Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Research shows...

"Figures don't lie but liars figure" -- Mark Twain

It seems that all political charlatans, demagogues, and think-tankers need to do these days to push their agenda is make some absurd declaration and put the words, "research shows" or "Study:" in front of it.

Here's one example: "Study: Obama's health care law would raise deficit." In this case, a conservative think tank, George Mason University's Mercatus Center, created with Koch Bros. money, produced an obviously biased "study" by a well known, right-wing political hack and held a press conference. Some lazy journalist or campaign news-hungry media inevitably takes the bait and presents it as if the research is genuine and speaks for itself.

Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel has taken a page from the Koch Bros. book of tricks by using the "research says" tactic to push his longer-school-day campaign on resistant city schools. As I have shown numerous times on this blog and elsewhere, there is no reliable or valid research to support Rahm's claim that more seat time in school produces better learning outcomes. But buoyed by support from corporate reform groups like Stand For Children, the mayor's publicists at CPS, like Becky Carroll and his hand-picked CEO J.C. Brizard, continue to claim that there are studies to validate this obvious political and anti-union agenda.

I am elated to see that a group of CPS parents has done their own investigation of Rahm's longer-school-day research and guess what they found.
A coalition of 16 parent groups Monday demanded a meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to go over the real research on a 7 1/2-hour school day, and not the “misinformation” they charged district officials with spreading. “They are either misinformed or deliberately misleading the public,’’ said Jonathan Goldman of the new Chicago Parents for Quality Education coalition. “In either case, that’s not how we should be deciding public policy, especially when it comes to our children.’’ -- Sun-Times
When veteran Sun-Times reporter Ros Rossi followed up on the parents' investigation she uncovered even more research deception. She called the author of one analysis of 15 studies cited by CPS as proof that longer school days work.  Erika Patall of the University of Texas said the evidence the studies cited was “weak’’ and their conclusions were “very tentative” because “a good deal of the research does not rule out something other than time causing the improvement.’’

Parents also questioned CPS contentions that the system needed a 7.5 hour school day to get “on par with other districts.’’ CPS officials have said their numbers were based on weekly instructional minutes in a National Center for Education Statistics chart, multiplied out annually. 

But an author of the NCES report told the Sun-Times that the chart was based on weekly teacher minutes, not student minutes, of instruction. Plus, the NCES researcher said, every district counts school days differently, so NCES would never extrapolate student instructional minutes in a year from one week’s worth of teacher instructional minutes.
“In putting it all together, somebody is making a lot of assumptions,’’ the NCES researcher said of the CPS calculations. “We do not do that at the National Center for Education Statistics.’’
Research shows that Mark Twain was right.

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