Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Little Merit in Rush to Report Merit Pay Report

This was written by Paul Thomas who is Associate Professor of Education (Furman University). He taught high school English in rural South Carolina and co-edited (with me) De-Testing and De-Grading Schools. Follow him on twitter here and read his blog here. This post was originally found here.

by Paul Thomas

Mathematica reports and journalists have proven to be problematic—as I noted about the Mathematica claims about KIPP middle schools.

With a fresh Mathematica study, Talent Transfer Initiative: Attracting and Retaining High-Performing Teachers in Low-Performing Schools, also comes the rush to report: 

While both Sawchuck and Goldstein add some nuance to their reports, the headlines are ripe for perpetuating the exact problem found in the KIPP report—a rush to make claims that the study does not support once careful reviews are conducted.

We do not yet know how credible the study is, how valid the results are, or if the study and its conclusions even begin with the right questions or context. And as with all educational research, a clearer picture of the research and the implications can only be found once others begin to analyze the study.

But we just don’t have the time, it appears.

Ultimately, a rush to report in a study without seeking reviews and asking hard questions fails the education reform debate the same way having the New York Times report whatever Arne Duncan claims as if it is true.

The real problem with the perpetual failure of journalism and education reporting is that credible and smart analyses of educational research is now easily accessible online—for example, Shanker Blog, School Finance 101 (Bruce Baker), Cloaking Inequity (Julian Vasquez Heilig) and the National Education Policy Center.

If journalists must report before reviews are conducted, they should at least put these and other scholars and researchers on speed-email.

Until then, once again, journalists would be well advised to start with reports from Molnar (2001) and Yettick (2009)—apparently research many journalists neither rushed to cover or even read.


Molnar, A. (2001, April 11). The media and educational research: What we know vs. what the public hears. Milwaukee, WI: Center for Education Research, Analysis, and Innovation. Retrieved from

Yettick, H. (2009, July 27). The research that reaches the public: Who produces the educational research mentioned in the news media? National Education Policy Center. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved from

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