Tag Archive for 'public policy'

Who’s keeping the longitudinal data on schools’ outcomes?

I’m sorry to admit that a post on TE from just about 10 years ago has almost exclusively dead links. Now, link rot (as it’s called) is common on the Internet, but one still feels some responsibility for it.

Tonight I wanted to find data about how individual schools were doing historically and compare those data to how the schools are doing today. I remembered—good that I can still remember this—that I’d posted a note about sources for examining scores some time ago (actually 2005). So, I go and check it…all those organizations that were then so hot on the trail of tracking schools’ outcomes have fallen by the wayside. Bummer.

The good news is that Pal of TE Dave Malouf added a comment pointing us to the National Longitudinal School-Level State Assessment Score Database (NLSLSASD) and that source appears to be functional (at least for some years). Time to go mining!

Do you know of other sources? Please log them in the comments.

A few questions for Joel Klein

According to widespread reports, in your just-published book about your time as chancellor of the New York City Schools, Mr. Klein, you wrote that firing a teacher “took an average of almost two and a half years and cost the city over $300,000.”

I’d ask you to consider a little context, please…. The reasons we have teacher unions and tightly worded contracts in the first place is because teachers historically were mistreated and they lost confidence in their employers. And what of the “incompetent” administrators—you fail to mention them. It takes two to tango. One more thing—you hired these people. Instead of deflecting blame to Ed Schools (I’ll get to them in a second), why don’t school districts and boards take responsibility for those they hire? The union did not make you hire them. The union did not make you neglect proper induction, good supervision, mentoring, effective programs of professional development. And the union did not create the pool of low SAT/GRE applicants. You and your board did that by not paying a professional salary or offering professional working conditions for professional work. What’s that? Better compensation requires higher taxes? Well then, what exactly have you and the board done to educate the voters on this issue instead of playing the politics of union confrontation. And by the way, maybe the value-adding abilities you tell voters you want can not be had at the price voters are willing to pay. Have you told them that?

As for Ed Schools—hang on a moment—let’s talk about state licensing boards and commissions. Your state, with support of your legislature, issued licenses to these teachers. Have they met labor market demands at the expense of quality? Who told them to do that? Not the unions. With legislative consent, are they setting the licensing bar low because the salaries we pay will not draw better candidates into the field? Have you lobbied your legislature on this issue or are you just writing books about the problem and running for-profit companies to sell products to the same schools you once administered? By the way, do you really feel the problem is we have too few commercial products or that commercial products have a hope of solving the systemic problems you describe.

UOh, and Ed Schools…. Why do you persist in thinking that you are small colleges of letters and sciences? Why have experimental stations filled with scientists to solve agricultural problems produced increasing yields (anyone use a split plot ANOVA recently?). Does growing crops require science but growing children require philosophy? And about those SAT/GRE scores, Mr. Klein, have you considered that training standards are set by accreditation bodies that respond to market demand which are created by salaries that you, your board, and your voters are willing to pay.

Thank you, Mr. Klein, for listing these problems, although some serious solutions for the system in which teachers do their work would have been more edifying.

Mike Gerber

Michael M. Gerber, Ph.D.
Professor, Gewirtz School of Education
University of California, Santa Barbara

CEC standards for evidence-based practice

The Council for Exceptional Children released a document providing guidance for identifying evidence-based practices in special education on 23 January 2014. Developed by a work group composed of leaders from the Division for Research—Bryan Cook (chair), Viriginia Buysse, Janette Klingner, Tim Landrum, Robin McWilliam, Melody Tankersley, and Dave Test—and aimed at serving groups or individuals who understand educational research design and methods, the standards provide a means for categorizing practices as (a) evidence-based, (b) potentially evidence-based, (c) mixed evidence, (d) insufficient evidence, or (e) negative evidence. To make these determinations, groups or individuals will need to apply quality indicators, which the document also identifies to studies, to ascertain the extent to which individual studies are methodologically sound.
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Science and preschool policy

In “How to Get More Early Bloomers” (New York Times, 30 January 2014), Dan Willingham and David Grissmer argue that policymakers should be more cautious about the benefits of universal preschool and should employ the tools of science to examine policies so that quality can be built into the preschools that states and localities offer.

When New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, went to Albany earlier this week to talk about his program for universal preschool, the discussion reportedly focused on funding, not on whether or how preschool would actually help children. President Obama seemed equally confident when he introduced his plan for universal preschool last year, flatly stating, “We know this works.” But the state of research is actually much murkier. And unless policy makers begin to design preschool programs in ways that can be evaluated later, the situation won’t get any clearer.

You can read the entire editorial on-line. Observant readers might say the authors could have cited some other historical examples of effective preschools (e.g., Bereiter & Engelmann, 1966), but that doesn’t negate their general thrust that policy on preschools should be guided by science.


Bereiter, C., & Engelmann, S. (1966). Teaching disadvantaged children in the preschool. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

Free gift from Education Consumers Foundation!

partial image of cover of Clear Teaching

Isn’t it unusual to get something for free that is actually worth a lot? The good folks over at Education Consumers Foundation (ECF) are giving away a small book that is quite valuable, and I encourage readers to download it, read it, and tell their friends to get it, too.

What are they giving away? It’s a book called Clear Teaching: With Direct Instruction, Siegfried Engelmann Discovered a Better Way of Teaching by Shep Barbash. As one can tell from the subtitle, it’s about Zig Engelmann’s work on education. I talked with Mr. Barbash as he worked on the manuscript for the book, read an earlier version of it, and am very impressed with this finished product. It’s even more impressive that the book is now out in the wild for free. Kudos to Mr. Barbash, John Stone, and all the others at ECF who made this happen.

Clear Teaching – The Book
Written by veteran journalist Shepard Barbash over a period of 10 years, Clear Teaching is a well-researched, highly readable introduction to Direct Instruction (DI), a systematic teaching approach which for more than 40 years has dramatically improved learning outcomes for students of all abilities and from all walks of life. The book looks at the development of DI through the early experiences of its creator, Zig Engelmann; explains the principles that underpin this approach; and looks at DI’s reception in the world of teaching, where it has been effectively shunned despite a formidable research base and example after example of transformative success.

The image at the top of the post is hot, but readers can also click here to go to the ECF page where they can download the PDF.

It’s the teaching that matters

Does all the verbiage about the ills of education make you wonder about the reasoning skills of educational reformers? Well, it does make me have questions. I practice resisting the urge to walk away when people start attributing educational underachievement to problems we educators can’t change (poverty, for example) or to features of schooling that are like nibbling on one’s napkin rather than eating food (e.g., walls height in classrooms).

I also get a bit incensed when folks go after teachers as the bad people in the equation. I find it foolish to suggest that education simply needs to raise pay to attract more qualified people into classrooms; it is an admittedly biased sample, but there are lots of smart people going through U.Va.’s (and similar) teacher education programs. (Sadly, too many teacher education programs fill their students’ thinking with Pop-Ed bologna.) And even though I talk about dysteachia and dyspedagogia, those are references to practices, not to the people—and some of the worst cases of dyspedagogia probably can be observed in the professoriate at schools of education!

Anyway, I am glad to report that a couple of my colleagues argued a coherent case about the importance of curriculum in the effects of teaching in an editorial for the New York Daily News. In “The teacher quality conundrum: If they are the problem, why are kids gaining in math? Curriculum design is key to reform,” Dan Willingham and David Grissmer use evidence and reason to explain that it’s not the teachers per se, but the teaching that matters. I encourage people interested in sensible reform of education to read it.

Rigorous Evidence newsletter

The Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, which covers many different social programs in addition to education, announced the publication of an electronic newsletter that should be of interest to some readers. The current issue of RIGOROUS EVIDENCE Newsletter: Distinguishing Effective Evidence-Based Programs from Everything Else doesn’t have much that is precisely on point for education (though, check the entry about a teen pregnancy program), but one can bookmark the on-line site for the newsletter and check it regularly as a potential source for trustworthy content about effective educational methods.

Where reformers ought to be aiming

Over on Ed Excellence, Robert Pondiscio published an editorial entitled “The Fierce Urgency of Eventually” in which he argues that those reform efforts that ignore curricular and instructional issues present less-than-timely and -helpful alternatives at the very time when US education needs immediate, substantive change. Mr. Pondiscio presses his case for doing the hard work of specifying what students need to know. He wants reformers to talk about—get ready!—curriculum, teaching, and learning!
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