Jay Greene needs a union. Anyone who works as hard as he does at cherry picking education research — a white collar version of uncreative, gritty farm work — could use the collective power of an organization that unites all cherry pickers in common cause. Just picture it: a picket line of Greene, Hoxby, Moe and Peterson, marching in line outside of an AERA convention, with signs declaring “Unfair To Educational Research Cherry Pickers” — all carefully written on oak tag paper bought at Wal-Mart.
How could life as an educational research cherry picker be so tough, the reader might ask, that Greene would have to resort to the usurious rent seeking of nefarious monopoly power? How could he end up hitchhiking on the road to serfdom?
Here’s how: Serious research conducted by respected scholars without an ideological axe to grind has consistently found every major voucher experiment in the United States wanting. John Witte’s and Cecilia Rouse’s definitive analyses of the Milwaukee voucher program and the Indiana University studies of the Cleveland voucher program have shown no meaningful educational performance advantage for students in those two high profile, large scale voucher programs. The US Department of Education studies of the Washington DC voucher program [here and here] show no significant educational performance benefits. An overview of the current state of research on vouchers can be found here.
All of this just makes Jay Greene and his comrades in the United Cherry Pickers work harder and harder, on a desperate search through the bountiful fruit of educational research for something, anything that can be cherry picked to support vouchers. Just look at what Greene has been reduced to: glittering generalities that repeat the same tired misrepresentations, again and again, in the most unimaginative way. [He even cites research that is not on the subject of vouchers: Hank Levin will be most surprised to learn that his research "supports" vouchers.]
When the research that is there doesn’t do the job, the “have laptop, will produce junk science on demand” crowd at the United Cherry Pickers make up their own, ‘refined’ versions. In the heat of the 2000 presidential election campaign, Paul Peterson announced a “Harvard study” that found African-American students participating in private voucher programs in New York City, Dayton, Ohio and Princeton, New Jersey had significantly better results on a standardized test. Peterson’s claims went so far beyond what the actual evidence demonstrated that one of his partners in the research, the firm Mathematica, went public with its repudiation. Further research by Princeton University’s Alan Krueger and Pei Zhu cast even more doubt on the results. If you wonder what is at stake is the seemingly ‘inside baseball’ fight over peer review of research [see here and here], it is precisely this misuse of the reputation and currency of the academy to promote a policy agenda with “research” that fails to meet minimal academic standards.
So in the interests of union solidarity, let us provide the following recommendation to Jay Greene and the United Cherry Pickers: you are working too hard, take a vacation. Labor Day is coming up — we won that one for you.