Center Vindicated in MSU Plagiarism Case

School consolidation study 'flawed'

Suspicions of plagiarism by a Michigan State University professor uncovered last August by Michael Van Beek, the Center’s director of education policy, have been proven true, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Sharif Shakrani, a senior scholar in MSU’s Education Policy Center, was found guilty of “research misconduct” by a research integrity committee for plagiarizing parts of his 2010 study on school consolidation. The committee also found three articles written by Shakrani in 2008 and 2009 that contain “clear instances” of plagiarism, The Press reported. An MSU spokesman told The Press that a decision on “sanctions or disciplinary actions” is pending.

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Shakrani’s study claimed Michigan could save more than $600 million through school consolidation, although as Van Beek pointed out, the methodology of Shakrani’s claims was “seriously flawed.” Van Beek’s analysis was upheld by Syracuse University Professor William Duncombe, who told the Mackinac Center that Shakrani “misapplied” the research from his 2001 study regarding consolidation of just 12 rural school districts in New York. Duncombe also told Van Beek the MSU report was an “oversimplification,” and “extremely naïve,” for Shakrani to extrapolate his study’s methodology to all Michigan school districts. Duncombe said the MSU study was “not an appropriate use of scientific evidence.”

A 2007 study on school consolidation by Andrew Coulson, a Mackinac Center adjunct fellow and director of educational freedom at the Cato Institute, found that the potential savings from consolidating excessively small districts in Michigan is about 12 times smaller than the potential savings from breaking up excessively large ones. Coulson said that the maximum total annual savings due to district breakups would be approximately $363 million, while consolidations could save state and local governments at most $31 million annually.

The State NewsDetroit Free Press, USA Today, WTOL-TV11 in Toledo, the Lansing State Journal and also have covered MSU's findings.