Improving Teaching Effectiveness: Final Report

post by ChristianKl · 2018-06-29T11:09:43.932Z · score: 15 (5 votes) · LW · GW · 9 comments

This is a link post for https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2242.html

The Gates Foundation failed with their very test-score driven approach to increase test-scores of students.

Maybe we should simply get rid of the idea of optimizing education for scoring high on standardized tests?

9 comments

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comment by cousin_it · 2018-06-29T12:09:05.132Z · score: 14 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The report is pretty long but it looks like they didn't try the two things that actually help teaching:

1) Allow teachers to kick out kids who disrupt the class

2) Fewer students per teacher

Instead they tried to change the "incentive structure" for teachers. I guess that's how you think if you're a RAND corporation analyst.

Not sure what this has to do with test scores.

comment by gjm · 2018-07-04T16:30:12.294Z · score: 10 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Presumably they were working with a constraint of not spending much more on teaching overall.

If you kick out 10% of children, you then need to find something to do with those 10% of children, who are likely disproportionately in need of more individual attention to keep them on track. (I guess you could just declare them unteachable and useless, but you still have to do something with them and personally I'm not keen on writing people off without very good reason.)

If you reduce class sizes by, say, 25%, then you need 33% more teachers.

If (per waveman's comment) you get rid of, say, 10% of underperforming teachers then (1) this affects only ~10% of children at any one time, which makes it hard to believe its overall impact would be huge, and (2) you now need to find a whole lot of new competent teachers, which for the usual supply-and-demand reasons means paying more per teacher.

I am very much in favour of being willing to spend a lot more on education, but it isn't terribly surprising that these projects didn't do that.

comment by cousin_it · 2018-07-05T13:07:42.942Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you kick out 10% of children, you then need to find something to do with those 10% of children

Have dedicated classes for them. Smaller classes help with that, because they are easier to keep in check.

If you reduce class sizes by, say, 25%, then you need 33% more teachers.

The main benefit of class time is personalized attention from the teacher, not watching lectures or doing exercises (which you can do at home). The budget of such attention depends on teacher-hours, not class size. In fact, large classes waste it, because the teacher has to keep everyone in check instead of focusing on one student. So you don't need more teachers - reducing class size and class time in lockstep while keeping teacher-hours constant would still be a net benefit. Heck, I'd experiment with reducing both by 5x, so we can have small skill-matched groups and each student gets a little bit of personalized attention and homework. That would be better than the usual situation of 30 kids waiting for recess.

comment by gjm · 2018-07-05T16:34:27.266Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting suggestion. It's not at all clear to me, though, that 5h/week of small-group time is really more effective than 25h/week or large-group time; it means a considerably longer interval between chances to get any sort of support on any given topic. And the children have to be doing something while they aren't in those small groups -- a major (though not always acknowledged) purpose of the school system is to keep children occupied in a reasonably safe way while their parents get on with their lives, so it seems like there would still need to be some kind of large-group supervision during the rest of the school week. How would you envisage this working out in practice so that it doesn't end up costing twice as much as the system we have now?

comment by cousin_it · 2018-07-05T17:13:07.870Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I don't have a realistic plan for school reform :-) But if we're talking wild speculation, let's cut class size by 4x, cut the school day by half, and cut school years by half! Make it 3 hours per day for 6 years, most of it spent interacting with teachers. (Plus homework time.) Everyone in my family would be ecstatic with this, kids and parents alike. And I don't think any child would need daycare after finishing this.

comment by ChristianKl · 2018-06-29T21:16:08.351Z · score: 9 (1 votes) · LW · GW

RAND isn't the primarily architect of the study but was tasked with evaluating the results. The Gates Foundation is the primary architect.

The incentive structure for teachers is about rewarding teachers for teaching in a way that increases the test scores of their students.

comment by waveman · 2018-06-30T02:13:38.806Z · score: 5 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Fewer students per teacher

From my reading class sizes don't matter much within a wide range (6-30). I would be interested in good studies that show something different.

Class sizes greatly affect teacher workload so smaller classes are very popular.

The main problem seems to be that they didn't actually get rid of any (<1%) underperforming teachers.

Teacher quality is a big issue. Again from my reading the IQ of teachers makes a big difference but this is not mentioned in the report.

Kudos to the Gates foundation for publishing the outcomes, but across the board they seem to be monumentally ineffective.

They are funding circumcision (males only of course) in Africa on the basis of studies that suggest it is about as effective in reducing disease as using a condom every 4-5th time you have sex.

Insert snarky remark along the lines of what do you expect from the perpetrator of MS Windows - quality?

comment by ChristianKl · 2018-06-30T15:03:23.023Z · score: 9 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Additionally, it might also be a way to train the people who actually do perform circumcision in a way that prevents the procedure itself from spreading AIDS through knife reuse without proper sterilization.

Can you explain why you consider this to be a bad idea? Certain population in Africa just won't use condoms.

Additionally, it might also be a way to train the people who actually do perform circumcision in a way that prevents the procedure itself from spreading AIDS through knife reuse without proper steralization.

comment by cousin_it · 2018-06-30T10:01:29.168Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

From my reading class sizes don’t matter much within a wide range (6-30). I would be interested in good studies that show something different.

Huh?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Class-size_reduction

Study after study after study, saying that class size reduction is a great idea in every way.