New Score: Tom Vander Ark 3, New Gates PLDD Strategy 0

The research score continues to run-up in favor of the old Gates education reform strategy of creating small schools of choice rather than the new Gates PLDD strategy of centrally determining what students should be taught (Common Core) and how teachers should be evaluated (Measuring Effective Teachers).  When Tom Vander Ark led the Gates education effort, they had a winning strategy.

The new evidence comes from another paper that was presented at the Association for Education Finance and Policy conference.  Two of my excellent students, Anna Jacob Egalite and Brian Kisida, received a data award from the Kingsbury Center to analyze the effect of school size on student achievement using NWEA test results.  They used a student-fixed-effects research design to see if students improved or worsened their academic achievement when they switched to a school of a different size.  And the results:

We found consistent negative effects of large school size on student math and reading achievement, especially in secondary schools that enroll more than 540 students. In grades 6-10, for example, math achievement declined by -.043 SD (standard deviation) and reading achievement declined by -.024 SD.

If a student moved from a largest quintile school in grades 6-10 to a school in the smallest quintile for those grades, we would expect a 6.4% of a standard deviation improvement in math performance.  Of course, a student fixed effects study is not quite as strong methodologically as the random-assignment evaluation of small high schools in New York City, but it is pretty darn good.  And this study has the advantage of using a large data base of more than 2 million students from across the country.  It’s pretty clear that students would benefit significantly from a reduction on school size — especially junior high and high school students.

Bring back Tom Vander Ark.

6 Responses to New Score: Tom Vander Ark 3, New Gates PLDD Strategy 0

  1. Erin Tuttle says:

    I am led to believe that the new corporate model of larger classroom size and computer based learning, like Carpe Diem a Gates Grantee, is the reason the Vander Ark style is not in fashion.

    • Matthew Ladner says:

      The original Carpe Diem covers grades 6-12 and has around 250 students. It qualifies as a small school, and moreover since the same group of teachers teach the students throughout their academic careers the model fosters strong relationships between students and faculty.

      • Erin Tuttle says:

        The Arizona Carpe Diem stated it had 5 content teachers and 4 assistants for grades 6-12 and 200 students. That would be one teacher and .8 assistant per 40 students. Furthermore, 5 teachers covering all subjects for 7 grades seems like it would take up a lot of the teachers time.

        I’m not sure how close of a relationship is built when more than half the day is spent in a cubicle. It’s unfortunate these kids are spending their day in a school with no music, arts, drama, or gym class. Actually, they do provide a fitness center for the kids to use a treadmill or other machine for short exercise periods. This model seems very isolating and restricts the fostering of inter-personal relationships. A picture is worth a million words:×2.jpg

      • allen says:

        It’s odd, but nowhere I’ve looked on Carpe Diem’s web site is staffing mentioned. Perhaps you’d be so kind as to provide a link to the source of your information?

        There’s a good thing.

        As for the rest of your complaints, schools that graduate illiterates are failing at their core mission so music, art, drama and any other such classes are evidence of the irresponsible nature of the public education professionals who are indifferent to the former and borderline hysterical in their claims of the importance of the latter.

  2. Matthew Ladner says:

    You might think that unless you visited the place, but there is nothing isolated about it at all. Some parents find the idea of having their children attend a school with the largest learning gains in the state appealing, but if you are not one of them, feel free to send your children elsewhere.

  3. Greg Forster says:

    I’m not clear on how it’s less isolating to have students sit silently in rows while the teacher talks at them.

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