Chester Finn's Fordham Institute keeps cranking it out. They're only doing what any good conservative think tank does -- making a case for cutting education spending and busting union contracts. Their main targets are usually early childhood education and the neediest urban districts. Problem is, their research always ends up "proving" their ideological stand. How predictable!
Thankfully the folks from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) are around (often filling the shoes of the late Jerry Bracey) to debunk Fordham's bunk. Their latest bunk was a survey of Ohio superintendents, which Fordham used to argue for an increase in district authority instead of increased school resources.
Yearning to Break Free: Ohio Superintendents Speak Out is a report based on a survey of 246 school superintendents, asking questions focused on reducing costs and expanding superintendents’ autonomy. On the basis of the survey, the report suggests that lack of money is not a serious problem for the state’s public schools. It also suggests that academic achievement would improve if superintendents were freed from state mandates and teachers' union contracts.
NEPC'S Catherine Horn, an education professor, and Gary Dworkin, a sociology professor, both at the , find that the Fordham Institute report’s “conclusions are problematic because of the combined effects of non- representative sampling, leading or inappropriately worded items, and the conflating of opinion and fact.”
Myriad factors contribute to student achievement, including home and community effects, campus resources (material and non-material), as well as teacher competence which are not examined or considered. And, despite the reported finding that superintendents prefer greater autonomy in personnel and school policies over increased funding, the majority of superintendents also contend that they would see a trade-off of more autonomy with a decrease in funding as undesirable.You can read Horn and Dworkin's review of the Fordham report, here.