Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Common School: A Question of Scale: Class-size Reduction and America's Misplaced Priorities

The Common School: A Question of Scale: Class-size Reduction and America's Misplaced Priorities

Via Eduwonk... new blogger "Dewey", who is reputed to be a minor education wonk, makes the case that class size reduction would have a tiny effect on educational outcomes.

But the really mind-blowing results come when you start comparing a class-size reduction to giving students a teacher with a reasonably good (though not unlikely) combination of teacher credentials (estimated by adding the relevant values in the table above). Clotfelter and Ladd do their own estimates of this sort and come up with a combined effect size of 15% - 20% SD for math (and 8%-12% for reading) of a well- credentialed teacher.

The first time I read this portion of the study I said to myself, "Yeah class size is less important,” but that finding is not particularly novel to anyone who follows this sort of research. But when I decided to actually compare how much less important class size is my jaw dropped. The effect size of teacher credentials is 8 to 10 times that of a major class size reduction in math and 6 to 8 times as big in reading!!!
He figures it would take approximately 150 billion dollars in increased salary costs (if the improvement for reducing students is linear that is), for a net benefit of 1.6% to 4% SD in math instruction. He then goes on to propose several novel ideas about how that money could be better spent for a much more significant educational outcome.

My only observation:

Isn't it possible that reducing class size would actually have a negative effect, instead of a small positive one?

We already have difficulty attracting teachers into teaching, especially in math and science. Doubling the number of teachers would have to entail reducing standards and quality.

Wouldn't the net effect of the lower average teacher quality more than cancel out the small benefits of reduced class size?

Go read the full post and if your statistically savvy, analyze his data and conclusions.

Pretty damn good for his 2nd post though.

Woo hoo, I inspire debate!

Crypticlife, pointed out that my post on "I hate whole language" had inspired a pretty big reaction on the Teachers Applying Whole Language listserve.

If you go to the Search the TAWL Archives page and put in "I hate whole language" into the subject search field, you get 106 responses.

I read a few, but unfortunately the listserve doesn't allow me to read all the messages and one time (and my finger got tired of clicking).

I did come across a few gems of posts though. Several teachers were asking advice on how they could improve their students decoding skills... duh!

I have been researching several scholarly articles in preparation for the upcoming debate on whole language at Edspresso, and consider myself a lot more educated on the issue. The more I read, the more certain I am that early reading instruction should stress phonetic decoding.

My original impression is that whole language puts the cart before the horse. Whole language is based on the premise that reading is natural, and tries to reverse engineer "skilled readers". This reverse engineering though, neglects to take into account the subconscious phonetic decoding that skilled readers are able to do almost instantaneously.

I actually have several articles and papers in pdf format full of markups and notes, but I am trying to decide if I want to put together a wonkish post on whole language fallacies or wait until the debate mentioned above.

Laziness and the desire to get in a "smoking gun" during the debate cause me to want to wait, but showing off my new found knowledge, kind of makes me want to attempt to look intelligent. In the end though, laziness and procrastination wins out.

The Blame Game!

Via Speed of Creativity, I came across this post at Engines for Education about the Seven Evils of Education.

According to George Schank the original six evils of education are:

Parents -- who oppose all change and want school to be like they imagine it was in their day
Publishers – who spend all that money on wrong-headed textbooks and do their best to keep new ideas away
Press – who print minute test score differences as if they are world-shaking events causing everyone to panic
Politicians – who really don’t give a hoot about education and just like to say how accountable everyone is because of their silly tests and standards
And Princeton (twice)
Princeton -- as in any top university that decides on which courses and which tests all students must pass thus making it very difficult to innovate in high school
Princeton— as in the Educational Testing Service and all the other testing companies getting rich on killing our schools
I will ignore these (for now), but even more ridiculous than the first six, is his new evil "P", professors. Yes professors, as in College Professors. You see the reason kids have to take boring unimportant classes like "math" is because Professors are lazy:
Universities dictate curricula to high schools to make professor’s lives easier. If everyone takes physics and calculus and most never use it, well, professors claim it was good for the students anyway when in fact it was only good for making sure professors don't have to teach it in college. As long as professors don’t have to teach the basics it is okay that high school students are forced to study stuff they will never use in their whole lives. We have ruined an entire generation of high school students who don’t like learning and think the subject matter is irrelevant because professors only want to teach the good stuff.

We sacrifice the joy of learning for an entire generation so professors can have an easier time teaching incoming students.
(Calm down Right Wing Prof. No one could possibly take this guy seriously or could they?)

It's the new game show called the Education Blame Game. We started out with students, and then blame the parents... now its those evil evil professors who expect their students to have basic skills when they get to college. The winner of the game is the one who can blame education failure on the most outside factors (besides for the schools of course).

Ironically, George Schank is an ex-professor.