Thursday, November 21, 2013

Feds want to help schools by rushing to buy imperfect technology

The Feds have decided schools are bad and that the solution is spend billions on imperfect technology as fast as we can.

Stephen Krashen

In The National Education Technology Plan, released in 2010, the US Department of Education insists that we introduce massive technology into the schools immediately, because of the "the pressing need to transform American education ...",  even if this means doing it imperfectly: Repairs can be done later: "... we do not have the luxury of time: We must act now and commit to fine-tuning and midcourse corrections as we go."

These statements assume that (1) our schools are really really inadequate, and we must rush to fix them; (2) technology is the major part of the fix; and (3) imperfect technology is better than no technology.

None of these assumptions are supported by evidence. 

(1) There is no evidence that there is a crisis in American education. When researchers control for poverty, American students' international test scores rank near the top of the world. Also, the products of our educational system do very well: The U.S. economy is ranked as the fifth most innovative in the world out of 142, according to the 2013 Global Innovation Index, which is based in part on the availability of education, new patents and the publication of scientific and technical journal articles.

(2) There is no evidence that the kinds of technology involved will improve school achievement.  A major part of the new technology is a gigantic increase in testing. Research shows that increasing testing does not increase achievement, and there is no evidence that the kind of brave new tests our students will take under the common core will be any better than the kind we have now.

(3) Imperfect technology: Jumping in without proper preparation wastes our students' time and will cost more money in the long run (which may be exactly what the private sector wants; taxpayers pay the bill for the "corrections" while the .01% profit.) Studies on the spread of innovation show that very early first-wave adoption of innovations is not a good strategy. The best strategy is to be part of the second wave, waiting to see the problems in the first wave and apply after they are corrected. The DOE is insisting that American education be early adopters.


Technology Plan: Transforming Education: Learning Powered by Technology. US Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. Quotes here are from the Executive Summary.

Control for effect of poverty: Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012.

Increase in testing: Krashen, S. 2012. How much testing? krashen-how-much-testing/ and

Increasing testing does not increase achievement: Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). OECD. Tienken, C., 2011. Common core standards: An example of data-less decision-making. Journal of Scholarship and Practice. American Association of School Administrators [AASA], 7(4): 3-18.

Innovation: Rogers, E. 2003. The Diffusion of Innovations, Free Press.

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