April 8, 2009

Duncan: More Class Time and More Choice

Education Secretary Arne Duncan believes that American schoolchildren need more class time and more school choice.

One out of two ain't so bad.

More School

Duncan believes that American school children should be in school at least six days a week, 11 months a year if they are to be competitive with students abroad.

I fundamentally think that our school day is too short, our school week is too short and our school year is too short.

You're competing for jobs with kids from India and China. I think schools should be open six, seven days a week; eleven, twelve months a year.


Presently, this proposal is a waste of time.

Is more seat time really needed in today's poor instructional environment? If you're in the top third of the student distribution, you're already forced to endure an instructional pace that is too slow, resulting in wasted time and opportunity and plenty o' boredom. if you're in the bottom third of the distribution, you're mostly lost because the instructional pace is too fast. More seat time isn't going to help. Just because KIPP has been successful with an expanded school day and school year, doesn't mean that other schools will find the same success.

Duncan's comparisons with foreign countries is misplaced. The U.S. is competitive with foreign countries once you control for demographics. Our white students are competitive with white students from European. Our Asian students are competitive with Asian students from Asian countries. And no country does a particularly good job educating black and Hispanic students in large numbers.

If we want to do a better job educating students, we need to get government out of the education business and limit its role (on all governmental levels) to the education funding distribution and regulation business which is more difficult to screw up.

This is not to say that our currently antiquated system is ideal. It isn't. But there are bigger fish to fry before we force most students to endure more seat time. Our colleges are the envy of the world and they make due with about 20% less class time than our current system. Maybe we should reduce class time?

More Choice

Duncan also believes that students need more choice.

I'm a big believer that students and parents should have a choice what school they want to go to.


Me too. The problem, however, is that current voucher and charter schools are too tiny to provide sufficient choice or develop an adequate market of educational choice from which students can chose.

Currently, most schools (private, public, and charter) look remarkably similar from an instructional standpoint. If you like your Model T in black you are in luck. There are a few reason for this.

  • Lack of information on the relative merits of different instructional practices. (The Internet is starting to make a dent here.)
  • Popular instructional practices (i.e., the norm) serve the middle-class adequately. (In fact, most instructional practices will provide adequate instruction to this population.)
  • There are other non-instructional considerations (like school environment, extracurricular offerings, peer environment, school prestige, and the like) that are relevant and serve as an independent basis for picking one school from another
  • The measures for measuring the relative merits of instructional are few and far between, not widely used and/or made publicly available, and are population dependent.

To improve, we need a well-functioning and competitive education market which provided real choices to students. And, the best way to accomplish this is to give the public school funding directly to parents and let them decide (within regulatory limits) the appropriate use of the funding. (After the system has been rebooted, naturally.) That stills sounds like a public education system to me.

40 comments:

Alex said...

KDeRosa,my real beef with you in my previous postings on the reward issue was over the type of reward offered. I wanted to clarify myself here:If a kid reads a book and gets a pizza,baseball cards, etc, that's fine. The reward itself,though, has to be thoughtout and enticing to the student beforehand. I remember working hard in middle school and getting the marks and then not getting the reward I was promised on meeting those conditions on several occasions, which is what my frustration at your piece was reflecting. As regards to your piece here, would tax credits for parents that homeschool their kids make sense in your view? I've had so many bad experiences with both public and private schools that I think that institutional schooling itself is the problem. Wouldn't vouchers be just taking money from taxpayers and then transferring that to other taxpayers? I think reducing taxes for everyone is sound and giving back $6,000 tax credits(directly from their own tax returns) per child for those families who want to educate their kids themselves makes sense. What are your thoughts?

KDeRosa said...

Alex, I've wanted to respond to your last comment, but I've been short on time.

I wanted to clarify myself here:If a kid reads a book and gets a pizza,baseball cards, etc, that's fine. The reward itself,though, has to be thoughtout and enticing to the student beforehand.

This is a tautology. For something to be a reward the student has to find it to be rewarding. Otherwise, it's not a reward.

Also, rewards are not necessary when the student already finds the actvity to be rewarding.

would tax credits for parents that homeschool their kids make sense in your view

I don't see why not. There is at least a portion of the tax dollars that come from the parents and they are saving the public a considerable amount of money by foregoing the uber-expensive public school system.

Wouldn't vouchers be just taking money from taxpayers and then transferring that to other taxpayers?

Isn't that what we already do indirectly? We take taxes from people with non-school-age children and give it to schools to education school-age children. The only difference is: who controls how the money is spent.

Remember, today's children will be supporting tomorrow's retirees. So, what goes around, comes around, so to speak.

mazenko said...

Duncan is only partially right in the time component. Some schools and some students could benefit from more time in class, or after class, and on Saturday. Jaime Escalante proved this at Garfield two decades ago. However, some student are doing quite well with the current schedule, and there is no need for more time for many districts. In fact, some could do with shortening up the k-16 stint as it is, and students could benefit from a system that allows them to "get on with it" when more time in school at standard grade levels and curriculum is simply slowing them down.

Anonymous said...

DeRosa states:

" And, the best way to accomplish this is to give the public school funding directly to parents and let them decide (within regulatory limits) the appropriate use of the funding."

Would this plan allow city kids to take their funding and attend the nearby suburban schools?

I think they would flock to suburbs if given a chance. Beautiful schools, green space, some with swimming pools, ball fields, etc.

KDeRosa said...

The problem with suburban schools is that, from an instructional standpoint, they are typically no better than city schools.

Suburban schools are better managed, but the funding is comparable. The lack of amenities is mostly due to mismanagement and corruption.

Dick Schutz said...

Both President Obama and Secretary Duncan are getting very poor Educational Intelligence. "More class time" is in the same boat as "smaller class size." Both are dependent on what is done within the time and size parameters. Both are expensive, given the current personnel structure. And typically nothing is done differently as a function of either parameter.

Look at the Reading First Impact Study. Increases in time and differences in time were not consequential.

Re "choice." Ya gotta be for "choice." (Unless we're talking about abortion and you happen to be "pro life.")

The thing is, the available "choices" are largely cosmetic and they are championed rhetorically.

Look at the report released last week on the DC voucher/scholarships after three years. DC schools are not representative of US schools in general, but they are fairly representative of "struggling" schools.

A hefty proportion of the vouchers were never used, and around half were not in use at the end of the third year. There were no reliable differences in the standardized test scores between "treatment" and "control" (Not unexpected given the instructional insensitivity of the tests. But live by the tests, die by the tests.)

More than half the voucher schools were "faith-based" the majority of those being Catholic. That was a factor in parent satisfaction, but kids were more satisfied with public schools.

To have "choice we can believe in" is going to require more work on the "choices" than the matter has received.

The greatest indictment of schools, public and private, is that home schooling by parents who would be considered "unqualified" provides greater choices for both kids and parents. Tax credits, however, discriminate against the kids the schools are failing.

CrypticLife said...

Interesting that you'd mention our Asian students.

My kids are half-Asian, and my older son was complaining about Obama's possible plan to increase the length of the school year.

Because the, he wouldn't be able to go to Japan in the early summer -- something he enjoys doing.

The first thing we do when we get to Japan is put him in school until the end of their session in the third week of July. :)

Six days of school here would also cut into his time on Saturday, when he -- yes, you guessed it -- goes to a private Japanese school from 9 to 3.

Not that I disagree with you on purely increasing time being a waste of resources. Just found it interesting.

Attorney DC said...

Question about tax credits for home schoolers: If I have no children, how much of a tax credit do I get? It's not costing the school system one cent to educate my children...since I have none. If I have children and put them only in private school, would I receive a tax credit for each child equal to the entire cost of educating that child in the public school district? It's a difficult question because all tax-payers (really, all homeowners and business who pay local property taxes) pay for the public schools, whether or not they have will ever have occasion to use them.

Dick Schutz said...

"all tax-payers (really, all homeowners and business who pay local property taxes) pay for the public schools, whether or not they have will ever have occasion to use them."

Of course. That's why they are called "public." The same thing holds for public parks, restrooms, fire protection, police protection, and every other government services.

Moreover, the federal tax funds provide welfare with no strings attached to several private corporate sectors.

The el hi enterprise suffers from no management. Administrators do that--administer. There is no personal accountability above the school site level. And there the indicators are so shoddy that they provide nothing more than fog to maintain the status quo. By the time you get to state and federal levels there is no accountability whatsoever.

Costs are not examined programatically, only categorically.

Accomplishments aren't registered, only deficits.

If one tried to define a dysfunctional system, those earmarks would be high on the list. They are each subject to operational modification. But we're chasing the chimera of "reform" and buying the hoax of "charter schools.

The public schools do many things well. They are weak in providing reliable instructional accomplishments, but they always have been. The enterprise survives with high public approval (albeit with accompanying dissatisfaction) because it takes credit for the learning of kids who would do so without teaching and those who learn despite toxic instruction. But the responsibility for the toxic instruction is at the top of the Edchain, not the bottom.

Attorney DC said...

Dick: Of course the public pays for all public services whether an individual uses them or not. My objection was to the suggestion of giving tax credits to tax payers whose families don't use the public schools - but only if the person has children. Tax payers who don't use the public schools - but have no children - would presumably not be eligible.

To compare it to your analogy, it would be similar to saying that people who have dogs but don't use public dog parks would be entitled to a tax refund. However, people who don't own any dogs are not entitled to a refund.

KDeRosa said...

A portion of everyone's taxes goes to schooling the children of others. For those that have children, a portion of taxes goes to educate their own children. So I don't see why at least that portion should not be controlled by the parents so long as it is going to educate their children.

The childless also benefit from the public school system since in our socialized society today's children are needed to pay for the medicare and social security benefits of childless ceople in their dotage.

Also, we want to encourage high birth rates. We don't want to wind up like Japan and Italy.

Dick Schutz said...

"I don't see why at least that portion should not be controlled by the parents so long as it is going to educate their children."

Because it's about everyone's children, not just about "my" child. The public schools serve a social/acculturation function. Some place no value on the civic/common good. I personally favor open enrollment in all public schools, which would turn every school into a "charter."

I think it's time to bring back the methodology of "Planned Variations. It was botched the first time around with Follow Through and Head Start, but like most everything else in education, it was dropped rather than corrected on the basis of experience.

The prime consequences of charter/voucher/opportunity scholarships to date has been greater separation by race and religion and greater financial corruption than is experienced in public schools. Charterists/voucherists conveniently overlook this information.

KDeRosa said...

Because it's about everyone's children, not just about "my" child.

Let's follow the money with an oversimplistic example.

Taxpayer pays $5000 in taxes to fund public education and that the per pupil expenditures in taxpayer's district are $10,000. Let's say half of taxpayer's taxes ($2500) goes to pay for education of other children who cannot afford the high rates we now pay for government run public schools. Taxpayer has one child who attends th epublic school at a cost to taxpayers of $10,000. Out of this $10,000, $2,500 is the taxpayer's own money.

The same outcome can be obtained by the taxpayer payinging $2500 in school taxes and keeping $2500 to pay for their kid's eucation.

The only difference is that in the former scenario the parent has almost no control over how their tax dollars are being spent for the education of their own children.

The situation is not entireley analagous to usage fees for government services/facilities.

Attorney DC said...

Interesting comments. I'm not so sure I agree with Ken that society pays for public schooling b/c society has an interest in incentiving people to have more kids, who will in turn keep our economy going in the future.

It seems to me that society has an interest in incentiving parents to have well-educated children who grow up to be productive citizens. The U.S. is doing very little to assist middle and upper class parents (the ones whose children are more likely to grow up to be productive citizens) to have children. It is very difficult to be a dual-income family with young children in the U.S. Daycare for the middle class is not paid for by the government. Many employers do not provide flexible hours or paid maternity leave.

By providing free public schools (but little else) the government seems to have helped create an America in which low-income, less-educated Americans (who may not be working at all) have more children while high-income, higher-educated Americans have fewer children.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

(Ken): "A portion of everyone's taxes goes to schooling the children of others. For those that have children, a portion of taxes goes to educate their own children. So I don't see why at least that portion should not be controlled by the parents so long as it is going to educate their children."
(Dick): "Because it's about everyone's children, not just about 'my' child. The public schools serve a social/acculturation function. Some place no value on the civic/common good. I personally favor open enrollment in all public schools, which would turn every school into a 'charter'. "

We are all public citizens and private individuals. Children in independent or parochial schools are as much "the public" as are children in the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's schools. Unions, even "public sector" unions, are private 501-c(5) corporations. What you call "the public school system" is a policy which restricts parents' options for the use of the taxpayers' pre-college education subsidy to schools operated by dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel. There is no coherent welfare-economic argument for this restriction.

In abstract, the education industry is an unlikely candidate for State (government, generally) operation. Children vary widely in their interests and abilities. The possible careers they might pursue vary enormously. Systematic expertise in "education" matters far less than local knowledge about individual children's interests and abilities.

Per pupil costs rise as school districts increase in size. Beyond a very low level, the education industry exhibits no economies of scale at the delivery end. "Natural monopoly" is the usual welfare-economic argument for State operation of an industry.

Abundant evidence supports the following generalizations:
1) As institutions take from individual parents the power to determine the curriculum and the pace and method of instruction which their own children will experience, overall system performance falls.
2) Political control of school harms most the children of the least politically adept parents.

The "public goods" argument for a State role in an industry implies subsidy and regulation of an industry, at most, not State operation of that industry. The State cannot subsidize education without a definition of "education". Given the argument for subsidies to the sub-adult education industry, the issue then becomes: who best represents taxpaqyers' interests in determinig who shall receive that subsidy?

I reason axiomatically here.
1) Most parents love their children and want their children to outlive them.
2) If you live among people, there are basically three ways you can make a living: (2.1) you can beg, (2.2) you can steal, (2.3) you can trade goods and services for other paople's goods and services.
3) Most parents accept proposition 2 and prefer 2.3 for their children.
4) Therefore, most parents want from an education system what taxpayers want from an education system, that children be educated to assume productive lives.

The interests of insiders of the State-monopoly school system differ systematically from the interests of parents and taxpayers. Insiders have a direct interest in inefficient delivery of services. Thus, we see the increase in the span of compulsory attendance and systemic hostility toward self-paced instruction. Teachers need to be needed.

Please read this one page Marvin Minsky comment on school.
Please read this article on artificially extended adolescence by Ted Kolderie.

Although vouchers, tuition tax credits, and subsidized homeschooling (as in Alaska) would be large improvements over the State-monopoly school system, for various reasons I prefer a policy I call Parent Performance Contracting.

Dick Schutz said...

"By providing free public schools (but little else) the government seems to have helped create an America in which low-income, less-educated Americans (who may not be working at all) have more children"

So (more or less) free public schools are responsible for differential birth rates? I'd say that "faith-based" religion is more responsible both for the difference and for a hefty proportion of private schools that voucherists/charterists want to subsidize.

Did you ever entertain the notion that the reason some people aren't working is that there aren't jobs?

Attorney DC said...

Dick: I was just saying that if a woman isn't working and can't get a job (or doesn't want one), it's easier to have additional children than it would be for a mother who is working full-time. Middle-class working mothers have to pay for childcare out of their own pocket. Low-income working mothers may qualify for government subsidized daycare, and non-working mothers don't require day care.

My understanding is that highly educated women have fewer children than women with less education. I further assume that income follows education, so that richer women would have fewer kids than poorer women. I'd also posit that children of mothers with lower income and lower levels of education are less likely to turn into productive citizens and more likely to become involved in gangs and crime (and cost society in both dollars and safety).

As a professional woman, I would simply personally prefer that the government and/or businesses make it easier for middle class women to afford to have children. As it stands, other than the public schools, we don't get much help. As a society, you would think this would be something we'd want to encourage. A homeschooling tax credit wouldn't help us much.

Dick Schutz said...

I'd be the first to agree that there are inequities for middle class Moms--whether working or not. Tax credit for homeschooling is as fanciful as "rebooting" or "reform" so it's hardly worth talking about.

Certainly, if you have a choice between being rich or poor, choose rich. But as far as instructional accomplishments are concerned, poverty is anything but a show-stopper. With very few exceptions kids enter the Kindergarten with adequate prerequisites to be taught to read, compute, and attain other academic accomplishments. That social class on Day 1 is highly predictive of kids academic standing in Grade 8 (which is as far as ECLS-K) has gone, and in every preceding grade indicates that it's not in the kids and it's not in the water. It's in the instruction.

But the characteristics of texts and tests are disregarded (some of present company and a few others excepted). Teacher ed institutions, teacher unions, and publishers have combined to convince everyone "the important consideration is the teacher. Aa 'good teacher' can make any 'program' work. The teacher's job is to adjust instruction to meet each student's needs." The belief system gives each teacher license to mis-instruct and lets all other parties off the hook for the toxic instruction.

Parry Graham said...

A few questions.

Should people who live in gated communities with a guard and guardhouse be allowed to receive a reimbursement for part of their tax money that goes to pay police in their town, since they are paying for their own private security? May I receive a reimbursement on my tax money that goes to the fire department if I agree to personally take care of any fires that happen in my house?

If most schools (public, charter, private) currently look pretty similar instructionally, what instructional differences would we expect to begin see with increased choice?

If "the measures for measuring the relative merits of instruction are few and far between", how will parents make sound decisions about where to send their children for education? Doesn't an effective competitive marketplace require a higher level of consumer knowledge about product quality than you have suggested currently exists?

Parry

KDeRosa said...

Parry, I would think that those gated communities also receive public police services which they continue to recieve. I also don't see why you shouldn't be able to opt-out of any non-essential governmental service.

I would expect to see more educational services being offered based on consumer desires. More efforts would be directed to pleasing parents/students than in the current system.

This is a chicken and egg problem. Those services will arise, like they do in other industries (e.g., consumer reports, and other publications that help consumers pick products) once there is a need for them.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

(Parry): "Should people who live in gated communities with a guard and guardhouse be allowed to receive a reimbursement for part of their tax money that goes to pay police in their town...?"

Dunno what you mean by "should".

Suppose some court were to order your city's police department to provide individual, 24/7/365 security to a controversial figure (a Madilyn Murray O'Hare, say). Suppose the city estimated the cost of this security at 3 x $70,000/year. Suppose the figure offered to hire a bodyguard and relieve the city of its obligation, for some amount less than $210,000. "Should" the city accept the deal?

(Parry): "May I receive a reimbursement on my tax money that goes to the fire department if I agree to personally take care of any fires that happen in my house?"

If legislators could rig the tax code to encourage construction with non-combustable material, why not do that? A property tax credit for installed fire-fighting equipment would amount to "reimbursement if...I agree to take care of any fires...in my house."

(Parry): "If most schools (public, charter, private) currently look pretty similar instructionally, what instructional differences would we expect to begin see with increased choice?"

That we cannot know the answers in advance is one argument for experiment. I can suggest areas for improvement:
1) tailoring curricula to individuals, both in subject area and pace and method of instruction.
2) Follow-up, with career help for graduates.
3) Separation of instruction from credentialing. It is a conflict of interest for teachers to grade their own students.

(Parry): "If 'the measures for measuring the relative merits of instruction are few and far between', how will parents make sound decisions about where to send their children for education?"

This objection applies with greater force to voters choosing politicians who choose processes which select bureaucrats who choose where to send children whom they do not know.

(Parry): "Doesn't an effective competitive marketplace require a higher level of consumer knowledge about product quality than you have suggested currently exists?"

Improvement is a function of information. A market in education services would generate more information than the current State-monopoly system generates.

Parry Graham said...

Malcolm said: "Improvement is a function of information. A market in education services would generate more information than the current State-monopoly system generates."

I find the first sentence of this statement very insightful. I find the second statement fascinating.

Why do you think a market in education services would generate more information? And, in my opinion, it would need to not just be more information, but higher quality and more easily accessible information.

When I look at other service industries that appeal to a broad range of consumers, I don't necessarily see that being the case. Two examples that come immediately to my mind are healthcare and legal services. If I need to pick a doctor or a hospital, or if I need to pick a lawyer, is there good comparative information out there to help me make a decision? These are both robust private-industry service markets, and I'm not aware of good, accessible information available to help a consumer pick a high-quality choice. Heck, that's why plaintiff's attorneys advertise on the back of the yellow pages.

So why do you think a better information system would arise in education? What kind of information would it include? Why would good information be available -- wouldn't it be more about marketing than third-party evaluations?

Parry

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

(Parry): "If I need to pick a doctor or a hospital, or if I need to pick a lawyer, is there good comparative information out there to help me make a decision? These are both robust private-industry service markets, and I'm not aware of good, accessible information available to help a consumer pick a high-quality choice....So why do you think a better information system would arise in education? What kind of information would it include?...Why would good information be available -- wouldn't it be more about marketing than third-party evaluations?
"

I should probably ponder this a while, but what the hell...

"Good" relative to what? "Better" than what? Is not electoral politics "marketing"? The main purpose of "expertise" (certification) in the education industry is advertisement (marketing). This marketing serves to sell the policy of surrender to the State-monopoly school system. Whole Language would not have occurred to any normal person.

Neither health care nor education looks like a likely candidate for State operation. Both industries are highly sensitive to local conditions and education especially has little useful abstract expertise.

I finally got around to reading Hayek, "The Use of Knowledge in Society".

"If it is fashionable today to minimize the importance of the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place, this is closely connected with the smaller importance which is now attached to change as such. Indeed, there are few points on which the assumptions made (usually only implicitly) by the 'planners' differ from those of their opponents as much as with regard to the significance and frequency of changes which will make substantial alterations of production plans necessary. Of course, if detailed economic plans could be laid down for fairly long periods in advance and then closely adhered to, so that no further economic decisions of importance would be required, the task of drawing up a comprehensive plan governing all economic activity would be much less formidable."

The "high quality information" most important to the education industry originates with parents and only a market in education services uses it.

Dick Schutz said...

'The "high quality information" most important to the education industry originates with parents and only a market in education services uses it.'

This is fatuous. There is no "education industry. There is no "market in educational services" And there is no "body of high quality information that originates with parents."

Have you been rebooted?

Meanwhile back at the ranch, here's another datum, flagged by Alexander Russo, for charterists/vouncherists to chew on:

"Study: District-run Phila. schools top manager-run ones"

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/education/20090409_Study__District-run_Phila__schools_top_manager-run_ones.htm

It's not in the Charter, and it's not in the water. It's in the instruction.

Parry Graham said...

Malcolm,

I'm not sure you really addressed my question. But I think I may be making an assumption, and I'm not sure it's warranted. Here is my assumption: That you believe that a competitive marketplace for elementary and secondary education would result in improvements in aggregate student learning. It may be that you do not believe that; for example, you may believe that a competitive marketplace would leave quality of learning untouched, but merely improve parent satisfaction.

But if you do believe that a competitive marketplace would result in improvements to aggregate student learning, then my earlier question remains.

It is my understanding that, in order for a competitive market to lead to improvements in the quality of goods and services, consumers must have access to accurate and reliable information about the relative quality of goods and services. If not, then there is no market pressure to improve quality. In other words, if I want to buy a car, I have access to plenty of third-party information that helps me understand different cars' reliability ratings, safety ratings, fuel economy, horsepower, etc. This leads to market pressure to improve reliability, safety, fuel economy, etc. But if I don't have access to that kind of information, then I'm as likely to buy a lemon as not.

So do you believe that a competitive market in education would lead to more accurate and reliable information? How? What would be the key pieces of information that would be used by parents in making educational decisions? What other service industries could you point to that provide accurate and reliable information, readily available to consumers, and that might serve as a model of how a private market in education might work?

Parry

KDeRosa said...

The point is that if there were a competitive market in k-12 education, which there isn't now, then there will be a demand for information related to education services. Once there is a demand, onwe or more entities will step up and supply those services.

With respect to the Philly study, pritizing the management of a few schools and keeping many of the existing rules and regulations intact does not a market make.

Parry Graham said...

Ken,

I don't disagree with you. I think that, in an enlarged competitive market for K-12 education, more information would become available. The mental stumbling block for me is, would that information be accurate and reliable, and would the competitive environment (and the resulting information) actually lead to improvements in student learning at the aggregate level?

I go back to one of the initial points that you made in your post: "The measures for measuring the relative merits of instructional are few and far between, not widely used and/or made publicly available, and are population dependent."

How would a third-party reliably and accurately measure whether the quality of learning in School X was better than in School Y? Isn't that the kind of information that would need to be available for a competitive market to lead to improvements in aggregate student learning?

Parry

KDeRosa said...

Ultimately, parry, that may be a problem.

Those that need the best information are the least capable of getting and understanding it.

Also, what works for middle America isn't necessarily going to work for the lower end of the distribution. this would serve to increase the amount of misinformation out there.

Though there is some evidence that when these parents are given a real choice they are capable of making an informed decision. In Project Follow through, the DI model was the most popular model. Kipp schools are very popular.

The other solace is that I can't imagine a system worse than the one we have for these parents.

Dick Schutz said...

Well, here I go again. But the kind of information needed, not only by parents, but by government and citizenry is transparent information on the instructional accomplishments and the societal services being delivered by by individual schools and aggregated by superordinate administrative units. For starters, all parties would be satisfied with this information for reading and math.

The methodology for providing this information is very straightforward but very few people inside or outside EdLand are even will to entertain the notion of change of the status quo.

There are a few straws in the wind, however. Paul Barton, formerly of ETS has an insightful guest editorial on Checker Finn's blog, derived from his longer paper, “Failing” or “Succeeding” Schools: How Can We Tell?"

http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/downloads/teachers/101006FailingorSucceeding.pdf.pdf

And Tony Bryk of the Carnegie Corp has his head screwed on right:

"Support a Science of Performance Improvement
Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 90, No. 08 (April 2009): pp. 592-595.
By Anthony S. Bryk
We must reengineer both how we carry out educational R&D and the schools in which this work occurs if we want to achieve more productive ends. Education needs a Design, Educational Engineering, and Development infrastructure, which includes a rapid prototyping process by which researchers and practitioners co-develop innovations, try them in schools and other learning contexts, and then refine and try them again.(4pp.)"

The thing is, using well-developed instructional programs and sensitive indicators of instructional accomplishments, the only thing that differs is learning rate. It's not in SES, and it's not in the water. It's in the instruction.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

(Parry): "Here is my assumption: That you believe that a competitive marketplace for elementary and secondary education would result in improvements in aggregate student learning. It may be that you do not believe that; for example, you may believe that a competitive marketplace would leave quality of learning untouched, but merely improve parent satisfaction."

Mostly A. A bit of B. Some of C.

A. I believe that policies which shift control of education away from suppliers (school districts) to individual parents and, as children age, to students themselves, will improve overall system performance as measured by standardized test scores of Reading and Math.

B. Parent control and later student control will enhance client satisfaction.

C. I had to add one large consideration: The services which parents, and later, students, will demand of an education provider may well not resemble the services which politicians and bureaucrats demand of subsidized educatiion providers. According to the authors of one of the chapters in
C. Eugene Steuerle, et. alVouchers and the Provision of Public Services (Brookings, 2000), Math and Reading scores differ systematically between countries which subsidize parents' choices AND require administration of standardized tests of Reading and Math as a condition of participation in the voucher, on the one hand, and countries which subsidize options and do not require administration of standardized tests. I suppose that PISA or TIMSS supplied the data, and were required of schools in both categories. It appears that bureaucrats and parents assign different weights to Reading and Math fluency.

Extending this thought further, I expect that the weights which blue-collar parents, on the one hand, and academics, politicians, and bureaucrats, on the other, assign to reading and math, on the one hand, and vocational training, on the other, will differ systematically.

To the extent that measures of performance differ, I suggest that the difference implies the superiority of vouchers. Bureaucrats and politicians charge for delivery of a "service" which people do not want.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

(Parry): "It is my understanding that, in order for a competitive market to lead to improvements in the quality of goods and services, consumers must have access to accurate and reliable information about the relative quality of goods and services. If not, then there is no market pressure to improve quality."

Its a matter of degree. More or less competitive, more or less information, higher or lower quality of information.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

)Malcolm): "The 'high quality information' most important to the education industry originates with parents and only a market in education services uses it."
(Dick): "...There is no 'education industry'. There is no 'market in educational services'. And there is no 'body of high quality information' that originates with parents."

We had one tedious discussion related to Mr. Schutz's idiosyncratic use of "only". I won't enter another over the meaning of "industry" or "market". Some people sell home improvements. Rosetta Stone sells language instruction. I tutor Math. Looks like a market to me.

The information which originates with parents concerns the interests, abilities, and moods of individual children.

Parry Graham said...

"Extending this thought further, I expect that the weights which blue-collar parents, on the one hand, and academics, politicians, and bureaucrats, on the other, assign to reading and math, on the one hand, and vocational training, on the other, will differ systematically."

If I may read between the lines, could this not be rephrased: Parents with less formal education will place less emphasis on academic preparation, and more emphasis on vocational preparation, for their own children. Parents with more formal education will place more emphasis on academic preparation, and less emphasis on vocational preparation, for their own children.

Given the incredibly strong correlation between levels of educational attainment and income in the US, wouldn't the situation you describe exacerbate class, wealth, and power disparities in society?

Parry

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

(Parry): "Parents with less formal education will place less emphasis on academic preparation, and more emphasis on vocational preparation, for their own children. Parents with more formal education will place more emphasis on academic preparation, and less emphasis on vocational preparation, for their own children. Given the incredibly strong correlation between levels of educational attainment and income in the US, wouldn't the situation you describe exacerbate class, wealth, and power disparities in society?"

I expect not, for several reasons.
1) Giving academics power over blue-collar parents is a formula for exacerbated differences in outcomes.
2) Much of the correlation between school attainment and income follows from the systematic rigging of the game by the paper-pushing class (occupational licensure, for example).
3) Most of the world's work does not require schooling, beyond basic literacy and numeracy. School beyond basic literacy and numeracy reduces lifetime earnings in two ways: (a) by raising the age at which people enter the workforce, and (b) by reducing on-the-job training.

You may be right. I would live with greater income inequality if it is freely chosen.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

Parry, go here

Tracy W said...

I'm with Parry Graham on this one actually. I have my doubts about the effectiveness of competition in improving information about schools. There are already a lot of private schools but for anecdotal reasons I am skeptical about how much better they are than state schools on average. For example, two weeks into the start of intermediate school (age 11) one of my Mum's friends, with a son my age, hauled him out of his private school and dispatched him to the state school I was attending, having to buy a new uniform and losing a term's fees, because he was being so badly bullied at the private one. At university the ex-private school students never struck me as better educated than us ex-state ones. Another example, another one of my mum's friends got a call from the local primary state school (low SES area) her daughter was attending saying "Your daughter has a reading problem". Mother went "oh my god" and immediately hauled daughter out of that school and into a private one. Two years later private school called her "Your daughter has a reading problem". It had taken them two years to get to the stage that the state school was already at.
And I have never run across any research showing that private schools on average do better than state schools, indeed if anything the opposite. See for example http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/privateeducation/Private-schoolsare-they-worth-it.2370284.jp (for some reason Brits call private schools public schools).

Of course this is only a statement about average schools, it may be that a particular private school does much better than the average, and I am not criticising any specific parents' decision to send their kids to private school - they may very well be in a situation where the private school is clearly the better option. Just the figures imply that many parents who privately-educate their kids aren't getting much educational gain from their money. (Of course they may well be getting gains from their kids associating with rich kids' offspring, and boasting rights like a new sports car but less obvious).

Despite all this I favour school choice because the ability to get a kid out of a situation where they are being bullied can be literally life-saving. But the shoddy performance of private schools on average strikes me as an argument not to expect much from school choice.

Parry Graham said...

"Actually"?!?

Why not "naturally", Tracy?

Parry

Parry Graham said...

Malcolm,

I think you and I have very different definitions about what constitutes persuasive evidence.

Parry

Tracy W said...

Parry Graham - given the number of prejudices and plain weird beliefs I have had to try to excise from my brain, if I naturally agreed with you that would provide an excellent reason for doubting yourself on Bayesian grounds alone.
Or in other words, I don't trust my natural instincts.

Anonymous said...

My thought: more class time = less time for Kumon and/or other tutors that correct the mistakes of our educational system

ari