Broader, Bolder = Bloated Behemoth

August 13, 2008


Over at D-Ed Reckoning Ken DeRosa reviews the “evidence” that the AFT’s Leo Casey presents on the effectiveness of the Broader, Bolder approach being pushed by the union-backed Economic Policy Institute (with the support of some impressive people who you would think would know better). 

The issue is not whether kids would benefit from better health care or social services, or even whether receiving those benefits might contribute to higher achievement.  The issue is whether public schools are capable of expanding their mission to effectively provide these additional services, and whether those schools can translate the provision of additional services into higher achievement.

The Broader, Bolder folks provide a list of “background papers” to support their cause.  But those papers are very far in the background in that only a handful of the more than 100 studies cited actually assess the effects of providing students with additional services.  And even fewer look at the effects of public schools providing those services.  Before we endorse a bold new plan for education wouldn’t we want at least a few  evaluations of pilot programs in which public schools actually provided the full set of services being advocated?  I can’t find one such evaluation in the list of 100+ studies provided.

But don’t worry, Leo Casey has stepped into the breach with the solid research we need.  Here’s DeRosa’s commentary bracketing Casey’s, uhm, evidence:

“Leo must have had a few of his underlings pouring over the ERIC databases non-stop finding the requested evidence. Here is Leo’s evidence. I am leaving in all the internal citations and footnotes.

Classroom teachers recognize immediately the educational value of providing a comprehensive array of services to students living in poverty. They have seen the effects of undiagnosed and untreated eye problems on a student’s ability to learn how to read, and of untreated ear infections on a student’s ability to hear what is being said in the classroom. They know that the lack of proper medical care heightens the severity of childhood illnesses and makes them last longer, leading to more absences from school for students who need every day of school they can get. They have seen asthma reach epidemic proportions among students living in poverty, and they know that the lack of preventive and prophylactic medical care leads to more frequent attacks of a more severe nature, and more absences from school. They understand that screening for lead poisoning happens least among children in poverty, even though their living conditions make them the most likely victims, with all of the negative effects on cognitive functions. They know that the stresses of life in poverty make mental health and social work services for students and their families all that more important, and yet they are least likely to receive them. They see how the transience that marks poverty disrupts the education of students again and again, as the families of students are constantly on the move. In short, teachers know that the students living in poverty lack the health and social services routinely available to middle class and upper class students, despite the fact that they need them even more. And they know that the absence of these services has a detrimental impact on the education, as well as the general well-being, of students living in poverty.

I emphasized Leo’s evidentiary citations since they do not conform to the generally accepted norm.”

(edited for typos)

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