Substantially Improving Education
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There are three fundamental questions being addressed in this document:
- With their current level of resources, can our informal and formal educational systems be a lot better than they are currently? "Better" has many possible definitions, such as students getting a better education, employees in the system having a higher level of job satisfaction, students having a higher level of "schooling" satisfaction, parents being more satisfied with the system, and so on.
- If "yes," what can the various stakeholders—such as students, parents, teachers, educational administrators and school boards, business people, and governments—do to substantially improve informal and formal education?
- If "no," what level of resources is needed, and how should they be used, to substantially improve informal and formal education?
Have We Reached the Limits of Human Learning Capabilities?
We know that the answer to this questions is "no." The work of Benjamin Bloom showed the power of individual tutoring. With good individual and small group tutoring, an average "C" student in school can perform at the "A" level.
We also have a lot of evidence that "good" or "more effective" teachers make a significant difference. One way to measure good and/or more effective is by looking at average learning growth that occurs in the classes of teachers. Some teachers routinely, year after year, facilitate faster and better learning than other teachers.
A part of the good and effective situation can be traced back to the process of admitting people into preservice teacher education programs and the quality of preservice teacher education programs. In terms of quality of programs, there are various accreditation processes and standards. However, the overall teacher education system does not have in place a good process for comparing the quality of programs.
We know about other major factors, such as that exposure to poisons such as lead and mercury damage a person's brain, decreasing the ability to learn. Mal nourishment does the same thing. REcent research indicates that growing up in poverty can lead to brain changes that affect learning capabilities.
Thus, we know a number of ways to improve education. We have not reached the limits of human capability. The issue becomes one of what are the most cost effective ways to improve education?
Here is a useful reference that gives an example of how spending more money can be effective:
- Scully, John H (11/21/08). The Real Cost of Educating Low-Income Students. Education Week. Retrieved 10/25/08: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2008/10/22/09scully.h28.html?tmp=936083034.
Making Waves is spending $21,000 per student per year. Quoting from the article:
- Making Waves has served almost 1,000 students since 1989 in its after-school programs in San Francisco and Richmond and at its Richmond charter school. Virtually all our students (99 percent) have graduated from high school, and 94 percent have gone on to college. Fully 80 percent of students from our first cohort have attended four-year institutions, including Brown, Harvard, Stanford, Tufts, and the University of California system. Three-quarters of all students in our first cohort have graduated from four-year institutions. This stands in stark contrast to urban districts that graduate only about half their students.
- The program succeeds partly because of the demands it makes on students and their families. We expect students to attend daily after-school support sessions, work closely with their tutors and counselors, and make steady progress. The program implements a zero-tolerance policy for unexcused absences from school and insists that students receive additional support when they earn grades of C or below. Parents and guardians are required to attend meetings with teachers and student caseworkers, and to participate in workshops that equip them to take part in their children’s education.
Note that this extra $21,000 per student per year more than triples the total amount of money being spend on the education of these students. This puts the funding level roughly equivalent to what is spent in some special education programs for students with profound handicapping conditions. The level of success provides evidence that even poorly performing students in elementary school have the potential be quite successful academically.
Many people look at data from international studies of student performance and use such data to conclude that the United States is not doing as well is it could and should. The next two subsections provide examples of such studies.
Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006
Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006: Science Competencies for Tomorrow’s World presents the results from the most recent PISA survey, which focused on science and also assessed mathematics and reading. For videos that summarize some of the results, see:
- Introduction to the report released 12/4/2007. (3:02) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buEBJ7iCvRk&feature=related.
- Andreas Schleicher: Losing Our Edge - Part 1 (2:03) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77TCPeFdRz0&feature=related.
- Andreas Schleicher: Losing Our Edge - Part 2 (9:03) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffjKgCAGxio.
This study, along with many other studies, suggests that the educational system in the United States is not doing well as compared to those in other developed countries. One of the key ideas discussed in this report is that in authentic assessment one needs to ask challenging questions that are not readily answered by use of memorized information.
Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS)
Quoting from the 2007 TIMMS (http://timss.bc.edu/TIMSS2007/index.html): TIMSS is one of the world's most influential global assessments of student achievement in math and science. With more than 60 participants and 425,000 students assessed, TIMSS 2007 also is the largest study of student math and science achievement in the world. Each country sampled approximately 4,000 students in 150 schools.
Students from Asian countries were top performers in math and science at both the fourth and eighth grade levels, according to the most recent reports of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), released today by the study's directors Michael O. Martin and Ina V.S. Mullis of Boston College. In mathematics, at the fourth grade level, Hong Kong SAR and Singapore were the top performing countries, followed by Chinese Taipei and Japan. Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, England, Latvia, and the Netherlands also performed very well. In mathematics achievement at the eighth grade, Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Singapore were followed by Hong Kong SAR and Japan. There was a substantial gap in average mathematics achievement between the five Asian countries and the next group of four similarly performing countries, including Hungary, England, the Russian Federation, and the United States.
In science, students from Singapore and Chinese Taipei were top performers at both grade levels. In science achievement at the fourth grade, Singapore was the top performing country, followed by Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong SAR. Japan, the Russian Federation, Latvia, England, the United States, Hungary, Italy, and Kazakhstan also performed very well. At the eighth grade in science, Singapore and Chinese Taipei again had the highest average achievement, followed by Japan and Korea. England, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hong Kong SAR, and the Russian Federation also performed well.
Good and Not So Good Education
The quality of teachers is a key issue in the quality of education that students are obtaining. Teacher education program quality, hiring processing, and retention processes are all important aspects of attempts to improve teacher quality.
- Gladwell, Malcolm (12/15/08). Most Likely to Succeed. How do we hire when we can’t tell who’s right for the job? The New Yorker. Retrieved 12/15/08:http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/12/15/081215fa_fact_gladwell?cur.
This article explores the analogy between the professional football leagues deciding what college football players to hire versus the preparation and hiring of teachers. Quoting from the article:
- One of the most important tools in contemporary educational research is “value added” analysis. It uses standardized test scores to look at how much the academic performance of students in a given teacher’s classroom changes between the beginning and the end of the school year. Suppose that Mrs. Brown and Mr. Smith both teach a classroom of third graders who score at the fiftieth percentile on math and reading tests on the first day of school, in September. When the students are retested, in June, Mrs. Brown’s class scores at the seventieth percentile, while Mr. Smith’s students have fallen to the fortieth percentile. That change in the students’ rankings, value-added theory says, is a meaningful indicator of how much more effective Mrs. Brown is as a teacher than Mr. Smith.
- Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, estimates that the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half’s worth of material. That difference amounts to a year’s worth of learning in a single year. Teacher effects dwarf school effects: your child is actually better off in a “bad” school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher. Teacher effects are also much stronger than class-size effects. You’d have to cut the average class almost in half to get the same boost that you’d get if you switched from an average teacher to a teacher in the eighty-fifth percentile. And remember that a good teacher costs as much as an average one, whereas halving class size would require that you build twice as many classrooms and hire twice as many teachers.
Listen to an interview of Eric Hanushek available athttp://www.econtalk.org/archives/2007/08/hanushek_on_edu_1.html. This hour-length presentation gives an overview of Hanushek's insights into education in the US and the rest of the world.
Karmon, Amnon (2007). "Institutional Organization of Knowledge": The Missing Link in Educational Discourse. Teachers College Record. Retrieved 3/17/09: http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=12826. Quoting from the Abstract:
- For over a hundred years, there have been efforts to change the way that schools transmit knowledge. Most of these efforts have failed. The most common explanations found in educational research for this are either: 1) macro-social, according to which social interests and powers hinder these changes. 2) teacher-oriented, according to which the teachers themselves either resist those changes or/and lack the training and qualifications necessary to carry them out. Although these explanations have a lot of truth to them, they ignore a crucial point, a “missing link” between teaching and subject matter, and society. Every educational institution has a special structure for organizing knowledge. This structure is independent in many respects from macro-social factors, as well as from teacher behavior, and it has important effects on the ways educational institutions deal with knowledge. Educational research has not yet provided a detailed and focused examination of “the institutional organization of knowledge” in education.
- The lack of a focused conceptual discussion and empirical research guided by theory regarding the institutional level of education prevents us from properly understanding the educational system and, no less important, from successfully changing it. The article outlines two main models of organization of knowledge for educational purposes that have taken over the field of education in the modern world. One is the model of inculcating existing knowledge and the other focuses on producing new knowledge. Both of these models have been found to be inappropriate for general education. Therefore, one of the most important challenges facing the world of education today is to create a new model of the institutional organization of knowledge for the benefit of general education. [Bold added for emphasis.]
Quoting from the article:
- The very question of what exists in an educational institution even before the teacher and the curriculum have encountered the student may appear strange to many readers. Indeed, they might claim that the only thing that exists at this stage is the building’s bare walls. Moreover, they may argue, the building only becomes an educational institution after the teachers and the curriculum begin to function. I posit that almost the opposite is true: Most of the important educational decisions related to learned knowledge are made before the teacher walks into the classroom, and these decisions are manifested at the institutional level. In most cases these are not conscious, overt decisions made as a result of discussions of the issue, but rather are everyday, routine patterns with which we are all familiar and which have undergone a process of institutionalization. In this article, I will propose a theoretical framework for understanding the concept of “the institutional organization of knowledge” and will describe the two central models wherein this concept is conveyed in today’s educational arena. I will then examine an issue that interests many educational philosophers and sociologists and that comprises a primary layer of the concept of “the institution” which I utilize here: the epistemic issue. This issue focuses on the question of how pupils’ typical conceptions of what constitutes knowledge, which are often rather problematic, are created. The article will conclude with some implications of the analysis for the problem of school change. Most notably, if we want to truly change the way in which schools deal with knowledge, we must create a new model of the institutional organization of knowledge for the benefit of general education.
Research Studies Often Ignored
Viadero, Debr (Sep-tember 2009). Policymakers Find Little Value in Studies. Education Week. Volume 29, Issue 5, p. 4. See http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/09/30/05report-b1.h29.html?r=120192174. Quoting the aericke:
- Even though the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires the use of scientific evidence in making a wide range of school-related decisions, a study  suggests that policymakers don't put much stock in that research.
- The study, commissioned by the William T. Grant Foundation of New York City, is based on six conversations that took place between the fall of 2008 and spring 2009 in focus groups made up of education leaders at the local, state, and federal levels. Participants included, for example, congressional staff members, state and local superintendents, state legislators, and school board members.
- Asked to name factors that influence changes in education policy and practice, education leaders did not mention any "breakthrough research," nor did they cite any findings they felt had had a dramatic effect on policy or practice. When they did talk about research, the report goes on to say, participants expressed skepticism about findings or noted the limitations of studies.
- Focus-group members also said information gleaned from academic research could be more useful if it were packaged in easy-to-read briefs, discussed the sustainability of the interventions being tested, and took into account local political and educational contexts. The study also points up the role that intermediaries from professional groups, research organizations, or coalitions can play in sorting out research findings for education leaders.
- The study was produced by Education Northwest, a Portland, Ore., research group that was formerly known as the Northwest Regional Education Laboratory.
Comment by David Moursund 10/13/09. I don't find information given above to be surprising or discouraging. Our educational system is exceedingly complex. There is a huge and steadily growing collection of research. There are many different stakeholder groups. Laws, regulations, and traditions governing education are a tangled and very complex web.
What can one possibly expect from a varied group of people—a focus group—spending a few hours talking about improving our educational system?
Back when I was regularly teaching groups of preservice elementary school teachers who were their fifth year of a 5-year program, I often began a course by asking students to name any educational research that they had learned from their program of study that has made any significant difference in education. I received very few answers.
However, let's look at the educational improvement situation from a different point of view. It did not take complex research to identify the fact that many students with handicapping conditions were not getting an appropriate education. Through the work of a number of dedicated individuals and groups, PL 94-142 became a federal law. This legislation made a huge difference in the education of students with a variety of disabilities.
Or, think about science and math education for female precollege students. The simplest research showed that females were under represented in the more advanced high school science and math courses. This situation has changed, and this change represents a major improvement in our education system.
For a somewhat better balanced example, consider children growing up in poor home environments. This is often summarized by talking about children growing up in poverty, but the situation is much more complex than that. Over the years, there has been quite a bit of research about the educational, health, social, and other effects such home environments have on many children. The problem is, how do we go about addressing this huge educational (social, etc.) problem? A variety of approaches have been tried, and research has been done on the long term effectiveness of various approaches.
Case Study Evidence
There are many examples where individual schools are doing quite well. Here is an example:
Cohen, Sharon (6/28/2010). 100 percent of school's first class college-bound. Retrieved 6/29/2010 from http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h2akJiU2hhYUyy4Y1-EaT_VyK7CgD9GK1STO2. Quoting from a newspaper article about a Chicago charter school:
- Urban Prep would be a charter high school. It would bring together some 150 boys from some of the poorest, gang-ravaged neighborhoods and try to set them on a new track. They'd have strict rules: A longer school day — by two hours. Two classes of English daily. A uniform with jackets and ties.
- And Urban Prep had a goal — one that seemed audacious, given that just 4 percent of the Class of 2010 was reading at or above grade level when they arrived at the school in 2006. …
- In May, the Class of 2010 united for a "signing day" modeled after events held for high school athletes when they choose a college. At a steakhouse, the seniors stood one by one and announced their school, then donned a cap bearing its name.
- There also were T-shirts on a table adorned with a jaunty crown and the words: "100 Percent."
Some Approaches That Are Not Very Successful
The purpose of this section is to identify some of the research on common approaches used in an attempt to improve the education of students—and that are not necessarily successful.
Gordon, Robert et al. (April 2006). Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job. The Brookings Institution. Forty-page report retrieved 8/25/09: http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2006/04education_gordon.aspx. Quoting the abstriact:
- Traditionally, policymakers have attempted to improve the quality of the teaching force by raising minimum credentials for entering teachers. Recent research, however, suggests that such paper qualifications have little predictive power in identifying effective teachers. We propose federal support to help states measure the effectiveness of individual teachers—based on their impact on student achievement, subjective evaluations by principals and peers, and parental evaluations. States would be given considerable discretion to develop their own measures, as long as student achievement impacts (using so-called "value-added" measures) are a key component. The federal government would pay for bonuses to highly rated teachers willing to teach in high-poverty schools. In return for federal support, schools would not be able to offer tenure to new teachers who receive poor evaluations during their first two years on the job without obtaining district approval and informing parents in the schools. States would open further the door to teaching for those who lack traditional certification but can demonstrate success on the job. This approach would facilitate entry into teaching by those pursuing other careers. The new measures of teacher performance would also provide key data for teachers and schools to use in their efforts to improve their performance.
Roza, Marguerite and Miller, Raegen (July 2009). Separation of Degrees: State-By-State Analysis of Teacher Compensation for Master’s Degrees. Center on Reinventing Public Education. retrieved 8/24/09: http://www.crpe.org/cs/crpe/view/csr_pubs/289. Quoting from the report:
- Looking forward, many school systems will need both to reign in automatic cost escalators, and to finance reform by repurposing current expenditures. Under these criteria, compensation schemes are ripe for redesign: Teacher salaries increase each year with longevity and graduate credits, making them destined to escalate, and yet they have little link to student achievement.
- Decoupling salary from experience is a tall order, but forward progress on school reform requires school districts to revamp their spending habits somehow. One habit related to experienced-based salary is the practice of paying a teacher with a master’s degree more than an otherwise identical teacher with only a bachelor’s degree. The long-cherished “master’s bump” makes little sense from a strategic point of view.
- On average, master’s degrees in education bear no relation to student achievement.
- Master’s degrees in math and science have been linked to improved student achievement in those subjects, but 90 percent of teachers’ master’s degrees are in education programs—a notoriously unfocused and process‐dominated course of study.
- Because of the financial rewards associated with getting this degree, the education master’s experienced the highest growth rate of all master’s degrees between 1997 and 2007.
Analogy With Athletic Performance
Consider an analogy with track and field performance.
We are used to the idea of highly trained athletes setting new local, regional, state, national, and world records. It is big sports news when the world record in the hundred meter dash is broken by a few hundredths of a second. This is an improvement of less than .1%.
However, here is a different way to view this same situation. Suppose that we timed how fast average people (not well trained athletes) at various age levels can run the hundred meter dash. This would give us baseline data for the performance of average people.
We could then think about education and training that would lead to an increase in performance for people in various groups, such as all precollege students. We know that with a modest amount of training, we could improve average performance by a significant amount, such as a 5% to 10% (or more) decrease in time to run a hundred meters.
Now, back to education. We could take some small piece of education, measure students' current average performance level, provide better education in this area, and measure possible improvements. For example, consider speed and comprehension in reading. Can an average student learn to read 5% to 10% (or more) faster without any decrease in comprehension? Better still, can both speed and comprehension be improved?
But wait! It is relatively easy to measure speed of reading. But, how does one measure comprehension? Aha! The analogy with track and field performance is not too good. However, it does point to the need for good measures of performance.
Let's continue the athletics analogy. There are a number of tests that one can use to determine the physical fitness of a person. These tests can be applied to large numbers of people in order to produce baseline data for various groups. We can implement wide scale programs (including food, shelter, medical and dental care) that contribute to improved physical fitness. We can integrate more physical education activity into our schools.
So, how well does this analogy work with mental eduction? Here is an obvious example. On average, children who are malnourished and living in extreme poverty suffer a decrease in IQ. Children who are exposed to lead, mercury, and other toxics suffer a decrease in IQ. Children who have poor or no medical and dental care may suffer decrease in cognitive ability related to various health, disease, and injury issues.
Schoenfeld's Thoughts on Educational Research and Educational Design
Alan Schoenfeld is a highly respected Professor of Education at the University of California, Berkley. Here is a reference for a 2009 article published in the Educational Designer.
Schoenfeld, Alan H. (May 2009). Bridging the Cultures of Educational Research and Design. Retrieved 6/6/09: http://www.educationaldesigner.org/ed/volume1/issue2/article5/.
Here is the abstract and part of the introduction to the article:
- Abstract: There is some but relatively little overlap between the cultures of educational research and educational design, a state of affairs that is to the detriment of both fields. In this article I address some of the reasons this is the case, and then make a plausibility argument for a more substantial rapprochement between the two fields. I do so first by analogy, suggesting that research on the “professional vision” of designers would be of profit to practitioners in both fields. I then provide a preliminary example of what such work might reveal, and propose the systematic pursuit of such ideas.
- Introduction and overview
- This article addresses four main questions:
- Can Educational Research and Educational Design live in happy synergy?
- Why haven’t they, for the most part?
- What reason is there for the two fields to collaborate?
- What mechanisms might result in increased collaboration, to the benefit of both fields?
- These questions are premised on the fact that the research and development communities in education are largely separate enterprises, worldwide. In addition, there is a significant asymmetry: Educational researchers number in the tens of thousands and organizations such as the American Educational Research Association (AERA, http://www.aera.net/) and the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI, http://www.earli.org/) have large memberships and established traditions, whereas professional educational designers number in the hundreds and the International Society for Design and Development in Education (ISDDE, http://www.isdde.org/), the only society of its kind in education, is in its institutional infancy.
Fullan and Levin: A Case Study from Canada
Fullan, Michael and Levin, Ben (6/12/2009). The Fundamentals of Whole-System Reform: A Case Study From Canada. Education Week. Retrieved 6/22/09:http://mathforum.org/kb/thread.jspa?threadID=1959342&tstart=0
Quoting from the article:
- Charter schools, Teach For America, and the Knowledge Is Power Program may have their merits, but they are not whole-system reform . The latter is about improving every classroom, every school, and every district in the state, province, or country, not just some schools. The moral and political purpose of whole-system reform is ensuring that everyone will be affected for the better, starting on day one of implementing the strategy. The entire system should show positive, measurable results within two or three years.
- We have done this in Ontario, Canada, where we have had the opportunity since 2003 to implement new policies and practices across the system—all 4,000 elementary schools, 900 secondary schools, and the 72 districts that serve 2 million students. Following five years of stagnation and low morale, from 1998 to 2003, the impact of the new strategies has been dramatic: Higher-order literacy and numeracy have increased by 10 percentage points across the system; the high school graduation rate has risen 9 percentage points, from 68 percent to 77 percent; the morale of teachers and principals has improved; and the public’s confidence in the system is up.
Ways to Improve Education with Current Resources
This is a work in progress. This section and the next section of this document are merely stubs for two large, open ended topics. Readers are invited to contribute their ideas relevant to the sections, and to edit the ideas of others. Keep in mind that various stakeholders have differing opinions of appropriate goals for informal and formal education, and they have differing opinions on how to achieve these goals. Please be respectful of diversity in opinions and thinking. Each person reading this document likely has their own opinions on this question. However, rather than just sharing opinions, let's try to share solid evidence to back up the opinions.
Improvement can be at the level of an individual student, a group of students such as a cohort or a class, a grade level, a school, a college, a school district, a state, a nation, or the world.
Focus on what individual members of the various stakeholder groups, as well as the collective membership of a stakeholder group, can be doing.
For example, Seymour Sarason is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Yale University. He is the author of over forty books and is considered to be one of the world's most significant researchers in education and educational psychology. He believes that education can be substantially improved by giving more power to students and their teachers.
Some ideas on this approach are presented on the IAE-pedia article Empowering Learners and Teachers.
Ways to Improve Education with Significant New Resources
This is a work in progress. This section remains to be written. The Head Start program has been designed to improve the early childhood education of children growing up in poverty. There has been substantial very long term research on the effectiveness (or, lack there of) of this program. Thus, a careful analysis of this research, separating out what works well from what doesn't, would be appropriate content for this section. Current levels of federal funding for this program are insufficient to meet the needs of eligible candidates for participation. Thus, one can argue that improvements in how the funds are used and improvements in funding levels would substantially improve education in the United States.
- Seib, Gerald F. (3/17/09). In Education, a Chance for Change. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 3/17/09: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123723145666945761.html?mod=dist_smartbrief. Here are some quotes from this article:
- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner may be the Obama cabinet member facing the biggest crisis -- the economic one -- but Education Secretary Arne Duncan may be the one holding the biggest opportunity.
- It is this: He inherits the best chance in a generation to really shake up an American education system that is uneven and underperforming. And he knows it.
- "I see this as an extraordinary opportunity," Mr. Duncan said in an interview. "We have a couple of things going in our direction that create what I call the perfect storm for reform."
- That's where the emerging experiment gets intriguing. President Barack Obama gave a speech last week laying out his administration's plans, and it was sweeping and ambitious. He called for merit pay for good teachers, and he urged states and cities to lift the caps many have placed on the number of charter schools they would allow. He explicitly endorsed a tough standardized-testing system used in Massachusetts that is popular with conservatives, and he called for setting up statewide data banks that track how students are doing and, by extension, how well their teachers are performing. [Bold added for emphasis.]
The basic idea in competency-based education is to group students by competency rather than by age or time spent on a particular subject area. For some research on this topic, see http://nces.ed.gov/PUBSEARCH/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2002159.
The State of Iowa is proposing a large scale implementation of competency-based education in its Race To The Top proposal. See
- Dejka, Joe (2/22/2010). Iowa looks at a way to revolutionize schools. Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved 2/22/2010 from http://www.omaha.com/article/20100222/NEWS01/702229916. Quoting from the article:
- If Iowa is awarded a grant from the Race to the Top Fund, the 221 school districts signed onto the state’s application would launch pilot programs in what’s called “competency-based” education, a concept that turns the traditional age- and hour-based classroom on its head.
- “That would definitely be a change in education,” said Dan Crozier, interim superintendent of the Atlantic Community School District, which enrolls 1,400 kids, “because we’re so used to saying it takes 180 days to do fifth grade, or 180 days to do 11th grade.”
- Although not a new concept in the education world, competency-based education has been difficult to employ on a large scale because of the huge organizational task involved, the demand for teachers to closely track individual students and a lack of reliable and timely instruments to measure student ability, according to Judy Jeffrey, director of the Iowa Department of Education.
- But advancing technology has brought it within reach, Jeffrey said.
Roles of Principals
Good, Thomas L. (2008). In the Midst of Comprehensive School Reform: Principals’ Perspectives. Teachers College Record. Retrieved 7/27/2010 from http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=15277. Quoting from the article:
- Conclusions: Principals described some of the issues they faced in trying to improve student achievement. These issues included high numbers of students (and parents) with limited English skills, high turnover rates of teachers and students, difficulty of involving parents in schooling, inadequate and inflexible budgets, and the various constraints imposed by the pervasive conditions of poverty that surrounded these schools and their students. Yet, despite these obstacles, principals exhibited matter-of-fact and, in most cases, positive postures toward school improvement. Principals did not see their problems—especially those of students’ learning—to be intractable, but they did urge policy makers to have patience and a fuller awareness of the difficulties they face.
- The role of the principal, especially the role of the principal in promoting school reform to increase student achievement, is a topic with a long and evolving history. Principals are believed to play a critical role in school reform because they have the potential to impact all aspects of school policy, from time allocated to recess to decisions about curriculum and instruction, teacher hiring and evaluation, assignment of students to teachers, and after-school programs. Of course, principals may delegate their authority in some or many of these areas, and principals’ delegation judgments—which teachers are given power and how much—are critical. There is a growing and complex literature about the role of principal and teacher leadership in school reform and improvement (Dworkin, 1997; Ebmeier & Crawford, in press; Randi & Corno, 1997; Smylie, 1997; Spillane & Diamond, 2007; Wexler, 1997). Still, the degree to which the principal’s leadership and management can improve academic achievement is actively debated. However, most of this debate occurs on logical grounds because the empirical evidence linking principal leadership to student achievement is sparse (Ebmeier & Crawford). Some, for example, believe that principals have the ability to improve student achievement substantially (through their coordination of resources, in-service opportunities for teachers, and so forth), with the concomitant belief that principals should be fired if they fail to increase student achievement. Others point to inadequate buildings, poor resources, and rapidly changing teacher and student populations, and they conclude that the power of the principal is sharply mediated by conditions of schooling.
Recommendation from Bill Gates
ESchool News (7/23/09). Gates: U.S. ed has no choice but to improve. Retrieved 7/23/09: technology http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/index.cfm?i=59841.
Quoting from the article:
- Microsoft co-founder said education is the field that has changed the least with technology.
- The U.S. must improve its educational standing in the world by rewarding effective teaching and by developing better, universal measures of performance for students and teachers, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said on July 21.
- Speaking at the National Conference of State Legislatures' annual legislative summit, Gates told hundreds of lawmakers how federal stimulus money should be used to spark educational innovation, spread best practices, and improve accountability.
- Gates, 51, talked of the importance of improving the quality, quantity, and searchability of online lectures, which he noted his own children have used.
- Community colleges and other financially strapped schools might find online lectures to be the most cost-effective way to teach introductory courses such as Physics 101, Gates said. The savings could then be spent on student-oriented discussions and lab sessions.
- "The world of education is the sector of the economy so far the least changed by technology," Gates said. "Ten years from now, that won't be the case, and these online lectures are the cutting edge of that."
Notice the "low tech" nature of this recommendation. The recommendation is to make increased use of the type of distance education materials that have been available for a long time.
Recommendations from Brown Center on Education
Brookings (10/31/09). Don't forget curriculum. Retrieved 10/31/09 from http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2009/1014_curriculum_whitehurst.aspx. Quoting from the Website:
- There is a broad consensus across the political spectrum on the need for K-12 education reform. President Obama has committed himself to “reform America’s public schools.” Likewise, George W. Bush began his administration by calling for “real reform” in education.
- There is also surprising agreement on the means of reform. With the Obama administration focusing on early childhood programs, common standards, charter schools, and more effective teachers, no one scoffed when Bush Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said of Obama, “He is saying a lot of things that sound all too familiar to me. I want to sing right along.”
- However, the two administrations diverge with respect to the place of curriculum in education reform. By curriculum I mean the content and sequence of the experiences that are intended to be delivered to students in formal course work. Curriculum includes teaching materials such as those that can be found in commercial textbooks and software applications. It also includes the pedagogy for delivering those materials when teachers receive guidance on how to teach the curriculum, or when software manages the pacing, prompts, and feedback that students receive as they engage with the materials. Of course, the same curriculum can often be delivered with different instructional strategies.
The report then goes on to analyze the "effect size" (a quite useful statistical measure) of various reform movements, such as charter schools, improving teacher preparation, merit pay, early childhood programs, setting higher standards, and so on. There are quite a large number of different approaches that have been used to try to improve our educational system.
For example, quoting from the document:
- The absence of a correlation between ratings of the quality of standards and student achievement and between the difficulty of state standards and student achievement raises the possibility that better and more rigorous content standards do not lead to higher achievement – perhaps standards are such a leaky bucket with respect to classroom instruction that any potential relationship dissipates before it can be manifest. Alternatively, the Fordham and AFT ratings may not have captured the qualities of state content standards that drive achievement. Or NAEP may be too blunt an instrument to detect the influence of the quality and rigor of standards.
- The lack of evidence that better content standards enhance student achievement is remarkable given the level of investment in this policy and high hopes attached to it. There is a rational argument to be made for good content standards being a precondition for other desirable reforms, but it is currently just that – an argument.
Next the document provides data on various studies of curriculum. Here is a summary of one such study:
- A recent comparative effectiveness trial of four elementary school math curricula carried out by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) within the Department of Education demonstrates the power of curriculum as a policy lever for education reform. Just seven math curricula constitute 91 percent of the curricula used by K-2 educators. Should these curricula differ substantially in effectiveness, the implications for policy and practice would be significant.
- The IES study involved randomly assigned schools in each of four participating school districts to four curricula. The relative effects of the curricula were calculated by comparing math achievement of students in the four curriculum groups. The curricula were selected from among those that dominate the market, with the goal of having as much diversity in curriculum approach as possible.
- Students were pretested in the fall and post-tested in the spring of first grade on a standardized assessment of mathematics. Two of the curricula were clear winners. The spring math achievement scores of Math Expressions and Saxon Math students were 0.30 standard deviations higher than for students experiencing Investigations in Number, Data, and Space, and 0.24 standard deviations higher than for students experiencing Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics. This means that a student’s percentile rank would be 9 to 12 points higher at the end of a school year if the school used Math Expressions or Saxon, instead of the less effective curricula.
Other curriculum-based studies are also reported. The document concludes that improving the curriculum appears to be a better way of improving our educational system than many other approaches.
Recommendations from Mike Posner
The following is quoted from a report about a Decade of the Mind symposium that was held in Berlin. The report was published in the New Scientist in September 16, 2009. See http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20327265.800-brain-science-to-help-teachers-get-into-kids-heads.html. Mike Posner is a brain scientist who has focused a lot of his attention on the topic of attention.
- Improving a child's ability to focus on the task at hand can be achieved with relatively small changes.
- The development of executive function begins long before the school years and continues into adolescence. Michael Posner of the University of Oregon in Eugene told the meeting that evidence of executive function shows up in children as young as 7 months old. "If I were to change one thing about education it would be to have it start in infancy, and use parents as intelligent tools to work with their kids," he says.
- Education before school can have benefits further down the track, Posner says. The neurotransmitter dopamine has been shown to play an important role in the function of the anterior cingulate gyrus, and genetic variations in the dopamine system seem to interact with parenting quality to affect executive function. Posner found that children between 18 and 21 months old with a particularly active variant of the COMT gene, which leads to less dopamine transmission, showed improved attention compared with those carrying other variants. The children also responded especially well to high-quality parenting (Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.05.059).
Research Dispels Common Ed-tech Myths
eSchools News (6/29/2010). Retrieved 6/29 2010 from http://www.eschoolnews.com/2010/06/29/research-dispels-common-ed-tech-myths/.
- Contrary to popular opinion, newer teachers aren’t any more likely to use technology in their lessons than veteran teachers, and a lack of access to technology does not appear to be the main reason why teachers do not use it: These are among the common perceptions about education technology that new research from Walden University’s Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership appears to dispel.
- Prepared by Grunwald Associates based on a 2009 survey of more than 1,000 teachers and administrators conducted by Eduventures Inc., the study argues that the more K-12 teachers use technology, the more they recognize its potential to help boost student learning and engagement and its connection to developing key 21st century skills.
- There is still considerable disparity in the amount of time that teachers spend using technology as an instructional tool, the study says. Twenty-two percent of teachers reported frequent technology use (31 percent or more of their class time using technology to support learning), 17 percent said they were moderate users (21 to 30 percent of their class time using technology), 26 percent were sporadic users (11 to 20 percent of their class time using technology), and 34 percent were infrequent users (10 percent or less of their time).
Harvard Graduate School of Education. Complete video and audio collection. http://www.uknow.gse.harvard.edu/spotlight/index.html.
This collection covers a wide range of topics. For example:
- Elmore, Richard. The (only) three ways to improve performance in schools.
- Thompson, Jenny. Struggling to read: The rhymes and sounds of dyslexia.
- Fischer, Kurt. Skills and the brain grow together.
- Gardner, Howard. Five minds of the future.
Zhao, Yong. A 21st Century Education. Retrieved 7/28 09: http://www.mobilelearninginstitute.org/21stcenturyeducation/films/film-yong-zhao.htm.
- Yong Zhao is the University Distinguished Professor of Education at Michigan State University, where he also serves as the founding director of the Center for Teaching and Technology as well as the US-China Center for Research on Educational Excellence. He is a fellow of the International Academy for Education and currently serves on the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council's Committee to Review the Title VI and Fulbright-Hays International Education Programs.
- Zhao received his Ph.D. in Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1996. His research interests include diffusion of innovation, teacher adoption of technology, computer assisted language learning, globalization and education, and international and comparative education. Zhao has published extensively in these areas. He has been invited to lecture on issues related to education reform, globalization, and technology in more than 10 countries. He received the 2003 Raymond B. Catell Early Career Award from the American Educational Research Association.
- Zhao asks whether it's sensible for American students to emulate their Asian (particularly Chinese) counterparts by adopting rigorous science and math curricula and an extended school day in order to stay "competitive" globally. While Zhao recognizes that there are fundamental problems with American public education, he praises the culture of education in this country, a culture that prizes ingenuity, entrepreneurship and individuality and celebrates personal expression for its own sake. He criticizes No Child Left Behind, asserting that standardized testing in a limited number of subjects as a way to measure performance is inadequate to meet the real challenges of the 21st century.
Baigorri, Manuel (7/8/08). Wave of the future: Navy stokes students' interest in math, engineering study. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 7/10/09: http://www.marketwatch.com/News/Story/Story.aspx?guid=83335c581d66407cb3a60d5bc286f778&siteid=nwtpf&sguid=DbwxsyMvBEWXLqX7F-4--Q.
Best Evidence Encyclopedia (n.d.). Empowering educators with evidence on proven programs. Johns Hopkins University School of Education. Retrieved 10/26/09 from http://www.bestevidence.org/?ad=12.
Bloom, B.S. (1984). The 2 Sigma problem: The search for methods of group instruction as effective as one-to-one tutoring. Educational Researcher. v13, n6, pp4-16.
Ksrdos, Susan and Moore, Susan (2007). On Their Own and Presumed Expert: New Teachers’ Experience with Their Colleagues. Teachers College Record. Retrieved 8/5/09: http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=12812
Quoting from the Introduction:
- High rates of attrition among new teachers impose steep costs on schools and their students. These include the expense of turnover, estimated by one national research, policy, and advocacy organization to be about $12,546 per teacher1 (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2004), and the organizational costs imposed by the steady loss of teachers’ knowledge and expertise (Ingersoll, 2001a). Given that approximately 30 percent of new teachers leave the classroom within three years, and 40 to 50 percent leave within five years (Huling-Austin, 1990; Ingersoll, 2002; Ingersoll & Smith, 2003; Murnane, Singer, Willett, Kemple, & Olsen, 1991), these costs are cause for serious concern.
Quoting from the Conclusions and Recommendations:
- The data revealed that many novice teachers report that their work is solitary, that they are expected to be prematurely expert and independent, and that their fellow teachers do not share a sense of collective responsibility for their school. In integrated professional cultures, new teachers interact with experienced colleagues in an ongoing way. However, the authors found that approximately one-half (in CA and MI) to two-thirds (in FL and MA) of new teachers generally plan and teach alone. In integrated professional cultures, new teachers are recognized as novices and offered extra assistance; however, the authors found that less than one-third (MI) to less than one-half (CA) reported that extra assistance was available to them. Finally, in integrated professional cultures, teachers share a sense of collective responsibility for the school. However, less than half of the new teachers in the four states reported that teachers share responsibility for the students in their school. Taken together, these findings reveal that many new teachers work without the support of integrated professional cultures. Given these findings, the authors discuss in detail what policymakers and school leaders can do to address the critical challenge of supporting new teachers.
eSchool News (6/5/09). Lenovo to research tech's effect on learning. Retrieved 6/6/09: http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/index.cfm?i=59076.Quoting from the article:
- A new research initiative called the Global Education Research program will analyze and measure the impact of technology on students' educational experiences in various areas, ranging from first grade through higher education, both inside and outside the classroom.
- The program is an initiative of computer maker Lenovo and was announced during Lenovo's recent 12th annual Think Tank education conference, hosted this year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- Although educational institutions have embraced using technology such as laptops, multimedia materials, and interactive whiteboards over the past decade to help students develop 21st-century skills, streamline operations, and connect administrators, a more complete view of the role and impact of technology in all aspects of the learning environment is needed, the company says.
- "We saw that there really have been no truly K-20 studies done on the efficacy of technology in all aspects of global education," said Michael Schmedlen, director of worldwide education at Lenovo.
Gladwell, Malcolm (12/15/08). Most Likely to Succeed. How do we hire when we can’t tell who’s right for the job? The New Yorker. Retrieved 12/15/08: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/12/15/081215fa_fact_gladwell?cur.
This article explores the analogy between the professional football leagues deciding what college football players to hire versus the preparation and hiring of teachers. Mellon, Erika (12/7/07). Gates funding gives boost to HISD program. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 12/9/07: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/metro/5359262.html. Quoting from the newspaper article:
- The Houston school district's push to grade teachers on their students' progress got a $4.5 million boost Thursday from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- The grant, the second multimillion-dollar award the district has received for this effort in recent months, will help fuel what school and foundation leaders call a major reform plan to improve teaching and ensure that all students are prepared for college.
- "This project is about helping teachers help kids perform at their highest rates," said Steven Seleznow, an education director for the Seattle-based foundation started by the Microsoft Corp. chairman and his wife.
Comment by David Moursund: Teacher evaluation is an ordinary part of the functioning of our educational systems. However, it remains controversial (especially at the precollege level) to base pay increases of bonuses on such evaluations. (In higher education, many colleges and universities select outstanding teachers and give them appropriate awards and rewards.)
At the precollege education level, there is an increasing amount of data being collected on student performance. In terms of incremental improvement over a period of time, it is clear that teachers make a difference. The Houston project is attempting to develop instrumentation that is fair, valid, and reliable in measuring the contribution that teachers make to her the academic learning of their students.
McCaslin, Mary and Thomas L. Good (2008). A study of comprehensive school reform programs in Arizona. Retrieved 7/25/2010 from http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=15276. Quoting the first paragraph of the article:
- Increasingly, more American youth live in poverty and attend schools with few resources relative to schools that serve affluent students. The federal government has addressed this inequality through Title I initiatives that offer new resources to education. Title I programs have made tremendous investments to support the learning of students living in poverty who attend underresourced schools. Research findings on the impact of Title I on student achievement are mixed but appear modest at best (Slavin, 1999). Disappointment with these results has fueled a change in Title I strategy leading to the creation of the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration (CSRD) Program, subsequently referred to as CSR. CSR is whole-school or schoolwide reform designed to enhance student achievement and sustain it over time. Later in this article, we elaborate this definition of CSR and describe research extant on CSR at the start of our research project.
Moursund, D.G. (9/14/2008). Examples of five-minute workshops on improving math education.
Roediger, Henry and Bridgid Finn (10/20/09). Getting it wrong: Surprising tips on how to learn. Scientific American. Retrieved 10/22/09: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=getting-it-wrong. Quoting form the article:
- People remember things better, longer, if they are given very challenging tests on the material, tests at which they are bound to fail. In a series of experiments, they showed that if students make an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve information before receiving an answer, they remember the information better than in a control condition in which they simply study the information. Trying and failing to retrieve the answer is actually helpful to learning. It’s an idea that has obvious applications for education, but could be useful for anyone who is trying to learn new material of any kind.
Rubin, Hank (9/26/08). The Archer's Dilemma, or, Why the question "What will preK-12 students need to know and be able to do in 2028?" is timely and important right now! Teachers College Record. Retrieved 11/14/08: http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=15389. Quoting from the article:
- The people who will be responsible for preK-12 students’ learning in 2018 and 2028 are sitting in our preservice education classrooms right now; being prepared for today’s licensure requirements by professors who were educated in the 20th century. Might this be a problem?
- In early December, 2007, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA, a program of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD]) released its triennial study comparing the academic preparation of 15-year olds in all developed and developing nations. It’s now well known that the statistical comparisons were not positive for U.S. students. There are, of course, all sorts of ways to interpret these data; and all sorts of things we know we should do in response to the stories they tell.
The article quotes the study's lead author, Andreas Schleicher. At a National Press Club debut of the study, she said: “If it’s easy to test, it’s easy to digitize…”
Quoting from the article:
- The deeper meaning of his [Andreas Schleicher'] observation: if you can ask a person a question for which we know there is a limited number of appropriate responses, then we can teach a computer to run through those same responses and select what evidence tells us is the most correct response. In other words, if you can test it then you can delegate the task, knowledge or skill to a computer!
See also: Battelle for Kids. This is a non-profit company studying issues of "Value Added" in educational setting.
See also Dr. William L. Sanders. He is Director of the Value-Added Research and Assessment Center at the University of Tennessee.
Wagner, Tony (October 2008). Rigor Redefined. Educational Leadership. Retrieved 10/27/08: http://www.ascd.org/portal/site/ascd/template.MAXIMIZE/menuitem.459dee008f99653fb85516f762108a0c/?javax.portlet.tpst=d5b9c0fa1a493266805516f762108a0c_ws_MX&javax.portlet.prp_d5b9c0fa1a493266805516f762108a0c_journaltypeheaderimage=%2FASCD%2Fimages%2Fmultifiles%2Fpublications%2Felmast.gif&javax.portlet.prp_d5b9c0fa1a493266805516f762108a0c_viewID=article_view&javax.portlet.prp_d5b9c0fa1a493266805516f762108a0c_journalmoid=27c382b861c8c110VgnVCM1000003d01a8c0RCRD&javax.portlet.prp_d5b9c0fa1a493266805516f762108a0c_articlemoid=011482b861c8c110VgnVCM1000003d01a8c0RCRD&javax.portlet.prp_d5b9c0fa1a493266805516f762108a0c_journalTypePersonalization=ASCD_EL&javax.portlet.begCacheTok=token&javax.portlet.endCacheTok=token.
Quoting from the article:
- In the new global economy, with many jobs being either automated or “off-shored,” what skills will students need to build successful careers? What skills will they need to be good citizens? Are these two education goals in conflict?
- To examine these questions, I conducted research beginning with conversations with several hundred business, nonprofit, philanthropic, and education leaders. With a clearer picture of the skills young people need, I then set out to learn whether U.S. schools are teaching and testing the skills that matter most. I observed classrooms in some of the nation's most highly regarded suburban schools to find out whether our “best” was, in fact, good enough for our children's future. What I discovered on this journey may surprise you.
Author or Authors
The initial version of this article was written by David Moursund.