Thompson: Goldhaber On The Future Of Research
Dan Goldhaber’s Teacher Quality Research Over the Next Decade, presented at The American Enterprise Institute on “Teacher Quality 2.0,” is a hopeful sign that research by non-educators may become more reality-based.
Goldhaber makes a plausible argument that value-added models work at the elementary level, at least in comparison with other ways of evaluating teachers. But, he cites evidence that value-added might not work quite so well at the high school level.
So, Goldhaber asks if less emphasis would have been placed on the value-added of individual teachers if research had focused on high schools rather than elementary schools.
I certainly hope that the answer would be “Of course!”
In his constructive paper on the next era of research to improve instruction, Goldhaber starts by asking how teachers will respond to value-added and, later, to technology and various reorganizations of the schooling process. He asks all the right questions about the unpredictable ways - constructive and destructive - that teachers’ practice could be altered.
But, instead of asking whether educators will make good choices, we should ask how administrators will respond to these changes.
Near the end of the paper, Goldhaber doubles back and asks the governance questions that, I believe, will be far more determinative than the workers’ responses to evaluations, technology, or the reorganization of schools. Unfortunately, he mostly addresses the same old Reform 1.0 issues. For instance, he speculates on whether management should use value-added to influence the distribution of teacher talent.
But, to get back to Goldhaber’s important questions, we can’t assume that policy-makers will be rational and/or benevolent. For instance, the way that teachers use online technology will be greatly influenced by whether those marvelous tools are supposed to be used to increase learning, or to lower costs, or to play statistical games to make accountability numbers look good.
Goldhaber concludes, “My guess is that making significant progress at scale will depend a great deal on policymakers being very purposeful about figuring what is working, and, importantly, what isn’t.”
Well, in that case, we’ve lost already.
But, if research on 2.0 reforms is thoughtful and well-grounded in evidence, and if we can repudiate this top-down approach to governance, our democracy can better thrash out bottom-up solutions. -JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.