Friday, April 3, 2009

Better Data Needed

Our neighbors to the north were in the news, with some harsh (but very thought-provoking) criticism of NCLB. From Minnesota 2020:

Last fall, the prestigious publication Education Week hosted an on-line chat about the federal No Child Left Behind law. One of the panelists was David Figlio, a professor at Northwestern University and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Ellen Solek of East Haddam, Conn., asked if Figlio was aware “of any current research that has, or is being conducted that determines correlation (if any) between K-12 student test scores, accountability, and future success in the workplace?”

This is a magnificent question because it goes to the heart of NCLB and how it relates to every Minnesotan. The question is simple: What difference does NCLB make?

Figlio doesn’t really have an answer. First, he says this: “It’s too early to know about the effects of accountability on workplace success.” Then he says “there have been a number of studies that have linked K-12 test scores to labor market outcomes as adults,” but then adds “these papers use data that are decades old, however.”

Minnesota 2020 is asking the right question... what difference does NCLB make? Sure, it gives you objective data to draw conclusions from, but are they the data we need? In simple words, don't we need authentic standardized assessment?

Which brings me back to the comment Shawne Berrian left on a post of mine several weeks ago.

Here is the research we need to conduct. Instead of debating about what will bring about success, let's go find successful people. Use the basis of peer nominations about who is the best in your profession. And choose all professions... mechanics, auctioneers, librarians, soldiers, not just doctors and engineers. Then, choose people who aren't successful in those professions.

Then test them. Give them standardized content-specific tests, such as the Iowa Test of Educational Development. Then give them a standardized assessment which measures the 21st century skills (PISA). And, look at the correlation.

This is what Wiggins and McTighe did. And, they found what made the difference were the 21st century skills, not the content skills.

This is a very interesting point. We always define best practice based on what elicits improvements in student achievement scores, but what if this has stunted other practices that "didn't bring about ITED gains" that would actually help out students be successful? There is a movement towards starting with the end goal in education and designing backwards... maybe we didn't go far enough to start the design process.

(h/t to Education Futures for the link)

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