Center Analyst: MSU School Consolidation Study Appears to Contain Plagiarized Material

News Advisory
Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010
Contact: Michael Van Beek
Director of Education Policy
Michael D. Jahr
Senior Director of Communications

MIDLAND — A school consolidation study published by Michigan State University's Education Policy Center appears to contain plagiarized material, according to Mackinac Center Education Policy Director Michael Van Beek.

The MSU report, titled "School District Consolidation Study in 10 Michigan Counties," was commissioned by Booth Newspapers and received widespread media coverage. Van Beek, after reviewing the study, began comparing it to the study on which the MSU report's methodology was based. He noticed similarities, and using professional plagiarism-screening software, determined that more than 800 words in the paper appear to have been taken directly from either that original report or several other sources with insufficient or no attribution. Some news outlets covering the MSU study appear to have inadvertently quoted from plagiarized material.

"We were a bit surprised when we looked at the MSU report," said Van Beek. "It acknowledged the study whose methodology it adopted, but that study used 1980s and 1990s' data from another state. In fact, the original study's approach was applied so mechanically to Michigan data in the MSU paper that we looked more closely at the original study and saw troubling similarities. The more we looked, the more we found, including paragraphs virtually identical to those in previously published sources."


Aug. 18 Update: Michael Van Beek has analyzed the methodology and assumptions of the possibly plagiarized study, and found serious flaws. Even without the plagiarism issues, the study does not support its widely-reported claim that school consolidation could save Michigan schools $612 million annually. Read the analysis here: MSU Consolidation Study Seriously Flawed