July 2012 Archives

"We learned from correlational research that students who speak Latin do better in school. So this year we're teaching everything in Latin." The oldest joke in academia goes like this. A professor is shown the results of an impressive experiment. "That may work in practice," she says, "but how will it work in the laboratory?" For practitioners trying to make sense of the findings of educational research, this is no laughing matter. They are often left to figure out whether or not there is meaningful evidence supporting a given practice or policy. Yet all too often academics report findings from ...


"My multiple choice test on bike riding was very reliable. How come none of my kids can ride a bike?" As an advocate for evidence-based reform in education, I'm always celebrating the glorious possibilities of having educational policies and practices be based on the findings of "rigorous" research. Who could disagree? For this idea to have a little bite in it, however, it is important to understand what I mean by "rigorous." In general, a rigorous study evaluating an educational program is one that compares, say, some number of teachers or schools in an experimental program using program X, to ...


Every school, no matter how effective at improving student outcomes, could probably be even more effective, and some schools have a particularly long way to go. Various proven reform models for whole schools, particular subjects, or specific purposes stand ready to help all of these schools improve. Yet schools vary a great deal in terms of readiness for particular approaches to reform. A metaphor for three types of schools in terms of readiness for reform is seeds, bricks, sand. The "seeds" metaphor implies an environment so conducive to reform that anything can grow there. The staff and leadership of the ...


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