Government Agency Leads the Way in Measuring Educational Outcomes

New scientific evaluations could have a profound impact on the future of education in America.

In an interesting bit of education news, a government agency is applying the same kind of strictly regimented testing and data analysis long used in science labs, medical experiments and on Wall Street to evaluate stocks and bonds to the education sector, according to The New York Times.

Hard data to help generate better outcomes in education
Using a randomized clinical trial, a practice that has dominated medical research for decades, the Institute of Education Services, has begun to gather some concrete data on what works, and what doesn't, in the classroom.

The hope is that by getting a clearer, more objective understanding of the true effects of different styles of teaching, types of educational materials and implementation of programs, it will be easier to realize wider adoption of more effective teaching practices.

Some of the early findings have already begun to bear fruit. For instance, new research has concluded that the choice of instructional materials, whether they be specific textbooks, tests, curricula or even the kind of homework assigned, has as great an impact on student learning as the ability of the teacher.

Raising the public profile
There are more results coming in on a regular basis, but public awareness is proving a major hurdle to overcome. Though the Institute offers a "What Works Clearinghouse" where teachers and administrators can go to find ratings for a number of programs and textbooks, a recent survey by the Office of Management and Budget found that only 42 percent of school districts were even aware of the clearinghouse's existence. That lack of awareness could have a seriously detrimental effect on educational progress in the United States.

"It's as if the medical profession worried about the administration of hospitals and patient insurance but paid no attention to the treatments that doctors gave their patients," said Grover J. Whitehurst, the institute's first director and now senior fellow and director of the Brown Center on Education Policy, Brookings Institution, said in 2012.

Applying the results
The data will also have an enormous impact on careers in teaching, as certain programs are being tested against one another to determine which of them does the best job imparting information. Teachers should soon have enough information at their fingertips to choose the most effective programs for their students, and education courses at universities will be able to show their teaching students how to administer the most effective examples.

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a non-profit, accredited, online university. WGU's Teachers College offers multiple online degree programs for current teachers or those looking to become teachers. To find out more, please visit www.wgu.edu/wisecareers_teachers.

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