Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Federal Clearinghouse’s Methodology Questioned

June 13, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

The What Works Clearinghouse’s conclusions regarding the Facing History and Ourselves program (“‘What Works’ Rates Programs’ Effectiveness,” May 17, 2006) are both flawed and deceptive. Of the eight articles that the clearinghouse claims to have reviewed, five are clearly program descriptions that were never intended to document impact. And the single impact study that was reviewed in detail was seriously mistreated in the What Works analysis.

This impact study—supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, undertaken by Harvard University researchers, and peer-reviewed for publication in the Journal of Moral Education—demonstrated significant gains in a number of areas for Facing History students over a comparison group. The clearinghouse gave this study the highest rating for a quasi-experimental design, and yet it claims that no discernible effects were found. This is because the reviewers aggregated effects across different domains of impact (civic, moral, psychosocial, and intergroup), thus obscuring positive findings within several of these domains. Even when corrected for multiple comparisons, the published study reported significant effects when analyzing the domains of impact separately. The intent of this study was never to aggregate the results, and to do so is misleading.

In its 30-year history, Facing History has received validation and support from thousands of educators, and from leading foundations and the U.S. Department of Education itself. We applaud serious efforts to improve research on educational programs, and are currently involved in a five-year longitudinal study, incorporating an experimental design, of our impact on teachers and students.

As for the What Works Clearinghouse’s report, educators and policymakers will be better served by more credible efforts to assess the evidence of programs. One such report is Marvin C. Berkowitz and Melinda C. Bier’s “What Works in Character Education: A Research-Driven Guide for Educators,” which describes Facing History and 33 other character education programs as having “scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness in promoting character development in students.”

Margot Stern Strom

Executive Director

Facing History and Ourselves

Brookline, Mass.

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: November 23, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: November 2, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: October 19, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: October 12, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read