"Promising Evidence on Personalized Learning" reports on a study about the effectiveness of various personalized learning strategies. As always, someone has paid good money to have the report laid out and graphically sweetened professionally, and the report itself is about thirty-eight pages of report, one page of footnotes, and a dozen-plus pages of appendices.
But don't worry. I read it so that you don't have to. Only here's the thing-- as I started writing about it, I realized that I don't have to read it either. Nobody does. And I don't need to talk about the whole thing.
It's true there are nits to pick, most notably that the bulk of the experimental subjects are mostly charter schools and charter students-- so not remotely a random sampling. We might also note that some of the information is self-reported, so reliability is an issue there. And in all fairness to the report, its list of personalized learning techniques includes baloney like competency based learning, but it also includes the idea of student-directed learning as well.
None of this matters. The report is a big beautiful waste of time.
Imagine NASA issued a five hundred page report on establishing a Lunar Base, and it talked about the engineering of the structure and the research benefits and showed a solid timeline for probably accomplishments. But on the very first page it read, "We have based all of our planning on the assumption that the moon is made of cream cheese, probably with little pieces of jalapeno mixed in."
This study set out to see if any of these techniques (or combinations thereof) improve student achievement. But the proxy for student achievement was, once again, Big Standardized Test results. But the moon is not made of cream cheese, and scores on a narrow two-subject standardized
So this study asks some interesting questions, and the many pages and the slick graphics and the many, many words about methodology and conclusions might suggest that something deep about education is going on here, but it's not-- this is just one more study asking, "Which of these things might serve as better test prep for the BS Tests." And that's not education. That is a NASA report that says, "Also, we couldn't travel to the moon or study the actual moon, so we just based everything on a painting of the moon in a 1942 elementary science book." This is a big shiny mansion built on a foundation of mud sitting in the middle of a river.
Somebody, somewhere, is probably going to take this study seriously. They should not. It is a study about test prep and raising BS Test scores and really, in public education, we have more important things to do, like, say, actually educating people.