What’s worth it in reform?

January 23, 2010 at 8:55 am Leave a comment

A study reported in the Washington Post studied teachers behavior in great detail, and found that teacher implementation of reform (even in the same school) varied dramatically.  The really odd thing was that the implementation level didn’t matter in terms of student achievement.  The study raises some troubling questions. Do we really know what happens when we try to implement reform?  And what evidence do we really have that changing classroom practices changes learning outcomes?

A little-noticed but unusually detailed study of teaching practices, reported by Robert Rothman in the November/December issue of the Harvard Education Letter, delivers a depressing message you should keep in mind whenever you read anything about raising school achievement…The study led by Brian Rowan of the University of Michigan found extraordinary differences in what teachers in adjoining classrooms were doing, even in schools supposedly ruled by comprehensive reform models that dictated how everyone used every hour of the day….Okay, you say, that’s easy to fix. Just watch the teachers more closely. Make sure they are all using the higher level content. Guess again, said Rowan’s colleague Jenny DeMonte. She discovered the student gains from highest level practices, such as examining literary techniques and sharing writing with others, were no better than those produced by low-level practices, like asking questions that have answers at the back of the textbook chapter and summarizing story details.

via Class Struggle – Study shows how dumb we can be.

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