October 26, 2006

The Educrat Stranglehold

This article on Project Follow Through (PFT) dovetails nicely with this post at Rightwingprof on how we need to break the ed school stranglehold on education before we can solve our education crisis.

The PFT article explains how our educrats ignored the results of PFT because they did not comport with their favorable, though ineffective, teaching methods. The results were an embarrassment to educrats:

Nobody was more surprised than the constructivist curriculum authors when PFT demonstrated two things.

First, the basic-skills-oriented DI far outperformed both the control groups and the other models.

Second, the five constructivist-style curricula actually reduced school performance in districts that were already among the lowest performers nationwide.

DI even outperformed the constructivist models in areas in which they were supposed to excel.

Three tests of success were employed: academic (students' ability to answer questions correctly), cognitive (students' ability to reason for themselves), and affective (students' feelings about themselves).

With names like Cognitive Curriculum and Self-Esteem, the constructivist curricula were supposed to boost higher-order thinking and self-opinion.

According to PFT, they actually reduced both.

At first, the response to PFT was to attack the research project and DI:

The purpose of these attacks was to prevent a mutiny among the constructivist academics running most university education departments, and to retain control of the purse strings at foundations and in the federal government.

Of course, subsequent research has confirmed the PFT results. SO the educrats changed their tactic to ignoring the elephant in the room.

After the initial barrage of attacks, the constructivists adopted a new strategy regarding PFT: silence. The best news about failure is no news and, unlike their curricula, the constructivists' political strategy works.

You can gauge the success of the campaign of silence for yourself: Ask any teacher or administrator you know about Project Follow Through, the world's largest education research project, and you'll most likely get a blank stare.

Since school districts are generally free to pick whatever curriculum they want, here is how the system works:

This is convenient for constructivist curriculum authors, who are generally also professors at influential teachers' colleges. Constructivist orthodoxy is so dominant today it is almost impossible to get a teaching degree at most schools without openly subscribing to it.

Each year, teachers' colleges crank out thousands of teachers and administrators determined to stamp out successful non-constructivist programs, such as DI, in an effort to ensure the continued flow of billions of dollars of grant money and curriculum sales into programs that are proven failures.

PFT's enduring lesson is that the American people, even acting through the federal government, are powerless against the entrenched interests of the education monopoly. Despite our intent to wage a "war on poverty," we have for decades unwittingly financed the engineers of our own defeat.

The author, like Ryan from Edspresso, is more optimistic than rightwingprof, but I don't think anyone disagrees that the vested interests of the edublob, unions, ed schools, politicians and their minions make for a formidable barrier standing in the way of decent publicly susidized education.

6 comments:

Instructivist said...

"Each year, teachers' colleges crank out thousands of teachers and administrators determined to stamp out successful non-constructivist programs, such as DI, in an effort to ensure the continued flow of billions of dollars of grant money and curriculum sales into programs that are proven failures."

Since the snake-oil programs don't work, they also create a self-perpetuating opportunity to conduct endless bogus "research" that somehow calls for more of the same.

SteveH said...

"...but I don't think anyone disagrees that the vested interests of the edublob, unions, ed schools, politicians and their minions make for a formidable barrier standing in the way of decent publicly susidized education."

Even private education, as I see directly on a daily basis. Many of these teachers went through the same schools of education. I don't think anyone can tell Ed Schools what to teach, so the change has to come from parents who know more and have a choice. If there is wide-spread choice (even if it's just for charter schools), parents will become much better consumers. I don't think it will take too long to separate the good schools from the bad ones.

Choice is a crude and slow force for change, but I have seen some optimistic changes in both public and private schools. (I'm generally an optimistic sort of person.) I will see how this works personally this year when my son's school looks at new math programs to replace Everyday Math. Parents, helped by information from the internet (not TV or newspapers), are beginning to understand and complain. Schools can't easily counter their arguments anymore.

The key is to educate parents.

rightwingprof said...

I don't know if optimism is the issue. I just don't think a free market in education all by itself has any power to break the educrat hold. When school systems hire outsiders, the outsiders look to educrats as authorities in the field, so the cycle continues.

SteveH said...

" ... all by itself has any power to break the educrat hold"

Is the presumption that something else "all by itself" will work? Is "all by itself" necessary? I'm open to suggestions.

"any power"?

I don't agree, although it's not a dircet cause and effect. The free market will force parents to pay attention and listen to other parents. "Why are you sending your child to that school?" will be a common question. Of course, private schools tend to reflect the same Ed School theories, but the expectations are usually higher and they have to listen to the parents.

I'm not looking for guarantees. I'm looking for a realistic process that gets us going in the right direction and that can help at least some kids right now.

I don't see any way you can (or want to) impose any kind of educational assumptions. Much of education is based on assumptions and opinions. If another parent wants to send their child to an un-schooling type of school, good for them. I just can't see a solution that is not (almost) entirely parent driven.

rightwingprof said...

If you'd read my post on my blog, you'd know that I don't oppose choice. Choice is always good. But it won't break the cycle.

SteveH said...

"Choice is always good. But it won't break the cycle."

I disagree. It may not do it directly, but it's about time for parents to start paying as much attention to their child's school as they do to buying their next car.

My neice's public school in Michigan is making changes specifically because there is more school choice and parents are paying attention and asking questions. The added incentive is that the MONEY follows the child. When it comes to a choice between money and pedagogy, which do you think the school will choose?

Ed Schools might continue to push their opinions, but when the teachers get out into the real world, they will find it driven by other forces.

Control the money and you control the process. The money should be controlled by the parents.