The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), the authoritative Colorado University education think tank, today blew the cover off of yet another form of the assertion made repeatedly by school choice and education reform advocates – that enormous staffing increases have led to no improvements improvement in achievement or drop-out numbers.
The Policy Center is noted for bringing academic rigor to its review of advocacy studies on all sides of the education debate. In this case, the study, called The School Staffing Surge, is by a serial-offender, The Friedman Foundation, which provides advocacy studies supporting school choice, particularly vouchers. You’ll hear them quoted shamelessly by school choice advocates in the corridors of the New Hampshire Legislature.
Summarizing its report, Review of The School Staffing Surge, the Policy Center says,
The School Staffing Surge finds that between 1992 and 2009, the number of full-time equivalent school employees grew 2.3 times faster than the increase in students over the same period. The report claims that despite these staffing and related spending increases, there has been no progress on test scores or drop-out reductions. The solution, therefore, is school choice. However, the report fails to adequately address the fact that achievement scores and drop-out rates have actually improved.
As many others have done, NEPC shows that the assertions about lack of progress in student achievement and graduation rates are not accurate. They do not dispute the staffing growth numbers, but suggest that large state-to-state variations in the relationship among student, administrator and teacher growth rates provides an opportunity for further investigation of what is going on. They go on to point out that the report’s policy offering – that school choice is the solution – is a non-sequitor.
The analysis is not long. It is sane and plain-spoken summary of the arguments on each side – and has a good collection of references on these issues. It is definitely worth a read.