Sustainability: Out-Live Out-Last Out-Reach  Panel

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Panel: Sustainability and Funding
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This message is in reply to:
Isn't it worth a shot? - Michael Klentschy

Posted by: Mark St. John
Posted on: May 23, 2001 at 1:57 PM
Just for the sake of illuminating the issue here Let me argue to the contrary -- it is definitely not "worth a shot"...

The expression "worth a shot" is very telling... It implies a favorable cost to benefit ratio. But have we really done a good job of looking at the costs of innappropriate evaluation and accountability measures?

I am out in schools and districts a lot... and every day I hear about the costs of "accountability" that is not well done... I would argue, and have done so in longer pieces, that the current efforts in accountability may well end up weakening and damaging the strength of overall system rather than improving it...

And when it comes to professional development, I say lets do evaluation right or not at all... If, in fact, one can study how pd CONTRIBUTES to instructional change that CONTRIBUTES to sustained steady improvement in student learning opportunities that CONTRIBUTES to increases in student learning that CONTRIBUTES to increases on standardized test scores...then fine, I say, make that argument as tight as you can...

But beware of the broader claim that evaluation of PD should be done by examining standardized student test scores...

Now let me say I am not unaware of the climate we live in... So I would say the following about the arguments that Mike and Ben make"

1)It is very very important for Professional Developers to have their eye on student learning.. to have student knowledge and skill firmly in mind when they work with teachers in PD activities... Examining student work, and being very aware of the kinds of learnings that we want to foster .. these are critically important things for PD providers to do... THUS PD PROVIDERS SHOULD HAVE STUDENT LEARNING VERY MUCH IN MIND ...BUT THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE PD CAN BE EVALUATED ON THE BASIS OF STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT SCORES...

2) I think that it is very dangerous to create evaluation expectations and systems and approaches that are not sound...As an evaluator I am trying to protect my profession from damage... The argument that is made, essentially, is that "we have to do this"... But doing something that does not make sense for immediate political survival is very dangerous to the long term health of the whole enterprise... both the pd and the evaluation... So I am only arguing that we should apply a simple standard here... that we can argue that our evaluation approaches and inferences are scientifically as sound as we can make them... An independent panel of scientists should be able to look at the claims that are made, at the inferences we want people to make, and say, "yes, those are sound inferences based on the data and the logical chain of inference.." How many of our LSC leaders would like to have to testify and be questioned about their claims that they can prove that their LSC caused increased student learning?

So I think I agree that where we can follow the chain to student benefits we might do so...But I greatly disagree with the idea that this is the primary measure of the effectiveness of professional development...

This idea will backfire... the short term gains in sustainability that appear to come from such measures will evaporate... and we will be more vulnerable because we did not make the correct case for our PD work...

So,no, I think it is not "worth a shot..." It is worth careful thoughtful honest work...Better to make the right argument than try to find data that feeds the wrong argument...