Wednesday | October 9, 2019

Zombie Education Reform: Without A Meaningful Base in Research Evidence, Can Support for Online Charters and Education Vouchers be Sustained?

Economists talk of “zombie reforms”—policies that continue to live on in the political realm despite a paucity of evidence that they can accomplish their stated objectives. Education is not immune to this phenomenon. Most research on online charter schools and school voucher programs shows negative or insignificant progress on test scores and limited gains in graduation rates. Yet advocacy of these policies persist, citing such indicators as family satisfaction. Are these adequate grounds for supporting such reforms? If not, are there any more substantial grounds for continuing to pursue these policies? And is the political support for these reforms sufficient to sustain them, even in the absence of compelling evidence? From a variety of perspectives, our speakers reviewed the relevant empirical evidence and discuss the reasons that advocacy for these “reform” efforts has continued.



Bryan Gill, Senior Fellow, Mathematica

John Jackson, President and CEO, Schott Foundation for Public Education

Christopher Lubienski, Professor of Education Policy, Indiana University; Fellow, National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado

Macke Raymond, Founder and Director, Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), Stanford University


Regena Thomas, Co-Director, Human Rights and Community Relations, American Federation of Teachers