Different ways to think about the “Florida package”

My second email Q&A over Florida’s recent reform history is up at Valerie Strauss’s blog. I’m flattered that she calls me an expert on Florida reform. I’m more of a scholar of accountability who was also a local observer for 18 years, and one of those who have written about the state’s education reforms. (See a January 2013 blog entry by the Shanker Institute’s Matt DiCarlo for a discussion of and links to much of that body of research.) Many of my comments in that blog entry are going to strike readers as similar to another email Q&A with Strauss from 2010. We have more data from NAEP this time, and the use of a smoother graph-cutting tool available on the NAEP site. I very much appreciate that Strauss printed the caveats I wrote about using NAEP point estimates; it’s rare when reporters let us get in our quibbles. Strauss was also patient with the weeks when I was too crazy-busy to respond to a question, including a stretch when I realized I had a few errors in a table introduced by rounding errors and asked her to hold off posting anything until I could cross-check it against the tables that NAEP’s server could generate.1

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  1. The blog entry showed some of the NAEP figures comparing Florida scale score means to the country’s, and I have added all of them below: reading and math in 4th, 8th, and 12th grades. You can also look at reading in 8th grade and math in 4th and 12th grades. And the NAEP gap tables FL 4th grade reading for reading 4th grade.

    NAEP Reading Grade 4 FL vs US

    NAEP Reading Grade 8 FL vs US

    NAEP Reading Grade 12 FL vs US

    NAEP Math Grade 4 FL vs US

    NAEP Math Grade 8 FL vs US

    NAEP Math Grade 12 FL vs US

    Source: NAEP “Nation’s Report Card” website section on reading and math scores by state. []

American preschoolers dangerously behind world in mastering jargon

Researchers argue in a new paper that young American children are endangering the nation’s economy by not learning corporate buzzwords as fast as their peers around the globe.

“This is a crisis,” said report writer Amelie Schafer-Berenzoit, Senior Reform Enthusiasm Scientist at the Washington think tank The Group Group. “Research proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that American children quickly fall behind their children in other industrialized countries, and by the start of first grade have mastered 25% fewer nominalizations than German children, 30% fewer Latinate neologisms than the French, and 35% fewer phrases that appear in The Wall Street Journal when compared with children in mainland China.”

Schafer-Berenzoit added, “We are among the worst at teaching our children important phrases such as disruptiondata-driven, and strategic dynamism. This is language that they will need when they grow up.”

Hedge fund manager Everest Perdue explained that kindergarteners will not succeed unless they have mastered the basic vocabulary of put options by age five. “This is becoming a basic expectation in New York’s private schools, and it is a violation of poor children’s rights that they aren’t taught this essential curriculum.”

Noted education reform writer Theodore Dorsal agreed with the paper’s argument. “Without the tools of business English, the next generation might not grow up to be the miserable toadies we all need them to be.”


Research synthesis requires giving up information

What do we want?
Evidence-based change!
When do we want it?
After peer review!
– sign at 2010’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

Ten years after1 his most famous article, Why Most Published Research Findings are False, John Ioannidis has been interviewed by Vox. The interview does not explore Ioannidis’s underlying reasoning, which presumes that in any individual field, there is a general rate of discoverable (and true) relationships, and then infers a general method of estimating false published research findings. The reasoning in the 2005 article is accessible, and even if you do not agree with the particular models that Ioannidis used, Ioannidis crafts a reasonably persuasive case that having been published — published after peer review — is far from a sufficient claim to truth for a paper.

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  1. Okay, about 9-1/2 years. []

Developing courses for others

Yesterday, I found myself hip-deep in course planning at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral level. The doctoral course is for a major initiative that is on my plate this year, the undergraduate course helps the Division of Teacher Preparation with one of their curriculum initiatives, and the third is from a very clear need for redevelopment of the masters-level course on the American education system. In the last case, I was not going to ask colleagues to do something in a course where I’ve committed almost all the possible sins over a quarter century. And since no one else volunteered, I experience the glory of being a department chair or division director: you occasionally get to volunteer yourself for things.

But there is one important difference between my involvement in these three courses and all the other times I have designed or redesigned courses: I am unlikely to be teaching any of these courses in the next semester.

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Irregular verbs in federal law rewrite debates

At one level, the most recent debate over federal elementary and secondary education policy is about annual testing: will the next rewrite of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act continue to require that states test public school children annually in grades 3-8? The draft bill released by Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) suggested he was considering two possible policies: a continuation of annual testing and a requirement for so-called grade-span testing, where children are tested once in each grade span (elementary, middle, and high school years). In September I discussed the debate over sampling instead of every-child testing, and I’ll extend my analysis there to the current debate: the argument that we must test every child every year will win out. Whether or not annual testing provides all the benefits that its advocates claim (Marty West probably had the best argument in favor of that at the Senate hearing last week), annual testing is a sort of accountability theater, and that symbolism alone will make the difference.

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