Thursday, April 17, 2014
By DAVID LENTINI
Your March 14 Maine Voices ("School choice offers incentives to improve public education") reminds me of a used-car salesman confidently boasting of a car's quiet ride to a customer while being towed back to the dealership after the engine fell out during a test drive. Never let reality ruin a pitch -- just choose your "facts" carefully.
First, the authors, Robert Enlow and J. Scott Moody, claim Maine has been "slipping" since 1873, and that we must stop our "slide." That "slipping" and "sliding" refer to vouchers, not the quality of education. In fact, Maine's public schools rank in the top quarter of all states.
According to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress test results, Maine's fourth- and eighth-graders scored at least as well as -- and often better than -- students in Ohio and Indiana, which are held out as examples.
Second, we're told that Mainers want the "freedom" of voucher programs and tax incentives, and we have a poor opinion on the direction of our schools. Of course, this "survey" was produced by the authors' organizations, which are ideologically committed to neoliberal policies in all spheres. Quoting your own research when working for a ideologically committed organization is hardly sound evidence.
Third, we're reassured that nearly all empirical and random-assignment studies show that vouchers "improve" schools. But we're not told any details of these studies.
In fact, these claims seem eerily similar to a 2009 report produced by Enlow's Friedman Foundation that was criticized by Professor Christopher Lubienski of the University of Illinois for citing studies from pro-voucher organizations that were not peer-reviewed, misrepresenting conclusions and not considering alternative explanations for positive outcomes.
Lubienski concluded the report seemed "designed to build a pro-voucher argument rather than an evenhanded presentation of research."
So, perhaps we should ask: "Would I really buy a used car from these guys?"
David Lentini is a resident of North Berwick.