From the first sentence, I could tell how much I was going to hate this:
By applying advanced analytics and machine learning, we have identified
factors that play a critical role in student achievement.
This is a new mini "report" from McKinsey, one of the world's top management consulting companies, a group that has occasionally dipped its claws into the education biz.
The report-- "How To Improve Student Educational Outcomes: New Insight from Data Analytics"-- is one more example of using data to get the desired results from carbon-based life forms. The corporation has been applying analytics internationally across five different geo-political groupings, and they crunched numbers from the PISA (both the test and the survey that goes with it). They offer findings in two areas:
Well, look. Vindication for Ben Carson:
Our conclusion: after controlling for all other factors, student
mindsets are twice as predictive of students’ PISA scores than even
their home environment and demographics.
Yup. According to McKinsey, grit and growth mindset are all you need to overcome difficult circumstances at home. The report does not explain how researchers assessed a students' "calibrated motivational mindset," but they are sure it's super-important. Sure, they admit, being rich and not poor can be helpful. And they also note that research on the mindset-outcomes link is "both nascent and predominantly US-based."
But the lesson is clear-- poor kids need to stop whining and start calibrating their motivation.
The report casually notes that there are two "dominant" types of teaching-- teacher directed and inquiry driven (so I guess, thankfully, we're going to skip over "student stuck in front of a computer).
The data suggests that the sage on the stage gets better test scores than the guide on the side, until you "dig deeper" and then see there is a "sweet spot" of combining the two. As with the first finding, the writers offer absolutely no details on how they were able to figure this out from PISA test and survey results.
This combo holds more true in top-scoring systems. On the developing end of the scale, inquiry-based isn't much help. The authors conclude that students must have to gain enough knowledge via teacher-directed instruction in order for inquiry-based to work.
Even a survey as large and rigorous as the PISA assessment provides only
some of the answers. Nevertheless, we believe that our findings provide
useful insights to guide policy makers as they make their way to their
ultimate destination—improving the education and thus the lives of
students all over the world.
And that's our generic conclusion.
Honestly, some of these results might be interesting, and some of them might be bunk. The report refers to a "series of reports" so maybe somewhere out in the world there is a more thorough piece of work. But this is like nothing at all. "We look at some data and we decided some stuff 'cause of that. 'kay?" We are left to imagine how any of these conclusions were reached.
Our guides on this non-journey? Emma Dorn (practice manager in McKinsey's Silicon Valley office), Marc Krawitz (an associate partner in the New Jersey office), and Mona Mourshed (senior partner in the Washington, DC, office). Dorn is a Harvard Business School grad. Krawitz has a PhD in math from U of Michigan. Mourshed has a PhD in economic development from MIT and did some McKinsey work on Education to Employment. Which means that none of these folks have any education background, but are highly educated and surely know how to show their work in a research paper.
Maybe the other reports, wherever they are, contain more legit explanation of how these various conclusions were teased out. But as it stands, this is a big nothingburger.