There is no problem to which more education is not the proposed solution. Teachers aren’t as effective as they should be? Increase professional development. Professional development isn’t as effective as it should be? Increase training for providers of professional development. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
So, when Mathematica found that intensive mentoring for first year teachers had no effect on those teachers’ practices or their students’ academic achievement, what did folks have to say? Improve the training of the mentors.
Similarly, when Mathematica evaluated a broad range of education technology in schools they found: “Test scores were not significantly higher in classrooms using selected reading and mathematics software products. Test scores in treatment classrooms that were randomly assigned to use products did not differ from test scores in control classrooms by statistically significant margins.” But, critics of the study said that it “didn’t take into account the critical factors of proper implementation and curriculum integration, professional development for teachers, planning, or infrastructure issues, among others. “ That is, the results would be better if only we provided more education to teachers and administrators to implement the technology appropriately. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
And again when the Department of Education’s evaluation of Reading First showed no advantage for students’ reading achievement, others responded that the schools studied had not properly implemented the program or trained their teachers.
The problem with offering more education as the solution to each failure is that it assumes that the only thing educators are lacking is knowledge of the right thing to do. If only we bother to tell them, educators are hungry to learn the right thing and implement it well. But as I’ve argued in the past, educators are also lacking the motivation to learn these techniques and implement them well.
All of these interventions — mentoring, technology, and increased reliance on phonics — may very well be desirable. But unless we address the incentives that educators have to identify effective practices, learn them, and use them well, no amount of additional education will solve the problem.