Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Week for Irony and Contradictions in Education

The recent past has been wrought with irony (or at least contradictions) in all corners of education. Let's look at a list:

Read Bruce Baker's "If money doesn't matter..."  Bruce examines the argument that "we keep throwing money at education and it hasn't made a difference," and points out that (a) schools with lots of money tend to do well, and (b) people who make that argument don't mind throwing money at charter schools.

Just days after Vanderbilt University released their study finding no improvement in test scores in Nashville's merit pay system, schools around the country (including Colorado) received millions of dollars from the federal government to implement merit pay systems.

NBC's "Education Nation" summit will gather "the foremost policymakers, elected officials, thought leaders, educators, members of the business community and engaged citizens" to discuss issues in U.S. education. Unfortunately, the list of invited panelists NBC is promoting doesn't include any teachers, students, principals, or professors. The only university-affiliated participant on the list is the President of the University of Phoenix, who happens to be a major sponsor of the event.

In a post called "Does Education Pay?" the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) criticize the College Board for "a confusion of correlation with causation." The day before, the CCAP asked, "Should We Abolish Colleges of Education?" and use this logic:
  1. U.S. students "perform in a mediocre fashion" on international tests.
  2. Kids need remediation and/or drop out of college because of their mediocre education.
  3. Good teaching is better than mediocre teaching.
  4. Most teachers studied at a college of education.
  5. The teachers who didn't go to a college of education are as good or better than those who did, such as Teach for America teachers. (Sorry, CCAP, that's rarely true.)
  6. Colleges of education support anti-knowledge and anti-intellectual biases and make their poor students look good by inflating grades.
  7. Colleges of education don't want teachers to be rewarded for student learning because student self-esteem is more important than knowledge.
  8. While there might be some good colleges of education, most of the people who really understand education are not in education schools.
  9. Courses in education are less helpful for math teachers (for example) than advanced math courses. (This was not the finding by Floden and Meniketti (2005), who say it's not as simple as "more math is better.")
  10. THEREFORE, we should close colleges of education, which are a "blight on true 'higher education' [that] should be discouraged at all institutions depending on taxpayer funds."
I admit, that post had no trouble working its way under my skin. If you can keep track of all the assumptions and correlation/causation confusions in their argument, you're doing better than me.

If I missed anything you want to add to this week's list, feel free to add them in the comments.

References
Floden, R. E., & Meniketti, M. (2005). Research on the effects of coursework in the arts and sciences and in the foundations of education. In M. Cochran-Smith & K.M. Zeichner (Eds.), Studying teacher education: The Report of AERA Panel on Research and Teacher Education (pp. 261-308). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.