Monday, April 11, 2011

WMU hatchet job on KIPP

A number of people wrote to me with more on the WMU hatchet job on KIPP (recall my recent email in which I forwarded KIPP's official response).  Here's one friend:


Much of this kind of work -- including this study -- is generated by fellows of the National Education Policy Center at Univ of Colorado. Easy to trace the union funding for this organization --and the authors affiliation--right back through public info on websites.


Here's another:


Being from Kalamazoo I remain very interested in K-12 policy issues back home. It occurred to me that a couple of things might help put this report in perspective:  


1.      I've spoken to K-12 reform friends in MI and it appears that this research team's work is consistently anti-charter. This report's conclusions should not come as a surprise.

2.      It may or may not be related, but WMU happens to have one of the largest colleges of education in the Midwest.


And here's the most detailed one:


While several folks have documented the factual and methodological shortcomings in Miron's paper, only Andy Rotherham has bothered to look at what the Western Michigan University website says about Miron (see  Although he hasn't fully run with the story, his subtle link offers interesting context on Miron.


For example, in June 2010, just one day after publication of the Mathematica study of KIPP, Miron spontaneously (or so I thought) responded with a challenge to Mathematica's methodology:  (It has since been widely acknowledged that the Mathematica study relied upon analytical methods that were superior to Miron's, though at the time I didn't understand his agenda.) I was also surprised to discover that the American Federation of Teachers officially awarded Miron $50,000 in funding just months later (October 2010) to produce a critique of Education Management Organizations such as KIPP (  No doubt the AFT leadership knew what they were getting…


Why wasn't Miron forthcoming about his sources of financing at the time he was compiling his KIPP critique? In other education contexts, this non-disclosure has been viewed critically:  And why didn't Miron (and others who reported on his study) acknowledge that he is a long-time critic of KIPP and other education reform organizations?


The obvious answer is that Miron's prior work (and prior union funding) make it difficult to deny bias.  But it is undeniable that for more than 12 years, Miron has consistently (and at high volume) criticized virtually every education reform effort, with a particular focus on charters. Nor was the 2010 funding from the AFT the first time that a Miron critique was financed by a teachers union. In October 2000, Miron published a critical analysis of Edison Schools that was financed by a $33,000 grant from the NEA: Miron__May 2009.pdf.  (No surprise -- Miron concluded that achievement at Edison Schools was overstated.)


In the decade that followed, Miron's CV lists more than 35 books, articles or speeches that attack charters or the EMO concept. Indeed, if there remained any question about Miron's impartiality on the subject, it surely would be answered by the very titles chosen for his papers (all from the CV provided on the WMU website, ):

·         "The Emergence of EMOs: A Shortcut to Privatization and a Return to the New Right Agenda." Presentation at the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Meeting. Toronto, Canada, April 15, 1999.

·         What's public about charter schools: Lessons in school reform from three statewide evaluations of charter schoolsPaper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting. New Orleans, April 26, 2000. Miron, G. (2000)

·         Why teachers leave charter schools? A study of the characteristics of teachers who leave and the reasons for leaving. Paper presented at the American Education Research Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, April 23, 2003.

·         Challenges of starting and operating charter schools: A multicase study.  Cleveland, OH. The Cleveland Foundation. (252 pages) Miron G. (2004).

·         Student achievement in charter schools: What we know and why we know so little. In K. Bulkley & P. Wohlstetter (Eds.), Taking account of charter schools (pp. 161-175). New York: Teachers College Press. Nelson, C. & Miron, G. (2004).

In short, Professor Miron is addressing important questions in his report, but it's dishonest for him to publish it without acknowledgingthe significant financial support he receives from the teachers unions, who have a well-documented history of attacking charters.  And surely the public is entitled to know that Miron is a professional and lifelong opponent of charters and charter organizations. No wonder there were so many mistaken assumptions and methodologies in his report.

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