"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, August 06, 2005

"Scientifically-Based" Teacher Preparation?

"Scientifically-based research" has been the new mantra for federal education grants since passage of NCLB in late 2001. The phrase, "scientifically-based," is mentioned in the context of reading instruction, alone, nearly 50 times in NCLB. In 2002, Grover Whitehurst, the head of the Institute of Education Sciences and final arbiter for federal grant apps, testifed before a Senate Committee about the necessity for federal funding to be based upon scientific data: "Whitehurst explains that adherence to scientifically-based research will be a critical factor in the funding decisions and endorsement of programs that fall under the purview of NCLB."

In fact, any materials purchased by principals to meet NCLB testing requirements must be validated by "scientifically-based research" before Federal dollars can be spent. (The implications of this requirement will be discussed in subsequent posts.)
The US DOE has gone so far, in fact, to write into its rules and regs requirements now that all federally-funded research must be scientifically based (Fed. Register 1/25/05):
We take this action to focus Federal financial assistance on expanding the number of programs and projects Department-wide that are evaluated under rigorous scientifically-based research methods in accordance with the ESEA of 1965, as reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
With all of this emphasis on science for Federal spending decisions, and with all the good research by Linda Darling-Hammond and other scholars that demonstrates the value of college teacher preparation for teacher candidates, one must wonder how the US DOE came to a decision to fund a reckless venture for teacher preparation that, 1) has no research to support it, scientific or otherwise, and 2) disregards all of the scientifically-based research that clearly shows teacher retention advantages and student learning advantage when teachers have been prepared to teach by university teacher education programs.

We are not likely to see a clearer domestic case of misappropriation of Federal monies, just as we are not likely to find a more hypocritical, cynical, and selective use of policy used to drive an ideological agenda aimed at the further weakening of public schools.

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