Education analysts adopt different standards of proof depending on whether they support or oppose a particular innovation, writes Mike Petrilli on Education Gadfly. Charter supporters say charters should continue to grow if most are no worse than traditional schools and some are much better or if they improve the whole system by introducing competition. Charter opponents demand rigorous studies showing charters are superior “at scale.”
But flip the issue and watch what happens. Take universal preschool — which the AFT and most of the education establishment adore. Do they base their support on rigorous studies showing preschool succeeding at scale? Heavens no. Those studies (mostly of Head Start) show that typical pre-K programs confer scant benefit on poor children over the long term.
A few programs have proven to make a difference over the long run, yet conservatives argue “these exceptions are not enough to justify an expansion of publicly-funded preschool — though high-flying charters are enough to justify the expansion of the charter movement.”
There are plenty of other examples. Ed schools pick on Teach for America because no one has ever proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that alternative certification is more effective; conservatives decry “small schools” for much the same reason, though they are popular with parents.
Petrilli suggests advocates admit they’re picking the data that supports their preferences.