How money buys education "research"

The Center for American Progress (CAP), which bills itself as a being dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action, recently produced a report titled "Charting New Territory: Tapping Charter Schools to Turn Around The Nation’s Dropout Factories"

The report argues for a more prominent role for charter operators in turning around perennially low-performing high schools. Among its recommendations

the report posits that five steps might improve the likelihood of successful CMO-district partnerships (all of which strengthen the CMO’s position in the district):
1) maximizing theCMO’s autonomy over staffing, budget, curricula, operations, and pedagogy;
2) staffing turnaround schools through creative agreements among education entrepreneurs, unions, charter operators, districts, and states, such as developing thin union contracts;
3) ensuring district financial support for turnaround schools;
4) relaxing state and district administrative regulations around staffing, funding, and school operations; and
5) cultivating public will for such partnerships.

At this point, you might be wondering why a progressive think tank is advocating such right wing policies that have been proven to be unsuccessful. The answer is actually quite simple to descern, and can be found on the very first page of this CAP report.

Paid for by the conservative corporate education reform outfit - the Eli Broad Foundation.

The National Education Policy Center has just released their analysis of this report, and they don't have kind things to say about this Broad funded report.

The report bases the majority of its findings and conclusions on conversations with charter school operators—including those that have not yet engaged in turnaround work—and with school district staff, researchers, and education reformers or consultants. Interview respondents included one professor of educational policy, one researcher from the Center on ReinventingPublic Education, five reformers or consultants from reform organizations or think tanks that advocate for market-based education policies, and three district administrators who were associated with their districts’ charter school partnerships.

Secondarily, the report cites evidence from the popular media, blogs, foundation reports, non-peer reviewed literature, charter operators’ external relations materials, and ideologically identifiable think tanks.

Beyond these citations, the report routinely offers a range of unsubstantiated claims that are not supported by any evidence or that ignore existing evidence to the contrary.

At the same time, no theoretical or substantive rationale behind the report’s sources of evidence is provided to justify why the particular interview respondents or literature sources were selected or how their data were evaluated. The result is a collection of weakly supported claims based on an unsystematic, unsophisticated interpretation of the knowledge base on school turnarounds, charter schools, and charter management organizations.

This is what millions of dollars can buy you. Research and recommendations that lack intellectual rigor. Designed to further corporate education reform agendas at the expense of public education, and the possibility of real reforms and changes that would make a difference to the quality of education students receive.