Date: Oct 15, 2012 12:01 AM
Author: Robert Hansen
Subject: Why Aren't There Standards in Education Research

The Boaler/Bishop/Milgram drama raises a question (not withstanding the claim of harassment), and it is a question I have asked before. Why are there no standards in education research?

Here we have Boaler's study where she claims that she turned around an urban high school by using a different method of teaching mathematics. Not only turned around, but in some measures, surpassed the other two schools. Bishop and Milgram, questioning her claims, and rightly so, track down the schools in the study and find that the urban high school is performing virtually at the bottom. They bring this to the attention of Stanford who's response was probably "Seriously Guys? This is education research."

I have spent three years tracking down one NSF study or curriculum after another, all claiming gains, only to find that when researchers say "gains" they don't mean success in algebra or calculus. They don't mean that where there were no students able to take on a real treatment of these subjects now there are 5 or 6 or even 1. They mean that according to measures of their own making they had gains.

Boaler was the exception. She made claims of big gains in algebra and calculus but if we are to believe Bishop's and Milgram's analysis, these claims were not founded. And since an urban high school making such a turnaround would be big news, and since I don't recall any such big news, I have to agree with Bishop's and Milgram's analysis.

But that is my point. Whey must we do all the dirty work. In all other areas of academics the scholars do most of the cleaning. Surely you are familiar with the scandals that occur when research is bad or conclusions unfounded. When has anyone here ever seen a scandal in education research? There is obviously an unwritten rule that researchers in education do not question each other's results. Can you say collusion? All of the critics seem to be on the outside, none are on the inside. The whole system reminds me more of organized crime than academic research.

Why would Stanford care about either of these two party's claims? Bolaer claims a stunning success that no one can find a record of. Which educational research project in the last three decades did anything but that?

Bob Hansen