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Posts Tagged ‘Measurement’

Diane Ravitch Savages “Reformers” and “Disruptors” in her New Book

January 18, 2020 Leave a comment

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Forbes writer and public education resistance fighter Peter Greene’s paean to Diane Ravitch provides a good overview of her clear-headed thinking and the muddled thinking of what she calls this disruption movement. And what is that movement?

The disruption movement has given us charter schools, high stakes testing, and the de-professionalization of teaching. It has used the real problems of inequity and underserved communities to justify false solutions.

In his review of her forthcoming book Mr. Greene contrasts the “reformers” embrace of Taylor’s standardization with Deming’s Total Quality Management and laments the victory of Taylor in this war of ideas. Like Diane Ravitch, Peter Greene seems to think the tide is turning. I hope they are right….

Data Gathering Without Financial Support is Worthless… or Worse

January 9, 2020 Comments off

This article from a periodical touting the benefits of technology suggests that the mere collection of data can help schools address mental health issues, a notion that implicitly assumes that teachers have the time and training to intervene. Unless schools are able and willing to take on mental health issues as part of their mission and the public is willing to provide the funding to make that possible there is no way that data collection will help. Indeed, If the data is collected in schools and reported to the public it will be viewed as one more area where schools are “failing”.

SAT and ACT CAN Be Abandoned

January 7, 2020 Comments off

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Contrary to what Issuu writer Rick Michalak thinks, it’s not impossible to eliminate the SAT and ACT. In this day and age Schools can get a holistic measure of high school students by looking at their GPA and transcripts without needing to cull through teams of paper and face to face interviews can be done using telecommunications and graded using rubrics. Such a method would be far better than sorting based on standardized testing,

Charles Blow’s Assessment of the 2010 Decade Misses One Point: We No Longer Have PUBLIC Schools

January 3, 2020 Comments off

As the 2010 decade concluded, manny NYTimes columnists, including Charles Blow, wrote op ed essays assessing the changes that took place. Mr. Blow’s essay, titled “The Decade We Changed Our Minds“, highlighted some positive changes that occurred over the past decade, focussing especially on our country’s changed attitudes toward sexual orientation and drug use. In the column, Mr. Blow offers survey data substantiating this change in thinking while noting that the pushback against these trends continues despite the sentiment supporting a wider acceptance.

But as I noted in a comment I posted, there is one other area where America changed its mind: we no longer think of the institutions that educate our children as PUBLIC schools; we think of them as GOVERNMENT schools. Worse, both the Democrats and GOP think that marketplace competition is needed in order to improve the schools because we have long ago accepted that BUSINESS organizations are for more effective and efficient than GOVERNMENT. We believe this so much that as the decade concluded we elected a “shrewd businessman” to run our country.

I hope that the 2020s we find our faith in government restored, for in a democracy government is overseen by elected officials who are accountable to the voters who put them in office. In a privately held business the owner is beholden to no one and in a publicly held enterprise the CEO is beholden to stockholders who, in most cases, want to see increased profits despite the impact that results to the well being of employees and the public. In my idealistic view, I would hope that we change our minds in two ways in the coming decade: we have our faith in government restored and we abandon shareholder primacy in favor of a model that places a higher value on the well-being of humanity than the well-being of shareholders.

Assuming Higher Taxes on the Rich is a “Solution” Also Assumes that “Markets” Are Acceptable and Just… and Markets are Neither

December 31, 2019 Comments off

The title of UMass-Boston economics professor emeritus Arthur MacEwan’s recent Dollars and Sense article that was reposted in Common Dreams poses this question:

Are Taxes the Best Way of Dealing With Inequality?

The subheading of the headline elaborates on the framing of the question and the article itself. It reads:

Taxes can redistribute income, but relying on taxes means we are accepting the way the system works—the way markets operate—to create inequality in the first place.

Mr. MacEwan then demonstrates that markets are neither natural nor just, illustrating how regulations and legal constructs undermine the natural impact of markets and, in doing so, distort the way the economy works in a way that contributes to inequality. I agreed almost entirely with Mr, MacEwan’s analysis, but differed with his conclusions about schooling. Here is the section he wrote on that topic:

Schooling and the labor market. Schooling, from pre-K through college, shapes the labor market. The U.S. school system is a multi-tiered system, preparing people for different levels in the workforce. Certain areas of education receive attention—which means funds—according to the needs of employers, as demonstrated by the emphasis in recent years on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. The structure of the school system, good or bad, is not a “natural” phenomenon, but it greatly affects the operation of the labor market and the distribution of income.

Mr MacEwan’s belief that “certain areas of education receive attention” in the form of funds misses an important reality. It is not certain academic disciplines like STEM that receive additional funds, it is certain school districts that receive additional funds… and it isn’t the districts serving poverty stricken areas that receive the additional funds, its the affluent districts. And that reality plays into the conclusions he draws about the difficulty faced in making changes:

…Financial institutions, fossil fuel firms, pharmaceutical companies, software giants, and many others use their wealth and power to see that markets are constructed in ways that work for them… They get the rules made the way they want, play by the rules, and then claim they deserve what they get because they played by the rules. Nonsense, yes, but effective nonetheless.

Of course, it is difficult to fight these powerful firms and the individuals who reap their fortunes through these firms. They are quite powerful. But there is no reason to think it is more difficult than raising their taxes.

A first step is to establish a wide understanding of the fact that markets are social constructs and that they can be constructed differently.They have been structured differently in the past, and they can be structured differently in the future… Even if little change comes in the short run, it is important to send the message that just because firms and rich people play by the rules of the markets, this does not lead to the conclusion that the results are just. (And, of course, they often don’t play by the rules!)

Schools have been structured differently in the past… and not necessarily in ways that helped address inequality. Until child labor laws were passed at the turn of the 20th century education was limited to the elite. Until Brown v. Board of Education our social construct of “separate but equal” schooling for minority students was deemed acceptable. We ostensibly offer an equal opportunity to all children and yet the evidence indicates that systemic change is needed if we want to truly offer such an opportunity to all.

Mr. MacEwan is right in his assertion that the “winners” in our system “…get the rules made the way they want, play by the rules, and then claim they deserve what they get because they played by the rules.’ The school district boundaries are social constructs as surely as the markets and the “sorting and selection” structure of our education system whereby students compete with age cohorts is a construct as surely as the “separate but equal” structure was a construct. Until we change the mental models we use to construct the rulebooks that favor those who claim they deserve what they got we will continue reinforcing the economic system we have in place… and the rich will continue to get richer.

Great Analysis of Democratic Candidates by John Merrow— Watch Out for Buttigieg

December 20, 2019 Comments off

John Merrow recently attended a debate in Pittsburgh among seven of the candidates for President,  a debate that occurred at a gathering of teachers in that region. At the debate he took notes on each candidate, notes that provided a relatively comprehensive overview of the candidate’s views on education and resulted in a VERY insightful blog post.

In reading the post I got a clear distinction between “the other moderate Democrats” Klobucher and Buttigieg and learned that he supports Value Added metrics, which immediately eliminated him from my list of prospective candidates. I have been very open to his candidacy given his reasoned and even-tempered approach but was suspicious of him for a couple of reasons: his experience as a McKinsey consultant and his general lack of experience in a major leadership role. His desire to use mathematical models to “measure” teacher performance based on standardized test meshes well with the use of such models to cut spending and raise profits— a McKinsey standard practice

After reading Mr. Merrow’s insightful analysis, I only wish one of the reporters or someone in the audience challenged Joe Biden on the question of whether he supports RTTT and the appointment of a Secretary of Education in the mold of Arne Duncan. That question needs to be posed to each “moderate” or “centrist” Democratic candidate if we ever hope to get out of the test-driven ditch NCLB and RTTT drove us into. Otherwise, the only hope is that either Warren (who has a TFA staffer— a potential flaw given their thinking about RTTT and similar programs) or ESPECIALLY Sanders gets the Democratic party nod.

College Scorecard Provides Bogus and Worthless Data to Prospective Students, Reinforces Notion that College is All About ROI, Earning Lots of $$$

December 19, 2019 Comments off

A recent Forbes article by Kristen Moon touts the benefits of the recently redesigned USDOE’s College Scorecard. The article quotes Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ praise for the valuable new tool:

Every student is unique,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a release about the updates to the College Scorecard. “What they study, as well as when, where and how they choose to pursue their education will impact their future.”

Ms. Moon then elaborates on the Scorecard’s benefits:

Finding the best program for your chosen field of study is important, but so is finding one that gives you a good return on investment for your money. This new version of the College Scorecard helps you do both.

You might ask, “How what data does the College Scorecard provide to help every unique student find their unique path?” The answer?

A few of the key additions to the College Scorecard include:

  • Median earnings and debt for graduates, categorized by field of study at a particular school, rather than for the whole institution.

  • Graduation rates for all students, including part-time and transfer students. Previously, the Scorecard focused only on first-time and full-time graduation rates.

  • The ability to filter potential schools by acceptance rate, median standardized test scores and distance from home.

But wait, there’s even more!

By using the new “Custom Search” feature, the student can input where they want to study, what field and what degree they want to earn.

Once you have gathered your data, start to think about how much your student loan payment will be after college. Ideally, it shouldn’t be any more than 10 to 15% of your monthly paycheck. If your student loans are more than 20%, you will likely have trouble paying it off in the long run.

However, it is important to note that the median earnings data given on the College Scorecard is not a complete measure of your future earnings: The statistic indicates just the graduate’s first year in the workforce. Many fields of study have earnings that can change drastically within the first 10 years of graduating. Some professions have lower starting salaries that increase rapidly over the years, whereas others start high and don’t increase as much as time goes on.

As a liberal arts graduate who aspired to become a public school teacher and administrator who married an art major and had two daughters, one of whom works in social services and one of whom is a writer, I never thought of college in terms of a return on investment as measured by earnings. I was eager to attend college where I could explore subjects beyond those spoon fed to me as a high school student and dig more deeply into areas that I became interested in. Since I attended a college with a cooperative work-study program I was able to explore careers in engineering and business and determine that those paths were not of interest to me. Moreover, those assignments paid me enough to graduate without any debt– something that would now be impossible. Once I switched my major to liberal arts I figured once I graduated I would be able to earn a living— maybe not getting the “return on investment” I would have gotten had I stayed in a field that I found uninteresting but sufficient earnings to meet my needs.

As I’ve written in previous posts, using “return on investment” as a metric for colleges is wrongheaded. And claiming that the provision of data based on median earnings and indebtedness provides information that will help every unique student make uninformed decision is misleading at best. Students will need to do their own calculations when it comes to determining the costs and debt they will incur and— most importantly— they will need to visit the campus in person to determine if the college meets their unique needs. It may be possible to purchase a car using a spreadsheet full of data, but selecting a college requires a much more wholistic approach.

And here’s what is even more problematic: the data on the College Scorecard is incomplete! Here’s more from Ms. Moon:

While the College Scorecard is a step in the right direction for transparent data, it isn’t perfect. For example, graduates who didn’t receive federal financial aid like grants or loans were excluded. This could mean that some students were excluded based on their socioeconomic background. In addition, students who didn’t earn an income in the first year after graduating were not included in the dataset. 

The College Scorecard also uses different samples of students to calculate the median loan debt and earnings, so you should use caution when trying to compare schools accurately. Data about median earnings came from 2015 and 2016, while data regarding debt were calculated based on students graduating in 2016 and 2017.

How Forbes can tout a system that omits key information and is full of mismatched data is hard to fathom… unless the principle behind the data confirms the beliefs of those who write for Forbes and Forbes readers… all of whom evidently believe that college is all about return on investment and an imperfect metric based on that principle is better than something “soft” like learning for the sake of learning.