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Why Gene V. Glass quits the field of measurement

Gene V. Glass (1940) is a world famous researcher of education. His field for many decades was measurement. But in this post, he explains that he is resigning from his field.

Gene V. Glass
Gene V. Glass

“The degrading of public education has involved impugning its effectiveness, cutting its budget, and busting its unions. Educational measurement has been the perfect tool for accomplishing all three: cheap and scientific looking”

“Teachers and many parents understand that children’s development is far too complex to capture with an hour or two taking a standardized test. So resistance has been met with legislated mandates. The test company lobbyists convince politicians that grading teachers and schools is as easy as grading cuts of meat. A huge publishing company from the UK has spent $8 million in the past decade lobbying Congress. Politicians believe that testing must be the cornerstone of any education policy.

“The results of this cronyism between corporations and politicians have been chaotic. Parents see the stress placed on their children and report them sick on test day. Educators, under pressure they see as illegitimate, break the rules imposed on them by governments. Many teachers put their best judgment and best lessons aside and drill children on how to score high on multiple-choice tests. And too many of the best teachers exit the profession.

“When measurement became the instrument of accountability, testing companies prospered and schools suffered. I have watched this happen for several years now. I have slowly withdrawn my intellectual commitment to the field of measurement. Recently I asked my dean to switch my affiliation from the measurement program to the policy program. I am no longer comfortable being associated with the discipline of educational measurement.”

The State of Education in the Netherlands 2013/2014

The Dutch Inspectorate of Education reports yearly about the state of education. The education report ‘The State of Education 2013/2014’ outlines developments and key themes in Dutch education. The first chapter is a summary that reflects on major developments and facets of education that are in need of improvement.

This summary is published in English with the aim of making the information accessible for an international audience. In addition, information about the Inspectorate and the Dutch educational system is provided.

The state of education in the Netherlands

Ofsted confirms the biggest changes to education inspection for more than 2 decades

From September, Ofsted will inspect good schools and further education and skills providers once every 3 years under a new short inspection model. Inspectors will start from a premise that the school or provider is still good and focus on ensuring that those standards are being maintained. They will check that leaders have identified key areas of concern and that they have the capacity to address them.

Short Inspections

These short inspections will typically last one day and be led by one or two of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI), with bigger teams for further education colleges. Where HMI feel more evidence is necessary to confirm the judgement, or to establish whether the school or provider may have improved or declined, the visit will be converted to a full inspection and continue, most commonly, for an additional day.

Describing the nature of the new short inspections, Ofsted’s chief said:

Make no mistake, this is a very different inspection model to what has gone before. The starting assumption of Her Majesty’s Inspectors will be that the school or college is good. This should engender an atmosphere in which honest, challenging, professional dialogue can take place. Short inspections will reduce the burden of inspection without losing the rigour which parents and the public rightly expect of Ofsted.”

Rewarding exceptional leadership

Ofsted also announced plans to recognise ‘exceptional leaders’; outlining how, from September, when inspectors identify an early years leader, headteacher or college principal who has played a key role in turning around other institutions, Ofsted will send a letter to them acknowledging their leadership as exceptional. A copy of this letter will go to the Secretary of State and Ofsted’s Annual Report will also feature those leaders who have been recognised in this way.

As well as short inspections for good schools and further education and skills providers, September will see a number of other changes. A common framework for inspection is being introduced encompassing registered early years settings, maintained schools, academies, non-association independent schools and further education and skills providers, so that common judgements and terminology can be used across all these sectors. A young person, parent or employer should be able to pick up any of Ofsted’s inspection reports and be able to understand them quickly because the format and judgements are the same.

Complaints about inspections

Ofsted also announced his intention to open up a complaints process to greater accountability. Each Ofsted region will set up a ‘scrutiny committee’ made up of HMI and leading headteachers, early years and college leaders not involved in carrying out inspections for Ofsted. They will assess and rule on the internal reviews of complaints about inspection.

The new school year will bring significant changes to the way Ofsted contracts with, trains and manages inspectors for schools and further education and skills providers. From September, Ofsted Inspectors, directly contracted by the inspectorate, will undertake inspections. Seven out of 10 of these inspectors will be serving practitioners from good and outstanding schools and colleges. All of their training, quality assurance and performance management will be directly overseen by HMI.


Op 19 maart jl. hield ik mijn oratie ter gelegenheid van de aanvaarding van het ambt van bijzonder hoogleraar Algemene Onderwijskunde aan de Inter-Continental University of the Caribbean te Curaçao.  Deze universiteit richt zich in het bijzonder op tweede kans-onderwijs, biedt verschillende HBO en WO-opleidingen aan en probeert de wetenschap in het Caribisch gebied te verbinden met die uit Europa en de VS . Mioratiejn eerste taak is het opzetten en uitvoeren van een master Onderwijskunde, waarvoor inmiddels zo’n 25 studenten zijn ingeschreven.

In mijn oratie ben ik ingegaan op  een aantal hardnekkige onderwijsmythes, zoals zittenblijven is een effectieve maatregel, huiswerk bevordert de leerprestaties en leerlingen en leraren profiteren van het toepassen van niveaugroepen in klasseverband. De tekst van mijn oratie kunt u hier vinden.



Time to move beyond test-focused policies

An anti-testing backlash has emerged among parents in the US demanding changes to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). 


The NCLB  Act

NCLB supports standards-based education reform based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills. To receive federal school funding, states must give these assessments to all students at select grade levels. The Act does not assert a national achievement standard. Each individual state develops its own standards. NCLB expanded the federal role in public education through annual testing, annual academic progress, report cards, teacher qualifications, and funding changes.

Yet, as a new National Education Policy Center Policy Memo published today points out, the mistakes in NCLB are still being repeated, and lawmakers’ discussions in Washington, D.C., surrounding reauthorization of the law are failing to adjust course.

Tests are ineffective and counterproductive when used to drive educational reform

NCLB was “an ineffective solution to some very real problems,” according to the new NEPC Policy Memo. The memo discusses the broad research consensus that standardized tests are ineffective and even counterproductive when used to drive educational reform. “The problem is not how to do testing correctly. In fact, today’s standardized assessments are probably the best they’ve ever been. The problem is a system that favors a largely automated accounting of a narrow slice of students’ capacity and then attaches huge consequences to that limited information. Testing used as a diagnostic or summary instrument for children’s learning can be a helpful tool. It is harmful, however, to use students’ test scores as a lever to drive educational improvement. This use of testing is ill-advised because it has demonstrably failed to achieve its intended goal, and it has potent negative, unintended consequences.

Thirteen NCLB years of intense focus on test-score improvement has yielded few if any benefits. Yet negative, unintended consequences have continued to mount—in the form of narrowed and less engaging curriculum, constrained instruction, and deprofessionalized teachers and teaching, the memo points out.

”We see clear trends of abandoning our past pursuit of learning that fully encompasses arts, music, social studies, and science; and we see marginalization of values and skills that help students develop the ability to cooperate, problem solve, reason, make sound judgments, and function effectively as democratic citizens.The ultimate question isn’t whether test scores are good measures of learning, whether growth modeling captures what we want it to, or even whether test scores are increasing. It is whether the overall impact of the reform approach can improve or is improving education.”

The memo points out that test scores “can be increased in lots of different ways, some of which focus on real learning but many of which do not. An incremental increase in reading or math scores means almost nothing, particularly if children’s engagement is decreased; if test-prep comes at a substantial cost to science, civics and the arts; and if the focus of schooling as a whole shifts from learning to testing.”

The NEPC Policy Memo, Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: Time to Move Beyond Test-Focused Policies, can be found on the NEPC website at

Ofsted reforms education inspection

Ofsted has today confirmed some of the most significant changes to the inspection of education in its history, following an extensive programme of public consultation.

Setting out the reforms, Ofsted’s National Director of Schools, Sean Harford, said that frequent but shorter inspections of good schools and further education and skills providers, introducing a common inspection framework to standardise the approach to all education inspections, and inspecting all non-association independent schools in the next three years will contribute to driving up educational standards across the country.

Commenting on the publication of ‘Better inspection for all’, a report on the responses to the consultation, Sean said:

“In recent years, we have seen encouraging improvements in schools and colleges across the country. Ofsted has played a critical role in challenging the education system to do better and it is clear that many leaders and teachers have responded to that challenge very positively. The changes we are confirming today are designed to ensure that standards continue to improve.“

Frequent but shorter inspections

Almost 70% of respondents supported Ofsted’s first key proposal for frequent, but shorter, inspections of good maintained schools and academies, with over 60% supporting the proposal for further and education and skills providers. As a result, from September Ofsted will inspect good schools and further education and skills providers approximately once every three years, meaning that signs of decline can be spotted early and the necessary action taken. The focus of these inspections will be on ensuring that good standards are being maintained, that leaders have identified key areas of concern and that they have the capacity to address them. Frequent but shorter inspections will also mean that parents and employers can be kept much better informed.

Common approach in order to compare schools

The second change, supported by nearly 80% of respondents, will see a common approach taken to all education inspections from September 2015. This will ensure even greater consistency in inspections and will make it much easier for parents, pupils, learners and employers to compare different providers and make more informed choices.

The Common Inspection Framework will ensure a consistent approach to Ofsted inspections. It will focus on keeping young people safe, the breadth of the curriculum in schools, the relevance of courses and training in further education and skills, and the quality of early learning.

Alongside the changes to inspection, Ofsted is making significant changes to the way it contracts with, trains and manages inspectors. Ofsted is determined to recruit and retain inspectors of the highest calibre to carry out inspections using the new framework. They have tightened up their selection criteria and quality assurance procedures. All contracted Ofsted Inspectors will have to go through a stringent assessment process and assessed training, with clear performance measures in place.

Some proposals were re-considered

In some cases, proposals were re-considered in light of the feedback. For example, a number of respondents questioned the feasibility of Ofsted establishing how leaders were influencing improvements beyond their own institutions, as part of its leadership and management judgement. As a result, Ofsted will not be taking this aspect of the leadership and management judgement forward.

Better inspection for all: consultation response


Ofsted admits reliability problems

Ofsted has not done enough to ensure school inspections are reliable, one of Ofsted’s directors admits.  

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. They inspect and regulate services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. The Office carries out regular inspections of each school in England, resulting in a published evaluation of the effectiveness of the school.

Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director for schools, responds to a critical blog from head teacher Tom Sherrington of Highbury Grove School in north London. Some inspectors use data as a “safety net” instead of making a professional judgement, Harford wrote. Tom Sherrington had complained of “enormous flaws and absence of proper validity trials” in the current inspection system.

In the blog, Sherrington  had rejected the idea that schools “can be judged in a meaningful way via inspections”. “By ‘judged’ I am not talking about an experienced visitor giving some insightful developmental feedback based on an analysis of the available data and their observations; no doubt there are some people out there who can do this well enough. “I am talking about the process of distilling this mass of qualitative and quantitative information into a simple set of final grades, with one overall Judgement Grade”.

In his response, Harford admitted Ofsted does not currently ensure “directly that different inspectors in the school on the same day would give the same judgement”. He also agreed “some inspectors and some schools focus too much on a narrow range of data”. He said Ofsted trained its inspectors to use data as a “signpost”, rather than making it a “pre-determined destination”. “But the weakest ones have been guilty of using the published data as a safety net for not making fully-rounded, professional judgements.”

He said inspectors should draw on information from the school itself, including pupils’ work over time, progress across year groups and classes, improvements to teaching, and pupils’ attitudes to learning.

Harford said Ofsted’s pilots for its new short inspections would include reliability testing. “If reliability is a problem, we will review the issues to see what we need to do to make the inspections reliable.” Last month Ofsted closed its consultation on a new inspection framework which will introduce shorter inspections for all schools rated as good in England.

School leaders have described Harford’s comments as a definite shift in tone. Sherrington told the Times Educational Supplement he was amazed by the response to his blog, arguing that inspectors “can’t just continue to assert authority – they have to demonstrate reliability”.

Better data would lead to better decision-making around school choice?

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) recently published the report, Better Data, Better Decisions: Informing School Choosers to Improve Education Markets. The AEI argues that better data would lead to better decision-making around school choice for parents, presumably strengthening good schools and allowing families to steer clear of low-quality schools. This report was reviewed by the National Education Policy Center

The AEI report provides a thoughtful reflection on, and assessment of, school choice decision-making. It reviews a number of different efforts to engage stakeholders in the school choice process. Ultimately, while the report does offer concrete suggestions aimed at improving the quality of school choice decision-making, it does not successfully argue that increasing choice will increase school quality overall. The report does recognize that many school-choice decisions are made based on informal networks and criteria that researchers have had difficulty identifying and evaluating.

This 16-page report (Better-Data-Better-Decisions)  asserts that choice is seen as a mechanism, and at times a panacea, for better educational quality. Given the intense interest in choice as a reform strategy, the report promises to provide an “empirical look at how governments and other third-party organizations can help inform families about their school choice options” (p. i). The report considers how to better inform choosers. Recognizing that no choice is ever perfectly informed, the report provides background on choice theory, focusing on the notion of “bounded rationality.” What this means is “decision making happens in contexts in which people lack relevant information about their options, have finite time to commit to collecting that information and are limited in their abilities to process and use what information they have” (p.2). The author argues that school choice is not an entirely “rational” decision but is shaped by 1) the context within which the choice is made, 2) the background of the chooser, and 3) the available information.

The report provides an overview of what families want from schools, where they get information on schools, and how they use information to make decisions. This section of the report relies on research conducted by the author. He notes that most information on what families want from their children’s schools is based on survey data which, while useful in some respects, does not take into account desirability bias: the tendency of respondents to respond in ways they think they are “supposed to.” The report suggests that other factors (such as accessibility and information from social networks) are actually more influential in real-life decision-making. It further argues that preferences and desires are malleable: they can change over time and in light of available information.

The report asserts that research on school choice has described two main sources of information: social and formal. Parents talk to other parents and make decisions based on these conversations. Some parents also consider other sources of information, including school districts, governmental entities, and non-governmental third parties. Two critical points the report makes about families’ ability to gather information are: 1) the quality of information available through social networks is heavily influenced by social class, with more well-to-do families typically having access to better information, and 2) the way information is presented (timing, format, amount, source) influences the capacity of the student or parent to use the information effectively. The report notes that finding ways to cut through “data smog” to determine what information is reliable, good, and relevant is a primary challenge. Lastly, the report addresses the challenge posed by the fact that, especially for middle and high school students, there are multiple decision makers (parents and students) who come to the process with different informational needs and desires. The report addresses the challenge of helping parents and students make good decisions that prioritize academic quality.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations presented in the language of bounded rationality; that is, the author advocates solutions that take into account the imperfect human reality of decision-making and that improve the odds that parents and students will make “good” decisions by providing them with good information in a timely fashion in an accessible format. The report encourages families to actually make a choice— to consider the myriad options available to them rather than “choosing” those most readily accessible (convenient) to them or passively accepting the schools selected by others in their social network. Those interested in improving student and parental decision-making are encouraged to be accurate in their information, to provide it in an accessible format, and to accommodate the imperfect reality of real people making hard choices that balance many facWindow_en_www_aei_org_wp-content_uploads_2014_11_Better-Data-Better-Decisions-4_pdftors beyond a school’s academic quality.

AEI’s Better Data report is grounded in both the extant literature on school choice and the author’s own research. Beginning with a useful introduction to the concept of “bounded rationality,” the report goes on to review recent research on choice generally and school choice specifically. The report relies on the literature from psychology, economics, and education to provide the reader with an understanding of work on choice and decision- making generally as well as on school choice in particular.

The author presents findings from two studies he conducted: an Online Experiments Study and a Field Experiments Study. The methods and findings for both studies are presented in sepfieldarate text boxes in the report, while conclusions drawn from the research are embedded in the report.

The Online Experiments Study used an online survey of 1,000 adults to understand how individuals use numerical ratings of components of school quality and parent comments.