Savings of Private School Choice Programs in America, written by Martin Lueken and published by EdChoice, at:


At last! The leaders of 350 teacher education programs have issued a bold statement in collaboration with the National Education Policy Center denouncing attacks on teacher education and market-based “remedies.”

The group calls itself Education Deans for Justice and Equity.

Their efforts contrast with those of a group called “Deans for Impact,” funded in 2015 by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, which supports charter schools (such as KIPP, Achievement First, and Uncommon Schools), Teach for America, Educators for Excellence, New Leaders, TNTP, Conservative Leaders for Education, Teach Plus, Stand for Children, and a long list of other Corporate Reform ventures. Deans for Impact has 24 members. The founder and executive director of Deans for Impact is Benjamin Riley, former director of policy and advocacy at the NewSchools Venture Fund, which is heavily endowed by billionaire foundations to launch charter schools and promote education technology.

The statement of Education Deans for Justice and Equity criticizes such disruption agents as Teach for America (which places inexperienced, unprepared college graduates into challenging urban and rural classrooms), the National Council on Teacher Quality (which pretends to evaluate teacher education programs without having the knowledge or experience to do so and without ever setting foot in the institutions they grade), the Relay “Graduate School of Education” (a program intended to grant master’s degrees to charter teachers that lacks the necessary elements of a graduate institution, such as scholars and research), and Pearson’s EdTPA (which seeks to replace human judgement of prospective teachers with a standardized tool).

Their statement begins:

Teachers are important, as is their preparation. We, Education Deans for Justice and Equity, support efforts to improve both. But improving teaching and teacher education must be part of larger efforts to advance equity in society.

Whether crediting teachers as the single most important factor in student success or blaming and scapegoating them for failing schools that only widen social and economic dispari- ties, many of the stories that circulate about education presume that it’s all about the teacher. Concerned less with the system of education and more with the individual actor, this rhetoric tends to reduce the problem of education to the shortcomings of individuals. The solution correspondingly focuses on incentives and other market-based changes.

Without a doubt, teacher-education programs cannot and should not operate as if all is well, because it is not. Several current efforts to reform teacher education in the United States, however, are making things worse. Although stemming from a wide range of actors (includ- ing the federal government, state governments, and advocacy organizations), these trends share a fundamental flaw: They focus on “thin” equity.

In their recently published book, Reclaiming Accountability in Teacher Education,1 Marilyn Cochran-Smith and colleagues contrast two understandings of equity. “Thin” equity defines the problem as the curtailing of individual rights and liberties, and the resulting solutions focus on equal access and market-based changes. In contrast, “strong” equity defines the problem as the legacies of systemic injustices, and the resulting solutions focus on increas- ing participatory democracy. Because thin-equi ty reforms obscure the legacies of systemic injustices, and instead focus narrowly on student achievement, teacher accountability, re- wards, and punishments, improving teacher education requires moving away from these and toward strong-equity reforms.

Below, we identify seven current trends impacting teacher education (including at many of our institutions) that are grounded in thin-equity understandings. In a number of ways, these approaches lack a sound research basis, and in some instances, they have already proven to widen disparities. Following a discussion of these trends, we present our alternative vision for teacher-education reform.

First, marketizing teacher education. Most teacher education in the United States happens at universities, and with much variability. Nonetheless, the long-touted claim that higher education’s “monopoly” over teacher education results in mediocrity and complacency has resulted in increased competition by way of “alternative” routes—some that meet state stan- dards (and some that do not), and some that involve little to no formal preparation via fast- track programs. These include non-university-based programs like the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence; programs that partner with universities, like Teach For America; and programs that identify as institutions of higher education, like the Relay Grad- uate School of Education. Such faith in the market to drive improvement frames Congress’s recent rewrite of Title II of ESSA, which allows for public funds to support both non-profit and for-profit alternative certification programs and routes. The problem? Merely expand- ing competition without building the capacity of all programs to prepare teachers has led not to improvement, but to widened disparities among students and increased corporate profiteering off of education.

Second, shaming teacher education. The assumption that shaming will spur effort to com- pete is another way to place faith in the market to drive improvement. Such is the approach of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) in its annual Teacher Prep Review, which scores (and, for the most part, gives failing grades to) teacher-education programs using an eight-dimension framework. Since its inception, the vast majority of programs nationwide have opted not to participate and share materials for review, citing NCTQ’s faulty methods of review and the lack of research basis for its framework.

Third, externally regulating teacher education at the federal level. The twice-proposed, Obama-era Teacher Preparation Regulations were never implemented, but their “value-add- ed” logic reverberates in other reforms, including NCTQ’s review and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accreditation. Measurement experts warn that the use of value-added modeling to determine the effectiveness of teachers to raise test scores, and in turn, the effectiveness of programs to prepare teachers to do so, are neither reliable nor statistically valid.

These are three of the seven malign trends they discuss. Open the link to read the statement in full. It is short and won’t take more than five minutes of reading time.

It is very encouraging to see the leaders of teacher education stand up for professionalism and research-based practice, and to take a stand against quackery.

Latest research review from NEPC:

Simple comparisons reveal very little about the relative effectiveness of charter schools.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Publication Announcement

Florida Report Offers Meager Insight into Charter School Performance


Simple comparisons reveal very little about the relative effectiveness of charter schools.


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BOULDER, CO (June 18, 2019) – The Florida Department of Education recently published a report consisting almost entirely of simple graphs comparing achievement levels, achievement gaps, and achievement gains on statewide tests among charter school students to those among traditional public school students. The Department’s press release touted the report as showing that the state’s “charter school students consistently outperform their peers in traditional public schools.”

The release also quotes Florida’s Education Commissioner, asserting that the “report provides further evidence that [school choice policies] are right for Florida” and that there’s “no denying that choice works.” The press release’s spin was then echoed in pieces published/broadcast by several television stationsnewspapers, and online outlets.

Yet simple comparisons such as those in this report reveal very little about the relative effectiveness of charter schools. Robert Bifulco of Syracuse University, reviewed Student Achievement in Florida’s Charter Schools: A Comparison of the Performance of Charter School Students with Traditional Public School Students, and found it to be of extremely limited use.

Beyond the odd exercise of counting the number of comparisons that appear favorable to charter schools, the report offers no discussion. The comparisons are not even explained. The fact that the report merely presents comparisons required by law without putting any policy “spin” on them might be considered a virtue. But the danger is that such reports can (and do) encourage erroneous conclusions.

At the very least, Professor Bifulco believes, the report should have clarified the purposes of its comparisons and cautioned the reader against drawing unwarranted and potentially harmful conclusions.

Find the review, by Robert Bifulco, at:

Find Student Achievement in Florida’s Charter Schools: A Comparison of the Performance of Charter School Students with Traditional Public School Students, published by the Florida Department of Education, at:

NEPC Reviews ( provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), 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.


Today the National Education Policy Center released its annual review of research on virtual charter schools. The bottom line was not good.

The title of the report is “Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2019.” It was double blind peer-reviewed.

The authors write:

The number of virtual schools in the

U.S. continues to grow.

In 2017-18, 501 full-time virtual schools enrolled 297,712 students, and 300 blended schools

enrolled 132,960. Enrollments in virtual schools increased by more than 2,000 students between

2016-17 and 2017-18, and enrollments in blended learning schools increased by over

16,000 during this same time period. Virtual schools enrolled substantially fewer minority

students and fewer low-income students compared to national public school enrollment.

Virtual schools operated by for-profit EMOs were more than four times as large as other virtual

schools, enrolling an average of 1,345 students. In contrast, those operated by nonprofit

EMOs enrolled an average of 344 students, and independent virtual schools (not affiliated

with an EMO) enrolled an average of 320 students.

Among virtual schools, far more district-operated schools achieved acceptable state school

performance ratings (56.7% acceptable) than charter-operated schools (40.8%). More

schools without EMO involvement (i.e., independent) performed well (59.3% acceptable ratings),

compared with 50% acceptable ratings for schools operated by nonprofit EMOs, and

only 29.8% acceptable ratings for schools operated by for-profit EMOs. The pattern among

blended learning schools was similar with highest performance by district schools and lowest

performance by the subgroup of schools operated by for-profit EMOs.

Given the overwhelming evidence of poor performance by full-time virtual and blended

learning schools it is recommended that policymakers:

• Slow or stop the growth in the number of virtual and blended schools and the size of

their enrollments until the reasons for their relatively poor performance have been

identified and addressed.

• Implement measures that require virtual and blended schools to reduce their student-

to-teacher ratios.

• Enforce sanctions for virtual and blended schools that perform inadequately.

• Sponsor research on virtual and blended learning “programs” and classroom innovations

within traditional public schools and districts.

There is much more in the report that deserves your attention, especially regarding the current infatuation with blended learning.

I suggest you read it for yourself.


Here is the citation:

 Molnar, A. (Ed.), Miron, G., Elgeberi, N., Barbour, M.K., Huerta, L., Shafer,

S.R., Rice, J.K. (2019). Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2019.  Boulder, CO: National Education Policy

Center. Retrieved [date] from .


The National Education Policy Center published a review of a recent report about school finance, written by Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker, an expert in school finance. In the upside-down report, the states that spend the least and have the most charter schools get high rankings.

BOULDER, CO (November 27, 2018) –The Reason Foundation recently published a policy brief that offers an alternative ranking of states’ education systems. The brief, which was based on a working paper from the Department of Finance and Managerial Economics at the University of Texas at Dallas, purports to offer needed adjustments and nuance, but makes its own serious mistakes, according to a new review.

Rutgers professor Bruce D. Baker reviewed Everything You Know About State Education Rankings Is Wrong and the underlying working paper, Fixing the Currently Biased State K-12 Education Rankings. He found the analyses provided did little or nothing to advance the conversation about the effectiveness of state education systems.

The twin reports begin with the presumption that high average test scores combined with lower school spending should be the basis for state rankings, which are reasonable premises, depending upon how the analyses are approached. But the reports then head off the rails, Professor Baker explains.

Offering a ‘corrected’ representation of student outcomes and a crude analysis asserting that spending has no relation to those outcomes, the reports declare states such as New Jersey and Vermont to be poor-performing, highly inefficient systems by comparison to many states. The reports then estimate a regression model and assert that the higher performing states are those with (a) weaker teachers’ unions and (b) more children in charter schools.

However, Baker’s review details how the reports’ so-called corrections involved unreasonable and illogical assumptions and adjustments. For example, the reports re-weight racial and ethnic subgroups so that they inappropriately place equal weight in states like Vermont or Wyoming on students comprising 1 to 2% of the population as the other 98 to 99%. Other problems concern a decision to ignore economic status entirely and a poorly executed adjustment for cost of living.

Regressing multiple, highly related, interdependent measures against a specious outcome measure leads to even more suspect findings and, Baker concludes, would only mislead policymakers.
Find the review, by Bruce D. Baker, at:

Find Everything You Know About State Education Rankings Is Wrong, written by Stan J. Liebowitz and Matthew L. Kelly and published by the Reason Foundation, at:

Find Fixing the Currently Biased State K-12 Education Rankings, written by Stan J. Liebowitz and Matthew L. Kelly and published by the Department of Finance and Managerial Economics at the University of Texas at Dallas at:

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.

The National Education Policy Center interviewed Bruce Baker about his review of a much-ballyhooed study of the impact of market forces in the New Orleans schools.

The Education Research Alliance at Tulane University released a study last July declaring that the privatization of almost every school in New Orleans was a great success. That very day, Betsy DeVos gave $10 Million to ERA to become a federally-funded National Center on School Choice. The report was written by Douglas Harris and Matthew Larsen.

Bruce Baker, a researcher at Rutgers University, has studied charter schools, school funding and equity for years. He was commissioned by NPE to review the ERA study.

His conclusion: Harris and Larsen had minimized the importance of demographic changes following the hurricane and the enormous influx of new funding. These changes alone, he said, could have accounted for the effects in New Orleans documented by the ERA.

The National Education Policy Center reported on the success of a high school in Seattle that adopted the principles of “schools of opportunity.” Open the link for sources and other links. Valerie Strauss posted an article about the school here.

These Comeback Kids Don’t Bake Cookies: The Community-Based Transformation of an Urban School

You could call it the comeback kid.

In 2010, Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School was on the edge of closure. Just 320 students occupied a building constructed to serve nearly four times that number. Its on-time graduation rate of 48 percent was among the lowest in the state of Washington.

Fast forward to today and the picture has completely changed. Enrollment exceeds 700. The graduation rate is 89 percent. And, unlike many other school turnarounds that superficially look successful, the school has continued to serve the same families and community. At Rainier Beach, nearly three-quarters of the students hail from low-income families, and 40 percent come from immigrant or refugee backgrounds. The school’s diverse population is 49 percent Black, 26 percent Asian, 14 percent Hispanic, six percent multi-racial, three percent White, and two percent Pacific Islander/Native American/Alaskan.

In 2016, NEPC recognized Rainier Beach as a School of Opportunity, making particular note of the school’s rigorous but supported classes and its thoughtful and powerful community outreach.
Too often, transformations like Rainier Beach’s are attributed to external forces such as state accountability measures or the introduction of a new and charismatic leader.

But in a recent article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Educational Administration, Ann M. Ishimaru, an associate professor of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy at the University of Washington’s College of Education, uses interviews, document analyses, and observations to tell a very different tale about Rainier Beach.

Truth be told, some aspects of the Rainier Beach story are not out of the ordinary. It brought in new leadership. It struggled with and benefitted from the implications and resources associated with accountability-based reforms.

But another part of the school’s story is indeed unusual—and offers important lessons for other schools now struggling to improve. Professor Ishimaru traces the school’s transformation to a groundswell of activism led by local families, students, and community members. Working together with educators, these activists were able to benefit from structures of conventional schooling by transforming those structures to better suit their needs. As Ishimaru notes, these were practices and institutions often imposed on low-income, “majority-minority” communities—structures that often do little to engage those communities or respond to their voiced needs.

For example, activists leveraged the power of the PTA, using it to spark change. As one parent leader explained:

We don’t make cookies. We’re not here to fund raise for your school. We’re here to be transformative change agents for the school. We need you to deploy us to spaces that you can’t get to, like School Board meetings and the Superintendent […] No, we don’t make cookies. […] We infiltrate, that’s right.
Other community-based strategies Ishimaru identified included:

Participating in the accountability-based school turnaround/school improvement grant process;

Holding community “cafes” to build support for the school’s new International Baccalaureate program; and

Supporting academic and behavioral interventions (such as introducing Freedom Schools and hiring a restorative justice coordinator) that empower youth.

“This study is a testament to the changes that can unfold when parents and communities drive priorities and action in school change efforts,” Ishimaru concludes.

Still, she cautions that work remains to be done at Rainier Beach: Key community leaders have moved on. Parents worry that African American students are still under-represented in the school’s International Baccalaureate program. And there’s no guarantee that the program itself will continue to attract the resources it needs to operate.

The National Education Policy Center reviews Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s record on education issues.

Based on his past decisions, he can be expected to oppose affirmative action policies, to oppose the wall of separation between church and state, to favor public support for religious schools, to endorse religious prayers in public schools, and to oppose any limits of the sale of assault weapons or any other kinds of guns.

Elections have consequences.

For those who said there was no difference between Clinton and Trump, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch are examples of the difference.