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Friday, March 8, 2013

I was wrong about the Testing Bed, but they are almost here

In 2001 I wrote a book called “Scrooge Meets Dick and Jane” that predicted a school that consisted entirely of testing beds:

from page 87 

“When did they invent the test bed? inquired the girl. “That surely changed things I dare say.”

“It just made clearer what was already a done deal,” said old Joe. “The goal was to get students to be comfortable and perform as well as possible on tests. Once they were wired into the internet in their own test bed, they could get questions and answers repeated over and over until they knew the answer pair. This made it easy to require 100% on every test and students could just lie there until they had memorized it all.”

So it turned out I was wrong about the bed. Here is a picture of a room at the Carpe Diem school, (sponsored, of course, by Bill Gates.)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

measure or die: why the schools will only get worse

If you want to know why education is bad and getting worse all you have to do is read the questions sent by potential investors who were thinking about working with our learn by doing experiential model of education.

Now, I have to say that these particular investors are well known bad guys in the education space and why they were interested in investing in us is anybody’s guess. But the questions were so telling, I thought people should see them. 

1. What evidence do they have of the effectiveness of their particular programs, if any?  What evidence do they have from Socratic Arts of effectiveness of a similar model with a similar student base and similar subject matter areas? How do they plan to gather evidence of effectiveness?

Why do I think this is a terrible question? Imagine that someone asked how we could measure your effectiveness as a parent. You might take a offense at this question or you might say “my kids love me and lead happy and fun lives.” Or you might say how they were doing in school.  What you would probably not say is “ I am a very effective parent and I know this because my kids got 800s on their SATs.”

But if these people were put in charge of parenting, or if they invested money in parenting classes or mentoring, they wouldn’t accept subjective answers.

Effectiveness always means test scores. We don’t have them yet for parenting measures but we sure have them for school and that is because measuring effectiveness is now seen as a legitimate question to ask.

I always thought I was an effective teacher when my students got excited about ideas or came up with ideas of their own. But no. Now, we have to measure it, and, in order to do that, we have to measure kids. Maybe these people think they are helping or maybe all investors think like this. I don’t know. I just know it is questions like these that kill educational innovation.

2.       What learning analytics are they gathering on their offering and/or what do they plan to collect and why? What metrics matter to them?

Do our graduates get jobs? That would be the question that mattered to me. But, no.  They would hate that answer. Do our students enjoy themselves? No. They would hate that answer as well. Do our students send their friends? Maybe that one. But, alas, they mean test scores. Of course the only real question is do our students find they passion? Do they know wth they want and know how to pursue it? But, no one asks those questions. How sad for kids.

3.       How standardized are the assessments of the artifacts of their story based approach vs. having an expert pronounce it “just like we do it in the real world”?

Can these people think about anything but measurement? Nope.

4.       Have they considered a competency-based learning model? 

Aha. The real question. Could your guys just forget about helping people learn to do things and just concentrate on the important stuff which as we all know is fact memorization, formula application, and lots of math which is after all so easy to test.

Want to know why our schools are a disaster? Ask investors what they want to measure next. (And, for fun, ask a parent how he or she measure success in child raising.