Friday, June 13, 2008

Education Research Shows Nothing but High Price Tags

Two articles this week on education research with no real winner or loser in either. Shocking. The first study is the result of an exhaustive study of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Ed Week says that the results show that “National Board Teachers found to be Effective”. Wow – not exactly a resounding victory.

Next up was a study of supplemental education services (SES). In this case the results were mixed with a Rand study showing some improvement but other studies showing no real improvement. Not exactly a resounding defeat.

Notice a trend. It costs a lot of money to conduct a study to determine student achievement yet we cannot really see any truly significant results. In the case of the National Board, the effect size was .04 – this means that only 4% of the gains made by students can be attributable to the fact that the child had a National Board teacher. Even if the results are better, the samples sizes are small due to the cost and the detractors of a program will call it out based on sample size even if it is statistically significant.

There is no slam dunk in studies of student achievement. It is sad but true that the costs are too high and the variation seems to be too great to really get a feel for the success of one program or another. Maybe we need a new measure?

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