Thursday, January 27, 2005

Two sides to the research coin

Here's a thought provoking article from Edweek that speaks to one of the biggest problems with the current approach to understanding academic achievement: We're measuring it with only one system. Quanitative research has ascended to the point that qualitative research isn't even on the fringe anymore. It's not in left field, it's out of the park. And that's dangerous. It's dangerous because it inhibits our ability to understand what is happening in schools. Numbers aren't enough. They're important but they can't tell you everything that's going on.

I look at it like this. We're fighting a forest fire. We've got many ways to put it out. We can use water hoses, we can drop fire retardant from planes, we can set backfires, etc. Would you recommend using only one method to put out the fire? Hell no! Use 'em all. You use whatever tools you have.

In education we have two main tools for understanding what's happening in schools: quantitative and qualitative studies. To use only one is stupid at best and harmful at worst.

But it's expensive, cry qualitative critics. Yes, it is. If you aren't willing to spend the money to improve our educational systems than we're wasting our time. Period. You get what you pay for. You want cheap, one dimensional indicators, that's what you get. But I forget myself: the current administration doesn't do nuance.

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