24 October 2017 Reader: Edu Reform, Edu Equity, Technology

Memory Machines and Collective Memory: How We Remember the History of the Future of Technological Change, Audrey Watters

There are powerful narratives being told about the future, insisting we are at a moment of extraordinary technological change. That change, according to these tales, is happening faster than ever before. It is creating an unprecedented explosion in the production of information. New information technologies — so we’re told — must therefore change how we learn: change what we need to know, how we know, how we create knowledge. Because of the pace of change and the scale of change and the locus of change — again, so we’re told — our institutions, our public institutions, can no longer keep up. These institutions will soon be outmoded, irrelevant. So we’re told.

These are powerful narratives, as I said, but they are not necessarily true. And even if they are partially true, we are not required to respond the way those in power or in the technology industry would like us to.

Teacher diversity gaps and their evolution under Trump, Michael Hansen and Diana Quintero

The beginning of a new school year often prompts renewed interest in the diversity of the public teacher workforce, and this year is no different. Minority teachers count for less than 20 percent of all public school teachers, while minority students account for roughly half of all students. And, troublingly, this trend is not likely to reverse anytime soon, based on our report on the topic last year.

There are myriad factors that appear to contribute to the systemic underrepresentation of minority teachers, as well as a variety of proposed solutions to reduce these gaps. Experimenting with these types of policies should be worth it, as the weight of research evidence shows that disadvantaged students stand to benefit most from a more diverse workforce.

7 findings that illustrate racial disparities in education, Liz Sablich

[W]e’ve put together a list of seven findings about racial disparities in education that scholars and contributors at the Brookings Institution have highlighted over the past year.

NEPC Review: Lights Off: Practice and Impact of Closing Low-Performing Schools (CREDO, August 2017), Matthew Gaertner and Ben Kirshner

This report provides an extensive analysis based on the most comprehensive dataset ever assembled for school closure research, including 1,522 low-performing schools that were closed across 26 states between 2006 and 2013. The report finds that even when holding constant academic performance, schools were more likely to be closed if they enrolled higher proportions of minority and low-income students. It also finds test score declines, relative to the comparison group, for two groups of students displaced by closures: those who transferred to schools with a prior record of relatively lower test-score performance and those who transferred to schools with equivalent past test-score performance. The slightly less than half of students who transferred to higher performing schools showed academic improvement relative to their matched peers. In general, although the reviewers found this to be a careful and rigorous study, they see a few missed opportunities. First, the report’s focus on some tenuous analyses (involving pre-closure transfers) obscures its most important findings – disproportionality in school closures and inadequate numbers of higher quality receiving schools, leading to performance declines for most. Second, the reviewers are concerned about statistical modeling choices and matching challenges that may threaten the validity of subgroup analyses (charter school students). Finally, the reviewers would have liked to see the report acknowledge the inescapable moral dimensions of school closure: The communities most likely to be negatively affected are unlikely to have participated in closure decisions.

Neglecting Democracy in Education Policy: A-F School Report Card Accountability Systems, Kevin Murray & Kenneth R. Howe

Sixteen states have adopted school report card accountability systems that assign A-F letter grades to schools. Other states are now engaged in deliberation about whether they, too, should adopt such systems. This paper examines A-F accountability systems with respect to three kinds of validity. First, it examines whether or not these accountability systems are valid as a measure, that is, do these systems validly measure school quality? Second, it examines whether or not they are valid as a policy instrument. or, how far do A-F accountability systems fulfill the stated aims of their proponents—empowering parents, providing “simple” and “common sense” measures of educational quality, and so on? Finally, it examines whether or not A-F systems are valid as a democratic framework:, how well do these systems align with the broader goals of educating students for democratic citizenship and of incorporating parents and community members in democratic deliberation about policies for their public schools? The paper concludes that A-F accountability systems are invalid along each of these lines, and provides recommendations for democratically developing and implementing criteria for school assessment.