Published Online: May 18, 2010
Published in Print: May 19, 2010, as Blogs of the Week

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The Cruelest Month?

April was a tough month for education research. First, California’s Ravenswood city school district, citing underperformance, voted to shut down one of two charter schools run by researchers at Stanford University’s college of education. Then Newsweek gave the entire education research field an F.

As dismal a science as education research may seem right now, it’s come far over the last 10 years. Once rare, randomized, controlled trials—the scientific gold standard for measuring effectiveness—are far more commonplace in education now. And new efforts continue to be in the works that are aimed at producing practical solutions to the kinds of problems that educators face on the ground every day, rather than the belly-button-contemplating stuff that gives the field a bad name. —DEBRA VIADERO


Knocking the Tax Out of Your Sales

The next time you buy your 10-year-old nephew that sweet Albert Pujols jersey on, you might want to think about whether that purchase might be depriving public schools of much-needed revenue.

One of the best things about, other than the free prime shipping which gets your goodies delivered within two days, is avoiding that pesky sales tax you’d have to spring for in a bricks-and-mortar store. And clearly knows how appealing that is, which might be why it is fighting states that are trying to collect sales taxes that residents owe on their Internet purchases.

Critics like Michael Mazerov at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argue that’s efforts are hurting the public interest because states are being deprived of revenues for critical services such as schools, roads, and health care. —LESLI A. MAXWELL


Adventures in Rebranding

We can all agree that the “Behavior Developing Institute” is a terrible name for a district’s program for troubled students. But isn’t changing it to “The Oxford Center” going a little too far? —ANTHONY REBORA


A Double Standard on Test Scores

Last month, a very important report compiled by the School Choice Demonstration Project was released about the voucher program in Milwaukee. It did not receive nearly enough attention, because its findings have major implications for a long-standing debate about the efficacy of vouchers.

The report concluded that students in the voucher program “generally are achieving achievement growth rates that are comparable to similar Milwaukee public school students.”

When the National Assessment of Educational Progress reported state scores in reading a few weeks ago, it turned out that African-American students in Wisconsin have about the lowest scores in the nation. Two-thirds of the African-American students in that state live in Milwaukee, so it seems fair to say that they gained little or nothing from the flowering of vouchers and charters.

Considering the fact that the public schools in Milwaukee and elsewhere are regularly pummeled for failing to raise test scores of African-American students, one begins to sense a double standard at work. When public schools fail to raise test scores, it is a sign of their decrepitude and failure; when voucher schools fail to raise test scores, well, so what, they weren’t supposed to do that. —DIANE RAVITCH


A Sobering Situation

The May 1 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics renews its call for pediatricians to work with school nurses and personnel to help honor Do-Not-Attempt-Resuscitation requests for students.

Over the years, children who have complex chronic medical conditions have been increasingly able to attend schools, putting school personnel in the position of possibly having to carry out the wishes of a family to forgo life-sustaining medical treatment, including CPR.

In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics first called for pediatricians to help parents work with schools to develop health plans for such students. But honoring those requests in the school environment is complex, the article says, because there is a limited availability of school nurses—and oftentimes a lack of supporting state legislation and regulations.

The percentage of schools in which health-services staff were reported to follow DNAR orders increased from 29.7 percent in 2000 to 46.2 percent in 2006, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey cited by the article. —LISA FINE


Test-Prep Hype

Maybe I was right to be skeptical of all the postcards that are flooding my mailbox with claims that SAT test-prep classes will boost my high school student’s scores dramatically. Last week, the Princeton Review dropped ad claims for test-score improvement through its test-preparation courses. It was a voluntary action that the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus found to be necessary and appropriate, following a challenge by Kaplan Inc.

Kaplan complained the Princeton Review’s score-improvement claims weren’t based on improvement from one exam to another, but instead on the difference between results on Princeton’s diagnostic test and students’ self-reported scores on the actual exam after taking a Princeton Review course. —CARALEE ADAMS

Vol. 29, Issue 32, Page 16

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