This week’s COWAbunga Award goes to two comments that explain why medicine and education have followed very different paths when it comes to accountability. The first comment is from eiela, a teacher librarian:
I think the reason we don't want to inject the idea that student achievement is based partly on what [students] come to school with (parent support, poverty rates, etc.) into the NCLB debate is because it comes too close to admitting that our public education system doesn't help everyone equally. And that education does give everyone the same advantages is one of our cherished public ideals....We don't want to admit that there are problems that are too big for education as it exists right now to fix. I've often wished that if I am going to be held so accountable for student performance that we had a boarding school system, so I could make sure my students had a quiet place to do homework, a good dinner and breakfast, etc....I like the idea of value-added assessments; we get value-added scores for each classroom teacher in my state. I wish that NCLB took those scores into account....I know one year, our value-added scores were great, yet we still didn't make AYP because our students were so far behind to begin with. It's very demoralizing to be labeled in the news as a failing school when you've made so much progress based on where the students started.
The second winner is Erin Johnson, who, in a series of comments, made compelling arguments about the differences in the evidence bases for educational and medical practice. Read them all here, and here’s a tasty morsel from one of them:
The development of medicine and education was not random. Both were a function of very specific decisions made by key opinion leaders and laws passed both on the state and federal levels....We take for granted the the scientific, evidentary basis of our medical system, but it was not pre-ordained to be so.
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