Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Why Education Experts Resist
Effective Practices

Why Education Experts Resist Effective Practices
(And What It Would Take to Make Education More Like Medicine)
by Douglas Carnine

A great read on why education is not a real profession.

The reason is decisions are made by the whim of decision makers rather than based on relevant data. Simply put decisions are unconstrained by objective research. Educators in fact rarely produce objective research.

From the forward:

In perhaps no other profession is there as much disputation as in education. Phonics or whole language? Calculators or no calculators? Tracked or mixed-ability classrooms? Should teachers lecture or “facilitate”? Ought education be content-centered or child-centered? Do high-stakes exams produce real gains or merely promote “teaching to the test”? Which is the most effective reform: Reducing class size? Expanding pre-school? Inducing competition through vouchers? Paying teachers for performance?

And on and on and on. Within each debate, moreover, we regularly hear each faction citing boatloads of “studies” that supposedly support its position. Just think how often “research shows” is used to introduce a statement that winds up being chiefly about ideology, hunch or preference.

In other professions, such as medicine, scientific research is taken seriously, because it usually brings clarity and progress. We come close to resolving vast disputes, and answering complex questions, with the aid of rigorous, controlled studies of cause and effect. Yet so much of what passes for education research serves to confuse at least as much as it clarifies. The education field tends to rely heavily on qualitative studies, sometimes proclaiming open hostility towards modern statistical research methods. Even when the research is clear on a subject—such as how to teach first-graders to read—educators often willfully ignore the results when they don’t fit their ideological preferences.

To Professor Douglas Carnine of the University of Oregon, this is symptomatic of a field that has not yet matured into a true profession. In education, research standards have yet to be standardized, peer reviews are porous, and practitioners tend to be influenced more by philosophy than evidence. In this insightful paper, Doug examines several instances where educators either have introduced reforms without testing them first, or ignored (or deprecated) research when it did not yield the results they wanted.


Anonymous said...

I believe Carnine's criticism as with Finn's is professional development. I don't believe they disagree with standards for curriculum. So the title is misleading. Carnine is an advoate for repetitive drill and exercise. He is at the other extreme of educaiton, because he is a software developer. I'm more skeptical of his intentions. I will probably be wrong by saying we will always have teachers in classrooms. That may be changing. I will remain old fashioned and say teachers can be more effective if given the opportunity - provided good curriculum.

Anonymous said...

Something that should be followed up more closely is:

1. Project Seed used as remedial math for universtiy students when it was developed as an elementary program.

2. Project Seed director was Warfield, now at UW. These events occurred when B. was at UW.

3. Seed was a product of Uri and his colleagues.

4. Use of Seed data in dallas to argue for different tests due to differences between minorities and whites. Dallas numbers overinflated minority achievements gained from Proeject Seed.

Socratic methods used in urban schools to teach algebra is an urban myth.

5. The evaluation's authors are now at the center in Kalamazoo and many were originally OSU graduates. Seed started in 1963. Warfield was Seattle director in 1970. Goodlad was also at UW. Studies were done in 91 and 95. WASL testing was approved despite opposition because of the Dallas data.

This implicates psychologist educators:
Scriven, Kulm, Johntz, Slavin, Webster, Goodlad, James....

Project Seed socratic reformers
Treisman, Warfield, Romberg

Classical Educrats
Kurtzman, Adler, Project 2061/NSF

Regional Laboratories
Mumme, Daro, McCune

Edspeak denialists
Briars, Merlino, Parker, Markov,

Dallas ISD becomes Ground Zero for the reform movement.

Texas, Michigan, Pennsylvania Oligarchs

Dark overlord administrators working overtime to make teachers and kids lives miserable.

The pair of administrators selected forms an acerbic, autocratic, and dynamic archetype in order to achieve the most unbalanced and inefficient tyrant.

No wonder Escalante retired, he saw the end coming.

dan dempsey said...

Carnine makes a great argument for objective research based decision making.

I do not see my title as misleading.

If you look at the ineffective detrimental cognitive model (as shown in PFT) and compare it with most of the reform math practices you may find a correlation with the PISA math free-fall. In Seattle and Bellevue, the continual widening of the achievement gap for Blacks, Hispanics, and Low income students over the last decade is further evidence that Carnine's statements are far from empty.

Look at the data for low income in Tacoma and Seattle over the the last two years for WASL grades three through eight. Both Seattle and Tacoma had textbook adoptions put into use in the 2006-2007 school year.

Seattle adopted Connected Math Project2 for grades 6,7,8.

Tacoma adopted Saxon Math for grades K-12. Tacoma is still using Saxon K-8 (It turns out it is hard to use Saxon in high school when you have few arithmetic skills).

The data for these adoptions when viewed at grades 6,7,& 8, certainly shows the Saxon Implementation to be far better for Low Income children than the CMP2 adoption in Seattle. This is exactly what one would predict from reading Project Follow Through.

Anonymous said...

Its true what you're saying, but the 'reformists' interpret the results differently. Their argument is that teachers are ineffective, not textbooks.

They see three solutions
1. More training (Merlino)
2. More teaching (Kipp school)
3. More technology (Carnine)

More teaching advocates are charter school and back to basics advocates. Probably where's the math fits in this spectrum. Their assumption is the choices for textbooks will always be the same.

The difficulty I have with wtm is they can't agree on what a classroom's curriculum should look like, except maybe connect it to something that is 'traditional'. Its very hard to describe what traditional looks like any longer. unless you go to a private school.

WTM might have better written standards, but in the reformist camp it doesn't matter - one standard is as good as another. And they would be correct, it does't change anything in terms of student achievement. That's not crux of the issue.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Anon,

The standards do matter for the Standards will drive the textbook selections and the State selected or produced testing.

The legislature is very likely to approve end of course testing at the high school level for:

Algebra I and Geometry
Integrated math I and II

The difficulty will be getting OSPI to construct a decent math test for Integrated Math.

If you look at Singapore Integrated math books they are nothing like the OSPI endorsed NSF pimped Core-Plus and Interactive Math Program (IMP).

The problem now is to get OSPI to construct a decent test. Given that about a million bucks and three drafts brought no usable math standards - having OSPI given the task to produce tests seems really questionable at best.

The standards do matter because they are the source document that drives the improvement or the nonsense. Look at the Standards from the last decade and the resulting nonsense. Hopefully better standards can lessen the nonsense.

The second draft of the standards produced in January looked like a Connected Math Project Syllabus for grades 6, 7, 8 for middle school. Had this been adopted Dr Bergeson would have had a license to continue her decade of math nonsense.

It is definitely time to put a Rich Semler for SPI sign in the yard.

Anonymous said...

If you have the best textbook available that gets the most number of kids prepared for college in math and science, then it doesn't matter what standards you adopt. You have to start with the assumption that all kids are the same. In this country, researchers claim the opposite.

That's why the US adopted inquiry based learning as the "model" for textbooks. These researchers mistake grade level for reading level. They presume children who are illiterate, will remain so as adults. This is why those kids are not used in their studies. Their is math curriculum available for teaching math while kids are learning to transition into english or learning to be better readers. The textbooks are not aligned to reading level, they are aligned to math standards, so reading level is arbritary.

The WASL is not designed to show anything other than students are getting an adequate education. The WASL can't be used for longitudinal studies, making comparisons, or drawing conclusions.

One has to be careful before drawing any conclusions from matched studies. For one, the very idea that schools are left anonymous means information can be traced back to the source. One study had one reference - the OSPI website.

The standardized camp seems to think this allows them a new method for showing their curriculum does work. The difficulty is proving causality.

With a matched study, you could invent all types of weird excuses or include outliers if you have something appropriate to match it with. Its like trying to draw conclusions about animals by comparing four legged creatures.

It is ridiculous to design a test using standards. The WASL is a test designed to meet a legal test "What is the minimum education children are entitled too? And it is entirely arbitrary.

It is worse than a driver's test, because it is graded on how much drivers from abc school improve while they are in driver's training. It says nothing about how well they actually drive.

The public and teachers are confused by standards, standards-based teaching,standardized textbooks, and college entrance tests. You can't use these things interchangeably, but people do. The meanings are entirely different and have to be contextualized.

It is more than the content that makes Singapore better, it is the approach used and the fact you don't need to be an above average reader to understand the problem. Multiple access points is fundamental to really good problem-solving.

Open-ended problems are not the same thing. And this is another great misconception. Tsurada say it like this - there are problems which would be very difficult to solve algebraically, but a person with a little bit of math can solve them in a very short amount of time.

These standardizd textbooks are so bad for instance, the tables in them are non-ordered - the authors are essentially telling kids to use guess and check to solve algebra problems. (non-standard methods for problems solving)