Sunday, July 23, 2006

Research? Are you kidding?

Digg it!

Phi Delta Kappa International, the self-proclaimed professional association in education, is an influential voice in the current education debates. The organization's mission is "to promote quality education as essential to the development and maintenance of a democratic way of life by providing innovative programs, relevant research, visionary leadership, and dedicated service." OK, let's see what they consider to be the promotion of quality education and relevant research.

An article in the current issue of their noted magazine, Phi Delta Kappan, claims to provide enlightened insight on what is wrong with public schools.

The findings: Of the 13 middle school students surveyed, all agreed that having personal responsibility for critiquing each book they read improved their reading skills more than being in a traditional classroom. This sounds like wonderful data, but is absolutely devoid of meaning and value.

First off, a qualitative study [1] of 13 students has no statistical merit, it is simply someone's story. As a study, it is simply a waste of time and effort. How in the world can students honestly state that a certain program improved their performance relative to some other program - a program in which they were not currently participating? They can because they were simply answering an invalid question on someone's survey.

Another finding: 10 of the 13 said that their overall social skills improved as a result of a curriculum integration experience. Again, how would they know for certain? The reality is they can't. So why the research and why the findings?

One section of the report is entitled, "Curricular Decisions Belong to Students." Not the parents, not even the teachers, but the students. Since we have all been through the middle school period of life, we know for certain that this statement is absolute nonsense. But it is the agenda that is driving so-called middle school reforms.

You can plainly see this agenda when a teacher decides that the child should moderate a child/parent conference in lieu of the standard parent/teacher setup. Yes, the child critiques his work in front of his own parents in a classroom surrounded by other children doing the same. The teacher floats around the room proud to have implemented this "new experience." And it's the King that has no clothes?

So, there you have it. The responses from 13 students confirm that Progressive Education is the way to go. Don't buy this nonsense. Ask questions at school curriculum nights and conferences. You can be certain that your concerns about your school's low academic performance are correct, regardless of what those 13 students felt on survey day. You have to take the lead in your child's education, otherwise your child will be subject to this foolishness.


[1] Qualitative research asks those studied to provide their feelings or beliefs regarding the effectiveness of a program. These type of studies do not even consider improvements in test scores, they simply collate and report responses to questions such as, "Do you think this method improved you abilities?"

Contrast that with quantitative research that employs the methods used by the typical medical study appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine - double-blind studies, etc. Qualitative research has it's place in science but not when testing educational interventions.

The feelings and beliefs of the 13 students do not prove increased performance. It is just as likely that their performance is less even though they report that it has improved. In instances such as this, qualitative research is devoid of scientific meaning, but full of agenda-related meaning.

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