Education Realist on Hansonian education reform

He or she comments,

Harmful interventions:
Ending tracking
De-emphasizing demonstrated test scores on difficult tests in favor of grades.
Increased legal protections for discipline disasters.

…Costly interventions:
Special education now gives additional money to 1 out of 8 kids and we see nothing for it. …We spend billions on “English language instruction” …ELL from the 60s on was designed on the expectation that ELL kids would be illegal immigrants from across the border.

Now that I think of it, it is easy to imagine a lot of Hansonian practices cropping up in education. There is no equivalent of the FDA process for screening out bad or ineffective protocols. New curricula and practices are introduced faster than they can be evaluated. It is classic case of what statistical process control guru W. Edwards Deming would term “tampering.”

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22 Responses to Education Realist on Hansonian education reform

  1. djf says:

    The tampering begins to make sense if you entertain the notion that the goal of the education establishment is not optimizing outcomes across the board but reducing “gaps” between outcomes for different populations. Of course, the gaps are still there.

    • Andrew' says:

      Humor me, how does that make it make sense?

      • djf says:

        They’re flailing around, trying to come up with anything that will reduce the “gaps,” which is a goal much more important to them than improving results across the board. This is probably the agenda behind the Core Curriculum, which from what I read is good for reducing the grades of good but not outstanding students. I hope that humors you.

        • djf says:

          Common Core, I meant.

        • Andrew' says:

          It does. Thanks. I don’t think the main driver is equality and identity politics. I suspect it is bureaucracy, careerism, nad the bias for centralization. Also, if education worked, I could see the argument for increasing inputs to remedial students.

          • asdf says:

            Identity politics is fuel for careerism and centralization bias, because it is an unsolvable problem wrapped around a taboo. The taboo means that pragmatic cost/benefit analysis is forbidden, and the unsolvable nature means indefinite funding and indefinite “solutions” (make work for white collar professionals).

            I agree that pure racial identity politics isn’t enough though. The very concept of human equality is the issue. White mid-IQ people resent white high IQ people getting special “gifted” programs. They also don’t like being told their kid isn’t going to college even if he doesn’t have the IQ to handle it. Parents of kids of learning disabilities often fight even harder to maintain the fantasy of their kids being college grads even though its even more absurd then average kids making it.

            The idea of human equality has to be trounced, but unsure how to do it. Notion is central to all major religions, ideologies, and political movements.

        • Andrew' says:

          I see what you mean, though. An anecdote, I went to a medical conference and went to the NIH booth. They explained to me how they were prioritizing diseases of disparate impact. I asked “aren’t all diseases of disparate impact?” The conversation was over at that point.

          • djf says:

            There is no contradiction between bureaucracy, careerism and the bias for centralization, on the one hand, and “social justice” politics. As your anecdote shows, the infestation of this ideology has spread everywhere.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        People in education tend to believe two things:

        1) School is America’s great driver of social mobility. School lifts up the poor. Without our education system, we would be a terribly unequal, unjust, “rich get richer and the poor stay poor” society.

        2) It is not just grudgingly acceptable but good and just that the more education you have, the better you are treated.

        The persistence of the gap calls the first into question. In fact, it suggests that school actually reinforces and reproduces inequality. Which also means racial inequality, something people in education feel very strongly about. Since they also believe people who do better in school should be treated better in life, they are in danger of being objective racists if they can’t close “the gap.” Thus the absolute necessity to keep trying and to perhaps make it the top priority.

        • djf says:

          They are not against inequality as such, they just believe that inequality should be distributed in the same proportions between different populations, and that it is the job of public education (and government generally) to work toward that goal. Which, IMHO, is just nutty.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            Actually, they believe that all groups are inherently equal. Most relevantly, the average black kid is as smart as the average white kid. Therefore, any “gap” in achievement must be the result of something else. Maybe it’s “poor parenting” or “bad peers” but to talk that way is to flirt with “blaming the victim” and is discouraged.

            The preferred explanation is white society, white privilege, the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, etc. Closing the gap then becomes a way to expiate one of America’s two great sins (the other being the treatment of its pre-columbian inhabitants).

            If all groups are inherently equal, then equal outcomes is what is to be expected in a fair system. Unequal outcomes then indicts the system. Those who work to make outcomes equal are working to fix it, and are doing God’s work–or the secular equivalent.

            They believe that it is fair and just that college graduates have better and better-paying jobs than college dropouts but they believe that if 30% of whites are college graduates and 20% are college dropouts, then fairness requires 30% of blacks to be college graduates and 20% of blacks to be college dropouts (with equal percentages of high school graduates, med school graduates, law school graduates, etc.).

          • asdf says:

            Racial issues hyper charge things, but its not as if the blank slate crowd is happy with the fact that poor parents have poor children. If you eliminated the black/white gap, there would still be a poor/rich gap. Or a male/female gap in engineering. Or a blank/blank gap in whatever.

            Obviously, people are going to mine the richest vine in the mountain, which is race, but fundamentally all human difference is suspect in the blank slate worldview.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            fundamentally all human difference is suspect in the blank slate worldview.

            Yes, indeed. And since negro slavery is an original sin of America, black/white difference is worried about most.

          • djf says:

            “Actually, they believe that all groups are inherently equal.”

            Right, but their nuttiness does not extend to believing that each individual is equal to every other. Just that, absent past and present oppression, there would be the same distribution of talents and abilities within each group they care about as among white men, and that each occupational sector, income sector and field of study therefore should have the same racial/ethnic/gender proportions as the general population. Since this goal will never be attained, the ideology provides endless opportunities for well-compensated social engineering.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            Since this goal will never be attained, the ideology provides endless opportunities for well-compensated social engineering.

            True. But since you believe it, you can take those jobs and honestly feel virtuous. In fact, you can feel morally superior to people who work for profit-making corporations.

    • Jeff R. says:

      That may be part of it, but I think there’s probably a ‘use it or lose it’ factor in grant money flows, too. That is, if the educational establishment were to be more cautious in experimentation or simply admit that that most of their attempts at innovation haven’t panned out, a lot of that grant money would dry up, and then how would PhDs in Education at the university level continue to pay the bills?

      • djf says:

        True, but the failing of the last fad (however failure is defined) is an excuse to fund a new fad. I think both factors are important. The evil “gaps” always persist, so new gimmicks need to be funded. The authorities making the grants are as ideologically driven as the grantees.

  2. Andrew' says:

    How do studies control for Hawthorne effect? I assume by making it even worse.

  3. Ivan says:

    “There is no equivalent of the FDA process for screening out bad or ineffective protocols.”

    Oh dear god. So much for the market as a discovery mechanism. So much for individuals being individuals. So much for individual students finding pedagogical methods best suited to their individual needs. No, all students are fungible. If we cannot run a RCT across school districts that achieves some statistical measure of significance on it, then no way, no how should a public dime be spent on an alternative schooling method. If a “protocol” can be demonstrated effective for all children, then we will just assume it is bad for all children. Science and all that you know. I guess public schools exist for public schools’ sake. Parents pretty much need to plan on moving to a school district or attendance zone that offers a variety of pedagogical methods of which one might meet their child’s needs, or, just expect to pay for education out of pocket.

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