Updated: Mar 22, 2018
This semester has been among the most interesting in my nine-year tenure teaching education leadership to doctoral candidates. My current class, Methods of Collection and Analysis of Assessment Data, offers a great dynamic and has inspired me.
What I enjoy most are our discussions, which often lead to a spirited debate of whether or not a program or a practice is worthy of the resources we expend on it, either human or financial. The discussions have a philosophical foundation and usually are divisive, but not in a bad way.
Education leaders often adhere to a conservative philosophy that discredits spending a dime of taxpayer money on any practice that is not evidenced-based and beyond reproach. The “bible” for practice has become John Hattie’s work, chronicled in his ground-breaking study, Visible Learning (2009).
A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, his work is a culmination of 15 years of research incorporating thousands upon thousands of studies involving millions of students and represents the largest collection of evidence-based research into what works in practice to improve learning. In 2015, his work was updated and currently identifies the impact of 195 effects based on nearly 1200 meta-analyses.
Employing proven methods for student learning, teaching, and school management that are founded on scientifically based research and have been replicated successfully in schools is a fundamental component of comprehensive school reform. The argument goes like this: funds should not be used for any program that has not been found, through scientifically based research, to significantly improve the academic achievement of participating students. The expenditure should also include a plan for an annual evaluation of student results. Yet, few districts budget for a 3rd party to evaluate programs, despite spending millions of dollars on those programs.
The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), the foundation of California’s new accountability system, requires justification for spending supplemental and concentration grant funds. This alone will act to pressure school districts into defending their choice of education programming. The only way to determine whether a practice or program is working is to evaluate it, annually. That’s a practice that can bridge the metaphorical gap between theory and practice (see my Translating Theory into Practice blog here) and provide justification to taxpayers that their elected officials are being held accountable.