GOOD

Is Education Reform Effective? Depends on the Definition.

Too many education solutions fall apart when you step back and ask some tough questions.


Here’s the dilemma for people who write about education: Certain critical principles need to be mentioned again and again because policymakers persist in ignoring them, yet faithful readers eventually tire of the repetition.

Consider, for example, the reminder that schooling isn’t necessarily better just because it’s more “rigorous.” Or that standardized test results are such a misleading indicator of teaching or learning that raising scores can actually lower the quality of students’ education. Or that using rewards or punishments to control students inevitably backfires in multiple ways.

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What Parents Aren’t Asked in School Surveys—and Why

Making data-driven education reform decisions is great — unless the results come from flawed questions.


The results of an opinion poll will vary, and not by a little, as a function of how the questions are phrased. “Do you favor special preferences for minorities in the form of affirmative action?” will attract many fewer favorable responses than “Do you favor efforts to help minorities get ahead in order to make up for past discrimination?” And then, of course, there are “push polls,” which only pretend to sample people’s views while attempting to influence them: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Congressman McDoodle if you knew he was a practicing Satanist?”

I find myself thinking about how much more—and less—there is to polling than meets the eye whenever I come across one of those surveys that school administrators like to distribute to parents. I have to assume these are not intended as the equivalent of push polls, that there’s a sincere desire to be responsive to the community and an honest pride in being able to cite “data” to judge the effectiveness, or at least the popularity, of school policies. (Data good.)

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How Do We Break the Pattern of Poor Teaching for Poor Children?

Teaching that encourages creativity and critical thinking is increasingly reserved for affluent children.

Almost every proposal for "school reform" is top-down: divert public money to quasi-private charter schools, pit states against one another in a race for cash, offer rewards when test scores go up, fire the teachers or close the schools when they don't.

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