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Parsing partisanship.

The Summer 2006 issue of Education Next contains accusations about the research done by the Center on Education Policy ("Donkey in Disguise," check the facts). The work by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) on the No Child Left Behind Act, high-school exit examinations, and other education policies uses exactly the same research methodologies as those employed by the U.S. Department of Education, state legislatures (controlled by both political parties), and other entities.

The article also contends that the CEP is in reality a partisan organization. Although I worked for the Democrats on Capitol Hill for many years, I have always thought that education is too important an issue to be partisan. Therefore, when I crafted legislation in the three decades I was on the Hill, I tried to be bipartisan. Almost every meeting that I convened was for both Democrats and Republicans, and the results were that nearly every law I helped to write was passed by large bipartisan majorities.

When I established CEP, I carried that same policy of non-partisanship into this work. The first chair of our board of directors, Christopher Cross, was a former Republican staff director on Capitol Hill and was also a political appointee in the George H. W. Bush administration. In the last several years, as we have tracked No Child Left Behind, we have been contacted by both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. We have happily helped all. This year, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate and House education committees asked CEP to brief staff members on our organization's latest NCLB report. Members of Congress do not sponsor such bipartisan events if they believe you have a partisan agenda.

JACK JENNINGS

President

Center on Education Policy

When Jack Jennings created the Center on Education Policy (CEP) as a freestanding organization, he asked me, a clearly identified Republican who had been his nemesis on the Hill for six years and a presidential appointee in the administration of George H.W. Bush, to serve as chair of the board. I did so with the clear understanding that CEP would pursue an agenda that was not partisan.

The fieldwork for CEP has been undertaken by organizations with a reputation for scientific rigor and independent analysis. CEP cannot be responsible for how the media have played some of the findings. While the reporting by the media may not have been as balanced and thorough as we all would have liked, CEP did report the positive aspects of what it found. Unfortunately, positive results rarely get a great deal of media attention.

CHRISTOPHER T. CROSS

Chairman, Cross & Joftus, LLC

Greg Forster replies:

Jennings points out that the Department of Education and state legislatures use "exactly the same research methodologies" as CEP. Sadly, this is sometimes true; I said the same thing in my article. Neither the Department of Education nor state legislatures (even Republican-controlled ones!) are exempt from the realities of politics. Junk science is junk science no matter who sponsors it.

Cross says CEP's research is scientifically sound because CEP hires prestigious organizations to carry out its surveys, which is like saying that a letter is truthful because it was delivered by a reliable courier. I'm sure CEP's surveys are conducted with the most meticulous care; my article criticized the way CEP analyzes the results of those surveys, a subject on which neither Jennings nor Cross offers any defense.

It's admirable that CEP has a Republican board chair and sometimes works with Republicans, but this hardly proves non-partisanship. If CEP's research adhered to the generally accepted standards of empirical science, the mere fact that CEP also has policy preferences would not be a legitimate reason to doubt its findings. But when CEP uses faulty research methods that are rigged to support its agenda, other researchers have a responsibility to point this out.
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Publication:Education Next
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Sep 22, 2006
Words:640
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