Friday, November 04, 2011

What Causes Student Achievement?

Dana Goldstein addresses that question:
As you can see, by estimating teacher effects at 20 percent, I've interpreted the research consensus quite generously. Matthew DiCarlo, a sociologist with the Shanker Institute, has looked at this same body of research and concluded that another 20 percent of the causes of student achievement gaps are "unobservable" (ex; differences in innate intelligence, statistical error, other mystery causes); and that the rest, about 60 percent, can likely be explained by all the myriad factors associated with socioeconomic status.
The parsing out of what causes student achievement seems very dubious. What if part of the way that socioeconomic status leads to higher achievement is that parents use it to buy houses in school zones with . . . better teachers? Seems very likely, but there's no way to tell with the usual models.

One way we could figure out how to divvy up responsibility would be to get 500 rich kids and randomly assign half to attend a school with teachers identified as horrible (but otherwise keeping everything else about the school the same, such as peers or school spending), and then compare them to the other rich kids who got to attend their regular school. Then you'd really be able to see how much rich kids were benefiting from being able to buy access to good teachers.

But you'd never be able to do such a study -- no one would sign up.



Blogger Linda Fox said...

While I concede that some teachers are deficient in content knowledge, or have attitude issues that affect their teaching, I don't agree that the difference between the schools is all about the teachers. Instead, it's:

1) Horrible administration, more concerned about exceeding the norm for suspending students of a particular race than in getting the school to function as a place of learning.

2) Favoritism that causes some teachers to have small classes of Honors and AP students, and others to have all low-performing 9th graders, many with IEPs, language issues, or behavioral problems.

3) Non-support of teachers who don't kiss butt, belong to the right sorority (I used to think that was nonsense, but I have come to see it as a major problem - for professional Black women, it's either Alpha or Delta - and which they are determines who gets the perks).

3) Automatic disbelief of any White teacher who refers a Black student. It happened to me, when I reported a student who made threats to beat me up for waking him, in front of a class full of students who were willing to sign statements. Did I mention that he was on probation for a violent felony? I couldn't get the Ass. (you got that right!) Principal to even consider a greater punishment than 2 detentions - which, BTW, he never served).

4) BTW, that AP later sent a girl out for TEN DAYS suspension for responding to her directive with "go F&&k youself". Apparently, verbal agression toward APs is a greater offense.

5) It's not that poor schools don't get funds, it's that the process is filled with such graft - kickbacks, theft by employees (always hushed up), overpaying for curriculum designed by cronies, etc.

6) In a well-run school, the halls are clear, the noise level is reasonable, and the classrooms are able to focus on education. Try that when roaming students pound on your doors, curse you, and threaten you for telling them to move on. Try that when classes are regularly interrupted by fights and fire alarms. Try that when a substantial number of your students are disruptive or sleepy (or both), due to drug use. Can't send them out, the APs will just send them back with a suggestion that the problem is your bad lesson plan (it happened to me).

Problems? We don't see any problems, except the teacher. Change the teachers, you still have the same admins. Many teachers have found that leaving for less chaotic situations dramatically improves their performance.

6:01 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wow Linda,

Today I held a teacher in my arms so she could weep about a death this week end. No, not Whitney. An 18 year old she had taught in 3rd grade, another had been shot and killed last month. I asked if she knew back then when they were 8 and 9 years old that their lives would go haywire. She said yes. Here tears were for the students that she is committed to have reading at grade level, any means necessary, by June. She told me (The Elder in Residence) that I had to help. So I went and wrote an grant for dictionaries from Rotary. I immediately sat and listened to 4 children read today. And planned a workshop for middle school parents. The school is 90% poor, brown and black.

In Seattle failure of our these children happen without the show of disrespect and violence that Linda describes. It happens because the children are not valued as future leaders and solvers of USA and world issues. WA is among the highest incarcerator per capita of non whites. It is not about sororities, or whistle blowing or bootleg curriculums. It is racism and classism in its purest form.

As an Elder in residence and of our community, I have heard more children's stories than any retired person without biological grand children should. Today the fox go fired from his job for telling the kangaroo that her feet were to big for the shoes he was selling. lol

12:06 AM  

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