Archive for the 'Research' Category

November
21st 2014
Teacher Training, Licensure, Evaluation, Pay: Fix ‘Em All (and Do It Right)

Posted under education schools & Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & learning & Research & School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers

It’s been more than a week now since I thankfully resisted the urge to “blow up” education schools. In the meantime, my remarks about teacher preparation have been vindicated — both the tone of urgency and the “moderate” but serious approach to addressing the issue.

Let’s start with the urgency. The National Council on Teacher Quality followed up its powerful indictment of the state of teacher preparation last week with compelling new evidence concerning the lack of rigor in education schools. How does it help students, particularly the neediest among us, to have most of these schools attract prospective teachers looking for easy As?

Now you may rightly label the headline as a “dog bites man” kind of story, but the findings deserve attention: Continue Reading »

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November
18th 2014
Customized Success: New Study Hints at the Power of Personalized Learning

Posted under Edublogging & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Research

Earlier this month, I wrote about some new brain science (sorry for the technical terminology) highlighting the potential benefits of personalized learning for children with ADHD. And as if that wasn’t interesting enough, I soon discovered another juicy piece of new research on personalized learning in charter schools.

Before I could really chow down on the wonky goodness, though, reality demanded that I detour back to Jeffco for a quick update on the district’s ongoing, still-nonsensical drama. Then Douglas County, that pesky bastion of meaningful school reform, had to go and regain its spot in the top tier of Colorado’s school accreditation system. Yeah, it was a busy couple of weeks in Colorado education.

Things have settled a bit now, so I’ve been able to sit down and devour my latest tasty wonk morsel: A study on the effects of personalized learning from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the RAND Corporation. Using test data, teacher logs, teacher surveys, student surveys, and a few interviews with administrators, the study looks at 23 charter schools that have implemented personalized learning approaches. Importantly, most of the schools included in the study are located in urban areas and have high percentages of low-income and minority students.

It’s a pretty lengthy study with a lot to say, and I encourage you to read the full report if you need something tasty to chew on. For now, though, we’ll just focus on what I think is the most important highlight: Student achievement results. Continue Reading »

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November
11th 2014
For More Educational Freedom, I’ll Give Up (Figurative) Ed School Explosions

Posted under education schools & Innovation and Reform & reading & Research & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Explosions are cool effects to watch in the world of make-believe — action movies and video games, though my parents pretty tightly limit my exposure even to those. That may be in part because mom and dad want to send the message that blowing things up in real life is generally a bad idea with lots of potentially bad consequences. Somebody could get hurt.

So it’s probably not surprising that I experienced a curious reaction to Rick Hess’s latest blog piece, titled “A Better Path than ‘Blowing Up’ Schools of Education.” By schools of education, of course we’re talking about the colleges that train K-12 classroom teachers and other educators.

Let me start off by saying that among those who want to see parents more empowered and students have access to more great teachers, education schools remain perhaps the least talked about but widely recognized institution that stands as an obstacle to reform. As Hess acknowledges, sheer numbers dictate their influence: Continue Reading »

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November
4th 2014
Apathy, Confusion, and Survey Data: What the Numbers Really Tell Us

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Research

I was going to write about an interesting article I read on ADHD, school choice, and personalized learning today, but then I was distracted by a very interesting blog post on Americans’ understanding of education policy—or lack thereof. The irony of being distracted from writing about and ADHD article is not lost on me, but I choose to ignore it.

Never fear, fellow policy explorers; we will revisit ADHD school choice later this week. Today, we talk survey. Yes, again. No, I can’t be persuaded otherwise.

As you well know—and possibly as you have come to hate—I have an unhealthy fascination with surveys and the data they produce. Happily, the last couple of months have served up a veritable smorgasbord of tasty survey data for me to munch on in addition to my normal thinkin’ snacks of M&Ms and pretzel sticks. I even got to join Martin West last week for a delicious re-analysis of data from Education Next’s big survey this past summer. Now, Dr. Morgan Polikoff, a young researcher at the University of South Carolina’s Rossier School of Education, has chimed in on the issue with a blog post written for the Fordham Institute.

Polikoff takes a closer look at data gathered from the Education Next survey, the PDK/Gallup survey, and a survey of California voters conducted by the Rossier School itself. He notes some pretty wide discrepancies between the survey’s results, including the near-opposite results of EdNext and PDK on the issue of using test scores in teacher evaluations that I wrote about when the survey data was first released. He also points out that Americans are frequently wrong or uninformed about education policy issues. This is, he implies, due to widespread disinterest in the topic of education. Continue Reading »

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October
28th 2014
COSFP’s School Funding, Instruction Story Not So Spooky with All the Facts

Posted under Grades and Standards & Research & School Finance

Yesterday I shared a really interesting survey-based analysis by Dr. Martin West that strongly suggests the average American has a good handle on how well their local schools perform, but a lot less accurate picture of how well their local schools are funded.

On average, voters underestimate how much is spent per pupil by their local school districts, more than one-third less than the real financial picture. While there could be a number of sources and factors that lead people to such inaccurate conclusions, groups like the Colorado School Finance Project (COSFP) certainly don’t help when they omit $934 million in spending reported by the Department of Education to make the K-12 budgetary picture look bleaker.

Well, they’re ba-a-a-ack. ‘Tis Halloween week, after all. And although my parents have effectively limited my exposure to the world of all things creepy and spooky, I am all too familiar with the experience of reading the selectively scary stories of K-12 funding that COSFP and others peddle. Just look at the group’s latest monthly update: Continue Reading »

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October
27th 2014
Americans Understand Their Schools, Just Not School Finance

Posted under Research & School Accountability & School Finance

All things considered, I think my school is pretty good. It’s got monkey bars, snack time, culturally enriching field trips, and shiny blue fish stickers. Oh, and my dad went there.

If you’re thinking that those things aren’t very convincing measures of overall school quality, you’re right. Yet for a long time, factors like these were held out as possible explanations for the gap between people’s generally positive opinions on their own schools and their less-than-optimistic views of the school system as a whole. Ok, maybe not the monkey bars or fish stickers, but you get the point.

The days of guessing may be coming to a close. Martin West’s new analysis of data from this year’s Education Next Survey (which I wrote about back in August) may be the closest I’ve seen to a really plausible, research-based explanation of what I’ll call—brace for neologism—the “perspective gap.” Continue Reading »

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October
23rd 2014
Building a Well-Rounded Education: Field Trips and Hamlet with Dr. Jay Greene

Posted under reading & Research & writing

Sometimes my mom pokes fun at my dad for being a little portly. His response is always the same: “I’m just a well-rounded individual.” But while my dad’s goal (every year) is to make himself narrower around the middle, that may be exactly the opposite of what we want to see in our children’s education.

Jay Greene, already one of my favorite academics due to his work on school choice, has most recently taken to arguing for wider ranging liberal (no, not that kind of liberal) education in American schools. He begins a recent post on the topic thusly:

Some people seem determined to narrow education.  I’ve been trying to make the case for a well-rounded, liberal education, but that idea has less support than I realized.  In their effort to maximize math and reading test scores, schools have sometimes narrowed their focus at the expense of the arts and humanities.

That narrowing focus often cuts programs like art, music, drama, field trips, and extracurricular activities. Continue Reading »

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October
15th 2014
Dangerous Decoration: How Much is Too Much for the Classroom?

Posted under Early Childhood & Just For Fun & Research & Teachers

My English classroom has a fish in it. No, not a real fish. A fish sticker. A shiny fish sticker with glittery scales, blue eyes, and an intriguingly amused expression on his (her?) face. Sometimes it feels like the fish sticker is staring at me. Have you ever tried reading or writing with a shiny fish sticker staring at you? It’s tough. And I often find myself staring back.

As it turns out, I may not be the only little guy distracted by certain classroom decorations. According to an article on NBC News this week, some teachers are beginning to take steps to reduce those distractions by stripping some of their classroom decorations.

The crusade (okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement) against decorations is partially based on a recent study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon that found highly decorated classrooms can affect the learning of young students. Continue Reading »

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October
3rd 2014
Power to the Parents: Colorado Comes in 12th in CER Report

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Accountability

Today, the battle continues in Jeffco following the school board’s very reasonable vote on the curriculum review controversy. But we’ve talked about Jeffco a lot recently, so I think it’s time to look at something a little more uplifting. And what could be more uplifting than empowering K-12 parents to make good decisions about their children’s educational paths?

Like a zealous English teacher, the Center for Education Reform (CER) loves to grade stuff. Most recently, I wrote about Colorado’s grade (and how it was calculated) when it comes to voucher programs. Now, the organization has released a report ranking each state based on what it calls the Parent Power Index (PPI). The scores are calculated using a variety of criteria ranging from school choice and teacher quality to transparency and media reliability.

Colorado barely missed a top-ten slot in this year’s report, coming in at number 12 with a PPI of 76 percent. Continue Reading »

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October
1st 2014
School Choice Programs Save a Ton of Money: Where Could It All Go?

Posted under Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice & School Finance & Tax Credits

I talk to you a lot about how expanding access to more schools through choice programs could help Colorado Kids Win. But the truth is that these choice programs also have another benefit: they help save money for the states that adopt them. What does that mean?

More dollars left over for each student who remains in the public school system, or funds available for other things state governments pay for, or even maybe money back to taxpayers. Who knows? In any case, the point is that as students exercise choice and leave the system, they wouldn’t take out as much money as it costs to educate one more student. Here’s the kicker: Continue Reading »

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