Evidence Matters

Linking scholarship and reform

For education watchers, the content of the 2000 Presidential election race was almost as significant as the extraordinary outcome. With surprising intensity, the national campaign addressed the state of K–12 education in the United States. Both Governor Bush and Vice President Gore found it badly in need of repair. They spoke of raising standards, reducing class sizes, encouraging choices, building new schools, improving teacher quality, toughening accountability, and strengthening local control.

Even more remarkable, both candidates offered evidence for their claims. They repeatedly cited scholarly studies that lent support to their policy proposals. Is it possible that we’re on the cusp of a new era of evidence-based education reform?

So we hope. In this spirit, we welcome you to the first issue of Education Matters: A Journal of Opinion and Research, available both in hard copy and on our website, www.educationnext.org. In the stormy seas of school reform, Education Matters will steer a steady course, presenting the facts as best they can be determined, giving voice (without fear or favor) to worthy research, sound ideas, and responsible arguments. Bold change is needed in American K–12 education, but Education Matters partakes of no program, campaign, or ideology. It goes where the evidence points.

Too often, in recent years, evidence and reform have been divorced from one another. Some assign responsibility for this disconnect to zealous reformers who are more interested in peddling their nostrums than in evaluating them, or to vested interests that aggressively protect the status quo instead of welcoming evidence about alternatives. Yet the scholarly community is no less culpable, due to its habit of reporting important education research in dense prose salted with tables, charts, and equations accessible only to other social scientists. The general reader—and the policy maker—is left confused as to what the research actually shows and whether it should be trusted.

Are we on the cusp of a new era of evidence-based education reform?

Education Matters is committed equally to readability and scholarly integrity. The authors are committed to presenting their findings—as well as their conclusions and opinions—in crisp, readable language. More comprehensive versions of our authors’ research and essays, complete with notes and data, are available on-line in Education Next Unabridged Articles.

This journal has sections with distinctive missions. The Forum enables scholars and commentators to express differing views on major education issues and reform proposals—beginning, in this issue, with the pros and cons of for-profit schooling and merit pay for teachers in “Defining Merit.” The Features section provides notable authors with a place to reflect on important concerns. In this issue, we are pleased to have Nancy and Ted Sizer detailing the challenges of starting a charter school in “A School Built for Horace.” Then E. D. Hirsch Jr. shows how romanticism shapes our educational thinking—not always for the better. Next, Greg Cizek addresses “cheating to the test” and what can be done about it.

In Research, the journal shifts from interpretations and commentary to the presentation of new (peer-reviewed) studies. In this issue, Terry Moe in “Hidden Demand” uses survey data to estimate who would opt for private schooling if choice were publicly financed, and Caroline Hoxby in “Changing the Profession” shows what school choice could augur for teachers. Education Matters presents their key results in lively, readable prose; Education Next Unabridged Articles offers supporting documentation.

Check the Facts asks whether research that is already influencing policy actually withstands close scrutiny. In this issue, Eric Hanushek in “RAND versus RAND” reviews two RAND reports that were widely quoted during the recent presidential campaign. While partisans hailed these studies as supporting the claims of one or another candidate, Hanushek finds serious flaws in both reports.

As in this issue, our Book Review section will often supply more than one commentary on the same book. In this particular issue, Rogers Smith and Stephen Gilles review Diversity and Distrust: Civic Education in a Multicultural Democracy by Stephen Macedo in “Civics Lesson.” And on the journal’s last page, various authors speak in personal terms about how Education Matters to Me. Lisa Graham Keegan, Arizona’s innovative superintendent of schools, inaugurates this feature in “Graduation Wish.”

In future issues—expect to see them four times a year—we will publish readers’ letters. We encourage you to send us your thoughts. The journal will benefit from your feedback. We also invite you to submit manuscripts for consideration and to contact us with your ideas.


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