29 July 2006

Because I Said So

My school district, like many others in the area, has spent a lot of money with the BERC group. The Baker Evaluation, Research, and Consulting (BERC) group is run by Duane Baker---a former teacher in this district who now has his own little piece of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in order to help with school improvement issues. Baker is a dynamic guy and his firm has done a lot of research in classrooms and worked to develop some tools for schools.

The administration here is very excited about Baker, as are some of the teachers. I'm supposed to be on this bandwagon, but there are a few things that bother me. If he's such hot stuff, how come he doesn't publish? There aren't any citations in the professional literature that refer to him. It seems odd that he has not engaged in any peer review of his ideas. In addition to that, he offers no independent support for his ideas. We are supposed to think they're grand simply because he says so...and I'm afraid that reason is not quite good enough for me. Where is your data for us to examine? What other professional researchers can corroborate your work? Whose work has influenced yours?

I don't think I'm the only skeptic in the district, but that's a difficult thing to gauge. Administrators are pumped up and there are some good conversations about effective instruction (finally) taking place. I just hate to think that in a time where budgets are growing ever tighter that we might be spending our precious monies on a prophet for profit.


Ryan said...

You might see me in one of his videos this coming year. They had a crew come over and tape me doing a social studies lesson in June. It was quite the experience, especially since it was 1st graders in June =-o

BeagleLady said...

Hmmm. Same feelings here regarding credibility, and we don't have the pride in an alumnus to coat the pill. Recent reflection at inservice on fast food MacEducation: empty fillers and not a lot of nutrition. For the first time in 20 years of teaching I feel myself choking on the educationese. Does anyone really believe this is all original? The new solution? PLEASE! it has just been repackaged. I am confident that I have been an effective teacher, and influenced many lives for the better. I resent having to spend time away from revising my lessons to keep up with the times and interests of my students. STAR protocol is a no brainer for anyone who has any sense about inspiring students. My biggest complaint is that my district is spending thousands of dollars on this consultant, when class sizes are alarming. Where in the BERC Group resources does it suggest that smaller class sizes result in better student success. I know there is data supporting that claim. Thanks for allowing me to comment. In the mean time, I will ride out this current wave. Like the others, it it will break and come back in another form.