The [education] research-to-practice pipeline, according to scholars and educators, has sprung many leaks. Governments and foundations don’t spend enough on research, or they support the wrong kind. Scholars eschew research that shows what works in most schools in favor of studies that observe student behavior and teaching techniques in a classroom or two. They employ weak research methods, write turgid prose, and issue contradictory findings. Educators and policy makers are not trained to separate good research from bad, or they resist findings that challenge cherished beliefs about learning. As a result, education reform is often shaped by political whim and pedagogic fashion.
—The Black Hole of Education Research, by D.W. Miller (1999)
Education reform has been expensive and largely ineffectual or worse, a shambles. Why?
One problem is that the field of education, the source of education "experts," is the great embarrassment of academia. More specifically, education research is notorious for its low quality, its tendency to support anything and its opposite. It is trend-driven and political; it is pseudoscientific.
By the early 90s, the "awful" reputation of education research led to efforts among educationists to turn things around. Few observers seem to think that they have succeeded. Education "research" is about as sketchy as ever.
When, more than ten years ago, the Accreds announced that they would be evaluating community colleges (in California) in terms of SLOs—an artifact of the latest trend in education theory—leaders among faculty squawked loudly, demanding evidence that the SLO approach is efficacious.
But it was to no avail.
Essentially, the ACCJC adopted MSLOs [measurable student learning outcomes] as the overarching basis for accrediting community colleges based on their faith in the theoretical treatises of a movement.... After repeated requests for research showing that such use of MSLOs is effective, none has been forthcoming from the ACCJC [accreditors]. Prior to large scale imposition of such a requirement at all institutions, research should be provided to establish that continuous monitoring of MSLOs has resulted in measurable improvements in student success at a given institution. No such research is forthcoming because there is none….
• It’s crap, OK? Deal with it - Aug 14 2014—The Accountability Game…., Leon F. Marzillier (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, October, 2002)
• The remarkable inferiority of education scholarship - Sep 1 2013
• The odd bromidular emissions of community college “experts” – Aug 23 2013
• Making sense of the RG Group's curious report – Aug 24 2013
• Making sense of SLOs (part 2) - Mar 30 2008
• Whence SLOs? - Mar 21 2013
• Back to basics—in praise of classical education w/o technical doohickery and reform folderol – Jun 8 2010
• Evidence handed to chirpy simpletons - Jun 29 09
• “Delivery”: deathwatch for the Humanities – Jan 19 09
• Big trouble for the Accreds re SLOs – Oct 24 08
• SLOs: “We think this is crap,” says the respected conservative scholar – Jul 21 08
• Some background on the Spellings Commission and its criticism of the college accrediting system – Mar 15 08
We believe it is the failure of the field to develop ... a [scientific] community and to forge consensus on such matters as research quality and coordination of perspectives that has contributed to an environment in which members of Congress are compelled to impose them. And we are certainly not the first to suggest that attention to building a community is an essential task of the future for educational researchers.... In stark terms, we believe that if the field is to argue convincingly that it is inappropriate for science to be defined by political forces—which we believe is true—then it is incumbent upon the field to cultivate its own form of life including, however difficult this may be, attention to bolstering research quality.