July 25, 2008

Still Waiting on Broader, Bolder

I'm still waiting on someone fom Broader, Bolder to offer some evidence supporting the effectiveness of their call to expand public education to cover a myriad of social services.

This week both Diane Ravitch and Randi Weingarten offer tepid defenses over at The Education Gadfly.

Let's take Ravitch's defense first:

I care as much about academic achievement as Checker or anyone else in the world, but I don't see any contradiction between caring about academic achievement and caring about children's health and well-being.
The issue isn't about who cares about children's health and well-being. The issue is whether public schools, who are by and large failing at their primary task of education, should take on the additional responsibilities of caring about children's health and well-being. You could care very much about the health and well-being of children and NOT think it's a good idea to hand these services over to our public schools.

The argument seems to be that since children attend school every day (cough, cough) that social services could be easily provided at school. Then why not hand over these responsibilities to the post office. After all, they make house calls six days a week regardless of the rain, snow, heat, or gloom of night. They could give the kids a quick vision screen and drop off any drug prescriptions.

Will it help or harm children's academic achievement--most especially children who are living in poverty--if they have access to good pre-K programs?


The extant evidence suggests that pre-k programs will have no or a negligible effect on academic performance. The yoke is on you to show that there will not only be an educationally significant effect on academic achievement but also that the benefit will persist when the public schools do the provisioning.

Will it help or harm children's academic achievement--most especially the neediest children--if they have access to good medical care, with dental treatment, vision screening, and the like? Will it help or harm children's academic achievement--the children whose lives are blighted by the burdens of poverty--to have access to high-quality after-school programs?


The evidence here is even more scant. I know these community service schools exist, so where is the evidence that they are raising academic achievement. Show me the money.

So, I explain my dissent briefly: One, what we are doing now--the standards & assessments & accountability strategy alone--bears little or no resemblance to genuine academic excellence.


But this doesn't mean that the Broader, Bolder way will be any improvement.

And two, children who come to school hungry and ill cannot learn no matter how often they are tested.


Last I checked, schools offer free and reduced price lunches to practically the entire left side of the socio-economic curve. If these kids are still hungry what makes you think that expanding these current programs will solve the problem, to the extent that there even is one. Again, where is the data?

And three, a good education must include attention not only to academics but to children's character, civic development, physical education, and physical health.


Schools are attempting to do most of this stuff already. Where is the evidence that it is working? Where is the evidence that providing more will bring about improvement?

All we seem to have is rhetoric. Show me the data.

Let's move on to Weingarten.

I'm stating the obvious when I say that No Child Left Behind's testing regime has left little time for these kinds of in-class activities.


By "the obvious," Weingarten appears to mean "with little evidentiary support."

What evidence we go have suggests that only about 16% of schools have reduced art and music time at all. And those that did reduce time in these areas only reduced time by less than an hour a week. Perhaps these schools were neglecting math and reading pre-NCLB. Do you know? No, you don't.

But teachers alone can't get kids all the way to proficiency, when disadvantaged children typically enter school already three years and 30 million words behind.


I hate throwing this word around, but this statement is a lie. The big lie, so to speak. Schools can substantially reduce all of the achievement gap that exists between low-SES and middle-class schools. We've known this for over thirty years now. The experiment has been replicated many times, most recently in Baltimore. Up to the fifth grade level as well.

[M]y message was twofold: first, let's put in place a federal education program that, unlike NCLB, provides space and opportunity for children to be taught a rich, well-rounded curriculum, with standards and accountability that support rather than undermine that curriculum; and second, let's--at the same time--try to address the outside factors like nutrition and health care that affect a child's ability to reach her full educational potential. And yes, I said that we also should try to help parents so they can better support their children's learning.


In Project Follow Through, comprehensive medical, dental, nutritional, and social services were provided to all of the thousands of students taking part in the experiment so these factors would not confound the results. Most of the interventions failed to achieve any student gains at all despite the provisioning of all these services. Many interventions performed below the performance of the control groups. Ooops.

The causal link has not been established. Repeating the rhetoric ad nauseum is not a substitute for data.

Ravitch knows better. Weingarten probably does as well, but there is self-interest at play.

I'll ask one more time. Show us the data. We're waiting.

38 comments:

4trogan said...

Even handing over the education of students with disabilities to public schools has by and large proven itself as unsucessful, especially now that most schools have figured out how to get out of meeting Section 504 and the IDEA's mandates. The vast majority of public schools haven't the foggiest notion of how to best teach this population (not to mention inclination), let alone give them the gift of high expectations.

Schools are already dabbling in providing some medical services (although the definition of "medical" is of course hotly disputed by schools) traditionally covered by insurance such as speech and language therapy, occupational and physical therapy, and other health related functions in taking care of toileting, catheters and feeding & breathing tubes. Many folks are thus very surprised to learn that Medicaid fraud in schools (getting reimbursed by the feds for providing these services in schools, where schools are actual licensed Medicaid providers) runs rampant -- the HHS (now CMS) OIG found in 2006 that 800 MILLION dollars in reimbursement had been improperly claimed by schools:

http://www.oig.hhs.gov/publications/docs/redbook/Red%20Book%202005.pdf (report begins on page 48)

Ken is absolutely correct to reason that folks that believe in proper health care for children can also believe that the schools should have nothing to do with such care. If Ken's logic doesn't convince you, then the public schools' current handling of special populations and reimbursable Medicaid services should be ample, demonstrable proof of why they should never be allowed to touch health care.

4trogan said...

The link to the HHS OIG report didn't appear to post correctly. This is the entire link, though it may need to be typed out into one's brower:

http://www.oig.hhs.gov/
publications/docs/redbook/
Red%20Book%202005.pdf

Stuart Buck said...

What's your email, Ken?

KDeRosa said...

stuart,

kderosa [at] yahoo [dot] com

It's also available from my profile.

palisadesk said...

I think there are two discrete issues here which are being confounded. One is, whether it would be a desirable or helpful state of affairs to have other needed services (such as afterschool programs, homework clubs, daycare, counseling services, whatever) available in school venues; the second is the issue of who should provide such services. The criterion of whether or not these would "increase student achievement" is basically a red herring.

As for whether the school district should extend its mandate into providing a variety of family and community services, my reaction is basically a hearty belly laugh. My observation of how well things get done -- not only instructional matters, but routine maintenance, lawn care and basic business procedures -- suggest to me that my district lacks the organizational capacity to effectively evacuate a telephone booth. However, that doesn't mean that the goal of having the school as a community hub of needed services is unworthy, unworkable or beyond reach.

My own school is a large K-8 with a highly diverse population of mostly working poor, rather than welfare, families. In addition to the school program, there is a not-for-profit daycare (run by an outside provider agency), an afterschool homework and activity club for grades 4-8 (run by a local charity), an evening recreation program run in collaboration with the municipal parks department, afterschool ethnic language classes run by the respective local ethnic groups, and a parent resource center, funded by some grant from the city or a foundation (I am not sure which). There are procedures in place to make school facilities available at reduced (or no) fees, depending on the use. The decisions about what is available and who provides it are made in conjunction witha board of community advisors and parents.

Does it "raise student achievement"? Who could say? The various factors cannot be easily separated out and their results measured. We have plenty of data from other sources that suggests that children who are engaged in school, whose parents (even if of lower SES or limited English) feel a part of the school community, and who share a sense of ownership and participation in school are less likely to drop out or engage in antisocial or criminal behavior. In the school neighborhood, there is little for children to do (safely) after school, so the availability of programs is an important factor in reducing gang involvement, truancy and other problems.

Despite the fact that other schools in the area are underenrolled, we are full every year with children coming from outside the school boundaries. For our demographics, our academic results are not stellar, but are better than others in the area. I agree that student learning should be the focus of school personnel, but these related services contribute to the public good in other ways.

You opened the "Myth of Fun" post with a quotation from Ogden Lindsley. In this context, I'd like to recall another of his maxims. When asked if we should do a or b (such as, teach skills or provide holistic learning experiences) he was wont to reply, Do both.

I think that applies here. But let's NOT have the school district do it -- rather, make the school site (which is funded by all taxpayers, not just parents) available for community groups, charities, foundations and others to provide services that the people involved feel are important and wish to support.

ShortWoman said...

While I think we can all concede that kids who are hungry or in pain might have a hard time concentrating on math, I am not sure that schools need to be the sort of "center of the community" that some people propose.

eduwonkette said...

Ken,

On the pre-K issue, Nobel laureate Jim Heckman, a signer on the statement, has written extensively about the causal impact of pre-K programs on achievement, on issues of scale and pre-K, etc. I believe all of this should be at his webpage.

Also, the B&B statement included a large body of references that address many of the issues you've raised.

KDeRosa said...

e, Heckman relies heavily on the Perry Preschool Project, a small scale, never replicated, somewhat methodolofgically flawed experiment that failed to increase student achievement. Other preschool experiments, of similar scope, found similar results -- no lasting gains in student achievement.

I've read the BB list of "research." If I discount the ones without a control group, there's not much, if anything, left.

Most of the research relies on the well-known SES-student achievement correlation, and merely assumes causation. I'd like to see research that shows something approaching causation.

Bill Fitzgerald said...

@eduwonkette -- please! Ken is the only one who can cherrypick research.

How dare you actually suggest studies with data that indicate a viewpoint that runs counter to Mr. deRosa's preconceived notions. Mr. deRosa is never wrong -- just read his blog!

Every pundit knows that the only worthwhile data is data that supports your preconceived notions -- and every pundit worthy of the name has learned the sophistry of demanding "data" as a means of undercutting opposing viewpoints.

At the risk of stating the obvious, "data" can be found to support most any point of view. A few years back, folks at the highest level of the US government were insisting that there was no good data supporting global warming. They asked for data, and then, when presented with that data, chose to ignore the findings, or suppress the reports. The International Herald Tribune covered this recently -- On July 9, 2008, they reported on the efforts of Dick Cheney's office at rewriting statements on the health risks posed by global warming. So this whole notion of "show me the data" should be understood for what it is: an empty rhetorical device.

In short, data is most useful when there is an actual openness to learning something from it. Data driven decision making has the potential to inform and transform the way we educate students. However, the hue and cry for data can easily be used as a smokescreen by misinformed, opinionated hacks.

Cheers,

Bill

KDeRosa said...

Bill, I have over two years of archives, find where I've used correlation data to "prove" a point, rather than refute another correlation or state a hypothesis.

Or, if you prefer, find the data that refutes any of the points I've raised if I'm as wrong as you imply, and make your argument rather than take non sequitur laced cheapshots.

IB Shango said...

I don't spend a lot of time on blogs. This thread was brought to me by a friend. I work in public health to help schools help kids. I am a professional that actually does the type or work that you all are discussing.

Finding good data about health and academic achievement is challenging. This is a very complex issue. "Show me the money" is a strange call to action considering the human costs of not caring for children and schools.

I am stunned that this discussion is happening and that the following resources are not mentioned. Take a look-- you may learn that healthy kids learn better.

http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/health_and_academics/index.htm

http://www.wested.org/chks/pdf/p1_stuartreport_ch_final.pdf

http://www.adcieohost.com/nasbhc/downloads/PUB_Academic_Outcomes.pdf

Ari said...

"healthy kids learn better" is not the same as "public schools can produce healthier kids."


ari-free

KDeRosa said...

IB Shango, thanks for the links.

The first link is aposition paper, not research.

The second link is to a correlational study showing that large differences between various health-related variables are correlated with very low differences (less than 3 points) between sat-9 scores. This study doesn't (and can't) show that providing more of these services will lead to to increased student achievement.

The third link is an article that refers to a half dozen research studies but indicates no analysis ir evaluation.

If you want me to take a look at any of the "research" contained in the first or third papers, please provide a link.

Bill Fitzgerald said...

Hello, Ken,

There are a few elements to this discussion -- and your attempts to squeeze it into an artificially narrow frame -- that push this thread away from open discourse and into the realm of demagoguery.

First, you attempt to remove the human element from these conversations by reducing the focus to strictly policy. For example, you say in your original post: "Last I checked, schools offer free and reduced price lunches to practically the entire left side of the socio-economic curve. If these kids are still hungry what makes you think that expanding these current programs will solve the problem, to the extent that there even is one."

I have looked hungry students in the face as I taught them. In case you have forgotten, there are *real people* who benefit from additional services. Your discussion has yet to include any mention of human and financial cost of not providing services. As to the line of argumentation that school districts should not be providing these services because they are doing a bad job managing education, this line of reasoning makes sense only when you ignore the reality that, for many students, not receiving these services within schools means they won't get them. The argument over who delivers these services is a red herring. Getting people access to quality health care and food is a *good* thing; as a humane society we should support it. As to the extent of the problem, the USDA has been surveying hunger and food insecurity for a while, and a 2006 report found that it affected nearly 11% of households in the US -- the USDA study is here:

http://www.ers.usda.gov/
Briefing/FoodSecurity/

and it is also discussed here:
http://www.frac.org/html/
hunger_in_the_us/hunger_index.html

And, just to emphasize: if you, or your child, is the one that is hungry, the problem will seem very real. No amount of pretty words will change that.

Second, your dismissals of differing viewpoints appear intellectually dishonest. For example, in response to ib shango, you say: "The first link is aposition paper, not research."

However, the first link points to this page on the CDC web site:
http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/
health_and_academics/index.htm

This page contains 32 citations, and is clearly based on research. To dismiss it as a "position paper" without examining -- or even acknowledging -- the cited research, is either lazy, disingenuous, or intellectually dishonest. So, what exactly do you mean when you say, "If you want me to take a look at any of the "research" contained in the first or third papers, please provide a link." -- the poster did provide a link. You didn't acknowledge the research contained within the link.

The third link provided by ib shango points to:
http://www.adcieohost.com/
nasbhc/downloads/
PUB_Academic_Outcomes.pdf

Page 16 of the paper includes 25 references

Additionally, you dismiss data that shows a high correlation, claiming a need to show causality. As I'm sure you are aware, causality is incredibly hard to pin down when working with both human subjects and large numbers of variables. The reasons for pretending otherwise range from simple ignorance to intellectual dishonesty, but regardless, it's an artificially narrow frame that doesn't reflect the complexity of human to human interactions, or the complexity of conducting research on people. What's interesting is that these methodological challenges are clearly described within the paper linked above at PUB_Academic_Outcomes.pdf -- this discussion begins on page 8, and continues for several pages, and provides a good primer on some of the challenges in establishing direct causality.

The approach to ignoring data that shows a high correlation aligns neatly with the strategies employed by people who attempted to dismiss global warming. They cited a lack of causal data, and insisted that a high correlation wasn't enough to "prove" anything.

But really, to get back to the point: when we talk about services we are talking about real people. Services improve the lives of real people. The majority of the people who are *doing* this work don't have the time to prattle on about it as we do in this thread -- they are trying to stretch resources to help people. So please, as we continue to attempt to score rhetorical points over one another, let's not forget that there are people who need and deserve better. This conversation does nothing to improve the world around us -- and truly, I feel a sense of regret for wasting the time I have spent here replying to this thread.

Bill

Ari said...

Bill, would you accept the findings that show that DI is an effective method of instruction?


ari-free

TangoMan said...

Eduwonkette,

On the pre-K issue, Nobel laureate Jim Heckman, a signer on the statement, has written extensively about the causal impact of pre-K programs on achievement, on issues of scale and pre-K, etc. I believe all of this should be at his webpage.

It's interesting that you mention Heckman, in that he is a rare bird indeed for he can admit when he is in error. Let's be clear about his position.

Recall his scathing critique of the Bell Curve:

What little is known indicates that ability--or IQ--is not a fixed trait for the young (persons up to age 8 or so). Herrnstein noted this in IQ and the Meritocracy. Sustained high-intensity investments in the education of young children, including such parental activities as reading and responding to children, stimulate learning and further education. Good environments promote learning for young children at all levels of ability. In this sense, there is fragmentary evidence that enriched education can be a good investment even for children of low initial ability...

Future research should focus on growth and development in measured ability prior to age 15 (the age of the youngest person in the Murray-Herrnstein sample), because existing research indicates that values are formed and cognition is developed prior to that age.


So Heckman laid out a research plan for the future. Let's see what he thinks a decade later:


Another continuing blind spot in the vision of most educational planners and policy makers is a preoccupation with achievement tests and measures of cognitive skill as indicators of the success of an educational intervention. By narrowly focusing on cognition, they ignore the full array of socially and economically valuable non-cognitive skills and motivation produced by schools, families and other institutions. This emphasis also critically affects the way certain early intervention programs have been evaluated. For example, while enriched early intervention programs do not substantially alter IQ, they do substantially raise the non-cognitive skills and social competence of participants.”...

An important lesson to draw from the entire literature on successful early interventions is that it is the social skills and motivation of the child that are more easily altered— not IQ. These social and emotional skills affect performance in school and in the workplace. We too often have a bias toward believing that only cognitive skills are of fundamental importance to success in life.”

Former NYC Math Teacher said...

Additionally, you dismiss data that shows a high correlation, claiming a need to show causality. As I'm sure you are aware, causality is incredibly hard to pin down when working with both human subjects and large numbers of variables.

So...we should base public policy on simple correlation? We should commit tax dollars to something that may cause something else because it seems to do so and, by golly, it's just too hard to pin down what with human subjects and variables and all. It's not that the two variables might be affected by a third variable towards which we should direct our dollars. If the policy doesn't work, claim it does anyway, or just claim that it would work if we just had more money. Other people's money, that is.

History is rife with examples of such good intentions gone awry. Why, how could helping indigent families by simply tossing money at them fail? After all, wasn't lack of money the problem? If they only had more money they could get back on their feet and make a contribution to society. Such was the welfare state and the near total destruction of the black family was the result, of course.

(And, yes, I would like some proof beyond Al Gore's endlessly repeated consensus that global warming is a crisis that we should, or even can, reverse. Yes -- proof of a causal relationship before I haved to shell out endless tax dollars to satisfy yet another leftist lobby. Boy, I wonder what our ancestors did to avoid extinction during previous warming cycles. They didn't even have the benefit of Al Gore!)

KDeRosa said...

Bill,

Actually I'm just trying to get you and your progressive brethen to support your opinions with some actual data.

Let's stick with nutritioanl studies which appear to be near and dear to you.

Provide me with one study having a coontrol group and a calculated p value. Teh control group should be receiving the traditional free and reduced lunch program. The experimental group should have gotten additional nutrition to reduce their "hunger." The manner in which the students receive this additional nutrition should be the same as you are advocating (whatever that may be since you are being vague so far). The experiment should last for at least a year. There should be a pretest and a posttest which measure student achievement. The testing instrument should be reliable, valid, and well recognized, preferrably standardized. Effect sizes shoul dbe calculated or calculatable from the data. The effect size should preferrably be educationally significant along with being statistically significant.

I just want one study. Don't point me to some advocacy paper with dozens of links to non-research. The yoke is on you to prove your position. I'm not going to do your digging for you.

If you can't find one for nutritional supplements then find one for some other beneficial social service. I don't care which.

AFter you've upheld your end of the bargain then I'll uphold mine.

This goes for anyone else who wants to cite research.

Bill Fitzgerald said...

@ari --

I'd use elements of DI that make sense within the context of any course I ran. The same is true of project-based learning, or direct inquiry, or Socratic questioning, or quiz-based drill. Depending on the educational context and goals, they all have a role to play, and dogmatic adherence to any method is both myopic and bad teaching.

@Former NYC Math Teacher -- really, I'm laughing too hard at the excessive generalizations to really care much about responding in detail. I'll leave you with this:

Re: "Yes -- proof of a causal relationship before I haved (sic) to shell out endless tax dollars" -- are you talking about global warming, funding education, or launching and extending the Iraq war?

Cheers,

Bill

KDeRosa said...

Here's a start:

Williams K. Final Evaluation of the 2002-2003 Youth and Family Centers Program. Dallas, TX: Dallas
Independent School District Division of Evaluation and Accountability; 2003.

Apparently not available online but may show academic performance effects from SBHCs. If someone has a copy let me know.

Probably the only study to have done so. From: School-Based Health Centers An Academic Outcomes (PPT):

A thorough literature review conducted in 2003 yielded 7 studies on the link between SBHCs and academic outcomes... The current research base provides insufficent evidence to demonstrate a direct link between SBHCs and academic peformance that can be widely generalized.

Happy hunting.

Bill Fitzgerald said...

@ken -- You and I were commenting at the same time, so I missed your comment --

RE: "The yoke is on you to prove your position. I'm not going to do your digging for you." -- this is a frequent line of yours, particularly when presented with differing opinions. It is a pretty standard non-answer, the ugly cousin of "show me the data."

To clarify: there is no "yoke" -- on the one hand, you say "send me links to research" -- then, you say "I'm not going to do your digging for you."

Just to be clear, I'm not going to do your digging for you either. From your viewpoint, it appears that you are putting your "experience" with this issue as superior to the CDC's, which is just one of the many research-backed resources you were pointed to.

Doesn't it feel a little bit silly to be holding up your experience as superior to that of the CDC? Have you really studied these issues to the extent that your individual opinion should be valued higher than the collected work of professionals who study the research and data as part of their life's work?

And please don't misunderstand: I have no illusions that this conversation will change your mind, or the opinions of any of your regular readers. Truth be told, I don't much care about altering your opinion. However, the artificially narrow terms from which you choose to frame the issue don't reflect either the realities of the classroom, the school, or research with human subjects, especially minors. This is not a call to direct funding and policy to whatever "feels good;" rather, it is a call to common sense in recognizing that in tracking issues related to behavior, learning, teaching, resilience, etc, that there are some very real obstacles to establishing causality.

Common sense shouldn't be a barrier to discourse, or making informed judgments.

Cheers,

Bill

Former NYC Math Teacher said...

Common sense shouldn't be a barrier to discourse, or making informed judgments.

The problem is that in the public policy arena, common sense is lacking. Moreover, what passes for common sense are usually the feel-good policies that you decry. Isn't it just common sense that we can reverse global warming? Isn't it common sense that if we spend more money education will improve?

When my money is at stake, I need more than "common sense", however difficult such evidence is to obtain. To do any less is to betray the taxpayers.

Bill Fitzgerald said...

@ken --

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/
journal/117974240/abstract

The above link is to an abstract of a study from 2007: Murray NG, Low BJ, Hollis C, Cross AW, Davis SM. Coordinated School Health Programs and Academic Achievement: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of School Health 2007; 77(9): 589–600.

From the abstract:

"Results: The strongest evidence from scientifically rigorous evaluations exists for a positive effect on some academic outcomes from school health programs for asthmatic children that incorporate health education and parental involvement. Strong evidence also exists for a lack of negative effects of physical education programs on academic outcomes. Limited evidence from scientifically rigorous evaluations support the effect of nutrition services, health services, and mental health programs, but no such evidence is found in the literature to support the effect of staff health promotion programs or school environment interventions on academic outcomes.

Conclusions: Scientifically rigorous evaluation of school health programs is challenging to conduct due to issues related to sample size, recruitment, random assignment to condition, implementation fidelity, costs, and adequate follow-up time. However, school health programs hold promise for improving academic outcomes for children."

Nothing really earth-shattering here, just confirmation of what makes sense. In some areas, there are measurable improvements. In others, there are smaller improvements. Negative effects seem to be non-existent.

What a surprise. Looking at the whole student has some benefits, and it holds promise for greater benefits. Guess we should stop doing that, though, because we can't prove that doing it actually makes a difference.

Ken -- this conversation is getting both boring and repetitive. You have your opinion, and of course, you are completely right -- and it was incredibly presumptuous of me to dare suggest otherwise. However, I hope that other people stumbling across this thread will actually use some of the resources you attempt to discredit, and see that attempts to artificially narrow the scope of the discussion leads to a myopic focus on trivia, as opposed to open discourse that can lead to greater understanding.

Cheers,

Bill

KDeRosa said...

is a frequent line of yours, particularly when presented with differing opinions.

Actually, it's a frequent line of science. It's how science gets past the opinion stage-- a place you appear reluctant to leave.

Just to be clear, I'm not going to do your digging for you either.

Thanks, Bill, but I'll take care of my own digging.

From your viewpoint, it appears that you are putting your "experience" with this issue as superior to the CDC's, which is just one of the many research-backed resources you were pointed to.

This is an appeal to authority -- a logical fallacy. The CDC's authority extends to the valid research it has conducted. Feel free to cite an CDC research you care to.

Doesn't it feel a little bit silly to be holding up your experience as superior to that of the CDC? Have you really studied these issues to the extent that your individual opinion should be valued higher than the collected work of professionals who study the research and data as part of their life's work?

Another appeal to authority. My experience is irrelevant,as is the CDC's. What is relevant is the valid research we cite/conduct.

However, the artificially narrow terms from which you choose to frame the issue don't reflect either the realities of the classroom, the school, or research with human subjects, especially minors.

ANd that research is what?

This is not a call to direct funding and policy to whatever "feels good;" rather, it is a call to common sense in recognizing that in tracking issues related to behavior, learning, teaching, resilience, etc, that there are some very real obstacles to establishing causality.

Actually, that's exactly what it is. You're asking us to fund what feels good to you based on your common sense. The reason, as you admit, is because you have no valid proof.

KDeRosa said...

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/
journal/117974240/abstract


See. now was that so hard?

Of course, this is merely an article rounding up research as opposed to research itself; nonetheless, I'll take a look.

Bill Fitzgerald said...

Ken --

RE: "http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/
journal/117974240/abstract"

You realize, of course, that you just cited something to me that I cited to you earlier in this thread?

RE: "Of course, this is merely an article rounding up research as opposed to research itself; nonetheless, I'll take a look."

Big of you. Especially considering the study you quoted earlier: "A thorough literature review conducted in 2003 yielded 7 studies on the link between SBHCs and academic outcomes... The current research base provides insufficent evidence to demonstrate a direct link between SBHCs and academic peformance that can be widely generalized."

Literature reviews are useful because they, well, review literature.

RE the CDC as an appeal to authority: and here I was thinking experience, study, and skill were good things. Kind of ironic coming from someone who also argues for the value of "deep mastery" and the need of a solid understanding of context as a pre-req for that deep content.

But my favorite: "Actually, that's exactly what it is. You're asking us to fund what feels good to you based on your common sense. The reason, as you admit, is because you have no valid proof."

Zen-like prose. Bravo. So illogical as to defy refutation. If an argument dies of its own inadequacies and no one cares, does it make a sound?

Anonymous said...

Bill:

"Depending on the educational context and goals, they all have a role to play, and dogmatic adherence to any method is both myopic and bad teaching."

Can you cite any evidence for this?

How do you determine if your approach is effective?

Would you go to a doctor who prescribes hormone treatments for your wife, and who ignores the multi-year study linking them to breast cancer? (if your not married, assume it's a good friend's wife)

The last example is exactly what the educational establishment does.

And they continue to do it, in the face of evidence contradicting their assumptions.

It's interesting . . . I haven't heard one of Ken's detractors determine what flaws make Follow Through unacceptable in their eyes. Was it the massive student population? The multiple years of the study? The outcome that they don't like?

What?

KDeRosa said...

You realize, of course, that you just cited something to me that I cited to you earlier in this thread?

I know. I wanted to provide you reference so you knew what I was referring to.

Did you mererly read the abstract or did you actually read the entire study?

Especially considering the study you quoted earlier

The difference was that I wasn't citing the studt to prove anything, but to show that in 2003 that a literature review was conducted and found little relevant research. See the difference?

Literature reviews are useful because they, well, review literature.

Depends on how well the literature review was done.

and here I was thinking experience, study, and skill were good things. Kind of ironic coming from someone who also argues for the value of "deep mastery" and the need of a solid understanding of context as a pre-req for that deep content.

They are useful because they tend to produce useful results. It is the results we are interested in, not the credentials. That's why appeals to authorities are logical fallacies. I really shouldn't need to explain this for you.

So illogical as to defy refutation.

This is a conclusory statement. Explain your argument, zen master.

Tracy W said...

ib shango: This is a very complex issue. "Show me the money" is a strange call to action considering the human costs of not caring for children and schools.

It's a very important call though. Even though this is counter-intuitive, it is very very important to consider if you are spending money effectively. It is entirely possible to spend money on a programme that doesn't actually improve outcomes for children. Medicine has learnt this bitterly over the centuries, it had many many ideas, such as bleeding, that were intended to help children (and adults) but were generally far worse than doing nothing.

Bill Fitzgerald: As to the line of argumentation that school districts should not be providing these services because they are doing a bad job managing education, this line of reasoning makes sense only when you ignore the reality that, for many students, not receiving these services within schools means they won't get them.

So it doesn't matter if those services are effective or not, as long as they are provided. Somehow the logic escapes me.

The argument over who delivers these services is a red herring. Getting people access to quality health care and food is a *good* thing; as a humane society we should support it.

However, if you are to provide people with access to quality healthcare and food, then you do have to argue over who delivers these services. It is entirely possible to deliver a service incompetently and provide bad quality healthcare and food. For example, for much of English history, probably people were better off if they avoided doctors. We also know that a market economy is far better at delivering food than a planned economy. These arguments are not red herrings - the provision of quality healthcare and food is highly dependent on who delivers those services.

And, just to emphasize: if you, or your child, is the one that is hungry, the problem will seem very real. No amount of pretty words will change that.

Which is exactly why arguing over who delivers these services is a very important thing. Caring isn't enough, effectiveness counts too.

As I'm sure you are aware, causality is incredibly hard to pin down when working with both human subjects and large numbers of variables. The reasons for pretending otherwise range from simple ignorance to intellectual dishonesty, but regardless, it's an artificially narrow frame that doesn't reflect the complexity of human to human interactions, or the complexity of conducting research on people.

It's not narrow to ask if a service will actually increase outcomes.

But really, to get back to the point: when we talk about services we are talking about real people. Services improve the lives of real people. The majority of the people who are *doing* this work don't have the time to prattle on about it as we do in this thread -- they are trying to stretch resources to help people.

The idea that the providers of a service don't have time to worry about whether they are actually improving things is a dangerous attitude. For example, Florence Nightengale worked out, after the Crimean war, that she had actually harmed a lot of her soldiers. She had insisted that the men drink lemonade, not beer. The water supply was contaminted by a dead horse, so the men acquired infections from bacteria that the brewing process would have killed. So her hospital had a lot higher death rate. If she had spent time during the crisis looking at whether she really was being effective, she would have avoided killing a lot of people, and saved herself a lot of guilt.

it is a call to common sense in recognizing that in tracking issues related to behavior, learning, teaching, resilience, etc, that there are some very real obstacles to establishing causality.

Common sense should also take into account the very real harm caused by not establishing causality. Indeed, you don't need common sense, just a knowledge of history.

KDeRosa said...

Here are the findings from Coordinated school health programs and academic achievement: a systematic review of the literature, Nov. 2007, Cross et al. cited by Bill Fitzgerald:

* An asthma self-management program incorporating health education and parental involvement increased academic grades for low-income minority children but not standardized test scores. (Evans et al.)

* A subsequent study of the asthma self-management program was expanded to include health education for asthmatic children and their classmates, orientation for school principals and counselors, briefings for school custodians, school fairs including caretakers, and communication with clinicians demonstrated higher grades for science but not math or reading and fewer absences attributed to asthma as reported by parents but not fewer school-recorded absences. (Clark et al.)

* A rigorous evaluation of Project SPARK, a physical education program, demonstrated significant gains for reading, losses for language, and no differences for math scores on a standardized test, suggesting that, even with time taken away from the academic program for physical education, overall academic functioning was not impaired. (Sallis et al.)

*In a randomized trial of physical education programs incorporating fitness or skill training for 75 minutes per day, compared with usual physical education offered 3 times a week for 30 minutes, students in the fitness and skill groups demonstrated no significant decrement in test scores compared with controls. (Dwyer et al.)

The remaining studies evaluated were not as rigorous and the authors conclude: Limited evidence from scientifically rigorous evaluations support the effect of nutrition services, health services, and mental health programs, and no scientifically rigorous evidence is found in the literature to support the effect of staff health promotion programs or school environment interventions on academic outcomes.

Anonymous said...

Bill wrote "I'd use elements of DI that make sense within the context of any course I ran. The same is true of project-based learning, or direct inquiry, or Socratic questioning, or quiz-based drill. Depending on the educational context and goals, they all have a role to play, and dogmatic adherence to any method is both myopic and bad teaching."

Just because something "makes sense" doesn't mean that it will work and vice versa. We can't just go by intuition; we have to actually test it.

I'm all for healthier kids but the biggest health problem we're facing is obesity. America isn't some third world country where people work for hours in order to afford a bag of lentils (which is far more nutritious and cheaper than what you'd find in the typical American diet).


ari-free

Parry Graham said...

I absolutely agree that any program using public funds (education especially included) should be evaluated to determine its effectiveness, and that evaluation should impact decisions about future funding and implementation.

At the same time, are people on this board making the argument that no social service should ever be provided until a direct, irrefutable causal link between that service and specified outcomes has been established through rigorous scientific experimentation, utilizing random assignments in controlled situations?

KDeRosa said...

Parry, most of these non-educational services are already being provided in most states, so the larger question is mostly moot.

The issue is should we permit the expansion and/or co-opting of these non-educational services by public schools for the purpose of increasing educational outcomes with little or no proof.

I think we can wait for some small scale, and perhaps some large scale, research before mandating such programs.

The union has survived all these years without universal preschool, it'll hold-up until we finally find a model that works and has been validated.

Anonymous said...

Parry,

Are you arguing that we should take money (via taxes) and provide services that aren't proven to be effective?

It's what we do anyways, but at least someone will finally admit it!

TangoMan said...

Parry,

At the same time, are people on this board making the argument that no social service should ever be provided until a direct, irrefutable causal link between that service and specified outcomes has been established through rigorous scientific experimentation, utilizing random assignments in controlled situations?

I've bolded the point I want to address. If an advocate is claiming that a service should be publicly funded BECAUSE it will yield a desired outcome then I argue that this advocate should be able to offer evidence in support of his claim. If he can't offer evidence, then his whole argument falls apart, and in sense, is reduced to "fund this service with public monies because, well, just because."

Encountering that type of reasoning leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Parry Graham said...

Ken, my understanding of the larger issue (and maybe I am mistaking the larger issue) is that it might be of benefit to low-income children/families to host certain social services on school sites, especially because of the possibility of increased availability and coordination. I agree with palisadesk —- whether or not these services should be offered at schools and whether or not schools should oversee these services are two different questions. As a public school administrator, I would say “No, thank you” to the second question, but might say “Sure, depending on the details” to the first question. Would hosting those services at a school lead to increased student achievement? Maybe, but I would imagine only very indirectly, only for some students, and probably not in a way that could be easily measured. But, from my reading, the larger questions are: Do these services adequately address a need among families in the community (although not an education-related need), and might more children/families avail themselves of these services if they were hosted at school sites?

Anonymous, I wasn’t making an argument, simply trying to understand the arguments being advanced on the board.

TangoMan, I agree with you. Public money should never be spent without justification, available evidence should always inform decisions about how to spend public money, and public leaders should be able to make clear and well-supported arguments to justify funding decisions. At the same time, we live in a messy world. If leaders in the public sector needed iron-clad evidence to support every funding decision they made, they would rarely be able to allocate funds. This would likely mean that important and effective (if under-researched) efforts would fall by the wayside. In my opinion, lacking that iron-clad research (which is rarely available), public sector leaders should rely on a preponderance of evidence in making their decisions. Furthermore, I believe it is simply unrealistic in many cases to expect direct causal, research-based evidence linking a specific action with a specific outcome in the public sector. Does the evidence available strongly suggest a likely outcome? Then move forward, and evaluate as you go. Is the evidence available ambiguous, contradictory, or negative? Then go back to the drawing board.

Parry

Tracy W said...

Furthermore, I believe it is simply unrealistic in many cases to expect direct causal, research-based evidence linking a specific action with a specific outcome in the public sector. Does the evidence available strongly suggest a likely outcome?

On the other hand, there is some convincing evidence that it is very very hard to improve children's educational outcomes by providing social services that are not directly related to education.

There is a fascinating post on Marginal Revolution at http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2004/11/nature_nurture_.html. This is a summary of an article, looking at adopted children's performance. The interesting thing about this study is that it looks at adoptions done by an organisation, Holt's International Children's Services, who under their adoption contract, if parents are accepted into the programme then children are randomly assigned. The study found that the income of biological children of those parents increased with parental income, but the income of adoptive children of those parents was not affected by their parental income. (Some adopted children had low incomes, some had high incomes, the point is that you can't predict the adopted children's incomes by knowing their adoptive parents' incomes). Being adopted is a far more radical change of environment than any school can manage.

There may of course be some social programme that can improve children's outcomes. This study does not prove that it is impossible to improve children's outcomes. The study however means that our default assumption to any proposal based merely on correlation should be one of skepticism.

Note that the study excludes very bad parenting because prospective parents had to be accepted by Holt in the first place. It is entirely plausible that a parent who hits their kids on the head with frying pans or looks them into the cellar for a year is wrecking their lives quite independently of the genes the parent provided. Indeed, it's hard to figure out a mechanism by which they wouldn't be, though ethics prevents a proper study.

KDeRosa said...

Parry, by larger issue I meant should government be in the business of providing these services at all, but that ship has already sailed.

it might be of benefit to low-income children/families to host certain social services on school sites, especially because of the possibility of increased availability and coordination

You could justify the provisioning of any service based on this rationale. We might as well farm out the remaining parental responsibilities as well since the kids are already at school half the day.

Joking aside, this implies a simple experiment. Set up a small number of schools that provide these services at school, find matching schools to serve as the control and observe the results.

Do these services adequately address a need among families in the community (although not an education-related need), and might more children/families avail themselves of these services if they were hosted at school sites?


This might be a fair question, but the broader, bolder folks are claiming the provisioning of these services will lead to better educational outcomes.

In my opinion, lacking that iron-clad research (which is rarely available), public sector leaders should rely on a preponderance of evidence in making their decisions.

Do we even have a preponderance of the evidence at this point?

I'm not advoating for iron-clad research. I'll settle for typical social-science research that contains a control group. And weigh the benefits compared to the costs.