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ERIC Number: ED501203
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Feb
Pages: 9
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 2
A Review of "Avoidable Losses: High Stakes Accountability and the Dropout Crisis." REL Technical Brief. REL 2008-No. 001
Wilkins, C.
Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest (NJ1)
REL Southwest received a request to review the report "Avoidable Losses: High Stakes Accountability and the Dropout Crisis" to assess the soundness of the study methodology and the appropriateness of the conclusions drawn in the report. The review found that conclusions drawn in this study cannot be generalized and are significantly overstated: (1) the study was conducted in one school district in one city in the state of Texas where the in-depth ethnography that makes up a large portion of the study was conducted in a single high school in that district; (2) Generalizing from a single district to all 1,090 school districts in Texas is invalid; and (3) study authors assume that because Texas's accountability system was a model for the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 their conclusions have "great significance for national education policy"; this review concludes that such broad generalization is unwarranted. Causal claims by study authors do not meet the standards for scientific rigor, even in the single district in which the study was conducted: (1) many of the data in this study were collected through ethnographic methods, essentially unstructured surveys designed to help discover causal hypotheses that could be scientifically tested in later experimental studies; (2) no matter in-depth the observations, a single case study should not be used to draw causal conclusions and "verify" that a "positive answer" exists to the question whether waiver policy caused minority students to drop out of school; and (3) statistical analysis does not lead to causal conclusions unless the study was designed to collect data that can be used in such a manner (as in a randomized controlled trial). That was not the case in this study. The longitudinal data analyzed can be used only to make correlational inferences, not causal ones, no matter what statistical techniques are used. (Contains 6 footnotes.) [This REL Technical Brief was prepared by Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest administered by Edvance Research. Citation for the study reviewed in this report: McNeil, L. M., Coppola, E., Radigan, J., & Vasquez Heilig, J. (2008). Avoidable losses: High-stakes accountability and the dropout crisis. "Education Policy Analysis Archives," 16(3). Retrieved February 20, 2008, from]
Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest. Available from: Edvance Research. 9901 IH-10 West Suite 700, San Antonio, TX 78230. Tel: 877-338-2623; Fax: 210-558-4183; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Institute of Education Sciences (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Texas
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001
IES Funded: Yes