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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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Meet John Smith, who is apparently among the least effective elementary school teachers in all of L.A., according this weekend's story in the Los Angeles Times about variations in students' test scores based on which teacher they had.

The Times used an approach called "value-added analysis," which ranked 6,000 teachers based on how their students performed on standardized tests. They found huge disparities among teachers, often among those who work in close proximity to one another. And over the next few months, the Times plans to publish a searchable database analyzing the effectiveness of individual teachers.

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