Someone asked me exactly who I meant when I used this term, and it’s a fair question. I intentionally put the phrase in quotes for the purposes of my open letter because it has been used over time by dozens of different groups committed to changing the US education system from whatever happened to be the prevailing approach at the time.
Today, however, I am using it in the way that it is used as a self-identification term by a group of individuals in the education policy space who adhere to a general set of ideas about what approaches and policy levers should be used to create meaningful change in education. It is a diverse camp that pulls together individuals and groups that often believe in the same solutions but for very different reasons. An example would be charter schools, an idea appealing to both Democrats and Republicans for related but perhaps ultimately different goals.
Shocking? Research finds that teachers’ experience level matters
When a Colorado task force, the LEAD Compact, was convened in 2013 one of the questions that arose was the issue of teacher quality. A range of experts came in to speak to the group about the research that underlay one of the unspoken assumptions of the task force’s conveners and reform advocacy groups: that teachers gradually reach a plateau in their effectiveness after 3-5 years on the job; that there is little evidence that improvement continues after the first three years; and that on average, teachers with 20 years of experience are not much more effective than those with 5 years of experience.
There is a fascinating trend in policy these days that is related to the “decision-based evidence making” that I wrote about a few months ago. It appears that Texas, the state where standardized testing beatification began in the late 1980s (thanks to Ross Perot), reversed course.
For better or worse, however, the “Texas miracle” led many other states, advocacy organizations and the federal government to make standardized tests the lynchpin of education reform efforts, most notable No Child Left Behind and other “accountability” systems at the state level.
I was interviewing a school network leader when we began talking about a funder he had met recently. He was asking the funder to invest in the school model’s expansion and had been turned down, not because the school was not getting good results, but because the funder said he did not believe there was enough of a research base to support the model itself. During that conversation he used the phrase “decision-based evidence-making.” I loved it.
I was trained in social science research. I am familiar with the range of research that exists in the educational space. I know that education research is often disregarded because it is seen as less rigorous than what people perceive to be the gold standard of randomized, controlled studies in science.