April 3, 2017

Examples And Anecdotes? We’ve Got Examples And Anecdotes! Social Mobility Bracket, Accountability, Plus OCR Staffing, Haskins And Gordon On Evidence, Homeschooling, Fitzhugh Profile, More!

By Bellwether

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Ed Next forum on test-based accountability and what’s next. NCAA social mobility bracket via The 74.

Via the New York Times here’s a museum quality piece about how we argue in education (and, by extension, why we can’t have nice things): Look look look at this example. It proves my point! In this case, David Kirp is arguing that who needs more choice, because he found this cool district in Oklahoma. Betsy DeVos should visit! Case closed!

The problem, of course, is that in a system with about 100K schools, 13K districts organizing them, plus 50 states, each with their own idiosyncrasies, you can find just about anything that works somewhere or proves some point. By this logic voucher proponents should just show some compelling examples of how vouchers have changed lives for kids and so we should just do that. Or, you can find under-resourced schools still succeeding, so should we cut funding? The action is in the aggregate data and trends when you’re thinking about things at a policy level. It’s a joke in education that is funny because it’s true, the plural of anecdote is not data.

No one argues that there are not great things happening in many school districts (or more specifically no one in what might be called the broad swath of reasonable people in the education world, and I’d include many voucher proponents in that). And these days among serious analysts hardly anyone argues that there are not great things happening in a lot of charters, too. The debate turns, or should turn, on optimal ways to organize the system and governance of schools to maximize the good and minimize the bad as much as is possible in a human and political system in a liberal democracy.  Reasonable people can disagree on the best way to that and plenty of particulars. But hopefully everyone can agree the way to do it is not to just lob isolated examples at one another?

Right now, fewer than one in ten low-income or black youngsters in this country can expect to get a college degree by the time they are 24. That the most powerful newspaper in the country and leading education analysts think that’s either not a social catastrophe or that the solution lies in highlighting interesting conversation pieces and examples just baffles me. Examples are not a theory of change in a system this large and sprawling.


Ron Haskins and Robert Gordon on the Trump budget and evidence. They pretend it’s a serious exercise to make what is actually a serious point.

Jeff Jacoby profiles Will Fitzhugh in the Boston Globe. Here’s a look at African-Americans and homeschooling. 

New assistant secretary  at OCR?

ESAs are spreading but in the first state to adopt them it’s very contentious still. *Update: Matt Ladner points out that it was AZ not NV to go first. The article is about NV.

Raising standards for child care workers in DC. 

What Duke alums are reading today.

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