Spin Cycle: How Research is Used in Policy Debates: The Case of Charter Schools

Julia Heneghan

Jeffrey R. Henig
2008

It would seem to be a simple question: Do charter schools positively impact the academic performance of their students? Yet advocates and researchers arrived at dramatically different answers, even when working from the same data sets. That's the conclusion of Teachers College professor Jeff Henig, who examines the current state of education research, as well as its dissemination, in this provocative book. He identifies many factors that lead to conflicting conclusions and polarized uses of evidence in the charter debate: the spread of "new media," which pushes researchers and journalists to publish more quickly; the privatization of funding for education research, often from politically-motivated advocacy groups; the crucial fact that "no single, randomized field trial, no matter how well conducted, could have settled the question of how charter schools perform under changing circumstances"; and a simple disconnect between the aims of politicians, advocates, researchers, and journalists. This leads to yet more political posturing. Too often, Henig concludes, ideology trumps honesty. Order the book here.

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