Good News, Transparency: Louisiana CREDO Data No Longer Exclusive to CREDO
According to Louisiana-based Research on Reforms (ROR), between 2010 and March 2015, the Stanford-University-based, Hoover-Institute-run Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) was the only research body allowed access to decoded student data on Louisiana students.
Prior to 2010, from 2005 to 2009, the Louisiana State Department of Education (LDOE) also sent the same decoded data to ROR. However, ROR findings regarding the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) often did not support the state’s own findings on its state-run district (a conflict of interest, no?). So, according to ROR, beginning in 2010, LDOE stopped sending ROR decoded student data but continued to send such data to CREDO.
In short, CREDO remained the favored research outfit in shaping an image for New Orleans RSD.
Given CREDO’s favor with a pro-privatizing LDOE, one might wonder: Who funds CREDO?
Well, you won’t find a list of CREDO funders on the CREDO website. However, that does not mean CREDO’s funders cannot be found. In 2012, New Jersey blogger Mother Crusader found CREDO funding by researching CREDO director, Margaret Raymond:
…I did a bit of digging, and found that her (Raymond’s) bio on the Hoover Institution’s website disclosed her funding sources.
In partnership with the Walton Family Foundation and Pearson Learning Systems, Raymond is leading a national study of the effectiveness of public charter schools. The public-academic-private partnership helps public charter schools adopt information technologies as a means to both support their operations and generate information required by the study design. (emphasis mine)
So CREDO is funded not just by Walton, but by Pearson as well. Pearson, the biggest test pusher on the planet, and Walton, whose “core” education strategy is to “infuse competitive pressure into America’s K-12 education system by increasing the quantity and quality of school choices available to parents, especially in low-income communities.”
A marriage made in heaven for CREDO which seems to be using test scores to push charters.
Speaking of “marriage,” Raymond is married to Hoover Institute Senior Fellow Eric Hanushek, who is also a CREDO researcher and who is fine with larger class sizes and lesser school funding. (Don’t get me started. I wrote a chapter on Hanushek in my ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes. Feel free to read it.)
Regarding those “test scores” on which CREDO’s power rests, education writer Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post observes:
CREDO’s unique studies of charter schools around the country….
What gets often lost in these discussions is that the studies are based on reading and math standardized test scores. Even if you think that high-stakes standardized test scores reveal something about how much a student knows in the tested subject — and many researchers and educators don’t — it is a different thing altogether to judge an entire school on the results of narrow tests in two subject areas, however important they are. If the education world were not as test-obsessed as it has been since the advent of No Child Left Behind a dozen years ago and Race to the Top in 2009, such a metric for important conclusions would probably be given short shrift. But not today, so the CREDO studies are considered big news.
Interestingly, in a December 2014 Ohio event funded by decidedly pro-charter Fordham Institute, Raymond shocked listeners with the following (as noted by lawyer, education policy fellow and blogger Stephen Dyer):
I actually am kind of a pro-market kinda girl. But it doesn’t seem to work in a choice environment for education. I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career. That’s my academic focus for my work. And (education) is the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to expect parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state. I think there are other supports that are needed… The policy environment really needs to focus on creating much more information and transparency about performance than we’ve had for the 20 years of the charter school movement. We need to have a greater degree of oversight of charter schools. But I also think we have to have some oversight of the overseers. [Emphasis added.]
As to that “oversight for the overseers”: In March 2015, ROR won a case on appeal for access to the same decoded data it had once been allowed but had been denied beginning in 2010.
Let the Louisiana-based ROR “transparency about performance” games begin. And by way of eye-opening introduction, I close this post with an excerpt from a recent post by former LDOE data analyst Jason France (known as blogger Crazy Crawfish), who has been granted access to the LDOE data formerly released to CREDO and (now) recently released to ROR:
… [A] provision of FERPA calls for agencies to restrict access to data – keep it private from those that don’t need that access to perform their specific role or function. While I dealt with the student data of all students, I did not need to have access to their medical records or diagnoses, or their specific Special Education classifications. This role was handled by the folks that worked directly with this data and these students in our SER system or those folks who produced necessary reports to the Finance department. For the nine years I worked there, I did not have access to that data.
New Orleans based, Research on Reforms filed a lawsuit to discover just what data LDOE had released to CREDO. When ROR eventually prevailed I learned what else LDOE had provided to CREDO. (LDOE first denied the existence of this MOU until I agreed to testify for Research on Reforms. Then LDOE argued that they could choose whomever they wanted to evaluate their programs and did not need to provide equal access to anyone else to cross examine the claims. The first judge agreed, but the appeals court overturned this ruling.)
It turns out LDOE violated their own very expansive MOU. What follows is a description of a few things that should not have been sent.
For instance, it turns out that LDOE sent quite a bit of detailed data on non-public students, their DOB’s, their teachers, their special education conditions, schools, etc. Non-Public schools were not part of the research project and not part of the MOU.
For the complete version of France’s post, click here.
My best to ROR as it begins analyzing literally years’ worth of data that opaque LDOE actively and intentionally withheld.