October 2012 Archives

There is great news from California. The State Board of Education has announced that it will drop its longstanding textbook adoption standards, which for many years have only allowed California schools to use state textbook funds on a limited set of choices. Many states have approved lists of textbooks, but California was relatively unique in limiting options to a very short list. For example, in recent years, California allowed only two basal reading series, Open Court and Houghton Mifflin. For many years, California and the other large textbook adoption state, Texas, have had an outsized impact on textbooks everywhere, because ...


Watching the presidential debates, I wasn't terribly surprised to see that evidence-based reform in education was not mentioned. In a rational world it would have been, but maybe that is just my own irrational world view. Still, it is possible to anticipate what the future might be for evidence-based reform in Obama or Romney administrations. Arne Duncan says he's staying, so a second Obama administration will surely build on the first. This is mostly good news. The current administration, especially the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has spoken strongly in favor of evidence-based policies. The current administration began i3, ...


Imagine that education leaders began to encourage or provide incentives for schools to use proven programs and practices. Imagine that instead of a confused patchwork of policies and grants, government had a simple rule: if it works, we'll help you adopt it. If it hasn't yet been proven to work, we'll help you evaluate it. If it's just a good idea, we'll help you move it forward. But the purpose of education policy is to find out what works and then help scale it up. In a speech this summer, Robert Gordon from the OMB laid out such a vision. ...


At the recent Education Nation meetings, I saw the opening of "Won't Back Down." If you've seen the movie or the reviews, you'll know that it's about a plucky parent, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who organizes parents and teachers in a terrible school to invoke a "parent trigger" law to take over the school. The movie is controversial in large part because it presents the teachers' union, which tries to prevent the takeover, as 100 percent evil, in a time when teachers and their unions are very much under assault. The movie does a good job of painting viewers into ...


Note: This is a guest post by Jon Baron, President of the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, and former Chairman of the National Board for Education Sciences Bob Slavin's recent blog posts on Bad Measures and Brief, Small, and Artificial Studies provide a valuable discussion of how evaluation studies - even those using random assignment - can often fall well short of "rigorous." This post seeks to address a related question: what constitutes strong evidence of effectiveness? By strong evidence, I mean evidence that provides confidence that a program would improve important educational outcomes if implemented faithfully in a similar population. ...


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