One of the most annoying phrases in education is “research shows.”
That bland phrase is used to cover a multitude of sins, which is why many teachers groan when they hear it. They know it often prefaces some new directive to stop doing what they have found to be successful and start doing something that will be dropped a few years hence to be replaced by something else “research shows” they should do.
Good research does exist, and it sometimes points in directions that teachers would not necessarily find on their own or that might be counterintuitive. But before requiring teachers to change their practice, principals, superintendents, and school boards should cite specific research that’s behind whatever new initiative they are pushing; what effect it can be expected to have; how that effect will be measured and monitored; and how results will be used to change whether and how the initiative is implemented.
That is part of what cognitive scientist Dan Willingham calls a “Draft Bill of Research Rights for Educators.”
I would say that the bill of rights should extend to parents as well. When they hear that their child’s school or district is adopting a new reading program or a new math program, it is perfectly reasonable for parents to ask what research supports it, how the effect will be monitored, and how their child will be supported if not successful in it.
We all need to get a lot smarter about what research says and how it should be used, and Willingham’s draft bill of rights provides a good starting point. If you are interested in learning more, you might want to read his book, When Can You Trust the Experts?
Ed Trust is currently at the National Council of La Raza, or NCLR, annual conference in Los Angeles, where we are showcasing our College Results Online tool. Using that, we created an interactive map of the United States that plots hundreds of colleges and universities across the country and shows how well their students are doing: Do they graduate within six years? Are they burdened by student loans and defaulting within three years? Does the college enroll a fair percentage of Pell Grant-eligible students?
Red dots signify poor performance on one of these measures, and the warning sign (an exclamation point inside of a triangle) signifies the college has both a low graduation rate and a high default rate, meaning students aren’t finishing and can’t turn what postsecondary education they do get into good enough jobs to pay off their student loans. (Click on screenshot below for the interactive site.)
A screenshot of our College Results Online map.
At the conference, Ed Trust is meeting future college graduates and leaders of our country, who are telling us what access to college means for them. These are our youngest participants to date! And their sentiments are just as important. Hopefully, by the time they’re ready to go college, the above map will be populated with only green dots.
#AccessMeans to read big books!
Produced by Ed Trust staff.
When my kids were in third grade, they spent an enormous amount of time on the graphical representation of data. That sounds like a good idea, but some of it got rather tedious and didn’t really help them understand mathematics. I remember a lot of pictures of faces where the shape of the nose represented their gender, and the number of eyelashes represented the number of books they had read — stuff like that.
On the other hand, my kids spent so little time on measurement that even through high school — despite my best efforts — they were still pretty fuzzy on how many quarts are in a gallon and feet in a mile.
This isn’t because my kids went to a terrible elementary school. It’s because even “good” elementary schools can lose their focus on what kids really need to learn and spend precious time on superficial activities that teachers hope will engage the kids. Continue reading
Parents want some authority over their child’s education, and who can blame them? But programs like the personal learning account program approved in Florida last month give parents a false sense of that authority, while shirking the state’s responsibility to ensure a quality education for every student.
On the surface, the “Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts” signed into law by Florida Gov. Rick Scott are appealing: Parents of children with disabilities can take the state money set aside for their children’s education and use it to purchase a variety of programs and services that they believe are best able to serve their kids’ needs.
What could be wrong with that? Turns out, a lot. Continue reading
Produced by Ed Trust staff.
How can high-poverty schools become the kinds of places teachers want to teach?
Stephanie Hirsch, executive director of Learning Forward, tackled that question in a webinar discussing a new study on teaching and learning from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (which I write about this week in Huffington Post). Continue reading
Today is the anniversary of a historic event: the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is hard to argue that America hasn’t come a long way. Measured by nearly every indicator, we have seen tremendous gains for blacks, as well as women and other racial and ethnic groups in this country. Many have benefited from a more equal playing field that created conditions to boost degree attainment, home ownership, and career opportunities. And, of course, we can’t forget to mention the nation’s first black president. It surely seemed unimaginable in 1964.
Some have said we are now a “post-racial” society, and I respectfully beg to differ. While there is much to celebrate, there is still much more to be done. Many of the gains we saw following the passage of the Civil Rights Act are quietly eroding: Continue reading
Data show that African American students don’t get the same opportunities and resources to excel as their peers do. And unfortunately, those shortcomings contribute to their low readiness for college and the workplace and exacerbate gaps that develop before children even enter school.
Consider that: Continue reading