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COWAbunga Award!

This week's COWAbunga Award goes to two comments that explain why medicine and education have followed very different paths when it comes to accountability. The first comment is from eiela, a teacher librarian:
I think the reason we don't want to inject the idea that student achievement is based partly on what [students] come to school with (parent support, poverty rates, etc.) into the NCLB debate is because it comes too close to admitting that our public education system doesn't help everyone equally. And that education does give everyone the same advantages is one of our cherished public ideals....We don't want to admit that there are problems that are too big for education as it exists right now to fix.

I've often wished that if I am going to be held so accountable for student performance that we had a boarding school system, so I could make sure my students had a quiet place to do homework, a good dinner and breakfast, etc....I like the idea of value-added assessments; we get value-added scores for each classroom teacher in my state. I wish that NCLB took those scores into account....I know one year, our value-added scores were great, yet we still didn't make AYP because our students were so far behind to begin with. It's very demoralizing to be labeled in the news as a failing school when you've made so much progress based on where the students started.
The second winner is Erin Johnson, who, in a series of comments, made compelling arguments about the differences in the evidence bases for educational and medical practice. Read them all here, and here's a tasty morsel from one of them:
The development of medicine and education was not random. Both were a function of very specific decisions made by key opinion leaders and laws passed both on the state and federal levels....We take for granted the the scientific, evidentary basis of our medical system, but it was not pre-ordained to be so.

Wow! Thanks!

Interesting point.

I would also add that education fails to follow medicines path (excuse the lack of apostrophe . . . my keyboard is not working): using research to drive its (sic) decision making.

So instead of looking at what really works, education continues looking towards increased funding, learning styles, and other solutions that have been shown to have limited or no effect.

Until educators are interested in using methods that are proven to work, they will get the same results.

Thanks, eduwonkette.

Rockymountaindad, Education is not monolithic and is is not possible for all stakeholders to suddenly "wake up" and start using quality materials. Improvement in education requires a quality system with feedback to determine if any/all changes actually resulted in improvements.

Our educational system is completely dysfunctional and excels only in passing the blame for not improving around (with it ususally ending up erroneously on the backs of our teachers.)

It is not enough for educators to want to use good materials, the system itself needs to be set up to encourage and provide teachers useful and timely information about what works (or what doesn't).


I'm not sure the information needs to be all that timely. Research has been around for decades (e.g., Follow Through) about what works (DI) and what doesn't (social services, open classrooms, etc.). The education establishment just continues to ignore the research and use what they think will work (e.g., whole language).

But yes . . . the system does need to support efforts to provide superior instruction. Unfortunately, efforts in this area are not rewarded, and are sometimes discouraged as they make everyone else look bad.

It would be great if it worked. We'd probably spend a lot less on prisons.

Rockymountaindad, The lack of follow-through (pun intended) on the DI research is tragic but rather predictable.

Our schools are not set up to incorporate quality data or research. This is not the fault of the educational establishment, per se, but the lack of any school procedures for evaluating/improving all the critical aspects of schooling (curricula, teaching and assessements).

But even if schools did use the DI information, a school system that is designed to improve never does just one study.

Improvement comes from the continual re-examination of current practices, materials and techniques to see how well they are aligning with overall expectations. Improvement comes from setting goals, suggesting and implementing improvements and then evaluating whether those improvements worked. And this needs to be done on a system-wide, continual basis.

Unfortunately our schools are designed to continue the status quo, so thus the status quo continues.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Erin Johnson: Rockymountaindad, The lack of follow-through (pun intended) on the DI read more
  • rockymountaindad: Erin, I'm not sure the information needs to be all read more
  • Erin Johnson: Thanks, eduwonkette. Rockymountaindad, Education is not monolithic and is is read more
  • rockymountaindad: Interesting point. I would also add that education fails to read more
  • eiela: Wow! Thanks! read more




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