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[Phys-L] Grover Whitehurst Testifies Against Class Size Reduction

Some subscribers to Phys-L might be interested in a recent post "Grover Whitehurst Testifies Against Class Size Reduction" [Hake (2012)].

The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: Diane Ravitch in her blog entry "When Grover Whitehurst Testified Against Class Size Reduction" at <> pointed to Leonie Haimson's <> "Grover Whitehurst's big pay day, testifying class size doesn't matter" at <> and asked: "DOES CLASS SIZE MATTER? READ HAIMSON'S ACCOUNT AND REACH YOUR OWN JUDGMENT."

Haimson pointed out that:

a. According to report by Will Weissert (2012a) at <>, economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach <> testified that students in smaller classes "tend to do better on standardized tests and even eventually become better citizens, more likely to own their own homes and save for retirement" and that "study after study shows that smaller classes often mean greater success for students." Schanzenbach also coathored: (1) "Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Childhood Investments on Postsecondary Attainment and Degree Completion" [Dynarski et al. (2011)] at <> showing that smaller classes increased the rate of college attendance, especially among poor students, and improved the probability of earning a college degree, especially in high-earning fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and (2) "How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence From Project Star" [Chetty et al. (2011)] at <> showing that these students were also more likely to own their own home and a 401K more than twenty years later.

b. Whitehurst & Chingos (2011) wrote "Class Size: What Research Says and What it Means for State Policy" [Chingos & Whitehurst (2011)] at <> which argued that LOWERING CLASS SIZE WAS A WASTE OF MONEY despite admitting in the report that "very large class-size reductions, on the order of magnitude of 7-10 fewer students per class, can have significant long-term effects on student achievement and other meaningful outcomes."

c. When Whitehurst was at the US Department of Education from 2002-2008, he headed the Institute of Education Sciences <>, which in a report "Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported by Rigorous Evidence: A User Friendly Guide" [USDE (2003)] at <> cited CLASS SIZE REDUCTION AS ONLY ONE OF FOUR EXAMPLES OF EDUCATION REFORMS "FOUND TO BE EFFECTIVE in randomized controlled trials - research's 'gold standard."[Yet] as the lead off witness for the state on Friday Whitehurst argued that contrary to the claims of the plaintiffs, "Texas is doing pretty good" and that these huge budget cuts were immaterial because CLASS SIZE DOESN'T MATTER.

d. Terrence Stutz (2012) at <> reported in the "Dallas Morning News": "State attorneys also have been arguing that larger class sizes in Texas - the result of a $5.4 billion funding cut by the Legislature last year - have not hurt students because CLASS SIZES DON'T AFFECT ACHIEVEMENT. Whitehurst testified in support of that position. But again, under cross examination by Dallas lawyer John Turner, Whitehurst had to acknowledge that he wrote an article praising a well-publicized study of lower class sizes in Tennessee that found significant improvement in student achievement. Whitehurst explained that he had changed his mind since writing the article and now has DOUBTS THAT CLASS SIZE HAS MUCH IMPACT ON LEARNING. In later testimony, he said he was being paid $340 an hour by the state to testify in the case, and had already racked up 220 billable hours - for just under $75,000 - before he took the witness stand."

e. Whitehurst racked up 220 billable hours? That means Whitehurst must have worked nearly thirty 8-hour days on it. Wonder what took him so long?

To access the complete 23 kB post please click on <>.

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
Links to Articles: <>
Links to Socratic Dialogue Inducing (SDI) Labs: <>
Academia: <>
Blog: <>
GooglePlus: <>
Twitter: <>

Physics educators have led the way in developing and using objective tests to compare student learning gains in different types of courses, and chemists, biologists, and others are now developing similar instruments. These tests provide convincing evidence that students assimilate new knowledge more effectively in courses including active, inquiry-based, and collaborative learning, assisted by information technology, than in traditional courses."
- Wood & Gentile (2003)

"In science education, there is almost nothing of proven efficacy."
- Grover Whitehurst, as quoted by Sharon Begley (2004)

"Well-designed and implemented randomized controlled trials are considered the 'gold standard' for evaluating an intervention's effectiveness, in fields such as medicine, welfare and employment policy, and psychology."
- USDE (2003)

"Scientifically rigorous studies - particularly, the 'gold standard' of Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT''s) - are a mainstay of medicine, providing conclusive evidence of effectiveness for most major medical advances in recent history. In social spending, by contrast, such studies have only a toehold. Where they have been used, however, they have demonstrated the same ability to produce important, credible evidence about what works - and illuminated a path to major progress."
- Jon Barron (2012)

"In some quarters, particularly medical ones, the randomized experiment is considered the causal 'gold standard.' It is clearly not that in educational contexts, given the difficulties with implementing and maintaining randomly created groups, with the sometimes incomplete implementation of treatment particulars, with the borrowing of some treatment particulars by control group units, and with the limitations to external validity that often follow from how the random assignment is achieved."
- Thomas Cook and Monique Payne in "Evidence Matters" [Mosteller &
Boruch (2002)]

"According to the California Class Size Reduction Research Consortium [CCSRRC (2002)], California's attempt to duplicate the vaunted Tennessee RCT study of reduced class size benefits results yielded *no conclusive evidence of increased student achievement*. One reason appears to be that there were simply not enough teachers in California to support any substantive class size reduction without deterioration of teaching effectiveness."
- R.R. Hake (2009)

REFERENCES [URL's shortened by and accessed on 10 Dec 2012.]
Baron, J. 2012. "Applying Evidence to Social Programs." New York Times, 29 Nov; online at <>.

Begley, S. 2004. "To Improve Education, We Need Clinical Trials To Show What Works," Wall Street Journal, 17 December, page B1; online as a 41 kB pdf at <>, thanks to David Klahr.

CCSRRC. 2002. "What We Have Learned About Class Size Reduction in California, California Class Size Reduction Research Consortium [American Institutes for Research (AIR), RAND, Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), WestEd, and EdSource]; full report online as a 9.5 MB pdf at <>. A press release is online at <>.

Hake, R.R. 2009. "A Response to 'It's Not All About Class Size'," AERA-L post of 6 Feb 2009 09:42:04-0800; online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at <>. Post of 6 Feb 2009 09:42:04-0800 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post were also distributed to various discussion lists and are also on my blog "Hake'sEdStuff" at <> with a provision for comments.

Hake, R.R. 2012. "Grover Whitehurst Testifies Against Class Size Reduction," online on the OPEN! online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at <>. Post of 9 Dec 2012 18:34:56-0800 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are being transmitted to several discussion lists and are also on my blog "Hake'sEdStuff" at <> with a provision for comments.

Mosteller, F. & R. Boruch, eds. 2002. "Evidence Matters: Randomized Trials in Education Research." Brookings Institution, publisher's information at <>. information at <>. An expurgated Google book preview is online at <>.

USDE. 2003. U.S. Department of Education, "Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported by Rigorous Evidence: A User Friendly Guide." Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, online as a 140 kB pdf at <>.

Wood, W.B., & J.M. Gentile. 2003. "Teaching in a research context," Science 302: 1510; 28 November; online as a 213 kB pdf at <> thanks to Portland State's "Ecoplexity" site.