Does education reform begin with teachers or parents?

Everyone wants to fix our schools. There’s only one problem: No one knows what works.

A compilation of education research by the Education Writers Association comes to the conclusion that there really aren’t any solid conclusions about education reform.

Teacher quality has been the political flavor this year in Michigan, with legislation aimed at weeding out our worst teachers and rewarding the best adopted by the Legislature. Who could argue with that?

But research indicates that teachers probably account for less than 10 percent of student variation in standardized test achievement. Having a great teacher can boost student achievement, but research is inconclusive as to whether those gains continue when the student moves on to other grades.

In fact, all school factors combined are estimated to only account for 40 percent of student variation.

Of greatest impact on a child’s school performance are factors outside the control of schools: parental income and education levels.

So here’s a contrarian suggestion to fix our schools: Fix the parents first.

Could it be that the most effective education reform in which the state could invest would assist parents to further their own educations? More education generally means bigger paychecks. And higher parental education and income are associated with greater student achievement.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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David J
Thu, 12/08/2011 - 11:28am
Thanks, Ron, for citing RESPECTED RESEARCH SOURCES, related to your take on "Education Reform." This is a journalistic reminder of how far afield we've gone in letting legislation become the result of "gut-feeling" and $pecial Interest$/lobbyist$ (vs. a well-reasoned, deliberative process based on input from truly informed representatives and their constituents). Anyone who checks out the report on the Education Writers Association website will see that it is a RESPECTED/RELIABLE source (I noticed the Bill & Melinda Gates sponsorship vs. the more prolific, highly partisan moneyed interests so omnipresent in our current political dialogue). Its contents should be required reading by Michigan Legislative staffs (AND Governor Snyder's office, as well)! Your reporting efforts, like those of so many others with Bridge (i.e. Jack Lessenberry, Peter Luke, etc.) are greatly appreciated by a citizenry desireous in having an effective "Fourth Branch of Government" -- one based on higher journalistic standards than what has, unfortunately, become the norm over the past several years (especially in broadcast media).
Al Churchill
Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:15pm
If it is factors outside of the school that determine a childs success in school, then school administrators cannot use, for example, state averages as a standard of school comparison on MEAP tests. The socio-economic environment in wealthy school districts is much more conducive to learning than in less wealthy districts. It is predictable that wealthier districts will do well on standardized tests. When outside factors influence the performance of students you no longer are measuring just school quality. You also are measuring the community environment, So, if you want to measure school quality, you need to compare school districts with similar demographiocs. Unfortunately, there are many school districts that use state averages as a standard of quality comparison. Doing so is, at best, misleading, at worst, downright dishonest.