A Case Study in Cherry-Plucked Research

NEPC reviewers find Fordham’s “Pluck & Tenacity” provides a nice illustration of slanted research – but no useful insight on private school vouchers

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http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-pluck-and-tenacity

...a twice-skewed and intellectually dishonest view of the research on vouchers and their academic outcomes...

Boulder, CO (PRWEB) March 06, 2014

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/m89zu4y

A recent report on five private voucher schools in Ohio offers an excellent case study – but not in the way its author or publisher intend, according to a new review.

The report, "Pluck & Tenacity: How Five Private Schools in Ohio Have Adapted to Vouchers," illustrates how cherry-picking research can support a predetermined conclusion, explain reviewers Christopher Lubienski and T. Jameson Brewer. They conclude that the report amounts to “little more than cheerleading for vouchers.”

Lubienski and Brewer’s review for the Think Twice think tank review project is published today by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

Professor Lubienski teaches education policy and directs the Forum on the Future of Public Education at the University of Illinois, where Brewer is a doctoral candidate in education policy studies.

Pluck & Tenacity was written by Ellen Belcher, an Ohio journalist, and published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The report’s examination of the impact of vouchers on five private schools in the Buckeye State is grounded in a questionable assumption that, thanks to vouchers, “school outcomes will improve.”

“As presented in this report, this assumption about the beneficial impacts of vouchers is a case-study in how to engage in slanted selection and interpretation of research evidence,” Lubienski and Brewer write in their review. The report contains just three endnotes, reflecting “not just an incomplete picture of the research literature on vouchers, but an extreme case of cherry-picking sources to support a contested policy agenda.”

Yet the report’s mendacity goes further, the reviewers suggest. Even after selecting only favorable sources, the report further selects only favorable findings from within those sources. The clear intent is to support the publisher’s pro-voucher agenda, “while ignoring the findings from those very same sources that do not support — and even contradict — the premise,” the reviewers write.

The result, they conclude, is “a twice-skewed and intellectually dishonest view of the research on vouchers and their academic outcomes” that consequently is of no use to policymakers.

Find the review by Christopher Lubienski and T. Jameson Brewer on the NEPC website at:

http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-pluck-and-tenacity.

Find "Pluck & Tenacity: How Five Private Schools in Ohio Have Adapted to Vouchers" by Ellen Belcher and published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on the web at:

http://www.edexcellence.net/publications/pluck-and-tenacity-how-five-private-schools-in-ohio-have-adapted-to-vouchers

The Think Twice think tank review project (http://thinktankreview.org) of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. The Think Twice think tank review project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

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

This review is also found on the GLC website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/.


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  • Christopher Lubienski

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