Education by statistics

February 10, 2010
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So many people in the business world are measured by numbers. Lawyers rack up billable hours, venture capitalists strive for returns on investment and factory workers attack defects. And don’t overlook sales, the ultimate in rising or falling based on one’s merits.

School districts, administrators and teachers have been judged on Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress scores for a number of years, but they’re about to be plunged deeper into seeing their performances measured by statistics.

The Indiana Department of Education today rolled out a plan that gauges how much students are learning by comparing individual students to peer students across the state. A student’s academic achievement will be compared against other students in the state who scored at the exact same level on ISTEP+. School systems then will be summarized as high-achieving/high-growth, high-achieving/low-growth, low-achieving/high-growth, and low-achieving/low-growth. And parents will know how much their child is improving compared to their peers.

The department hopes a more detailed analysis will better reveal what works and what doesn’t. And don’t forget that the department wants teacher salaries based partly on test scores.

Here’s a related question. How will private outfits like Park Tudor School, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School and Heritage Christian School respond as public schools get more serious about improvement?

It’s easy to dismiss private school boasts about high tests scores because the students have motivated parents. What’s difficult to determine is how much private schools elevate academics of already high-performing students.

Parents who like the more detailed statistics coming out of public education might start asking those kinds of questions of private schools.

Should private schools adopt the same system, or maybe a similar one? If they don’t, will they fall behind? Remember that Detroit car companies ruled the nation’s highways until they rejected Edwards Deming’s statistical measures and he took the ideas to a manufacturing backwater called Japan.

Might public schools improve so much that they give private schools a run for their money?

Your thoughts?

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  • Private Schools will LOVE Growth Models
    For one, it will help dispel the exaggerated claims that private schools are working with "better raw material." That may be true for a small number of selective private schools; but most of Indiana's private schools are essentially open enrollment - and many Catholic schools in the inner cities are serving very challenging populations.

    Indeed, the Catholic schools in the Indianapolis Archdiocese are already using growth data to evaluate the performance of their schools, their teachers and their students - so they're already ahead of this game.

    And that's just one of the reasons that many private schools do so well. They actually seek out and adopt these kinds of improvement strategies. They don't wait around for state mandates.

    Unfortunately, much of that gets ignored by the teachers unions and other skeptics who can't bring themselves to believe that many private schools actually do things differently and that their success is not the result of better "raw product."

    The growth model will help demonstrate all of that.
  • It is a classroom that the public schools work with
    Yes, matching a poor IPS student with a poor Greenwood student is an improved method of grading teaching progress....but it excludes that fact that the IPS school has a classroom full of distractions that pull down learning opportunities. When a public school or big city school can leave-no-student-behind, it means these students are dragging every other student down. One must consider the classroom composition and how that composition prevents learning.

    A key to remember, each school trys their best to teach. Government only prevents progress with rules and regulations that hurt the average public school student.
  • It is a classroom that the public schools work with
    Yes, matching a poor IPS student with a poor Greenwood student is an improved method of grading teaching progress....but it excludes that fact that the IPS school has a classroom full of distractions that pull down learning opportunities. When a public school or big city school can leave-no-student-behind, it means these students are dragging every other student down. One must consider the classroom composition and how that composition prevents learning.

    A key to remember, each school trys their best to teach. Government only prevents progress with rules and regulations that hurt the average public school student.
  • Not a Change
    As long as the system is still setup to ensure fewer class days instead of more, practical classes instead of theory, and rigidity instead of flexibility, the quality of education in Indiana will always be lower than that of the world. We need real education modernization, not just facial changes.

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