Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Oh, the Honesty Gap

One of the formative anecdotes in ed reform, experienced personally or second-hand, is the story of a student who is informed by a guidance counselor or other advisor in school that he or she is just "not college material" or shouldn't apply to a top-tier college, or some variation on that theme. Often this is freighted with racism, sexism, class bias or for that matter, just local politics and relationships, and to be clear, these can be very hurtful experiences.

One response to this is to encourage every student, I mean scholar, to aim to attend a selective four year college from the day they arrive at school until they graduate.

On the other hand, the current trending reform meme is the "honesty gap:" that states' low academic standards are misleading kids about how well prepared they are for post-secondary education. This point of view holds that students and parents put a lot of stock on standardized test scores, don't have a lot of other data, and believe that a diploma is a de facto statement of college readiness.

The most obvious way one might double check their readiness for post-secondary education is to ask their teachers or indeed guidance counselor. Some of the time, the adult's honest answer is going to be "No, you aren't ready for that."

Some of the time that is going to be an incorrect answer. Then again some of the time the test is going to give the incorrect answer too. Some of the time they're both going to be biased against women/minorities/poor people.

There's no way to plow through this issue as it is being framed; it is a dead-end approach. The only thing that can be done is to back out and start over, beginning with being clear about what we thought a high school diploma meant traditionally and the implications of changing that. Ultimately though, our systems of college application and induction simply are not rational enough to design our primary and secondary schools around.

Monday, May 18, 2015

These are the People Bankrolling School Reform

Wednesday Martin:

And then there were the wife bonuses.

I was thunderstruck when I heard mention of a “bonus” over coffee. Later I overheard someone who didn’t work say she would buy a table at an event once her bonus was set. A woman with a business degree but no job mentioned waiting for her “year-end” to shop for clothing. Further probing revealed that the annual wife bonus was not an uncommon practice in this tribe.

A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband’s fund had done but her own performance — how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a “good” school — the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks. In turn these bonuses were a ticket to a modicum of financial independence and participation in a social sphere where you don’t just go to lunch, you buy a $10,000 table at the benefit luncheon a friend is hosting.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Highlight of the Annual Sports Calendar, Tomorrow

Webcast starts 7:00 PM EDT, Saturday, May 16.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mass Insight's PPSD Central Office Analysis is a Real Nothingburger

Mass Insight:

Dimension 4 essentially calls for some central office staff to serve as stewards of the change process. These staff steward change by continuously referring to and updating the theory of action as needed, communicating frequently with all stakeholders about the theory of action, and serving as strategic resource brokers (Honig et al., 2010, pp. 88-89). These change managers may help district leaders pursue both knowledge (such as experts in specific aspects of central office transformation) and fiscal resources (such as support from local businesses or foundations).

It goes on and on like that for about 35 pages.

The bottom line is that contrary to the mayor and conventional wisdom, the PPSD central office is leaner than similar cities, particularly in professional staff. We are a bit over-staffed clerically in the central office. But in particular Mass Insight would like to see a lot more data analysis, including collecting and analyzing more data on central office performance, so it seems unlikely this bold transformation would result in much more than just fewer clerks and more higher-end wonks and no actual cost savings (which is presumably what people want).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Understanding Civil Rights Advocacy Groups on Testing

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights:

For the civil rights community, data provide the power to advocate for greater equality under the law.

The people who do civil rights advocacy -- lobbying -- believe in the power of advocacy and lobbying to improve civil rights. To do civil rights advocacy they need data. Therefore, they need test scores.

The problem is that they seem limited to meta-success in this area. Their advocacy and lobbying in recent decades has accomplished little in the key areas of funding and desegregation. Their only win is holding onto what they perceive as the necessary tools to continue their advocacy. It is pretty thin gruel.

I also suspect that a lot of people who become civil rights advocates and lobbyists went to schools where it is at least possible to have and hide an in-school racial achievement gap -- that is, primarily white suburban or private schools. Thus they think disaggregating data at the school level seems like a big deal. In the city, the idea that you need data to demonstrate there is a problem with minority achievement that would otherwise be hidden or unknown just misses the point.

Also, there's some money involved.

Friday, May 08, 2015

If Only Education Could Be as Scientific as Medicine

Scott Alexander:

This pattern absolutely jumps out of the data. First- and second- place winners Nardil and Parnate came out in 1960 and 1961, respectively; I can’t find the exact year third-place winner Anafranil came out, but the first reference to its trade name I can find in the literature is from 1967, so I used that. In contrast, last-place winner Viibryd came out in 2011, second-to-last place winner Abilify got its depression indication in 2007, and third-to-last place winner Brintellix is as recent as 2013.

This result is robust to various different methods of analysis, including declaring MAOIs to be an unfair advantage for Team Old and removing all of them, changing which minor tricylics I do and don’t include in the data, and altering whether Deprenyl, a drug that technically came out in 1970 but received a gritty reboot under the name Emsam in 2006, is counted as older or newer.

So if you want to know what medication will make you happiest, at least according to this analysis your best bet isn’t to ask your doctor, check what’s most popular, or even check any individual online rating database. It’s to look at the approval date on the label and choose the one that came out first.

One Trick Klein

Tony Wan:

The watchword within the company is “One Amplify,” Klein’s code name for a reorganization effort aimed at uniting a company that once listed 12 “C-level” executives and three presidents across five divisions. Today, seven chief officers remain—and no presidents.

Good to see Joel Klein takes the same approach to running a business as he does a school district. Always be reorganizing!

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Opt-Out" has been Extremely Polite So Far

King5:

Not a single 11th grade students showed up to take the SBAC test at Nathan Hale High School this week, a Seattle Public Schools spokesperson confirmed.

It is more difficult to keep your 8 year old home for a week, but a lot of people could.

Also, kicking out the power cord, loundly breaking your pencil tips and/or humming "We Shall Overcome" 20 minutes into the test would also work.