Thursday, February 4, 2021

More Absurd Learning Loss Data

Pandemic education has featured a great deal of chicken littling about "learning loss" that is largely ridiculous. Test manufacturers and folks in test-adjacent edu-biz endeavors are selling the picture of students as buckets and education as water, and now the education is just leaking out at a rate so alarming that it's kind of amazing that people have not turned into drooling couch potatoes once they've been out of school for a decade.

NWEA's report from last April is oft-cited, along with its sexily simply assertion that students will learn days and months of learning. That's baloney, and what it really means is that the folks at NWEA are guessing that test scores will probably go down X points. And if that isn't enough evidence this was a nothingburger, note that in November NWEA announced that their guesstimate had turned out to be over-stated.

But the learning loss drama continues, with Hechinger Report this week emailing links to some research from Amplify (motto: "Trying to make a buck off education since 2000), launched by Rupert Murdoch, later sold to Joel Klein after the company failed to make a killing with their flawed school tablet program. Those guys.

Anyway, they want you to know that covid has damaged the DIBELS scores.

DIBELS (it should come with a little registered trademark sign, but I don't have that capability) is a special test in which the littles are asked to read a bunch of nonsense. Seriously--they are give small clumps of letters that are meaningless gibberish and then "sound them out" and pronounce them out loud. This is supposed to measure their skill with phonetics and not, say, their ability to comply with apparently senseless requests from adults. 

It is exactly the kind of performance task that would only ever be practiced, measured, or expected in a school setting, so the fact that scores dipped a bit between Fall 2019 and Fall 2020 is no surprise. Parents were probably not practicing nonsense syllable pronunciation often enough at home.

At the end of the report, in large, bold font, we're that Amplify's mCLASS "can provide you with valid, reliable data on your students." Never let a crisis go to waste. Ka-ching.

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