Saturday, August 20, 2016

John Thompson: What If Reformers Had Paid Attention to Research-Based Solutions Instead of Billionaires’ Preferences? | Diane Ravitch's blog

John Thompson: What If Reformers Had Paid Attention to Research-Based Solutions Instead of Billionaires’ Preferences? | Diane Ravitch's blog:

John Thompson: What If Reformers Had Paid Attention to Research-Based Solutions Instead of Billionaires’ Preferences?



Teacher and historian John Thompson writes here about the reflection that seems to be occurring among “reformers” as they realize that their test-and-punish reforms produce limited gains and limited outcomes. He wonders how different our federal and state policies would be had reformers strived to implement research-based reforms instead of ideas that had intuitive appeal.
He writes:

Something important is stirring in terms of education research. We’ve always gone through cycles, mostly notably in the aftermath of the Coleman Report, during debates over the so-called “culture of poverty,” and during the contemporary data-driven, market reform era, where scholars have had to think twice when analyzing where the evidence leads. This last month, however, a variety of social scientists have candidly expressed the facts that corporate reformers deride as an “excuse.”
Heather Hill’s Hechinger Report review of the Coleman Report recalls the seminal study’s finding, “One implication stands out above all: That schools bring little influence to bear on a child’s achievement that is independent of his background and general social context.” Hill reviews the subsequent analyses of Coleman, and the findings of Tony Bryk and Stephen Raudenbush, who “show that differences among schools accounted for about one-fifth of the variability in student outcomes.” The bottom line, she reports is that “schools still pack a weaker punch than many imagine.”
Neither did the Hechinger editors pull any punches. Its subtitles clearly convey the message that has been condemned as heresy over the last two decades:
Meanwhile, evidence mounted for one central conclusion: schools matter – but not as much as people might think; and
The logical conclusion: You can’t fix schools without trying to fix broader social inequality, too.
Similarly, Stephen Dubner’s begins his recent Freakonomics Radio program with the words, “in our collective zeal to reform schools and close the achievement gap, we may have lost sight of where most learning really happens — at home.” Dubner concludes, “Most of us probably think too much about cognitive skills and not enough about non-cognitive. Most of us probably put way too much faith in the formal education system, when, in fact, the path to learning begins way before then, at home.” In between, we hear from economist John List, “Schools only have kids for a handful of hours per day, but who, really, will mold kids through their lives are the parents.” Also, early education expert Dana Suskind concludes, that we need preventive, not remediative programs. “About the only way” that we can “move the needle,” she says, is through science-based programs which begin the learning process at birth or before.


Even the most steadfast true believers in accountability-driven, competition-driven reform seem to finally be facing reality. The first words of a NBER paper by John List, Roland Fryer and Stephen Levittare President Barack Obama’s 2009 statement that, “There is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will John Thompson: What If Reformers Had Paid Attention to Research-Based Solutions Instead of Billionaires’ Preferences? | Diane Ravitch's blog:


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