Posted on: May 23, 2001 at 10:52 AM
I've found this tread very useful and would like to add a couple more thoughts from the perspective of our South Dakota LSC.
First, I agree wholeheartedly with Mark that a very appropriate and rational thing to measure within an LSC is the quality of the professional development, itself. But I also know that standardized, norm-referenced student test scores are quite likely to be used around here (and probably many places) to make decisions that impact sustainability of our program. One option would be to sit back and throw stones at whatever tests and test-scores come down the pike. From my vantage point, however, it seems preferable to jump into the student-testing fray ourselves (even if we don't do it all that well) for the following three reasons: 1) To show that we do value student achievement (however hard it is to measure well); 2) To provide alternative measures of student achievement that are at least somewhat more reflective of the type of science we are trying to promote; and 3) To bolster our credibility when the time does come (which I'm sure it will) to throw stones at other standardized tests. I fully expect to NEED some of Mark's arguments about the difficulty (or even the craziness) of evaluating the success of an LSC through student achievement scores. I think that our arguments are strengthened, however, if we can preface them by saying, "we believe in the importance of student achievement as much as anyone, and we're even taking a stab at measuring student achievement ourselves."
Second, I like the idea that there may be a few "laboratory settings" within the LSC world in which it might actually be possible to demonstrate through standardized tests a clear connection between inquiry-based instruction and student achievement. It would only need to happen in a couple of places (perhaps El Centro and Pittsburgh, as Mark suggested), and then every other LSC (places where there are way too many other variables muddying the waters) could point to those examples in their efforts to sustain their programs.
For those two reasons, I appreciate NSF's asking all of the newer LSCs to devise and implement a plan to measure student achievement.