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Good for you.

But before you do, I have four questions for you.  I'd like you to be able to describe and/or explain each of the following, if you would be so kind.

1.  Reggio Emelia

2.  Campbell's Law

3.  Simpson's Paradox

4.  The Zone of Proximal Development

What, you are not even sure you've heard of most of them?

Congratulations, that might, based on my experience at a conference with a number of members of the Education Writers Association, qualify you for membership -  as someone writing/opining about something for which you lack the requisite background.

Why these four?  Well, for that you will have keep reading.

The fact that so few of those who do write or opine about matters educational can accurately respond to my four questions is part of what is wrong in our educational discourse in this nation, for it is the educational writers who bear the responsibility for informing the general public and also political leaders of the true issues in education, which if they do not know basic information, they cannot fairly do.

So let me give you a brief intro to each.

Reggio Emelia -  is a small town in Italy, where Loris Malaguzzi and the parents of the villages around Reggio Emilia established the world's best early childhood education program, one that focuses on childhood development and formation of self identity through respect, responsibility, and community using a process not of lecture but of exploration

Campbell's Law - promulgated by Donald T. Campbell in 1976:  The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor. This adage has been demonstrated time and again.  If you pay policemen for the number of arrests they make, many will be dismissed and the community may pay substantial settlements for false arrests.  If you change to pay them on the basis of percentage of arrests resulting in convictions or guilty pleas, only slam dunk cases will result in arrests, and many others will simply go free.  Campbell's Law points at the basic flaw in attempting to reward education professionals on the basis of student test scores.

Simpson's Paradox -  a statistical anomaly which explains why you need to disaggregate data.  Let me illustrate

Year One ten students take an exam with a score range of 400-1600 (the old SAT0.
9 are white upper middle class who average 1000  =  9000
1 is black working class who scores 800                 =   800

Total points 9800  average score is 980.

Next year both groups do better, but the mix is different

white upper middle class 8 x 1010   = 8080
black working class 2 x 810            = 1620

Total points 9700, average score is now 970.

OHMYGOD - our SAT scores dropped!!! Yes, but that was mean SAT score, and your mix now has more lower scoring students.  If you report is the one overall mean score you present a distorted representation of what has actually happened, which is improvement in both groups.

Zone of Proximal Development - a basic concept of the constructivist approach to education.  Developed by Lev Vygotsky, it describes the difference between what a child can do independently and what a child can do with help (usually from adults).  The focus on education should therefore be in that zone, which is where the greatest learning/growth occurs, a place beyond the immediate comfort zone of the student but not so far away that s/he cannot see how, with adult help, to get there.

These are four key ideas that I think someone writing about education should understand.

I would also think that anyone writing about education nowadays should have some training in basic statistics, research design, and similar topics to be able to properly address "studies" and reports that make impossible claims that are easily disproved by one competent in the relevant disciplines.  It might help if such writers could go beyond reading an executive summary that may not be supported by the underlying data in the report -  that was certainly true of the seminal national education policy statement A Nation At Risk in 1983.  

Somehow that seems too much to ask for our major media organizations.  It is bad enough that pundits pontificate on topics about which they know little, although in the case of education everyone seems to think s/he is an expert merely by virtue of having sat in some kind of class at some point.  It is far worse that those whose professional responsibility is to be writing about the subject lack the requisite knowledge and background.

But don't feel bad.  You too could therefore be qualified to write for a major publication on education even though you do not even know much of the important terminology, and probably cannot name the important professional organizations in education -  and here I mean neither the unions nor the alumni of Teach for America.  

Just make enough money -  then like Bill Gates and Eli Broad you will believe you are entitled to tell the professionals how to do education.

And if you yourself are not wealthy, decide to become a cheerleader for a key figure, like Richard Whitmire did for Michelle Rhee, or a particular approach, like Jay Mathews did for KIPP schools.  You will sell some books and become an invited speaker which might bring you more income.

Just a few more questions, if I may.  

Can you explain the difference between a value-added score and a gain score?

What is the summer learning loss and what impact should it have on our overall approach to educational policy?

Who was Coleman and how was his famous report misused by some for political purposes?

What, you don't know about these either?  Well, welcome to the club.  Feel free to start writing and opining about education.  You will be in good company, with most of those who are already doing it.

Me?  I'm going to have a beer, then get back to calling all the parents of my kids.  Even though my first class is not until Monday morning.  After all, we teachers only work 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, and have way too much time off, are not accountable, and overpaid, right?  

Originally posted to teacherken on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 11:37 AM PDT.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge and Education Alternatives.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So you want to write about Wall Street/Congress? (6+ / 0-)

    Well, unless you have intimate knowledge of how either works, then you shouldn't be allowed.

    Also, no more discussing corporations here, because you lack the legal and economic knowledge to form an opinion.

    Please confine you writings to your immediate area of expertise.

    Sorry, teacherken, I love your stuff, but this attitude doesn't work.  Public workers don't get to hide.  You are paid via tax dollars, which makes education a topic of public scrutiny.

    By all means correct bad information, but you can't demand parents, tax payers and industry ignore our public education system.  It is part of the social fabric.

    •  Wow! You've legitimized Bachmann AND Perry! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      willibro, drmah

      Ignorance = innocence
      innocence = virginity
      virginity = abstinence

      and abstinence has worked for me!


      Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

      by Clem Yeobright on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 12:32:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  maybe i need a nap or something... (3+ / 0-)

      or maybe i missed something previously discussed or there is something between you and teacherken....but i really don't get your reply.
      i quite understand what tken is saying...people who are less qualified to influence discussion regarding education have been given deference, resulting in undue and (imo) detrimental influence.
      i don't see anywhere in the diary a demand on parents, tax payers and industry to ignore public education.
      all i see above is a challenge issued to those who want to write about education under the premise they are expert in the field...

      •  It is always better to have public discussion (0+ / 0-)

        I wish education was discussed in every campaign, and at least once a day in the media.  This should always be issue number two on every voter's mind.

        It is just like with the wars.  People said, if you aren't in the military, you don't understand.  So out of some perverted sense of respect, we've just brushed it off.

        If the wrong ideas are out there, then we have to get the right ideas out there.  Not discussing it is not the way to go.

      •  Who gets to decide? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        "...people who are less qualified to influence discussion regarding education have been given deference, resulting in undue and (imo) detrimental influence."

        Who gets to decide who is "less qualified"?

        When we try to raise taxes on Corporations, the CEOs scoff that we aren't qualified to discuss their affairs. They are wrong.

        When we try to rein in the Military, the generals and Defense Contractors say we aren't qualified to have opinions. They're wrong, too.

        Now it is time to reform Education. Our current system is failing poor and inner-city kids. Who gets to decide who is qualified to have an opinion?

        •  i understand and accept your point... (0+ / 0-)

          i could have left out "less qualified" or found a more accurate phrasing. what i wanted to say is that imho, there has been more of an inclination to influence education from a business perspective rather than through the eyes of educators...even this isn't exact but it is much closer to my interpretation.
          i would add also that imho, educators have a greater responsibility to society in comparison to a ceo or a defense contractor...i'll give a waiver to the generals and the military...but i'm much more inclined to thank a teacher.

    •  But that's not what he's saying (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      willibro, annetteboardman, Abelia

      He's saying that the people who inform the public about educational issues by citing studies, theories, statistics, ought to know how to evaluate the things they write about.  Then the public has better information to help them reach their own conclusions.

      And not coincidentally, to argue their points.

      Ken is not talking about the general public, he is talking about the press.  

      Just a little tongue in cheek on the side, Ken?

      When shit happens, you get fertilized.

      by ramara on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 02:13:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I hope so (0+ / 0-)

        because I write about education.  

        But I am quite sure I am not the type at whom this is directed (or at least I hope I am not the type...).  I do think that requiring a basic knowledge of the major events/trends/theories in education is important for those setting education policy, and I know how important an understanding of statistics (not to mention basic MATH -- addition, subtraction, etc.!) is for assessment of outcomes.  

        I certainly wouldn't go into formal publications about education policy.  I never present my writing about education as anything other than anecdotal.  I hope that is not an issue.

  •  I learned Proximal Development and Vygotsky (5+ / 0-)

    in school.  Our Ed department was into constructivism at the time.

    I also vaguely remember Campbell's Law, but never knew it by that name.

    And most of what I learned about educational history was American centralized--the Kindergarten Movement, John Dewey, etc.

    And being as my specialty is music, I never bothered to learn much about data crunching.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 11:52:17 AM PDT

  •  Best wishes for the new school year (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, mapamp, annetteboardman

    I have meetings all next week; classes start on the 29th for me. Your students and their parents are lucky to have a caring, informed, professional teacher. Good luck!

    "Shared pain is pain lessened; shared joy is joy increased."--Spider Robinson

    by Maggie Pax on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 11:53:31 AM PDT

  •  Now to your other questions: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mapamp, annetteboardman

    I remember hearing the terms "value-added score" and "gain score", but that's about it.

    The "summer learning loss" is based on brain physiology and how memory works.  During the summer, the parts of the brain engaged in academics don't work as hard, and information stored in long term memory gets filed further back.  This has led to the year-round school movement.  Which I think is another classic misinterpretation of data such as the Coleman Report has been used.

    And speaking of said report, I did not know to whom said data was attributed.  But I do know about some of the data gained, especially in regards to segregation and testing.

    And you can just guess the politics involved when segregation and testing are involved.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 11:56:16 AM PDT

    •  here's a sad fact or so (6+ / 0-)

      1) the only presidential candidate to address summer learning loss during the primaries or the general was Obama, who actually had specific proposals to address it, none of which has been acted upon by the Department of Edudation

      2)  Summer learning loss can have a huge impact on value added or gain scores, especially if you are measuring from spring to spring, because the results you get are confounded by (a) the summer learning loss for lower socioeconomic kids and (b) the advanced learning opportunities for upper middle class kids.  In other words, if you take such an approach you are actually going to see an increase in the so-called performance gap.  

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 12:03:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Indiana's dingbat Gov Daniels/Sec of Educ, Bennett (0+ / 0-)

        (Republicans) created a devise way to address summerl loss. They railroaded law through state legislature that could have required teachers to add instructional days, up to three weeks, to their schedule at the demand of their local school board.  Their theory was this would give schools more "flexibility." The down-side to this, which was struck down by the Court this week, is no additional salary would have been paid for extending the school year.  

  •  What the real problem is: (6+ / 0-)

    The problem with most "edu-journalists" is not lack of knowledge. It's lack of curiosity. Journalists by nature tend to be dilettantes rather than "experts." But what separates the good journalists from the bad are the ones who bother digging into the topic more and really exploring all the multiple facets. These days journalists accuse the subjects of their news articles of "bad packaging" if the subject material is not delivered to the journalist in a simplistic frame.

    Speaking as someone who writes a lot about education but never would profess to be an "expert" on the topic, I find that most journalists who write about this subject to be incurious about the complexity of teaching and learning. They always seem to be interested only in "the bottom line."

    But then, I'm not a journalist either.

  •  I love the zone of proximal development. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries

    I will definitely read more about it.

    I also think people should be aware of John Holt before they write. He opened my eyes really wide to both how children think and to how our public school system works.

  •  Coleman said "What you talkin about, Willis?" (3+ / 0-)

    Whew! I didn't think I was going to get any of tk's questions.

    Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

    by Clem Yeobright on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 12:19:47 PM PDT

  •  What really bothers me isn't that the pundits (4+ / 0-)

    so vociferously opine about education even when they're completely ignorant of the issues. What really bothers me is that the people who are making the decisions regarding the future of public ed seem to make those decisions without even bothering to become informed of the basic facts. As a prime example, just consider the abnegation of responsibility we've witnessed from congress in rewriting or replacing NCLB.

    I think there was a time when congressional hearings were actually conducted to find facts and get expert testimony on issues. Now it seems like they're only held to to advance predetermined political agendas and spin the facts.

    I believe that in every country the people themselves are more peaceably and liberally inclined than their governments. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by Blue Knight on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 12:30:20 PM PDT

  •  I only know about education (5+ / 0-)

    through a parent's eyes. And that is worrisome enough for me.

    I watched No Child Left Unscrewed as it developed in its genesis in TX and felt horror that it was going to go nationwide. I don't know how to best asses "Success" in education-hell I don't even know what metrics to use.

    Strange that I know so little about a topic that impacts me so deeply.

    But just two days ago, my 19 year old, one year out of high school, was applying for a manufacturing job, and was asked to take a brief math test. She was extremely pissed off when she got home, because the test had a few addition problems on it involving fractions. One year out of school and she had completely forgotten how to add fraction with different denominators. No memory at all of it.

    She passed umpteen fricking assesment tests though.

    Somehow, I can't get past the idea that her family and her community have failed her and her classmates. We, as a nation, will pay the price for that failure.

    Nobody is normal because everyone is different- my eight year old daughter

    by left rev on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 02:23:14 PM PDT

    •  Wow (0+ / 0-)

      I haven't taken math since my sophomore year in high school (although I have done some stats in classes and used them in research, which is not the same thing), and I remember how to work that out (I turn 50 next year).  That is pretty scary.

  •  I'd like to write about education (4+ / 0-)

    but I can't type, so I just write on the screen with a crayon.

    •  They have crayons that can write (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      on dry-erase boards these days.  They do have pretty cool school supplies.  Not good education, but cool school supplies!

      •  Not so quick! Your eye-hand coordination improved (0+ / 0-)

        If you couldn't write your name in cursive, you would forced to sign legal documents with an X.

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