Saturday, July 5, 2008

Defining Characteristic of Education Studies
as seen by a real Scientist

Here is the punch line:

It is only in "Educational Science" that a trial is planned, promoted, and pursued, with no measurable objectives at all. My theory is that it is a defining characteristic of all education initiatives.

In regard to the 75 page .pdf report, which was published online in 1999 (posted here July 3 blog) and is called "The Principals (sic) of Educational Reform: Supporting Mathematics and Science Teaching in your School. A Handbook for Elementary and Middle School Principals."
of which Jeanne Century, is an author, I received the following from Dave Meyerson:

The comment from Dave follows:

Oy. How bad it this? .....

The remarkable things about the article are that:

1. It treats Principals as though they don't know what they are doing. They went through all this administrative training and didn't learn how to run a school? Is that really true?

2. It was published 9 years ago and that many years of reform math have only made students less knowledgeable.

3. 75 pages of recommendations and opinions, but not a single sentence dedicated to measuring success or failure of the the recommendations. No measurable primary or secondary objectives.

It is #3 that is so interesting to any scientist. Any science trial involves a pre-planned assessment of outcomes. Usually it works. Sometimes there are false positives and false negatives. Sometimes, like Vioxx, there is some data manipulation and it doesn't work the first time. It is only in "Educational Science" that a trial is planned, promoted, and pursued, with no measurable objectives at all. My theory is that it is a defining characteristic of all education initiatives.



Anonymous said...

The issue is over access - once schools are allowed to purchase Singapore with textbook funds, then schools will be able to do appropriate implementations.

With a strong curriculum, districts could:
1. Eliminate standardized testing
2. Eliminate dead end tracks and non-performing alternative support programs.
3. Create math classes that earn elective credit to create incentives.

dan dempsey said...

Dave makes an interesting point.

It should also be noted that rarely are textbooks actually field tested under scientifically valid controls to assess whether they do the job. Instead these books are more like beauty contest contestants.

Anonymous said...

yes, but it is not the same for all curriculum, and it has something to do with NSF guidelines which are meaningless. Nevertheless, even Milgram and the National Math Panel agreed that there were only a handful of curriculum studies that had merit.

The research that was done to design Singapore and College Preparatory Math was far superior because they had the flexibility to make revisions. It was easy to throw out problems that were redundant or difficult for kids to comprehend. They used teacher and student input and modified the problems to make them more meaningful - it was more like fine-tuning an engine. Saxon is the same - there are traditional themes throughout the curriculum and that's why people accept it.

Even most highly educated people find reform math grossly incomprehensible and inadequate for teaching children.

The problem with contextual mathematics is with writing an entire set of problems that are based on a theme and then how do you align each problem to the preceding problem or identify as to which standard or step in a long process of complex problem solving. Its more complex and its not at all what parents or students expect. The complexity is what defeats it as an acceptable method of teaching. You can't teach algebra using this method and with that goes most of plane geometry. Reform math is a dead end in education.

What has happenned time and again is that before a successful outcome could occur, the students first had to spend time decoding the problem for themselves and it takes far too long to keep their interest long enough to finish solving the problem. Lets not even go into the values embedded in the problem that are meaningless for most teenagers.

In addition, if they don't have the correct tools then often they won't even be able to solve the problem. Building a table, looks more like guess and check and so there isn't any pattern to be found.

Signed, kangaroos loose in the top paddock.