Thursday, March 23, 2006

NGA Center for Best Practices

On February 2nd and 3rd, 2006 the NGA Center for Best Practices co-hosted a conference entitled "By the Numbers: a National Education Data Summit". The other co-sponsors were, the U.S. Department of Education, the Florida Department of Education. Other partners included the Data Quality Campaign, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation for Education, Alliance for Excellent Education, and the Florida Channel, WFSU.

The stated purpose of the meeting "was to develop a shared vision for effective, comprehensive K-16 data systems and how policymakers can use data from these systems to develop policies to improve educational outcomes." Speakers were drawn from the partners as well as national labs, universities, and state educational agencies. The topics included a wide range of issues - from mapping data linkages between systems to exploring why similar looking school perform differently.

The overwhelming sense I get from this fairly comprehensive that list is that folks are skirting the "e" word - evaluation. Questions of "what works?" or "what is the most effective strategy?" are not naturally addressed by operational data collected by most school systems. One of the difficulties we are encountering is the lack of appreciation for - or even an understanding of the requirements of - evaluation.


1 comment:

Arie said...

Last para here highlights an interesting piece of behind-the-scenes jockeying within USED, a core "pusher" for the NGA Summit. As you know, Russ Whitehurst has pushed hard for scientific rigor, causally conclusive demonstrations of what works.

Since Tom Luce has joined USED, there's now been a (re-)opening of a push for what was once called "best practices": find schools that do well and bring home what works there to your own school. You see that approach in Just 4 Kids web site, Standard and Poor's, even WINSS.

At Tom's prodding (I think), NRC in February hosted an expert panel to develop criteria for assessing "promising practices". The panel was given a graphic that laid out three sets of things-that-work: (a) scientifically proven, (b) promising practices, and (c) theoretically based. (a) would seem to be the WWC/Whitehurst approach, (b) the business community/Luce approach, and (c) the academic route.