March 2012 Archives

Proven Programs Don't Implement Themselves

One of the criticisms often leveled at evidence-based reform in education is this: Programs may be proven effective in controlled experiments, but on a larger scale, they won't be implemented with care and therefore won't work. I have seen many awful implementations of programs that have been successful elsewhere and I agree that this is a problem. Proven programs don't implement themselves. How can we ensure widespread, effective, intelligent use of proven programs? After many years of wrestling with this question, I have a set of principles for ensuring high-quality implementations of proven programs, which I will now reveal to ...


When Every Student Has a Computer at Home

The history of technology in education is one of schools running to catch up with technology developments outside of school. Learning from our past follies in this area, perhaps now it is time we anticipate how ubiquitous computer access can be achieved and then exploited to benefit all children. Computers have been used in schools since the early 1970s, and today there are at least a few in virtually every school, and most students now have access at home. But, the fact that not all students have their own computers at home limits instructional uses of computers in as well ...


Are Evidence and Innovation in Conflict?

I do a fair amount of speaking on the importance of evidence-based reform in education, and I hear a disturbing objection to this idea: insisting on evidence for educational programs will slow down the process of innovation. At one level, this is an astonishing argument. If we don't know if innovations work, why should we care if they are not widely used? Actually, at least 99% of the textbooks, software, and professional development approaches adopted by schools today have never been evaluated successfully in comparison to control groups, so complaining about evidence-based reform is a bit premature. However, there is ...


Shifting Government from "Who Gets What" to "What Works"

Every political science student knows the old adage that the focus of government is "Who gets what?" That is, government takes in taxes and then distributes benefits, and contending groups pressure government to increase the proportion of those benefits delivered to their constituents. The "who gets what" dynamic exists as much in education as anywhere else, and perhaps even more, as education (like the military) is overwhelmingly a government-funded operation. Whenever the annual budget numbers come out for the U.S. Department of Education, advocacy groups scan every figure looking for gains or losses in their favored line items. There ...


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