This sounds really compelling; it fits into a cultural narrative that breast feeding is superior to using baby formula.
This sounds really compelling until about ten paragraphs in and then:
“Though the results are certainly interesting, you have to bear in mind the limitations that inevitably arise in research using observational data from major cohort studies,” McConway added….
The fact that the study was observational means it followed people’s behavior rather than randomly assigning the behavior in question, McConway noted.
Consequently, the results only show a correlation between breastfeeding and test scores — not causation.
“It’s not possible to be certain about what’s causing what,” he said.How long you breastfeed may impact your child’s test scores later, study shows
Few people will read that far, and even most who do will likely take away a careless claim that the research doesn’t justify.
Therefore, this article should never have been written—similar to many articles about educational research.
One enduring example of media repeating a misunderstanding of educational research is the word gap myth. Media repeat that number of words in children’s vocabulary is connected to economic status (again, this sounds right to most people).
Yet, the Hart and Risley study this myth is based on has been debunked often, and the word gap myth itself is based on flawed logic about literacy .
Media has ben shown, in fact, to cover education quite badly, typically overemphasizing think tank research versus university-based research (the former far less credible than the latter) and featuring the voices of non-educators (reformers and innovators) over educators:
- REPORT: Only 9 Percent Of Guests Discussing Education On Evening Cable News Were Educators
- Malin, J. R., & Lubienski, C. (2015). Educational Expertise, Advocacy, and Media Influence. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23, 6. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v23.1706
- The Research that Reaches the Public: Who Produces the Educational Research Mentioned in the News Media? Holly Kurtz
- The Media and Educational Research: What We Know vs. What the Public Hears, Alex Molnar
Currently, the misinformation campaign, ironically, related to education is the “science of reading” (SOR) movement that repeatedly misrepresents NAEP data, makes claims that have no scientific evidence (relying on anecdote ), and repeatedly relies on think tank “reports” (NCTQ, for example) that are also not scientific .
A subset of the SOR movement is also grade retention. High-profile coverage of Mississippi has made the exact breast feeding mistake from above: “’It’s not possible to be certain about what’s causing what,’ he said.”
Recently in the NYT, a think-tank funded report on MS grade retention is cited; however, the report itself notes that outcomes cannot be linked to grade retention itself .
In short, the report proves nothing about retention—just as the study on breast feeding proves nothing about student achievement.
The breast feeding story, the word gap myth, and the SOR story are all compelling because they sound true, but they are all false narratives that fails educational research—and public education.
 Hoffman, J.V., Hikida, M., & Sailors, M. (2020). Contesting science that silences: Amplifying equity, agency, and design research in literacy teacher preparation. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S255–S266. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.353
- The Science of Reading and the Media: Is Reporting Biased?, Maren Aukerman
- The Science of Reading and the Media: Does the Media Draw on High-Quality Reading Research?, Maren Aukerman
- The Science of Reading and the Media: How Do Current Reporting Patterns Cause Damage?, Maren Aukerman
- Legislating Phonics: Settled Science or Political Polemics? David Reinking, George G. Hruby, and Victoria J. Risko
- Thomas, P.L. (2022). The Science of Reading movement: The never-ending debate and the need for a different approach to reading instruction. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/science-of-reading
- On the latest obsession with phonics, David Reinking, Peter Smagorinsky and David Yaden
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