Perhaps the most egregious omissions are in the discussion of school funding and its effect on student outcomes. While the author cites one study – not yet peer-reviewed — the preponderance of evidence for decades has suggested little to no impact of per-student funding on educational achievement. This study, and others like it based on court-mandated increases in spending, hinge on the assumption that court-mandated increases in spending are random events when of course they are not. Courts are most likely to act to increase spending in places where there is a public push to improve educational outcomes, or where disparities are so great that legal action is required. None of these situations apply to Wisconsin.
A meta-analysis of about 400 studies by Eric Hanushek of Stanford University finds no relationship between spending and student outcomes. Our research on Wisconsin school districts has found no relationship between student outcomes and spending once important control variables are taken into account. Data points like this ought not to be ignored in the funding discussion.
On the subject of early childhood education, the author says that students enter pre-K more prepared than they otherwise would. However, there is an extremely important caveat here that is not included. While the best research suggests that students do enter kindergarten better prepared, the same research also shows that these effects dissipate rapidly, and even become negative by third grade — meaning students who didn’t have early childhood education were actually performing better by that age. The bottom line is that the preponderance of the evidence is negative on the impacts of pre-K, and to claim that the evidence shows otherwise is a disservice to readers.
When it comes to the achievement gap, the assessment that Wisconsin has some of the largest gaps in the nation is absolutely correct. But Evers’ well-documented anti-school-choice agenda is often at odds with what the evidence suggests can improve outcomes for these students. Particularly for students living in Milwaukee, research shows that private schools in the voucher program and charter schools offer students a better opportunity to succeed academically, graduate, and attend college.
Evers has suggested ending or reducing enrollment in these programs, which would eliminate access to alternatives for many low-income, minority families. Ending programs used by more than 30,000 students is likely to have a far more deleterious effect on minority students than the implementation of softer suspension policies that is suggested in the article, which our research has actually found can have a negative impact on student outcomes.
While running the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Mr. Evers waived thousands of teachers’ required content knowledge tests (Foundations of Reading).