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Group launches ed research site to guide mayoral candidates

Mayoral candidates have only just started outlining their education policy agendas as campaign season heats up. But one advocacy group is stepping in to help them figure out what those platforms look like.

A+NYC, a new coalition formed earlier this year to shape policy in time for the 2013 mayoral election, launched an online “policy hub” today that includes research briefs on 20 education issues that the group wants to be the focus of debates in months to come. The coalition will eventually make policy recommendations once it is done hosting more than 60 local community meetings.

A+ NYC is made up of many of the same organizers who are behind New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, a union-backed coalition of advocacy organizations. Both groups are trying to influence what education policies the mayoral candidates implement, but while New Yorkers for Great Public Schools has held rallies and criticized its opponents, A+ NYC is seeking a quieter strategy.

That strategy began by recruiting 11 education non-profits to look at research topics of expertise and compile summary briefs on each one. Though the coalition was formed in the spirit of changing many policies established in the last 12 years, the summaries highlight research that occasionally supports Bloomberg initiatives, including special education reforms and the city’s wish to use student surveys on teacher evaluations.

In some instances, the briefs initially left out well-known research. The charter schools research brief omits findings from Macke Raymond’s 2010 CREDO report on New York City’s charter sector, which showed charter students scored higher on reading and math tests than district school peers. The brief instead highlights a 2009 study by Caroline Hoxby, which found similar gains made by charter school students, and notes that those findings were contested.

Update: The Annenberg Institute, which authored the charter school brief, updated the web page to include the 2010 CREDO study.

At an event to discuss the launch today, panelists who helped author some of the briefs said they hoped their work would offer candidates some direction as they begin to craft their education platforms.

“There is a consensus among the candidates that they have to go in a different direction, and there seems to be a lot of uncertainty among the candidates about what positive policies they should adopt,” said Class Size Matters executive director Leonie Haimson, who penned the research briefs on class sizes and high-stakes testing.

Some controversial topics were off limits, said Megan Hester, a coordinator for the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

“We’re not going to touch union contracts or governance,” Hester said. “The groups came together around a common belief that teaching and learning need to be more of the focus in the next administration.”

The next phase of A+ NYC’s efforts, called PS2013, will be recommending policies based on conversations with a wide range of groups and organizations, including political clubs, church groups and parent associations. Hester said the coalition would use qualitative research software called Dedoose to help them organize feedback.

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