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Experts on Vouchers and Charter Schools Offer Suggestions at Agenda Setting Conference for a TC New Research Center

The two-day conference on the agenda for the new National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education was a chance for Henry M. Levin to reverse roles. Instead of leading the discussion, Levin, who is TC's new William Heard Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education, spent much of the time listening attentively and taking notes. That's as he intended it.The goal of the conference was to solicit comments and recommendations from scholars, students, teachers, government officials, philanthropists and others about the issues that should be explored by the new center.
Thetwo-day conference on the agenda for the new National Center for theStudy of Privatization in Education was a chance for Henry M. Levin toreverse roles.

Instead of leading the discussion, Levin, whois TC's new William Heard Kilpatrick Professor of Economics andEducation, spent much of the time listening attentively and takingnotes. That's as he intended it.
The goal of the conference wasto solicit comments and recommendations from scholars, students,teachers, government officials, philanthropists and others about theissues that should be explored by the new center.
The Center wasestablished to provide a truly non-partisan source of information foreducators, lawmakers and the public on privatization in education: whatit means for the schools and the children they serve. The Center isbeing funded through the generosity of the Achelis and BodmanFoundations and the Ford Foundation.
In welcoming the more than100 conference participants, TC President Arthur Levine, said: "We haveconservatives who have looked at vouchers program and never found onethat didn't work and liberals who never found one that did work. It'stime that we gave this issue an unbiased look."
Professor Levin said: "The biggest question I've gotten so far is 'Can it be done?'"
Levin is an optimist and said emphatically that the answer is yes.
Hesaid the Center will be a lean operation, which will conduct some ofits research in partnership with other organizations. He plans todevelop a Web site thatwill provide information on the Center's activities. The Web site willalso include a compilation of studies on voucher programs.
Manyof the participants at the conference said that a non-partisan sourceof information on privatization in education is desperately needed.
FrankNewman, President of the Education Commission of the States, urgedLevin to be more than unbiased. "You don't want to be neutral," hesaid. "You want to be objective. Some things are right and some thingsare wrong."
Two national education writers, Lee D. Mitgang andChristopher V. Connell, explained that the news media struggles toobjectively cover voucher plan stories. The pair interviewed veteraneducation writers across the country and presented their findings asone of the 15 papers submitted for the conference. They discovered that"the voucher argument stands apart as one that provides specialchallenges for reporters," Connell said.
Joe Williams, who isthe resident voucher expert for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, toldthem that he routinely fields questions from reporters at othernewspapers across the country where vouchers have been proposed.Williams told them: "Vouchers are a tough subject, an emotionalsubject, and it's very hard for a general interest newspaper to wrapits arms around it."
Even among the education press, reporters find it a difficult topic to cover.
LynnOlson, senior editor of Education Week, told Connell and Mitgang: "Oneof the hardest things about covering the voucher story is that therearen't any neutral people. There's a feeling that everyone has a vestedinterest."
Connell added: "What is in short supply are genuinely honest brokers."
Mitgangand Connell said that the Center should also be a source of informationabout the use of vouchers in other countries that have used them muchlonger and more broadly than the United States.
Indeed, oneparticipant at the conference was Harry A. Patrinos, an economist inthe Human Development Department of The World Bank. Because of theimportant role education plays in economic development, Patrinos said:"We need to learn more about what's going on in education in the U.S.and other countries."
Another conference panelist, PeterCookson, who is also Director of the Center of Educational Outreach andInnovation, urged Levin to think creatively about the role his newCenter can play in discussions about privatization in education.
Cookson,who has studied school choice for almost a decade, said: "If we let theword privatization set the agenda, then the work to be done is alreadyforecast."
"We shouldn't define this solely as an opportunity todo research. Schools are living organisms," he said, adding, "Researchis not value neutral. The most ethical thing you can do is to put thatfact up front."

Published Friday, Jan. 1, 1999

Experts on Vouchers and Charter Schools Offer Suggestions at Agenda Setting Conference for a TC New Research Center

Thetwo-day conference on the agenda for the new National Center for theStudy of Privatization in Education was a chance for Henry M. Levin toreverse roles.

Instead of leading the discussion, Levin, whois TC's new William Heard Kilpatrick Professor of Economics andEducation, spent much of the time listening attentively and takingnotes. That's as he intended it.
The goal of the conference wasto solicit comments and recommendations from scholars, students,teachers, government officials, philanthropists and others about theissues that should be explored by the new center.
The Center wasestablished to provide a truly non-partisan source of information foreducators, lawmakers and the public on privatization in education: whatit means for the schools and the children they serve. The Center isbeing funded through the generosity of the Achelis and BodmanFoundations and the Ford Foundation.
In welcoming the more than100 conference participants, TC President Arthur Levine, said: "We haveconservatives who have looked at vouchers program and never found onethat didn't work and liberals who never found one that did work. It'stime that we gave this issue an unbiased look."
Professor Levin said: "The biggest question I've gotten so far is 'Can it be done?'"
Levin is an optimist and said emphatically that the answer is yes.
Hesaid the Center will be a lean operation, which will conduct some ofits research in partnership with other organizations. He plans todevelop a Web site thatwill provide information on the Center's activities. The Web site willalso include a compilation of studies on voucher programs.
Manyof the participants at the conference said that a non-partisan sourceof information on privatization in education is desperately needed.
FrankNewman, President of the Education Commission of the States, urgedLevin to be more than unbiased. "You don't want to be neutral," hesaid. "You want to be objective. Some things are right and some thingsare wrong."
Two national education writers, Lee D. Mitgang andChristopher V. Connell, explained that the news media struggles toobjectively cover voucher plan stories. The pair interviewed veteraneducation writers across the country and presented their findings asone of the 15 papers submitted for the conference. They discovered that"the voucher argument stands apart as one that provides specialchallenges for reporters," Connell said.
Joe Williams, who isthe resident voucher expert for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, toldthem that he routinely fields questions from reporters at othernewspapers across the country where vouchers have been proposed.Williams told them: "Vouchers are a tough subject, an emotionalsubject, and it's very hard for a general interest newspaper to wrapits arms around it."
Even among the education press, reporters find it a difficult topic to cover.
LynnOlson, senior editor of Education Week, told Connell and Mitgang: "Oneof the hardest things about covering the voucher story is that therearen't any neutral people. There's a feeling that everyone has a vestedinterest."
Connell added: "What is in short supply are genuinely honest brokers."
Mitgangand Connell said that the Center should also be a source of informationabout the use of vouchers in other countries that have used them muchlonger and more broadly than the United States.
Indeed, oneparticipant at the conference was Harry A. Patrinos, an economist inthe Human Development Department of The World Bank. Because of theimportant role education plays in economic development, Patrinos said:"We need to learn more about what's going on in education in the U.S.and other countries."
Another conference panelist, PeterCookson, who is also Director of the Center of Educational Outreach andInnovation, urged Levin to think creatively about the role his newCenter can play in discussions about privatization in education.
Cookson,who has studied school choice for almost a decade, said: "If we let theword privatization set the agenda, then the work to be done is alreadyforecast."
"We shouldn't define this solely as an opportunity todo research. Schools are living organisms," he said, adding, "Researchis not value neutral. The most ethical thing you can do is to put thatfact up front."
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