Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fordham study flunks review

A couple of weeks ago, we challenged a Fordham Institute study which was sharply critical of Wisconsin's public school academic standards, rating the state 46th of 50 states. We, and others, pointed out some critical analyses of Fordham's earlier studies.

Now comes some fresh information, which may not susprise you, but could be news to the Journal Sentinel, which gave the Fordham study top of page one play:

EAST LANSING, Mich. - A new report from the Fordham Institute, “The State of State Standards 2006,” assigns letter grades to each state for its academic content standards and claims that higher content standards lead to better student test scores.

In a Think Twice review of this report, University of Colorado Professor Kenneth Howe found no evidence to support the validity of the grades and also found no support for the report’s claim that higher content standards lead to an increase in student achievement.

Howe criticized the report, authored by Fordham’s President, Chester Finn and two of his colleagues for hiding controversial, value-laden criteria behind the supposedly objective A-F grades awarded. In fact, he points out that the grading criteria used by Fordham are directly at odds with those of reputable professional organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of English. Howe concluded that the report’s grading practices were “selectively data-mined and were seriously lacking in methodological rigor.”

According to Howe, “…no evidence is offered that the grades are valid measures of the quality of state content standards. Readers are asked simply to rely on the overall conclusions reached by Fordham and its graders, supplemented by a few cursory statements in the state documents regarding strengths and/or weaknesses.”

Howe concluded with an even stronger criticism: “The post-hoc massaging of the data reaches the point of absurdity, as the authors search for some approach to the data that might lend support to Fordham’s conclusion that content standards of the kind it rates highly do, in fact, result in improved student performance.”

The review recommends that policymakers and educators avoid basing any decisions about policy or practice on the grades assigned by the Fordham report.

Howe’s review and a link to the Fordham report containing Wisconsin's report card are available here.

The Think Twice project provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. It is a collaboration of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado and is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.


At 3:52 PM, Blogger Interloper said...

I predict no coverage of this analysis in the Journal Sentinel or even on its education blog. So much for following a story. One and done.


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