Milgram on Boaler

Milgram on Boaler

Nonpartisan Education Review / Essays, Volume 8, Number 5

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Private Data - The Real Story:
A Huge Problem with
Education Research

R. James Milgram

Professor of Mathematics Emeritus,
Stanford University, 12/7/2012


A very influential paper on improving math outcomes was published in 2008. The authors refused to divulge their data claiming that agreements with the schools and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) rules prevented it.

When we found the identities of the schools by other means, serious problems with the conclusions of the article were quickly revealed.

In this article we describe how we were able to find the missing data for the 2008 paper. We discuss the huge difficulties they revealed, and point out the legal constraints that should make it very difficult for authors of such papers to legally withhold their data in the future.


Stanford Professor of Education, Jo Boaler, and her student, Megan Staples, published a very influential paper, [BS], on improving math outcomes for high school students in 2008. The paper had so many policy implications that it was critically important for researchers to be able to check the results. But the authors refused to divulge their data, claiming agreements with the participating schools and FERPA rules prevented it.