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Scientific Evidence Makes No Difference

September 5, 2013

Furman University blogger P.L. Thomas posted a comprehensive list of public education practices that have NO support in research but continue to be promoted as “proven reforms” and widely accepted by the public.

He opens his post, “What We Know Now and Why it Doesn’t Matter” with a description of Flock of Dodos, a 2006 movie that describes the public’s belief in Intelligent Design (ID) as an evolutionary theory. Thomas then posits that like the faith based belief in ID, education reformers believe in a host of ideas that have no basis in research, providing a list of the ideas with links to research that undercuts the assertion that they “work”. Here is the list from the article:

  • Grade Retention
  • Charter Schools
  • School Choice ( i.e. competition among schools for enrollments)
  • Value Added Methods of teacher evaluation
  • Teacher Quality (as compared to external factors, teacher quality has a marginal impact on student learning)
  • Merit Pay
  • Teach for America
  • The SAT as a predictor for college success
  • Accountability, standards, and high stakes testing
  • “Miracle Schools”
  • Education as a Social Change agent

Over the course of the past 18 months I have blogged about virtually every topic on the list, as has Diane Ravitch and any educator who believes that poverty plays a primary role in education outcomes as measured by standardized tests… and like Thomas, progressive bloggers scratch their heads in bewilderment that no one in the mainstream media refutes these claims and, worse yet, parrots them as the solution.  It is far easier to measure what is easy to measure, hope for miracles, and retain faith in the factory school system we have today than to deal with the complex, troubling, and potentially consequential alternatives.  After all, it is easier to accept that the world was put together by an all-knowing God 6,000 years ago than it is to understand the complex factors that led to the planet we live on and despoil today.

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