Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Second ‘School Staffing Surge’ report suffers from same flaws as original

In a follow-up to its Bunkum Award-winning report of last year, the Friedman Foundation recently released a second report, again describing a surge in school employment unaccompanied by progress in student achievement. Again, however, the report suffers from faulty premises and inaccurate data.

Joydeep Roy reviewed The School Staffing Surge, Part II, for the Think Twice think tank review project. The review is published by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. Dr. Roy is a visiting professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College and an economist with the Independent Budget Office of New York City.

Like the original report, The School Staffing Surge, Part II was written for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice by Benjamin Scafidi.

Surge I first points to data 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. It then claimed that despite the staffing and related spending increases, there had been no progress on test scores or drop-out reductions. Surge II disaggregates trends in K-12 hiring for individual states, presenting ratios comparing the number of administrators and other non-teaching staff to the number of teachers or students.

Both reports speculate about “savings” that might have been achieved if hiring had been held back. But neither report makes any serious attempt to link employment numbers to schools’ needs or outcomes. Moreover, both reports “[fail] to acknowledge the fact that achievement scores and drop-out rates have steadily improved,” Roy writes in his review.

He adds, “Neither the old report nor this new one … explores the causes and consequences of the faster employment growth, thus severely limiting the report’s potential contribution.”

With no attempt to benchmark hiring against each state’s needs and circumstances, the new report is once again unable to make any reasoned judgment about whether the added hiring was useful or wasteful. The result, Roy concludes, is that the new report, “much like the original one, is devoid of any serious policy implications.”

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