About the Education Consumers Foundation

The Education Consumers Foundation (ECF) is a tax-exempt nonprofit corporation chartered in Tennessee. It is a spin-off of the Education Consumers ClearingHouse (ECC)—an online consumer organization founded in 1995.  ECF is dedicated to representing the interests of parents. taxpayers, and their elected representatives.  Its mission is to improve public education outcomes through the use of research and policy analysis. 

ECF is like Consumer Reports but focused primarily on education policy, practice, and outcomes.   Its aim is to help consumers find good schools and show them to improve the rest.  It’s work is national in scope and principally involves the creation of charts and economic analyses.   

Although its objectives are national in scope, most of ECF’s reports and studies are based on Tennessee data—primarily because of its quality and transparency.  Tennessee was the first state (by 10 years) to compile and publicly report value-added school performance data.  The Tennessee-based charts are intended as an example of how the data now available in most states can be used to assess school performance, enable informed choices, and improve student outcomes. 


Featured Resources

Third grade reading charts for every public elementary school in the U. S.  

ECF’s interactive third grade charts enable users to visually compare the vital reading proficiency outcomes of any school or district with any other school or district in a given state or county.  They are quickly created, intuitive, and can quickly be printed or expanded to posters.     More

Estimated cost of failed reading instruction by public school and district

Using third grade reading proficiency data, ECF’s calculator estimates the number of dropouts and underprepared graduates that are created by ineffective reading instruction and compiles the resulting excess public services costs that they generate over a working lifetime. 

Research & Analysis from the Education Consumers Foundation

Results-focused accountability for teacher preparation

Third grade reading predicts eighth grade reading and beyond

Computer-based reading Instruction yields catch-up growth

Misdirected teacher training and failed education reform

Are states being truthful about student achievement


Programs & Activities 

  • The Value-Added Achievement Awards- an annual awards program recognizing Tennessee’s most effective elementary and middle school principals on the basis of their measured success with students. 

The awards have been on hold since 2015.  Initially they were suspended because of problems with Tennessee’s transition to computerized achievement testing.  Subsequently, the suspension was continued due to changes in the scores on which the awards were based and most recently to challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • The Education Consumers Consultants Network- a partnership of experienced scholars and educators who work on behalf of clients to examine the pros and cons of educational policies, plans, reforms, or innovations.

Research and analysis concerning selected perennial issues in education

The following issues have been covered at some length by the trade and consumer media over the years. The reports below reflect ECF’s take on these subjects.

Class Size

"Overall, the weight of the evidence tilts strongly toward a conclusion that reducing class size, by itself, does not typically affect the instructional activities that occur in classrooms."  Teacher behavior changes are far more important.  [Ehrenberg, R.G., Brewer, D.J., Gamoran, A., & Wilms, J.D. (2001). Class size and student achievement. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2(1).]

Project STAR Technical Report
The complete report of the widely-cited class size study funded by the Tennessee General Assembly in the 1980s. Contrary to many abbreviated versions of the report, the findings do not make a strong case for reduced class size as a means to school improvement.

Evidence from Project STAR
Article by Project Star's principal investigator concludes that across-the-board class size reductions are an expensive way to make modest improvements in school outcomes.

NBPTS Teacher Certification

https://caldercenter.org/publications/effects-nbpts-certified-teachers-student-achievement   [released March 2007] An NBPTS-sponsored study of learning outcomes for all Florida teachers over a 4 year span.  Found limited evidence favoring NBPTS-certified teachers but concludes that the "efficacy of NBPTS as a tool to improve student learning appears questionable."  [Harris, D. N. & Sass, T. R.  (2007, January 25).  The effects of NBPTS-certified teachers on student achievement.  Working Paper No. 4, Urban Institute, Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Educational Research.]

https://dc.statelibrary.sc.gov/bitstream/handle/10827/5836/GOV_Executive_Budget_2007-2008.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y  [released January 3, 2007] South Carolina Governor Mark Stanford's budget message cites the lack of supporting evidence and $63.17 million/year projected cost as the basis for discontinuation of bonuses for NBPTS teachers newly certified after June 30, 2007 (see page 99).

[released December 22, 06] A $330,000 study sponsored by NBPTS found no advantage in achievement gains for NBPTS-certified teachers in North Carolina. Press release.  [McColskey, W., Stronge, J. H., et al.  (2006, June).  Teacher Effectiveness, Student Achievement,& National Board Certified Teachers, Williamsburg, VA:  College of William and Mary.]

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED491846.pdf  [released May 24, 2006] A large scale NBPTS-sponsored study commissioned in 2002 but released only after a May 17, 2006 investigative report in Education Week (requires subscription).  Found only average achievement gains associated with NBPTS certification. [Sanders, W. L., Ashton, J. J. & Wright, S.P.  (2005, March 7).  Comparison of the Effects of NBPTS Certified Teachers with Other Teachers on the Rate Of Student Academic Progress.  Arlington, VA: National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.]

[released November 20, 2005]  Study commissioned by South Carolina legislature found achievement gains associated with NBPTS-certification little different than average.  [Fisher, S. & Dickenson, T.  (2005, November 11).  A Study of the Relationship Between the National Board Certification Status of Teachers and Students Achievement, Columbia, SC: Office of Program Evaluation, College of Education, University of South Carolina.]

A review and critical analysis of 4 studies that examined the link between NBPTS-certification and student achievement gain.  Found that reports of statistically significant gains were misleading.   Concludes that effective teaching is far more accurately identified on the basis of value-added achievement gains alone.  [Cunningham, G. K. & Stone, J. E. (2005). Value-added assessment of teacher quality as an alternative to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards: What recent studies say. In Robert Lissitz (Ed.). Value added models in education: Theory and applications. Maple Grove, MN: JAM Press. ]

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED485515.pdf  [released November 2, 2004] Study of 61 NBPTS-certified teachers in the Miami-Dade school system found a statistically significant 1.25 point score difference favoring the NBPTS group on the FCAT exam.  [Cavalluzzo, L. (2004, November). Is National Board certification an effective signal of teacher quality? CNA Corporation.]

https://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/201/327  [released September 8, 2004] Study drawn from a doctoral dissertation. Found that NBPTS-certified teachers were more effective by a statistically significant amount in only 11 of 48 comparisons.  [Vandevoort, L., Amrein-Beardsley, A., and Berliner, D. (2004, September 8). National Board certified teachers and their students achievement. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12, (46).]

(PDF) Can Teacher Quality Be Effectively Assessed? National Board Certification as a Signal of Effective Teaching (researchgate.net) [released April 27, 2004] Large scale study in North Carolina found very small but statistically significant differences favoring NBPTS-Certified teachers.  [Goldhaber, D. and Anthony, E. (2004, April 27). Can teacher quality be effectively assessed? Urban Institute.]

https://education-consumers.org/value-added-achievement-gains-nbpts-article/http://education-consumers.org/issues-public-education-research-analysis/teacher-reform-gone-astray/value-added-achievement-gains-nbpts/value-added-achievement-gains-nbpts-article/  [released May 5, 2002] Found that 16 out of 16 NBPTS-certified teachers in Tennessee produced only average value-added student achievement gains.  A scholarly panel commissioned by the Education Commission of the States and headed by Susan Fuhrman, President of Teachers College, Columbia University reviewed the findings and urged that they be disregarded.  [Stone, J. E. (2002, May 1). The value-added achievement gains of NBPTS-certified teachers in Tennessee: A brief report. College of Education, East Tennessee State University.

Teacher Training

The Tennessee Teaching Quality Initiative reveals the apparent inability of Tennessee's teacher-education stakeholders to candidly examine their successes and failures and undertake reform. [Stone, J (August 15, 2007). Memorandum to Education Consumers Foundation Board of Directors.]

https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/book-tackles-teacher-ed-for-reading/2006/01 The National Academy of Education is calling for radical revisions of how teachers are taught to teach reading.  [Manzo, K. K.  (2006, January 4).  Book tackles teacher ed. for reading.  Education Week, 25(16).]

Teacher training programs have been requiring prospective teachers to adopt "politically correct" views (i.e., dispositions) on matters such as equity, diversity, and social justice.  Now the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education says their standards have been wrongly interpreted.  [Wilson, R. (2005, December 16).  'We don't need that kind of attitude.'  Chronicle of Higher Education, 52(17).]

https://www.amazon.com/Build-Better-Teacher-Emergence-Competitive/dp/0897898869 The long-time editorial page editor of the Richmond Times has written a brief but penetrating analysis of how and why misguided teacher training has undermined public schooling and what can be done about it.  [Holland, R. G.  (2004).  To build a better teacher, the emergence of a competitive education industry.  Westport, CT: Praeger Paperback.]

If you have never experienced a teacher education course, you must see these pictures.  They were taken by a professor walking around the halls on his college campus.  Displays of this type are typical projects for teachers taking certain elementary education courses.  Semester grades are usually based on the appearance of the display and a 30-minute class presentation by the student.

After 4 years of sifting through the available research, a 766 page study by the American Educational Research Association found little empirical evidence to support claims of effectiveness for widely used teacher training practices.  These findings are consistent with an earlier and heatedly disputed review of the teacher training literature by the Abell Foundation {insert this link:  http://www.abell.org/pubsitems/ed_cert_1101.pdf}.  [Videro, D.  (2005, June 22).  Review panel turns up little evidence to back up teacher ed. practices.  Education Week, 24(41).]

What Teachers Have to Say About Teacher Education
The complaints of teachers in this 1996 survey focus on the same facets of teacher-training that were reflected in "Different Drummers," a 1997 Public Agenda survey of teacher-education professors. "The greatest weakness of the courses offered in teacher education programs, according to survey responses, is that they are so enamored of theory they are of no practical use."


For more information about the Education Consumers Foundation, visit the organization’s website at www.education-consumers.org or contact:

Dr. J.E. Stone, President
Education Consumers Foundation
1629 K St. N.W. Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006

Phone (202) 827-9468

Email: ecf@education-consumers.org