I was recently on an email chain where very smart people were debating the NCLB rewrite.
The debate had to do with whether or not the retreat from federally mandated accountability was a good thing.
See below for my exact response:
- The evidence on NCLB (annual testing, data transparency, etc.) is ok but not amazing. I think the upper bound I’ve seen is .2 effects over 6 year period.
- We don’t yet have rigorous data on teacher evals.
- We do have rigorous evidence on urban charter: ~.1 effects over a 3 year period (with the sector rapidly getting better each year – effects doubled over a couple year period).
- And now we have rigorous evidence on NOLA charter district reforms: ~.4 effects over a 5 year period; of course under unique circumstances.
All this leads me to believe (not with absolute confidence!):
- The federal charter program may end up being the most important federal education intervention. Tripling it from $250M to $750M will probably do more good for low-income kids than nearly every other federal program.
- The testing, accountability, eval movement will likely deliver real and modest gains. But it will never change the game. I am highly skeptical that mediocre school systems get excellent due to these backend levers.
- The 20-50 year game, I think, is about transitioning our public operated system to a publicly regulated but non-profit operated system + better teacher pipelines + tech.
- This is the .5-1 standard deviation game. It’s 75% supply and at most 25% accountability.
Just some thoughts. Obviously incredibly complicated. If there was a clear answer this many smart people wouldn’t be arguing about it.
You can hear clear undertones of the Allure of Order and the New Orleans theory of change.
I view it is as a near impossibility that accountability will ever deliver transformational results.
I wish our national policy conversation was 100x more about supply and 10x less about standards and accountability.