They have different names, such as clickers, pods, or devices. But whatever you call them, hand-held electronic response devices (ERDs) are showing up in many schools as a means of facilitating formative feedback to students and teachers. The first generation of ERDs gave all students in a class the opportunity to respond at the same time to multiple-choice questions. The next generation allows students to key in numbers and letters to give answers to open-ended questions. A new self-paced learning application, called Questions for Learning (QfL), uses the second-generation devices to pose questions on each student's ERD. QfL allows students ...


This post originally appeared on Education Nation's The Learning Curve blog. Several years ago, I happened to be visiting a third grade reading class in a suburban, middle class school. The teacher, I will call her Ms. Fields, had just been named Teacher of the Year for the district, and she was truly outstanding: Enthusiastic, inspiring, a real delight to watch as she taught her high reading groups. However, as is my habit, I wandered over to see what the low reading group was doing. They had two pages from their basal's workbook. Each had words arrayed on it inside ...


Over a 37-year career in educational research and reform, I've always been an advocate for using proven programs and practices to improve schools. In that time, I don't think I've ever met anyone opposed to the idea in principle. In the academy, there are those who argue about which research designs and measures should count as evidence of effectiveness, but in the world of education practice and policy, this is not the problem. Instead, educational leaders always have a good reason why, even though they strongly support the idea of evidence-based reform, they can't do it right now. They complain ...


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. ...


I just returned from an exciting couple of days at Education Nation, a "summit" put on by NBC News in New York. All the great and good were there: President Obama (by tape), Mitt Romney (in person), Colin Powell, Arne Duncan, Margaret Spellings, Jeb Bush, Chelsea Clinton, Randi Weingarten, Michelle Rhee, and many more. The most heartening aspect of Education Nation was that it focused on what works, and what can be brought to scale. In the general media, if education gets reported at all, there are just two kinds of stories: Heartwarming local stories (Aww. . .) and large-scale disaster and ...


Harvard's Lisbeth Schorr is one of America's most thoughtful observers of social innovations. In a recent article she discusses her concerns about the growing focus in government on programs with evidence from randomized experiments. She's glad to see the rise of experimentation to evaluate well-defined interventions with clear theories of action, but worries that a focus on experimentally proven programs will overly limit reformers to approaches that lend themselves to experiments. Most of Schorr's concerns are valid; there are indeed some kinds of programs that appear to be effective but are just too complex or localized to be readily evaluated ...


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