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KASB massages data, distorts with school choice ‘research’ E-mail
Saturday, 13 May 2017 07:37

A SECOND OPINION, Kansas Policy Institute

A May 11 Tallman Education Report claims there is “no evidence Kansas could achieve higher student success through expanded school choice.” How does KASB make such a bold claim, given the plethora of supporting data that students all across the country have not only achieved success, but have outperformed their traditional public school counterparts? Simple, KASB massages data and cherry-picks it in a way to make their case, make apples-to-oranges comparisons, and provide misleading references to grab unwarranted attention.

In this case KASB has put the bullseye on the Kansas tax credit scholarship program, hoping once and for all to eradicate a pathway for a better education to low-income students stuck in miserably performing public schools.

Cherry-picking/massaging data. KASB compared results of ALL Kansas students to ALL students in eight other states that have tax credit scholarship programs. Never mind that there are 15 other states which have similar tax credit scholarship programs. KASB then took the AVERAGE performance of those 8 states (KASB did not identify which states they were. Hmm…) and compared them to Kansas students on these four data sets:

• 18-24 year old educational status detail

• High school graduation rates

• NAEP scores

• ACT scores

Apples-to-oranges. Did they compare Kansas tax credit scholarship students to their counterparts in other states? Of course not! They chose to compare the outcomes of hundreds of thousands of Kansas students who don’t even qualify for the program to millions of students in the other states, most of whom also do not qualify for their respective programs.

Here’s another little detail KASB chose to leave out. Three of the four categories they chose to compare could NOT possibly have a single Kansas tax credit scholarship student in the data. The 99 low-performing schools from which those students came from are all elementary and middle schools. There are no graduation rates, ACT scores, or 18-24 year-old educational status data because none of our tax credit scholarship students are old enough!

Since tax credit scholarship students go to private schools, it would be more appropriate to compare low-income students in private schools to low-income students in public schools – in particular those students in those 99 schools. KPI showed in this article that indeed, low-income students in private Catholic and Lutheran schools (the primary non-public school educators in Kansas) outperform their local public school counterparts.

Misleading references. To give the report a little more credibility, they chose to “site” the Cato Institute and the Friedman Foundation – now edChoice – as references, hoping the casual reader believes KASB’s assertions are back by two of the national leaders on school choice. Does an honest reader really believe Cato and/or edChoice would say school choice IS NOT a way to improve achievement? (Here and here for recent research to the contrary)

Why does KASB engage in such “research”? To start, no one ever really challenges KASB’s claims or truly looks at their methods. KASB’s likely hopes folks look at the headline, scan the article, and pretty much say “Yep” while they march to eliminate a program that is giving low income children a bridge to a better future. 

This is the second example in a week of the education establishment’s paranoia slip showing. On Monday, the Wichita school board voted to sell an unused school building with the caveat that it could not be used for students receiving a tax credit scholarship. One needs to wonder just what the education establishment fears in such a program. My guess is that they are afraid too many scholarship students will succeed causing more families to want such opportunities and forsake the public schools in which they are trapped but from which they cannot escape.

This is yet another sad example of how the Kansas education establishment puts protecting the institutions ahead of the needs of the students.




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