1. High-quality schools can eliminate the achievement gap between whites and minorities.
2. Mayoral control of public schools is an improvement over the more common elected board governance systems.
3. Higher standards will improve the performance of public schools.
As worded, the answer to all these questions is that the research is insufficient. But notice for questions 2 and 3 how any amount of improvement will do, while for question 1 only improvement that will "eliminate the achievement gap." Such improvement would have to be on the order of about a standard deviation increase in non-Asian minority performance with no increase in white performance. A tall order indeed. In fact such a tall order, that no in-school or out-of-school intervention has ever achieved such results for the general population-- even the ones that Bracey supported and touted in this very report.
This is Bracey at his most dishonest--glaringly dishonest. Bracey had an agenda and he didn't mind bending the facts to fit his preferred outcome. He wasn't an honest researcher and this will be his lasting legacy.
A more honest researcher might adopt a more neutral standard of achievement such as "an increase in the performance of all students by an educationally significant amount (0.25 standard deviation)." That would be a laudable goal and also would serve to reduce the achievement gap. It's also the generally accepted standard in education research.
Under such a standard, Bracey would still get to criticize mayorial control and higher (national) standards as not having a sufficient research base; however, he'd have to acknowledge that there is a sufficient research base for higher-quality schools under this standard at least in the elementary school years.
Another problem with Bracey's reports is that they are peppered with his own assumptions about how to reform education that don't have sufficient research base or are contradicted by the data. Here are a few.
Students attending American schools run the gamut from excellent to poor. Well-resourced schools serving wealthy neighborhoods are showing excellent results. Poorly-resourced schools serving low-income communities of color do far worse. (p. 2)
Schools serving low-income communities of color tend to have resources above the median school.
I said above that if there are to be more high-quality schools (or at least, “high-quality” schools in terms of high or rising test scores), they will have to be developed in low-income neighborhoods. (p. 3)Bracey is implies that schools in higher income neighborhoods are doing a fine job educating low-income students. They aren't.
Before taking up the question of whether schools alone can remedy the achievement gap for poor children, we have to ask what is known about the effect of poverty on children. What are some of the out-of-school factors that contribute to poor children’s lower performance? (p. 4)
None of the studies Bracey, especially Berliner's, directs us to are capable of determining the causal link that Bracey implies. Bracey then proceeds to give us a few pages of various ailments and problems associated with poverty and attempts to draw a bleak picture of poverty's causal effect on student achievement. He has to resort to anecdote because the data a much less bleak picture. Poverty, or more accurately low socio-economic status (SES), is correlated with low student performance. But the amount of variance in student performance attributable to variations in SES is only about 18%. That means that 82% of the variance is attributable to non-SES factors. Bracey knows or should have known this, but misrepresents the data anyway.
These disadvantages all operate to attenuate achievement in schools. The question is, can “high-quality” schools alone offset them? (p. 7)
Bracey then looks at one ham-fisted study, Harlem Promise Academy, as a refutation. He ignores the other studies which have shown results larger than the 0.18 standard deviation gap attributable to poverty effects.
Bracey does a better job with the mayoral control and high standards issues. But the problem is that on the poverty/SES issue Bracey's non-research-based views are no better than those of the proponents of mayoral control and high standards.
Pot and Kettle meet Bracey.