Super Session: Values in Education: Implications for Policy and Practice

Thursday, November 8, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Lincoln 4 - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Moderators:  Helen Ladd, Duke University
Speakers:  Susanna Loeb, Stanford University, Carolyn J. Heinrich, Vanderbilt University, Rebecca Jacobsen, Michigan State University and Jay P. Greene, University of Arkansas

Standardized test scores have been the driving force in U.S. education for more than two decades. Such an approach has had obvious appeal to policy makers, largely because of its appearance of objectivity and precision and general agreement that schools should be in the business of raising student achievement in core subjects.

 But across the country parents concerned about the physic toll of high stakes testing on their children are “opting out” of testing programs, and teachers complain that testing reduces the time for instruction and distorts the curriculum.  Clearly Americans expect our education system to do more for children than to turn them into successful test takers.  Hence, it’s time for a change.  The question is how.

 In  a new book  Educational Goods,: Values, Evidence and Decision-Making (University of Chicago Press, 2018), four authors – two empirical researchers  (Helen Ladd and Susanna Loeb) and  two philosophers (Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift) – argue that the first step is for education decision makers to adopt new language that expands the discussion beyond the narrow range of cognitive knowledge and skills that standardized tests purport to measure.   A basis for such language is the concept of “educational goods.”

 The authors define educational goods as the knowledge, skills, attitudes and dispositions that enable an individual to flourish and, importantly, also contribute to the flourishing of others. The adjective “educational” refers to the fact that they emerge from a broadly defined educational process involving communities, families and, of course, schools. The term “goods” signals that these outcomes are positively valued. The authors also introduce the term “childhood goods” to recognize the special value placed on the curiosity and wonder that are the special province of childhood

 The purpose of this roundtable is to elaborate the new concepts, and importantly, to discuss what this broader perspective might imply for accountability. A significant theme of the book is that good education decision making should be driven by values, not by evidence, but that it should be informed by evidence.  This roundtable represents an interesting twist on the theme of the conference.  How does one start with values, and move to evidence?  

Helen Ladd will chair the session. Susanna Loeb will elaborate on the concepts of educational goods and childhood goods.  Carolyn Heinrich, Rebecca Jacobsen, and Jay Greene then will discuss the implications of this broader approach for accountability given the challenges of measuring educational goods.

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