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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Improving Learning Outcomes

For John, BLUFYou should print out the report and skim it.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I got to this article in The Wash Post via BREITBART, yesterday.  The original reporter was Ms Emma Brown.

This article is about an effort by the Federal Department of Education to improve K-12 schools.  It was called the School Improvement Grants (SIG) and was funded at $3 Billion.  Even today that is a lot of money.

Here is the lede plus one:

Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not.

The Education Department published the findings on the website of its research division on Wednesday, hours before President Obama’s political appointees walked out the door.

Here are four key paragraphs from the middle of the article (The "Duncan" mentioned is former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan):
Some education experts say that the administration closed its eyes to mounting evidence about the program’s problems in its own interim evaluations, which were released in the years after the first big infusion of cash.

The latest interim evaluation, released in 2015, found mixed results, with students at one-third of the schools showing no improvement or even sliding backward.

Even then, Duncan remained optimistic about the School Improvement Grants, which he said had — along with the Race to the Top grants — unleashed innovation across the country. Speaking about the two grant programs at a fast-improving high school in Boston in 2015, he argued that it would take time to see and measure their full effects.

“Here in Massachusetts, it actually took several years to see real improvement in some areas,” Duncan said at the time. “Scores were flat or even down in some subjects and grades for a while. Many people questioned whether the state should hit the brakes on change. But you had the courage to stick with it, and the results are clear to all.”

From the Department of Education Report we have these "Key Findings":
  • Although schools implementing SIG-funded models reported using more SIG- promoted practices than other schools, we found no evidence that SIG caused those schools to implement more practices. Our descriptive analysis found that schools implementing a SIG-funded model used significantly more SIG-promoted practices than other schools (22.8 of the 35 practices examined [65 percent] versus 20.3 practices [58 percent], a difference of 2.5 practices). Our more rigorous RDD analysis found a similar difference of 3.3 practices, but it was not statistically significant. Therefore, we are unable to conclude that SIG caused the observed difference in use of practices.
  • Across all study schools, use of SIG-promoted practices was highest in comprehensive instructional reform strategies and lowest in operational flexibility and support. In the comprehensive instructional reform strategies area, study schools reported using, on average, 7.1 of the 8 SIG-promoted practices examined (89 percent). In the operational flexibility and support area, study schools reported using, on average, 0.87 of the 2 SIG- promoted practices examined (43 percent).
  • There were no significant differences in use of English Language Learner (ELL)- focused practices between schools implementing a SIG-funded model and other schools.
  • Overall, across all grades, we found that implementing any SIG-funded model had no significant impacts on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment.
  • When we compared student achievement gains from different models in elementary grades (2nd through 5th), we found no evidence that one model was associated with larger gains than another. For higher grades (6th through 12th), the turnaround model was associated with larger student achievement gains in math than the transformation model. However, factors other than the SIG model implemented, such as baseline differences between schools implementing different models, may explain these differences in achievement gains.
So, what DO we do to improve our schools?  I am a layperson in this area, but having heard that the statistics show the number one indicator of success in life is if your natural parents are still married, I would think that the solution is not necessarily in the classroom.  Perhaps it is in the Living Room or Dining Room or Kitchen of the child's home.  How can we influence that environment, in order to influence learning, but do it without the heavy hand of Government falling on the family, which is the next to the smallest unit of government?

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

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