« AERA continued: The Teachings of Russ Whitehurst | Main | Value-Added Preview »

Quotes of the Day

Call me old fashioned and curmudgeonly, but I can't stand it when the wonks break out in a "research shows" chorus with no references. If research so valiantly and definitively shows it, you should be able to tell us whose research shows it.

The quote of the day is a tie; both quotes hail from the Teachers College forum on class size this afternoon.

1) In introducing NYC Department of Education's Garth Harries, who is the "Chief Portfolio Officer" and the former "engagement manager" at McKinsey, TC prof Carolyn Riehl said, "These titles - we usually don't think about them in education - so I'm sure it makes for some great cocktail party conversation."

2) After Harries spoke at length about how the effect of teacher quality is much larger than the effect of reduced class size, an audience member asked him to cite some studies supporting this claim. Harries replied, "Uh, I can't quote to you on what the research is, but I can (pause) get it to you." Research shows!

For a paper on teacher effects using the STAR data, see "How Large are Teacher Effects?"

How could the Chief Portfolio Officer of the NYC DOE cite research when he is an MBA, not a researcher? Like everyone else in the top layer of the city's Department of Education, he knows nothing about research or teaching.

Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but I'd draw a distinction between policymakers and policy wonks. I'm more tolerant of policymakers being generally aware of the research findings in an area, but not being able to cite chapter and verse. That's wholly consistent with the "enlightenment" model of the relationship between research and policy espoused by Carol Weiss and others, where the point is not that any one study can serve as the definitive word on an issue, but rather that over time, research on a topic accumulates in a way that informs how policymakers frame problems and potential solutions. In contrast, I do expect policy wonks who are "selling" policies in an entrepreneurial way to have a very good grasp of the relevant research literature. Someone like Harries could be viewed as a policymaker -- but if he's saying, "Here's how we do it here, and you should do it this way too!" I'd say he's crossing the line into policy wonk, and holding him to the higher standard is perfectly appropriate.

And hey, eduwonkette, I thought I had the curmudgeon market cornered on this blog!

Ah, it's like the elusive "They" often cited at my schools, as in, "They say that students with ADHD need medication." Who the heck is "They" and how do I become a part of it so I can espouse my opinion as fact?

In the era of data-driven decision making, it would be nice to have some actual data. That is why educational bandwagon ideas get zillions of dollars* funded and my schools are struggling to get basic supplies.

*note delicious irony: I have no data to support my claim.

I was the one who asked Harries about the studies about teacher quality (funny, but I didn't see anyone there with a little mask). I also asked him to tell us what factors are being used to determine TQ other than test scores of their kids. He said that the issue of what makes up TQ is a hard question. So much for the research on TQ, which anti-class size propagandists are bandying about to justify their case. It's interesting how they all scoff at the concept of coming up with the money to reduce class size but don't do much scoffing when 200 billion materializes for Bear Stearns or a trillion magically appears for a war. (Did they say it shouldn't be fought until enough quality soldiers are found?)

That's not exactly what the research says. Clive Belfield, who's an economist, made an interesting case at AERA that raising teachers' salaries by 10% would be more cost-effective than reducing class size for all elementary students. The effect was indirect: increased salaries would attract and retain more good teachers. He wasn't suggesting that no money be spent, just that it should be spent on salary increases rather than class size reduction.

The trouble -- from a policy-maker on the ground point of view -- with the "raise salaries instead of reducing class size" approach is that the time scale for effectiveness is long.

If you're a district with below average salaries you may get better results in the short term with a salary boost -- you'll get/keep good teachers who would otherwise go elsewhere.

But for increased salaries to be effective on a large scale you have to wait for its marginal effect on teachers making decisions about entering or leaving the profession to accumulate into a meaningful difference in teacher quality.

In constrast, money spent reducing class size gives you smaller classes right now.

Also -- again from a policy-maker on the ground perspective -- lower class size appears (rightly or wrongly) to be a key indicator of educational quality to many parents. If you're a district where voter approval matters, reduced class size is more appealing than increased teacher salaries -- though my sense is that a growing number of voters recognize that teachers are underpaid compared to similar professions.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Rachel: The trouble -- from a policy-maker on the ground point read more
  • DW: That's not exactly what the research says. Clive Belfield, who's read more
  • Norm: I was the one who asked Harries about the studies read more
  • Rebecca: Ah, it's like the elusive "They" often cited at my read more
  • skoolboy: Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but I'd draw a distinction between read more




Technorati search

» Blogs that link here


8th grade retention
Fordham Foundation
The New Teacher Project
Tim Daly
absent teacher reserve
absent teacher reserve

accountability in Texas
accountability systems in education
achievement gap
achievement gap in New York City
acting white
AERA annual meetings
AERA conference
Alexander Russo
Algebra II
American Association of University Women
American Education Research Associatio
American Education Research Association
American Educational Research Journal
American Federation of Teachers
Andrew Ho
Art Siebens
Baltimore City Public Schools
Barack Obama
Bill Ayers
black-white achievement gap
books on educational research
boy crisis
brain-based education
Brian Jacob
bubble kids
Building on the Basics
Cambridge Education
carnival of education
Caroline Hoxby
Caroline Hoxby charter schools
cell phone plan
charter schools
Checker Finn
Chicago shooting
Chicago violence
Chris Cerf
class size
Coby Loup
college access
cool people you should know
credit recovery
curriculum narrowing
Dan Willingham
data driven
data-driven decision making
data-driven decision-making
David Cantor
Dean Millot
demographics of schoolchildren
Department of Assessment and Accountability
Department of Education budget
Diplomas Count
disadvantages of elite education
do schools matter
Doug Ready
Doug Staiger
dropout factories
dropout rate
education books
education policy
education policy thinktanks
educational equity
educational research
educational triage
effects of neighborhoods on education
effects of No Child Left Behind
effects of schools
effects of Teach for America
elite education
Everyday Antiracism
excessed teachers
exit exams
experienced teachers
Fordham and Ogbu
Fordham Foundation
Frederick Douglass High School
Gates Foundation
gender and education
gender and math
gender and science and mathematics
gifted and talented
gifted and talented admissions
gifted and talented program
gifted and talented programs in New York City
girls and math
good schools
graduate student union
graduation rate
graduation rates
guns in Chicago
health benefits for teachers
High Achievers
high school
high school dropouts
high school exit exams
high school graduates
high school graduation rate
high-stakes testing
high-stakes tests and science
higher ed
higher education
highly effective teachers
Houston Independent School District
how to choose a school
incentives in education
Institute for Education Sciences
is teaching a profession?
is the No Child Left Behind Act working
Jay Greene
Jim Liebman
Joel Klein
John Merrow
Jonah Rockoff
Kevin Carey
KIPP and boys
KIPP and gender
Lake Woebegon
Lars Lefgren
leaving teaching
Leonard Sax
Liam Julian

Marcus Winters
math achievement for girls
meaning of high school diploma
Mica Pollock
Michael Bloomberg
Michelle Rhee
Michelle Rhee teacher contract
Mike Bloomberg
Mike Klonsky
Mike Petrilli
narrowing the curriculum
National Center for Education Statistics Condition of Education
new teachers
New York City
New York City bonuses for principals
New York City budget
New York City budget cuts
New York City Budget cuts
New York City Department of Education
New York City Department of Education Truth Squad
New York City ELA and Math Results 2008
New York City gifted and talented
New York City Progress Report
New York City Quality Review
New York City school budget cuts
New York City school closing
New York City schools
New York City small schools
New York City social promotion
New York City teacher experiment
New York City teacher salaries
New York City teacher tenure
New York City Test scores 2008
New York City value-added
New York State ELA and Math 2008
New York State ELA and Math Results 2008
New York State ELA and Math Scores 2008
New York State ELA Exam
New York state ELA test
New York State Test scores
No Child Left Behind
No Child Left Behind Act
passing rates
picking a school
press office
principal bonuses
proficiency scores
push outs
qualitative educational research
qualitative research in education
quitting teaching
race and education
racial segregation in schools
Randall Reback
Randi Weingarten
Randy Reback
recovering credits in high school
Rick Hess
Robert Balfanz
Robert Pondiscio
Roland Fryer
Russ Whitehurst
Sarah Reckhow
school budget cuts in New York City
school choice
school effects
school integration
single sex education
small schools
small schools in New York City
social justice teaching
Sol Stern
Stefanie DeLuca
stereotype threat
talented and gifted
talking about race
talking about race in schools
Teach for America
teacher effectiveness
teacher effects
teacher quailty
teacher quality
teacher tenure
teachers and obesity
Teachers College
teachers versus doctors
teaching as career
teaching for social justice
teaching profession
test score inflation
test scores
test scores in New York City
testing and accountability
Texas accountability
The No Child Left Behind Act
The Persistence of Teacher-Induced Learning Gains
thinktanks in educational research
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Tom Kane
University of Iowa
Urban Institute study of Teach for America
Urban Institute Teach for America
value-added assessment
Wendy Kopp
women and graduate school science and engineering
women and science
women in math and science
Woodrow Wilson High School