Archives for category: National Education Policy Center

That choking sound you hear is me writing the headline for this post.

Just when you thought the charter advocates could not sink any lower in seeking rationalizations for privatization, they go lower yet again.

Writing for the National Education Policy Center, Julian Vasquez Heilig critiqued a University of Arkansas study that purports to show that charter schools are more productive and profoppduce a higher return on investment than public schools. The study under review is called “Bigger Bang, Fewer Bucks.”

What would you care about when comparing two sectors, one of which is staffed by professional educators, the other staffed mainly by TFA temps? Would you care about test scores? Parent satisfaction? Teacher turnover? Student projects? Graduation rates? College acceptance rates? Would you consider how the creation of a second sector affects the health and vitality of the first sector? Would you Permit the Second sector to cripple the first sector?

How about return on investment?

This is a mode of thinking with which I am not compatible. I’m reminded of reading I did in the 1990s, when I learned about efficiency experts who studied the curriculum. I was writing a book called “Left Back,” published in 2000. These scientific curriculum experts worked out a way to compare the cost and value of different subjects. They concluded that Latin was not worth teaching because the unit cost was too high. They would understand this new Arkansas study.

Heilig writes the abstract of his critique:

“A report released by the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform contends that charter schools produce more achievement per dollar invested, as compared to public schools. This newest report is focused on city-level analyses in eight US cities (Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, New York City, San Antonio, and Washington D.C.) and uses cost effectiveness and Return on Investment (ROI) ratios. It concludes that charter schools deliver a weighted average of an additional 4.34 NAEP reading points and 4.73 NAEP math points per $1000 invested. The report also argues that that charter schools offer an advantage of $1.77 in lifetime earnings for each dollar invested, representing a ROI benefit of 38%. However, there are a variety of methodological choices made by the authors that threaten the validity of the results. For example, the report uses revenues rather than actual expenditures – despite well-established critiques of this approach. The report also fails to account for the non-comparability of the student populations in charter and comparison public schools. Three other problems also undercut the report’s claims. First, even though the think tank’s earlier productivity report included a caveat saying that causal claims would not be appropriate, the new report omits that caution. Second, the report’s lack of specificity plagues the accuracy and validity of its calculations; e.g., using state-level data in city-level analyses and completely excluding race and gender. Finally, the authors again fail to reconcile their report with the extensive literature of contrary findings.“


No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top encouraged school Closings as a “reform,” but this turns out to be a destructive approach that hurts children and communities. 

Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked board in Chicago closed nearly 50 public schools in one day in 2013. That’s a record. One for the history books. That’s the kind of thinking that views people and children as objects, unimportant lives, easily discarded.

The National Education Policy Center describes the strategy of closing schools as “high risk, low gain.”

BOULDER, CO (May 18, 2017) – Federal and state school accountability policies have used standardized test results to shine a spotlight on low-performing schools. A remedy offered to “turn around” low-performance in school districts is the option to close the doors of the low-performing schools and send students elsewhere.

School Closure as a Strategy to Remedy Low Performance, authored by Gail L. Sunderman of the University of Maryland, and Erin Coghlan and Rick Mintrop of the University of California, Berkeley, investigates whether closing schools and transferring students for the purpose of remedying low performance is an effective option for educational decision makers to pursue.

Closing schools in response to low student performance is based on the premise that by closing low-performing schools and sending students to better-performing ones, student achievement will improve. The higher-performing schools, it is reasoned, will give transfer students access to higher-quality peer and teacher networks, which in turn will have a beneficial effect on academic outcomes. Moreover, it is argued that the threat of closure may motivate low-performing schools (and their districts) to improve.

To investigate this logic of closing schools to improve student performance, the authors drew on relevant peer-reviewed research and well-designed policy reports to answer four questions:

  1. How often do school closings occur and for what reasons?
  2. What is the impact on students of closing schools for reasons of performance?
  3. What is the impact of closing schools on the public school system in which closure has taken place?
  4. What is the impact of school closures on students of various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and on local communities and neighborhoods?

Based on their analysis of the relevant available evidence the authors offer the following recommendations:

  • Even though school closures have dramatically increased, jurisdictions largely shun the option of “closure and transfer” in the context of the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Policy and district actors should treat the infrequency of this turnaround option as a caution.
  • School closures have at best weak and decidedly mixed benefits; at worst they have detrimental repercussions for students if districts do not ensure that seats at higher- performing schools are available for transfer students. In districts where such assignments are in short or uncertain supply, “closure and transfer” is a decidedly undesirable option.
  • School closures seem to be a challenge for transferred students in non-academic terms for at least one or two years. While school closures are not advisable for a school of any grade span, they are especially inadvisable for middle school students because of the shorter grade span of such schools.
  • The available evidence on the effects of school closings for their local system offers a cautionary note. There are costs associated with closing buildings and transferring teachers and students, which reduce the available resources for the remaining schools. Moreover, in cases where teachers are not rehired under closure-and-restart models, there may be broader implications for the diversity of the teaching workforce. Closing schools to consolidate district finances or because of declining enrollments may be inevitable at times, but closing solely for performance has unanticipated consequences that local and state decision makers should be aware of.
  • School closures are often accompanied by political conflict. Closures tend to differentially affect low-income communities and communities of color that are politically disempowered, and closures may work against the demand of local actors for more investment in their local institutions.

In conclusion, school closure as a strategy for remedying student achievement in low-performing schools is at best a high-risk/low-gain strategy that fails to hold promise with respect to either increasing student achievement or promoting the non-cognitive well-being of students. The strategy invites political conflict and incurs hidden costs for both districts and local communities, especially low-income communities and communities of color that are differentially affected by school closings. It stands to reason that in many, if not most, instances, students, parents, local communities, district and state policymakers may be better off investing in persistently low-performing schools rather than closing them.

Find School Closure as a Strategy to Remedy Low Performance, by Gail L. Sunderman, Erin Coghlan and Rick Mintrop, at:



I deactivated my two Facebook accounts last week. I am not alone.

This happened today:

Key Takeaway: Facebook’s benefits are overwhelmed by problems inherent in its business model, its failure to safeguard personal information, and its lack of transparency and accountability.

Find Documents:
Press Release:

Kevin Welner: (303) 492-8370,
Alex Molnar: (480) 797-7261,

Learn More:
NEPC Resources on School Commercialism

BOULDER, CO (March 27, 2018) – The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) will delete its Facebook account on Wednesday March 28. We have already removed social sharing via Facebook from the NEPC website and our other communication tools.

While Facebook has many benefits, we feel compelled to disassociate ourselves from the invasive data mining and the third-party targeting of users inherent in its business model. The goal of the NEPC is to provide high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation. Deceitful micro-targeted propaganda is made possible by Facebook data and undermines democracy. Our reading of the evidence and record tells us that neither Facebook nor any other opaque, unregulated, and unaccountable private entity should have control over the private data of billions of people. Whatever services are provided by the Facebook platform are overwhelmed by Facebook’s business model, its lack of transparency, its failure to safeguard the personal information of its users, and its lack of accountability.

NEPC annual reports on Schoolhouse Commercialism have highlighted the intensifying surveillance culture and other dangers to student privacy in the digital age, and Facebook has emerged as a primary culprit. It would be disingenuous for us to use Facebook to promote those reports and other NEPC work.

We don’t pretend that this was an easy step. Communication of research lies at the heart of NEPC’s mission, and social media are a big part of communications—with Facebook positioned as a dominant social media platform. Last month, NEPC’s “Schools of Opportunity” project benefited hugely from a short video that went viral on Facebook, garnering over a million views.

Yet the more we learned about Facebook’s data gathering , and in particular the Cambridge Analytica scandal , the more we couldn’t avoid the conclusion that Facebook’s benefits are far outweighed by its dangers. Facebook is designed in ways that are inherently troubling. As Facebook’s first president warned, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains .” He disclosed that Facebook was designed to create a “social validation feedback loop” that we now know does indeed alter brain chemistry by triggering dopamine hits each time a posting is liked. And marketers are taking full advantage .

Consider also this passage from a recent article in The Guardian (internal links included):

That Silicon Valley parents use the money they earn from tech to send their children to tech-free schools is no secret. But such qualms have not stopped the tech companies themselves from continuing to push their products on to other people’s children, both through partnerships with school districts and special apps for children as young as six.

In January 2018, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood sent Mark Zuckerberg a letter , signed by over 100 child advocates, educators, and experts in child development, requesting that Facebook discontinue its Messenger Kids app for children. A growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to children and teens, making it likely that this new app—designed to encourage greater use of digital devices and social media among children—will undermine children’s healthy development. Facebook continues to promote Messenger Kids.

This problem is much larger than Facebook, but we cannot use that fact to justify inaction. We cannot, in good conscience, continue to lend tacit support to Facebook. NEPC has concluded that encouraging our readers to provide information that will be used by Facebook and its clients to tailor and limit information to which our readers will then be exposed contradicts our defined organizational mission, which is to support democratic deliberation about education policy.

We at NEPC encourage other education organizations to consider whether they too should delete their Facebook accounts, and we call upon policy makers to develop policies that provide strict public oversight of social media platforms.

Schools and Digital Platforms

NEPC’s own publications describe how digital platforms work through schools to pull children into the surveillance economy—an unregulated economy that these platforms have worked to construct and from which they benefit financially. “Students are offered no choice,” explains Faith Boninger, co-author with Alex Molnar of NEPC’s commercialism reports. As one student told Boninger and Molnar, “I can’t delete my Facebook account. My school activities have Facebook groups that I have to access. Maybe I can delete my account when I graduate.”

Molnar, who is NEPC’s Publications Director, warns that “students are tied to Facebook by their school-related activities, and they unwillingly and usually unwittingly provide Facebook with information that is used to limit what they are exposed to on-line and funnel them to worldviews that will reward Facebook’s clients.”

Boninger and Molnar add that their research has shown that digital platforms being promoted for school use are neither well understood by educators nor adequately regulated by existing policy and law. Says Molnar, “the kind of abuses inherent in Facebook’s business model, management structure, and lack of transparency are, without question, also occurring in schools and classrooms every day via social networks and digital platforms.”

Learn more about NEPC research on digital marketing and data gathering in schools at

The following organizations also have resources on data gathering from children and in schools: Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood , Center for Digital Democracy , Electronic Frontier Foundation , Electronic Privacy Information Center , and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy .

We encourage people to distribute this announcement as widely as possible and to continue to share the work of the National Education Policy Center with others.





The National Education Policy Center released a video about “Schools of Opportunity.” The video highlights schools that support students instead of penalizing them. It was viewed almost 200,000 times within 24 hours.

You should watch it too.

In Less than a Day, New #SchoolsofOpportunity Video Has Been Viewed 190,000 Times

Key Takeaway: Please watch and share the new Schools of Opportunity video and the 2018 Application.
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Find Documents:
Press Release:
Watch Video:
Michelle Renée Valladares: (720) 505-1958,
Adam York: (303) 735-5290,

Learn More:

NEPC Resources on Schools of Opportunity

BOULDER, CO (March 1, 2018) – For more than 25 million children, the connection between education and the American Dream is eroding, but a new video is shining a spotlight on schools closing the opportunity gap.

The two-minute video tells the story of how students benefit when they have access to much-needed educational and social supports. “It puts a face on the students whose lives change when they get access to Schools of Opportunity,” said Michelle Renée Valladares, NEPC Associate Director.

To date, 45 schools have been recognized by the National Education Policy Center’s Schools of Opportunity program. These schools provide rich, engaging opportunities to learn for all their students, often helping those students overcome obstacles linked to poverty and racism in our larger society. One of this year’s honorees—Seaside High School—is highlighted in the video.

The video introduces us to Dayshaun, a young man whose drop in school performance might have resulted in sanctions and lowered expectations at other schools. Instead we learn how systemic supports at Seaside helped him get through the immense challenge of his mother falling ill. Because of that support, Dayshaun is now a school leader.

The Schools of Opportunity project was born out of the research-based fundamental truth that students learn more when they have rich opportunities to learn; when denied those opportunities they fall behind. The opportunity gap then drives the achievement disparities between students who come from well-resourced communities and those from economically and socially marginalized communities.

“The Schools of Opportunity project offers a positive vision of what school quality and school improvement can look like,” says CU Boulder Professor Kevin Welner, who directs the NEPC. “This project highlights an alternative to judging schools based on test scores.”

This video “sparks our imaginations about what our high schools can be,” says Welner. “We hope it reaches educators and school leaders throughout the country, as we all learn from the 45 exemplary schools we’ve recognized to date. Please watch, share and let us know what you think.”

The video is a product of ATTN:, an issues-driven media company, and The Partnership for the Future of Learning, a network of educators, advocates, leaders, and supporters dedicated to an affirmative, equitable, evidence-based vision of a remodeled education system.

NEPC is scouting for the next round of schools to lift up through the Schools of Opportunity Program. Schools can apply for recognition directly, or others can nominate them. Applications are welcomed until April 9, 2018. Information and forms are available online at:

Sharing Information


New @attn video with @NEPCtweet shows how every student can learn with the right tools and supports. #schoolsofopportunity

You shouldn’t need rich parents to get an education in this country. These @NEPCtweet #SchoolsofOpportunity are showing how it’s done in a new @attn video.

All students can learn and achieve with the right supports. New video highlights how these #SchoolsofOpportunity are making it happen.
You can judge a school based on test scores, or you can watch what happens when #SchoolsofOpportunity give every student a shot at success. New @attn video with @NEPCtweet.


Early in her tenure as Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos admitted that she is not a “numbers person.” She is also not a research person. The research shows that none of her favorite reforms improve education. Bu that never deters her. When the U.S. Department of Education study of the D.C. voucher program showed that the students actually lost ground as compared to their public school peers, she didn’t care. Nonetheless, she did recently cite a study from the Urban Institute claiming that the Florida tax credit program (vouchers) produced higher enrollments in college.

William Mathis, research director of the National Education Policy Center and Vice-Chair of the Vermont Board of Education, took a closer look at the study and found that the study did not prove what she thinks it does and offers no support for vouchers because of the confounding variable of selection effects. Someone at the Department should explain to her what a “variable” is and what “selection effects” are.

Do Private Schools increase College Enrollments for Poor Children?

A Closer Look at the Urban Institute’s Florida Claims

William J. Mathis

A review of:

Chingos, Matthew M. and Kuehn, Daniel (September 2017). The Effects of Statewide Private School Choice on College Enrollment and Graduation; Evidence from the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, Urban Institute. 52 pp.

The Urban Institute reports that low income students who attended a private school on a Florida tax credit scholarship (“neovouchers”), in pre-collegiate grades had higher percentage enrollments in community colleges than traditional public school students. Using language such as the “impact of” and “had substantial positive impacts,” the findings are presented as causal. This purported effect was not found by the study’s authors in four year institutions or in the awarding of degrees – just in matriculation to community colleges.

Nevertheless, for school choice advocates, this report was hailed as good news on the heels of recent negative statewide school voucher reports coming out of Louisiana, Indiana, DC and Ohio. While community colleges are non-selective, most would agree that increased community college attendance is a good thing.

That said, a closer look indicates there is less to this latest report than first meets the eye. The primary problem—selection effects—is obliquely acknowledged by the report’s authors but is far too critical to push to the background.

There are at least three important differences that likely exist between the voucher group and the non-voucher group.

• Motivation, Effort, and Seeking Out Education Options – The very act of opting to enroll in a private school signals a very significant difference between the groups. Such an action requires considerable effort on the part of parents and students in selecting, applying, and transporting the child to the private school. These private school parents demonstrate, almost by definition, a higher involvement in their child’s education. Logically, these families would also be more likely to seek out community college options.

• Finances – While the program is available only to less affluent families, private schools can charge an amount higher than the $6,000 maximum available through the neovoucher. (Currently, eligibility rules require that the student’s household income not exceed 260 percent of the federal poverty level). Parents who can arrange or pay these supplemental tuition and fees to attend a private school represent the upper economic end of this means-tested group.

• Admissions – Private schools can continue their usual admissions policies, which may exclude children with special needs or deny admission on the basis of other characteristics. We cannot know the specific differences this introduces between the treatment and comparison groups, but we can be reasonably certain that these differences exist.

The study is based on “matching” private school students with traditional public school students and then comparing the two groups. While a common technique in voucher research, troubles arise when trying to pair up each student with her doppelganger from the other camp. As the authors acknowledge, “the quality of any matching can vary” (p. 12). While the researchers did an admirable job of matching, the entire process runs the risk of leaving out very important and determinative missing variables, as described above.

The study’s regression analysis also attempts to control for differences among students. In theory, an absolutely inclusive model can “confirm” a theory, and thus the researcher can claim a causal effect. But that’s a slippery slope. Regression is simply multiple correlation – and despite many inferences in the report, that is not causation. This is particularly true in this case, where selection effects are so strong.

In summary, it is the selection effects that primarily limit the study. A reasonable interpretation of the data is simply that the difference between the groups in their enrollment rates at community college is primarily due to different characteristics of families and students. In any case, the claim of private schools causing higher community-college attendance rates—let alone high college attendance in general—is a reach too far.

The National Education Policy Center specializes in reviewing think tank reports, few of which are peer-reviewed. Many think tanks are advocacy organizations that use pseudo-scholarship to promote policy goals.

NEPC’s latest review gives a thumbs down to a report that advises on ways to eliminate democratic control of public schools. None of its so-called “reforms” have worked in practice, and the goal itself is unworthy:

BOULDER, CO (June 13, 2017) – A recent report offers a how-to guide for reform advocates interested in removing communities’ democratic control over their schools. The report explains how these reformers can influence states to use the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title I school improvement funds to support a specific set of reforms: charter schools, state-initiated turnarounds, and appointment of an individual with full authority over districts or schools.

Leveraging ESSA to Support Quality-School Growth was reviewed by Gail L. Sunderman of the University of Maryland.

While the report acknowledges that there is limited research evidence on the effectiveness of these reforms as school improvement strategies, it uses a few exceptional cases to explain how advocates seeking to influence the development of state ESSA plans can nevertheless push them forward.

As Sunderman’s review explains, the report omits research that would shed light on the models, and it fails to take into account the opportunity costs of pursuing one set of policies over another. It also relies on test score outcomes as the sole measure of success, thus ignoring other impacts these strategies may have on students and their local communities or the local school systems where they occur. Finally, and as noted above, support for the effectiveness of these approaches is simply too limited to present them as promising school improvement strategies.

For these reasons, concludes Sunderman, policymakers, educators and state education administrators should be wary of relying on this report to guide them as they develop their state improvement plans and consider potential strategies for assisting low-performing schools and districts.

Find the review by Gail L. Sunderman at:

Find Leveraging ESSA to Support Quality-School Growth, by Nelson Smith and Brandon Wright, published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Education Cities, at: – Leveraging ESSA To Support Quality-School Growth_0.pdf

We can always count on researchers at the National Education Policy Center to review reports issued by think tanks and advocacy groups, some of which are the same.

This review analyzes claims about Milwaukee’s voucher schools. It is funny to describe them as successful, since Milwaukee is really the poster city for the failure of school choice. It has had vouchers and charters since 1990 and is near the very bottom of the NAEP tests for urban districts, barely ahead of sad Detroit, another city afflicted by charters. Both cities demonstrate that school choice does not fix the problems of urban education or urban students and families.

Find Documents:

Press Release:
NEPC Review:
Report Reviewed:

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058,
Benjamin Shear: (303) 492-8583,

Learn More:

NEPC Resources on Accountability and Testing
NEPC Resources on Charter Schools
NEPC Resources on School Choice
NEPC Resources on Vouchers

BOULDER, CO (April 25, 2017) – A recent report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty attempts to compare student test score performance for the 2015-16 school year across Wisconsin’s public schools, charter schools, and private schools participating in one of the state’s voucher programs. Though it highlights important patterns in student test score performance, the report’s limited analyses fail to provide answers as to the relative effectiveness of school choice policies.

Apples to Apples: The Definitive Look at School Test Scores in Milwaukee and Wisconsin was reviewed by Benjamin Shear of the University of Colorado Boulder.

Comparing a single year’s test scores across school sectors that serve different student populations is inherently problematic. One fundamental problem of isolating variations in scores that might be attributed to school differences is that the analyses must adequately control for dissimilar student characteristics among those enrolled in the different schools. The report uses linear regression models that use school-level characteristics to attempt to adjust for these differences and make what the authors claim are “apples to apples” comparisons. Based on these analyses, the report concludes that choice and charter schools in Wisconsin are more effective than traditional public schools.

Unfortunately, the limited nature of available data undermines any such causal conclusions. The inadequate and small number of school-level variables included in the regression models are not able to control for important confounding variables, most notably prior student achievement. Further, the use of aggregate percent-proficient metrics masks variation in performance across grade levels and makes the results sensitive to the (arbitrary) location of the proficiency cut scores. The report’s description of methods and results also includes some troubling inconsistencies. For example the report attempts to use a methodology known as “fixed effects” to analyze test score data in districts outside Milwaukee, but such a methodology is not possible with the data described in the report.

Thus, concludes Professor Shear, while the report does present important descriptive statistics about test score performance in Wisconsin, it wrongly claims to provide answers for those interested in determining which schools or school choice policies in Wisconsin are most effective.

Find the review by Benjamin Shear at:

Find Apples to Apples: The Definitive Look at School Test Scores in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, by Will Flanders, published by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, at:

The National Coucil for Teacher Quality issued a report calling for higher admission standards for entrants into teaching, specifically, higher SAT and ACT scores. This report was reviewed on behalf of the National Education Policy Center. It is interesting and strange that so many people think that scores on the SAT or ACT have remarkable predictive powers. The cardinal rule of psychometric is that a test should be used only for the purpose for which it was designed. These tests were designed to gauge likely success in college, but multiple studies have concluded that the students’ four-year grade-point-average is more reliable than either the SAT or ACT. Why would anyone think they predict good teachers? NCTQ should turn its attention to making the teaching profession more fulfilling and rewarding. At a time of teacher shortages, raising the bar will exacerbate the shortage.

The NCTQ is Gates-funded and endorses VAM to rate teachers. So they start with a strong bias towards standardized testing.

NEPC says:

BOULDER, CO (March 23, 2017) – A recent report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) advocates for a higher bar for entry into teacher preparation programs. The NCTQ report suggests, based on a review of GPA and SAT/ACT requirements at 221 institutions in 25 states, that boosting entry requirements would significantly improve teacher quality in the U.S. It argues that this higher bar should be set by states, by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and by the higher-education institutions themselves.

However, the report’s foundational claims are poorly supported, making its recommendations highly problematic.

The report, Within Our Grasp: Achieving Higher Admissions Standards in Teacher Prep, was reviewed by a group of scholars and practitioners who are members of Project TEER (Teacher Education and Education Reform). The team was led by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, the Cawthorne Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools at Boston College, along with Megina Baker, Wen-Chia Chang, M. Beatriz Fernández, & Elizabeth Stringer Keefe. The review is published by the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

The reviewers explain that the report does not provide the needed supports for its assertions or recommendations. It makes multiple unsupported and unfounded claims about the impact on teacher diversity of raising admissions requirements for teacher candidates, about public perceptions of teaching and teacher education, and about attracting more academically able teacher candidates.

Each claim is based on one or two cherry-picked citations while ignoring the substantial body of research that either provides conflicting evidence or shows that the issues are much more complex and nuanced than the report suggests. Ultimately, the reviewers conclude, the report offers little guidance for policymakers or institutions.

Find the review by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Megina Baker, Wen-Chia Chang, M. Beatriz Fernández, & Elizabeth Stringer Keefe at:

Find Within Our Grasp: Achieving Higher Admissions Standards in Teacher Prep, by Kate Walsh, Nithya Joseph, & Autumn Lewis, published by the National Council on Teacher Quality, at:

The National Education Policy Center recently published its 18th annual report on schoolhouse commercialism. When these reports began, the focus was usually the intrusion of advertising and other selling of products via textbooks, videos, and other means of communication.


Now the commercialism is different: when children are online, corporations are watching them and mining their data.



Faith Boninger and Alex Molnar’s report is called: “Learning to Be Watched: Surveillance Culture at School.”



They summarize it thus:



“Schools now routinely direct children online to do their schoolwork, thereby exposing them to tracking of their online behavior and subsequent targeted marketing. This is part of the evolution of how marketing companies use digital marketing, ensuring that children and adolescents are constantly connected and available to them. Moreover, because digital technologies enable extensive personalization, they amplify opportunities for marketers to control what children see in the private world of their digital devices as well as what they see in public spaces. This year’s annual report on schoolhouse commercialism trends considers how schools facilitate the work of digital marketers and examines the consequent threats to children’s privacy, their physical and psychological well-being, and the integrity of the education they receive. Constant digital surveillance and marketing at school combine to normalize for children the unquestioned role that corporations play in their education and in their lives more generally.”




Key Takeaway: 18th Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends explores the use of digital marketing in schools

The “Department of Education Reform” at the University of Arkansas published a study touting the stupendous results of “no excuses” charter schools, where students are subjected to strict discipline and intense test prep.

The National Education Policy Center engaged Professor Jeanette Powers of Arizona State University to review the study, and she criticized it strongly. Subsequently, the study was revised and then reviewed again.

Professor Powers still find the claims to be inflated.

“The primary (and repeated) claim of the report is that “No Excuses” charter schools can close the achievement gap. Powers explains that the underlying research that this report relies upon only supports the more limited and appropriate claim that the subset of No Excuses charter schools have done relatively well in raising the test scores of the students who participate in school lotteries and then attended the schools. The claim that these schools can close the achievement gap is supported by nothing other than an arithmetic extrapolation of evidence that comes with clear limitations.

“A common and well-recognized problem in charter school research is “selection effects.” That is, parents who choose “No Excuses” schools may be more educated, more engaged in the school-selection process, and differ in other significant ways from those parents who did not choose such a school. This would logically be a major concern for oversubscribed “No Excuses” schools, but the findings cannot be generalized to all parents.

“Over-subscribed schools that conduct lotteries for student admission are, one would assume, different from less popular schools. Nevertheless, Cheng et al. imply that the findings can be generalized to all No Excuses charter schools.

“The prominent and oversubscribed “No Excuses” schools are often supported by extensive outside resources. Offering an extended school day, for example, may not be financially feasible for other schools, and the scaling-up costs of doing so are not addressed. A charter that takes the No-Excuses approach yet lacks the additional resources should not be assumed to show the same results.

“The sample of schools included in the studies Cheng et al. analyzed is largely drawn from major urban areas in the Northeast and is small, particularly at the high school level.”

Find Powers’ original review and follow-up review of the “No Excuses” charter report here.

The original Arkansas report is currently available at the following url:

The republished version of the Arkansas report is currently available at the following url:

Click to access OP226.pdf