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Education Myths: What Special Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools--And Why It Isn't So Hardcover – August 4, 2005

2.8 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Researcher Greene debunks several purported myths at the heart of assumptions about efforts to reform troubled public schools. He begins with the conventional wisdom that increased spending on schools leads to improved education. Citing national statistics on school spending, Greene asserts that most arguments about inadequate spending are based on anecdotes not facts. He concludes that even if schools in poor urban areas were provided with more funds, there is no guarantee they would use the funds effectively. Other myths that he debunks: social problems such as poverty contribute to low academic performance, smaller class sizes produce improvements, certified teachers are more effective, teachers are underpaid, public schools’ performance has declined, private schools are more racially segregated than public schools. These myths are perpetuated by powerful interest groups, including teachers’ unions, asserts Greene. Whatever readers may think of Greene’s research, he provides an interesting perspective to the ongoing debates about what ails public schools and how to improve them. Vanessa Bush
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Review

In Education Myths, Jay Greene pulls off an impressive feat: an examination of complicated education research that is both engaging and useful to the general reader. In doing so, he convincingly disproves 18 common beliefs about public education. It is a serious piece of applied policy research. Perhaps Greene's greatest achievement is to explain why we should be deeply disturbed at the performance of our public schools, but not despair over the prospect of improving them. (R Shep Melnick Claremont Review of Books)

In recent years, few researchers [like Jay Greene] have consistently produced as much influential, and some would say heretical, research on topics roiling education. (Education Week)

With this clearly and powerfully written book, reformers everywhere will have the evidence and arguments they need to push aside the myths standing in front of the school house door. (Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush)

This timely, plain-spoken, myth-demolishing book unmasks the self-interest, naiveté and well-intended gullibility that lead Americans to embrace eighteen seductive assumptions about education that turn out to be false-and that block the promising reforms that our schools and children urgently need. (Chester E. Finn Jr., president, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation)

A must read for the many people who, frequently with good intentions, enter the policy arena without the relevant facts. (Eric A. Hanushek, Stanford University, author of "Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School.")

Cleanly, deftly, succinctly, Jay Greene rips off the masks obscuring the realities of public education today. (Paul Peterson, Director, Program on Education Policy and Governance, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University)

Clears away the fog. Well-supported, powerful, and ultimately persuasive. A major contribution. (Rod Paige, former U.S. Secretary of Education)

Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, challenges 18 popular assumptions in this accessible, data-driven polemic. His arguments stick close to the numbers compiled from numerous education studies, and, generally, Greene makes strong cases that would keep even education-policy gurus on their toes. (The Washington Post)

. . . the rigor, clarity, and energy with which the authors press their case make this book one the teachers unions do not want you to read. (Education Next: Journal of Opinion And Research)

Education Myths is a kind of 'freakonomics' for the education set. (Maggie Gallagher)

. . . provocative. . . (Richard Lee Colvin Los Angeles Times)

The prolific Greene, who heads a new education research center at the University of Arkansas, is a key player on many of these issues. (Andrew J. Rotherham New York Post)

Whatever readers may think of Greene's research, he provides an interesting perspective to the ongoing debates about what ails public schools and how to improve them. (Vanessa Bush Booklist)

In Education Myths, Jay P. Greene decisively refutes 18 myths that are routinely taken as facts by pundits and reporters. Mr. Greene's important book ensures that these potent education myths have been decisively refuted. (Martin Morse Wooster The Washington Times)

[Greene] makes a strong case for challenging assumptions in an era of limited resources. (Mark Toner Teacher Magazine)

Greene has a history of casting a skeptical eye on special-interest groups' assertions, thoroughly conducting his own research, and drawing conclusions based in economic theory. (Lori Drummer, American Legislative Exchange Council School Reform News)

...an important education reform book (Jim Wooten The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

[Jay P. Greene's] book provides data-driven research and analysis to refute each myth, as well as a substantial bibliography to encourage further fact finding. We are reminded to let the facts inform us, even though powerful special interest groups seek to maintain the mythology and defy logic and scientific basis. (Education Reporter)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (August 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742549771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742549777
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,998,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Public school spending per pupil, adjusting for inflation, has soared in recent decades, while student performance has stagnated. This central and uncomfortable fact is the essence of the crisis in American public education today- a collapse in the productivity of spending.

Defenders of the status-quo, when forced to address this problem at all, trot out a series of comfortable myths. Greene's book methodically demolishes each of them, while also providing a roadmap to genuine improvement. An important book for anyone wishing to come to grips with the real and phantom challenges facing public education today.
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Format: Hardcover
If ever an institution needed input from someone working outside the standard paradigm, public education is it. To many people, it is obvious the system is not working well, yet suggestions from anyone who is not part of the system are automatically dismissed. Jay Greene is an established and well-respected researcher of education issues, whose only agenda is to elevate the quality of public and professional debate about education. This book addresses a basic problem facing those who wish to improve our schools: many assumptions about education have never been tested in a scientific manner, and many have no basis in fact. Often these untested assumptions form the rationale for expensive programs that consume much time and money with little result. In some cases, blind acceptance by the public of untrue "facts" prevents consideration of novel approaches. Greene has analyzed the research related to several crucial issues and pointed out that while some of it is worth considering, much of it is of little or no value. This book suggests a fresh framework for inquiry into the problems that plague our schools and frustrate everyone who wishes to see good education available for all children.
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Format: Hardcover
Education Myths by Jay Greene is an excellent discussion of the most important topics in education policy today. The work is much more than a survey of current research. Greene has participated in several major studies while at the Manhattan Institute on such topics as vouchers, true graduation rates, and teaching democratic participation in our society. Greene's intimacy with the policy details comes through in each topic.

The book is fast and punchy, and it is a true joy to read. Greene is definitely willing to take on the status quo and promote change.

I enjoyed Education Myths so much that I have already bought a half dozen copies for friends, and I expect you will probably do the same.

I cannot wait for the sequel. What's next? Education Solutions!
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Format: Hardcover
"Education Myths" is one of those "love it or hate it" books. Liberals who have bought into these myths will despise the "reality checks" Greene gives while conservatives will applaud his meticulous debunking of them. Are schools underfunded? Are teachers underpaid? Do smaller class sizes raise student achievement? Does teacher credentialing result in better performance? Do vouchers work? Greene reviews the research on these and other "hot button" issues to demonstrate that the conventional wisdom is very often wrong.
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Format: Paperback
And that one key myth is that the critics of the Powers that Be in education are, to quote one of the reviewers below, "right-wing" propagandists. Indeed, given the unfortunate political polarization of education policy in America, perhaps this book's greatest liability is the endorsement from Jeb Bush that appears on its cover.

For the most part, Jay Greene backs his claims up with references to specific studies, and one indication that he isn't distorting the data is that his critics haven't found fault with his data. The one exception I found was in his discussion of the Special Education Myth, in which he simply asserts that "any growth in neurological disorders caused by increased numbers of low-birth-weight babies has been more than offset by improvements in the prevention of such disorders in other areas, such as improved prenatal medicine, safe child car seats, and reductions in exposure to lead paint."

Greene does argue, convincingly, that the growth in special ed numbers is largely due to financially-motivated re-classifications. And, if students are generally less teachable than they used to be, it may be more because of teaching failures in the lower grades. But can we be sure that incoming kindergartners aren't less (or more) teachable than they used to be? It would be interesting to survey veteran kindergarten teachers--ones who've remained in the same schools for 20-30 years.

It would also be nice if Greene had included some of the myths that inform current teaching practices and curriculum choices--though these could fill a whole nother book.

These concerns aside, this is a hugely important book that convincingly debunks most of our most debilitating myths--and the left-wing and (yes!) right-wing assumptions that sustain them.
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Format: Hardcover
Education Myths" reviews 18 widely held beliefs, unmasking self-interests that block improvement while bleeding the nations' taxpayers.

Greene begins by tracking education spending/pupil from the end of WWII to '01-'02, in '01-'02 dollars. The initial figure was $1,214, rising to $4,479 in '71-'72, and ending up at $8,745. During the '71-'72 - '01-'02 period, pupil achievement measured by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) rose only 3 to 5 points on a 250-300 point scale. Thus, more money does not equate to more achievement, in any sort of useful manner.

Greene then goes on to refute the common "excuses" for lagging performance - special education draining away funds and social problems like poverty, before going on to address the most expensive myth of all - reducing class size improves pupil performance. Other myths addressed that are of particular interest include the value of teacher certification, the value of increased teacher pay (along with its corollary - teachers are underpaid), and the case that charter schools drain needed funds from public schools - thereby hurting them (actually the evidence shows that they benefit from the competition).

An important work, especially for school board members and legislators constantly assailed by sad stores about "if only we had more money . . .." Reality is that if educators returned to prior productivity levels we would save about $200 billion/year.
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