Sunday, September 25, 2011

Achievement Gap

In this nearly hour-long video (via Bridging Differences), an assortment of panelists discuss the nature of the achievement gap between races. All of them agree that there are no simple solutions, which in itself is interesting since both Diane Ravitch and Michelle Rhee are on the panel.

At one point, Ravitch reasserts her view that the original idea behind standardized testing was purely diagnostic. It was meant to be used like a thermometer is used to check temperature. Its widespread current use in penalizing or rewarding schools and teachers defeats that original intent. Comer backs her up by saying that a  thermometer can tell whether a patient has a fever, but tells us nothing useful about what caused it, or how to fix it.

In response, Rhee contends that once you find something amiss in the diagnosis, you do something about it, right? The idea that measurement and a corrective response to that measurement are completely independent of each other is misguided. If students under a particular teacher get low scores year after year, then at some point, one has to consider the hypothesis that the teacher needs to go.

Angel Harris also points out that anecdote is not data. Just because a certain model has worked once somewhere doesn't prove that it is a successful model. You have to consider the entire distribution of outcomes under that model.

A very interesting civil conversation.

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