Data-driven schools — Really?

Data-driven decision making is the latest silly idea in the education improvement cycle, which goes like this:

1. Education entrepreneurs, researchers and policy makers come up with a silly idea.

2. Teachers resist it.

3. Teachers are blamed for resisting change.

4. Education does not improve, so everything goes back to Step #1.

At this very moment, someone is saying teachers and schools should be data-driven.

Cut the Crap

Yes, we have more data than ever before.  And yes, this is a good thing — if we understand the limitations of that data. But the phrase “data-driven decision making” signals the failure to understand those limitations. Education decisions are driven by judgment. Good decisions come from good judgments. Bad decisions come from bad judgments.

Researchers, test companies, and publishing houses promote the data-driven idea so they can sell data, data collecting and data analysis tools to schools. And educational administrators and policy makers are so unimaginative they fall for it, proving once again that poor decisions are driven by poor judgment, not poor data.

No matter how much data are collected and analyzed, schools improve when teachers and administrators use good judgment.  They can start by rejecting “data-driven decision making.”

Define “educated” with 6 virtues, and 21st Century Skills are covered

If you believe we should define 21st Century skills, but not define what it means to be educated, check out this blog or download this PDF. If you realize that modeling and teaching the six virtues covers these skills, read here.

Three ideas from 21st Century skills blog: Continue reading →

Study finds what we already know!

Education Week (online, January 6, 2012):

Popular Frameworks Found to Identify Effective Teachers


For this study, the researchers broadened the list of outcomes slightly to include a measure of student effort and emotional engagement. Students taught by the teachers studied reported, for instance, on whether they pushed themselves to understand lessons in the class, and whether they felt happy in class.

Who doesn’t already know that teachers whose students “pushed themselves to understand lessons,” and “felt happy in class” will get better results than teachers with students who did not push themselves to understand lessons and who were not happy in class?

Continue reading →

It’s simple — just teach the 6 virtues!

Scholarly Crap:

Here is another recommendation for what we should teach in public schools, complete with complicated qualifications:

From the article:

So, instead of defining high school success solely in terms of mastering a common, college-preparatory curriculum, we should develop a broader and more individualized measure of high school success where students achieve a sense of competency by demonstrating mastery in an area that most interests them—whether it is math, physics, cooking, mechanics, or sports—while achieving acceptable proficiency in core academic areas.

Educators should teach young people “math, physics, cooking, mechanics, or sports” and core academics.  Is this a new idea?  How many of these do we pump out each year?  How is that working?

Continue reading →

We need anti-bullying curricula?

Bully Prevention Crap:

The Education Week email said:

Advocacy groups have designated October as National Bullying Prevention Month, and education organizations from across the country are getting involved by disseminating information and promoting anti-bullying curricula.

I wrote about this before, but it is National Bullying Prevention Month, so I will write about it again.

Continue reading →

Instead of 6 virtues, we teach what?

The previous blog described the belief that our definition of “educated” should always be open to democratic debate.  Where has that belief led us?  Here are examples from the Education Week article, “State Lawmakers Make Curricular Demands of Schools.”

Continue reading →

Teachers become teachers by teaching

Here is the “Comment of the Day” from Education Week (3/7/2011):

I was vastly unprepared to teach gifted students when I graduated from college. All students in an education program should be required to have at least one practicum in a gifted classroom setting.

Dear ecampbell:
You were vastly unprepared to teach any students, when you graduated from college.  Some things you can’t be prepared for, and teaching is one of them. Nobody is ever “prepared” to be a teacher. Teachers become teachers by teaching.

But many people believe as you do — that college graduates can be more or less prepared to teach. It is more accurate to say college graduates can be more or less unprepared to teach.

This is a major distinction because it points to the aesthetic nature of teaching. If teaching is an applied social science, college students can be prepared for it by learning teaching methods and psychological  theories.

But if teaching is an art, college graduates become teachers by teaching, just like (1) comedians become comics by performing in clubs, (2) painters become artists by painting, (3) and singers become entertainers by singing.

Just as  fine and performing arts graduates are not artists, education graduates are not teachers.  They become teachers by teaching.

Investors seek education profits

Policymakers and researchers believe teachers should apply research findings in schools. Investors now want to profit from this idea. An Education Week article by Sarah Sparks says investors want researchers to create highly effective methods/programs that can be scaled up for profit.

Applying research in schools crap:

Massive federal education competitions like the $650 million Investing in Innovation fund have heightened interest in practical education research, but even the most promising findings aimed at improving student learning face a long, uncertain path to become something more concrete and usable for the classroom.

Dear Ms.Sparks:
Evidently you think some education research is “practical,” which means you also think some is impractical. You deserve credit for getting the impractical part right.

Here is the link:

Cut the crap:

I know what it looks like to model and teach the six virtues of the educated person, but I don’t know what it looks like to apply research findings. When I read about it, or hear it described at in-service sessions, it sounds insulting to me because:

1. Saying teachers should know their content and use a range of instructional methods is not a new idea.
2. Asking teachers to be imaginative assumes they are not.

Philosophical teachers don’t leave in-services saying, “That’s great! I’ll do that in my classroom.” Only unimaginative, aphilosophical ones do.

Continue reading →

Looking through the education peephole

Security peepholes are lenses that work in two directions. From the inside they magnify what can be seen outside. And from the outside they minimize details so little on the inside can be seen.

Rick Hess’s guest blogger, Roxanna Elden, describes teacher experiences with policymakers who are unable to see how to improve education because they are outside, looking the wrong way through the peephole:

I think she had fun writing this:

. . . edu-decision makers and teachers have trouble communicating. Maybe it’s because sometimes we really do speak different languages.

Teachers and policymakers speak different languages because they are on different sides of the door. From the inside teachers with an inspiring, useful definition of what it means to be educated see a magnified image of how to improve education — model and teach that definition.  Teachers know it’s difficult but not complicated.

Policymakers, on the other hand, are looking from outside, unable to see how to improve education. Therefore, they search for research-based “effectiveness.”  Read an education research report, someday and you will see what it looks like to make education both difficult and complicated.

Elden describes teachers being told to use “research-based” methods and to shift paradigms. Our best teachers don’t use research to improve education because it would be illogical and unethical to use the ideas of those who have never been in their classrooms, and who complicate the already difficult work of teaching children.

Do you want simple or complicated? Part 1 of 2

Is improving schools simple or complicated? According to an LA Times article, it’s complicated. Here is the headline: “In reforming schools, quality of teaching often overlooked.” Here is the link:,0,4340403.story?page=1

The article illustrates how the social science paradigm complicates educational improvement. It says turning around a failing school requires, among other things, hiring the right principal and teachers with the right value-added scores. Is it really that complicated? Let’s look at the article’s description of Edwin Markham Middle School (EMMS).

Continue reading →