The Mis-education of Secretary Riley

The Mis-education of Secretary Riley
June 1, 1998

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)

U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley's "White Paper" speech to the National Press Club on September 23, 1997, repeats unsubstantiated criticisms from the teacher unions. Although Riley creates the impression of having conducted a research-based review, the Secretary does not cite the most current versions of the research he is criticizing, nor does he cite the two unions as the source of his criticisms.

The Mis-Education of Secretary Riley
National Education Association American Federation of Teachers Secretary Riley
"...the number of students who remained in the voucher program dropped from approximately 700 in the first year to 100 in the fourth year...[I]t means that the fourth year data analysis was conducted on a meager 'survival population' of approximately 15 percent." "By the fourth year, their sample size had shrunk from 727 to 112..." "...including the attrition of 85-95 percent of voucher students in the two years in which significant results were found..." [Riley makes the same mistake as the NEA and AFT, suggesting he relied on them rather than reading the actual research paper.]
  The Greene et al "study has serious methodological flaws." "This second analysis, however, has serious methodological flaws."
  "...fails to take account of family background." "...and a failure to account for student family background and prior achievement."
  "...they lump together students across grades 1-3..." The Greene et al. Cleveland report "lumps together results for students in grades K through 3, suggesting that differences among grades are being masked..."
  "This fall-to-spring-testing approach, which produces artificial positive achievement gains, has been rejected by test experts." "The [Cleveland] researchers tested the voucher system within the same school year (fall and spring), an approach that has been widely rejected by test experts as producing artificially positive achievement gains."

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)