September 12, 2007

I'd like to buy into it, but then I read on ...

Education "research" is at it again. This time, Pittsburgh Public Schools hosted Robert Strauss, a professor in the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University. Basically, he says,

When it comes to the racial achievement gap, principals or teachers can have a bigger impact on achievement in one year than whether a child is poor or from a single-parent home.

So, does this mean that the "impact" is limited to one year, or does it continue if the students have the same teachers and principals in subsequent years? Gotta read on ...

The study looked at 89 principals, 236 English teachers and 199 math teachers of students taking the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests in reading and math in March 2005.

He found that some principals and teachers didn't have a positive or negative impact on results. However, 62 principals had an effect on math results -- ranging from scores 17.5 percent higher to those 37.2 percent lower. And 33 principals had an effect on reading -- ranging from scores 15.66 percent higher to 35.65 percent lower.

Among teachers, 148 had a significant impact in math scores and 90 did so in reading, both also by a wide range, positive and negative.

Wow. Sounds impressive. Personally I'm starting to wonder, though, just how the study determined that principals, in particular (let alone the teachers), had a positive or negative impact. Then I read this and my question appears answered:

Dr. Strauss said his study showed that those teachers and principals who made a positive difference helped both white and black students, not just students of one race or the other.

Dr. Strauss urged the district to find out what those who make significant differences are doing so other professionals can learn from them.

In other words, Strauss has no idea just what in the hell the teachers did, let alone the principals! If he did, why would he make that last statement? Since this is essentially a "snapshot in time," how can Strauss and co. draw the conclusion that it was the teachers -- and especially the principals -- who exerted the "positive" or "negative" impact? Based on this "research," it's possible that a school could be loaded with the best teachers and principals, yet see their scores in the "lower" category ... because their school(s) have a higher degree of poverty and single-parent homes! In other words, since Strauss doesn't even know what the teachers and principals did, then it just may indeed be possible that poverty and single-parentage CAN (and it's only fair to say "can" since the article says "principals or teachers CAN have a bigger impact on achievement") play a bigger role than the school.

Do not get me wrong. I'm far the negative teacher stereotype that seeks to blame all things negative on everything but him/herself. And I'm certainly all in favor of schools exerting the largest possible positive influence on achievement that they can ... I mean, who the hell wouldn't? But I'm also in favor of seeing a non-BS educational study for once. Oh, and lest I forget that the subject of the article is actually the racial achievement gap, the end of the article provides the following gem:

Linda Lane, deputy superintendent, also gave a presentation on the racial achievement gap, saying that race is a larger factor than poverty.

She said that black achievement levels vary widely across schools.

She noted specific efforts to improve achievement, including increasing "the work in ways which are specific to the needs of African-American students."

Here we go again. Let the "well-intentioned deprecation" continue.

Posted by Hube at September 12, 2007 04:26 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

A lot of what is attributed to African-American behavior is actually the well known symptoms of lead poisoning. Most low-income inner-city children are lead poisoned, and that includes a large proportion of the African-American population. Lead poisoning causes irritability, impulsivity, aggression, IQ loss, learning problems, and attention problems. These have all been confirmed in animal models, not just human research. Check out the url I left for more information.

Posted by: Michael Martin at September 21, 2007 12:12 PM