Perhaps because education is ultimately such a soft discipline, a lot of its research is pretty shoddy. To highlight particularly egregious, and funny, examples, each year the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder gives an award, the Bunkum, for the country’s worst education research.

The 2011 “winner,” announced yesterday, is the Progressive Policy Institute. According to the press release, PPI,

Received the “Cancer is Under-Rated Award” for Going Exponential: Growing the Charter School Sector’s Best. In its report, which advocated the rapid expansion of preferred charter schools, PPI compared those charters to viruses and cancers.

PPI says that it “conducted research about when and how exponential growth occurs in the natural world, specifically examining mold, algae, cancer, crystals and viruses. We used these findings…to fuel our thinking about fresh directions for the charter sector.”


NEPC recognized the report for its almost complete lack of acceptable scientific evidence or original research supporting the policy suggestions, as well as its failure to make the case that its suggestions are relevant to school improvement.

PPI, oddly enough, supports charter schools. One would think that an organization that liked the education model so much would have compared its progress to, say, a growing child or a field of daisies.

Check out the charter-schools-as-cancer study here. [Image via]

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer