Unreliable research


The Economist takes a good look at the difficulty in "getting science right" by looking at problems with the statistics we use to measure significance, the incentives for publishers and peer reviewers, and our inattention to reproducibility. I fear some will read something like this and use it to discredit all science; I think science remains "the best game in town" and honest, healthy skepticism -- both in ourselves and in the structures that support and disseminate research -- will only make it get better.

Can we “fix” open access? | Scholarly Communications @ Duke


Recently there was a "sting" operation where a purposely bad article was submitted to a bunch of open access journals just to see which ones would stoop low enough (or care little enough) to publish it. A lot of journals took the bait, which of course makes not just those journals look bad, but makes open access look bad. In this blog post, Kevin Smith looks at how the sting was conducted and what we should learn from it.

 Christopher Chabris: Why Malcolm Gladwell Matters (And Why That's Unfortunate)


Malcolm Gladwell claims to "augment story-telling" with academic research, which upsets a lot of researchers when he doesn't get the science right. I understand that. But for me, I really wish more academic researchers would augment their writing with some Gladwell-esque story telling.

The Closing of Diane Ravitch’s Mind by Sol Stern, City Journal Autumn 2013


I don't wholly agree with Sol Stern, but I think his is an important perspective for those trying to understand Diane Ravitch's turnaround and current stance on educational standards and choice.

Bracing for Change: Colorado's New Teacher Evaluation System Goes Statewide


There is going to be quite a lot of chaos as Colorado implements its new teacher evaluation system. I don't agree with all of it, but I didn't agree with all of the previous system, either, and I just hope that whatever good might come out of the new system far outweighs the bad.

The bottom line on charter school studies


Don't believe the hype, regardless of what you think the hype is. Kevin Welner of the National Education Policy Center and CU-Boulder (nepc.colorado.edu) says that the CREDO studies essentially find no difference in charter and traditional public schools as measured with student outcomes. Also, the CREDO studies suffer from a few methodological issues that should dissuade us from believing they are the definitive word in charter school research. (Also, I like this post because Kevin mentions hierarchical linear modeling and, just for a moment, I wanted to think that all the readers would know what that was. Given that I don't really know much about HLM, that fantasy faded quickly.)

Random thoughts of an editor on peer review | Brian M. Lucey


As a graduate student nobody really teaches you how to become a peer reviewer, but eventually you find yourself on the receiving end of an editor's email asking you to review somebody's paper. For me, I was pretty okay with the substance of the paper (the editor knew me and my skillset well) but I just wasn't too sure what was expected of me and what a typical review looked like. A list like this probably would have been helpful.

teaching / math / culture - Unicorn Preservation Society


While Ilana Horn doesn't mention anyone in particular in this post, I think her "unicorns" are the super-collegial math teachers we know on Twitter. Yes, they are special teachers and do not represent the majority, but that doesn't mean they should be ignored. The unicorns can set a great example for others, and when it comes to research it's helpful to experiment with a treatment under ideal conditions (like with unicorns) before trying the treatment under typical conditions (unicorns in training).

No Child Left Untableted | www.nytimes.com


When it comes to technology in the classroom I think I'm pretty realistic. On the one hand, schools should prepare students to do knowledge work in a knowledge world, and technology (including tablets) are some of the tools of that work. On the other hand, I don't think many of our traditional outcome measures will reflect students with tablets versus without, and I'm skeptical of any single "fix" anybody claims will positively impact education at scale.

Loud Voice Fighting Tide of New Trend in Education | www.nytimes.com


A New York Times article describing some of Diane Ravitch's education activism.

Five bad education assumptions the media keeps recycling


Depending on your point of view, Alfie Kohn has either a knack for or a bad habit of describing the kind of education he wants through listing things he doesn't like about traditional education. For many people who have received a more traditional education, this can be either helpful or somewhat assaulting. For me, sometimes I have to look a little farther to see what progressive is instead of simply what it is not.

Atul Gawande: How Do Good Ideas Spread?


Bill Penuel passed this article along to our research group with the idea that the stories of how reforms are spread and scaled in medicine might be a lesson to those of us wishing to spread and scale reforms in education. I thought these two paragraphs were key: In the era of the iPhone, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become enamored of ideas that spread as effortlessly as ether. We want frictionless, “turnkey” solutions to the major difficulties of the world—hunger, disease, poverty. We prefer instructional videos to teachers, drones to troops, incentives to institutions. People and institutions can feel messy and anachronistic. They introduce, as the engineers put it, uncontrolled variability. But technology and incentive programs are not enough. “Diffusion is essentially a social process through which people talking to people spread an innovation,” wrote Everett Rogers, the great scholar of how new ideas are communicated and spread. Mass media can introduce a new idea to people. But, Rogers showed, people follow the lead of other people they know and trust when they decide whether to take it up. Every change requires effort, and the decision to make that effort is a social process.

DPS plans triple use of new building


As someone who has spent almost all their time in rural schools, it's interesting to think about what a true "downtown" school could be in an urban area. As a supporter of neighborhood schools, I'm glad that kids who live in downtown Denver will have a local school to attend.

Douglas County schools pilot color-coded student personality tests


Some sixth graders in Douglas County are part of a pilot program designed to test them for their preferred way of thinking (not "learning style"?): social, structural, conceptual, or analytical. Teachers are then expected to craft lessons in response to the test results. What do you think: good idea, worth a try, or bad idea? (Kudos to +The Denver Post for checking with the National Education Policy Center at CU-Boulder. Even better would have been a response from someone in the learning sciences, but Kevin Welner's point is a good one.)