Month: June 2022
In an important new paper, Can Education be Standardized? Evidence from Kenya, Guthrie Gray-Lobe, Anthony Keats, Michael Kremer, Isaac Mbiti and Owen Ozier evaluate Bridge International schools using a large randomized experiment. Twenty five thousand Kenyan students applied for 10,000 scholarships to Bridge International and the scholarships were given out by lottery.
Kenyan pupils who won a lottery for two-year scholarships to attend schools employing a highly-structured and standardized approach to pedagogy and school management learned more than students who applied for, but did not win, scholarships.
After being enrolled at these schools for two years, primary-school pupils gained approximately the equivalent of 0.89 extra years of schooling (0.81 standard deviations), while in pre-primary grades, pupils gained the equivalent of 1.48 additional years of schooling (1.35 standard deviations).
These are very large gains. Put simply, children in the Bridge programs learnt approximately three years worth of material in just two years! Now, I know what you are thinking. We have all seen examples of high-quality, expensive educational interventions that don’t scale–that was the point of my post Heroes are Not Replicable and see also my recent discussion of the Perry Preschool project–but it’s important to understand the backstory of the Bridge study. Bridge Academy uses Direct Instruction and Direct Instruction scales! We know this from hundreds of studies. In 2018 I wrote (no indent):
What if I told you that there is a method of education which significantly raises achievement, has been shown to work for students of a wide range of abilities, races, and socio-economic levels and has been shown to be superior to other methods of instruction in hundreds of tests?….I am reminded of this by the just-published, The Effectiveness of Direct Instruction Curricula: A Meta-Analysis of a Half Century of Research which, based on an analysis of 328 studies using 413 study designs examining outcomes in reading, math, language, other academic subjects, and affective measures (such as self-esteem), concludes:
…Our results support earlier reviews of the DI effectiveness literature. The estimated effects were consistently positive. Most estimates would be considered medium to large using the criteria generally used in the psychological literature and substantially larger than the criterion of .25 typically used in education research (Tallmadge, 1977). Using the criteria recently suggested by Lipsey et al. (2012), 6 of the 10 baseline estimates and 8 of the 10 adjusted estimates in the reduced models would be considered huge. All but one of the remaining six estimates would be considered large. Only 1 of the 20 estimates, although positive, might be seen as educationally insignificant.
…The strong positive results were similar across the 50 years of data; in articles, dissertations, and gray literature; across different types of research designs, assessments, outcome measures, and methods of calculating effects; across different types of samples and locales, student poverty status, race-ethnicity, at-risk status, and grade; across subjects and programs; after the intervention ceased; with researchers or teachers delivering the intervention; with experimental or usual comparison programs; and when other analytic methods, a broader sample, or other control variables were used.
Indeed, in 2015 I pointed to Bridge International as an important, large, and growing set of schools that use Direct Instruction to create low-cost, high quality private schools in the developing world. The Bridge schools, which have been backed by Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, have been controversial which is one reason the Kenyan results are important.
One source of controversy is that Bridge teachers have less formal education and training than public school teachers. But Brdige teachers need less formal education because they are following a script and are closely monitored. DI isn’t designed for heroes, it’s designed for ordinary mortals motivated by ordinary incentives.
School heads are trained to observe teachers twice daily, recording information on adherence to the detailed teaching plans and interaction with pupils. School heads are given their own detailed scripts for teacher observation, including guidance for preparing for the observation, what teacher behaviors to watch for while observing, and how to provide feedback. School heads are instructed to additionally conduct a 15 minute follow up on the same day to check whether teachers incorporated the feedback and enter their scores through a digital system. The presence of the scripts thus transforms and simplifies the task of classroom observation and provision of feedback to teachers. Bridge also standardizes a range of other processes from school construction to financial management.
Teachers are observed twice daily! The model is thus education as a factory with extensive quality control–which is why teachers don’t like DI–but standardization, scale, and factory production make civilization possible. How many bespoke products do you buy? The idea that education should be bespoke gets things entirely backward because that means that you can’t apply what you learn about what works at scale–Heroes are Not Replicable–and thus you don’t get the benefits of refinement, evolution, and continuous improvement that the factory model provides. I quoted Ian Ayres in 2007:
“The education establishment is wedded to its pet theories regardless of what the evidence says.” As a result they have fought it tooth and nail so that “Direct Instruction, the oldest and most validated program, has captured only a little more than 1 percent of the grade-school market.”
Direct Instruction is evidence-based instruction that is formalized, codified, and implemented at scale. There is a big opportunity in the developing world to apply the lessons of Direct Instruction and accelerate achievement. Many schools in the developed world would also be improved by DI methods.
Addendum 1: The research brief to the paper, from which I have quoted, is a short but very good introduction to the results of the paper and also to Direct Instruction more generally.
Addendum 2: A surprising number of people over the years have thanked me for recommending DI co-founder Siegfried Engelmann’s Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.
The men’s grisly work gives a stark insight into the wartime repatriation of the dead, often conducted on an exchange basis: a corpse for a corpse...
Lawyer will not say where the truck is heading, but The Sunday Times understands that two exchanges of bodies have taken place in the past week, overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which acts as a neutral intermediary. Ukrainian officials said the first was made on a basis of “160 for 160”, the second “50 for 50”.
Here is more from the London Times ($), grisly throughout.
3. Appreciation of Dale Jorgenson (WSJ). And a very good John Fernald intellectual biography of Jorgenson, 49 pp.
At Wizards of the Coast, we connect people around the world through play and imagination. From our genre defining games like Magic: The Gathering® and Dungeons & Dragons® to our growing multiverse, we continue to innovate and build new ways to foster friendship and connection. That’s where you come in!
Magic: The Gathering is a card game played and collected across the globe, with a wide-ranging assortment of products designed to engage a wide range of ways people enjoy playing Magic. As a Sr. Design Economist, you will help us better understand how Magic is played and purchased to help us make better, faster strategic decisions.
What You’ll Do:
- Learn from the Past: Study the data and trends to discover insights, new perspectives, and opportunities to improve how we serve different types of customers and markets.
- Live in the Moment: Track and report on sales, identify market channels that are over/underperforming, and refine our projections and strategies in real time.
- Predict the Future: Project product sales to inform print runs and market allocation for products we have made for decades, and to inform design of products we’ve never made before.
- Boost our Agility: Help us adapt faster to changes in market conditions or behavior.
- Make our Party Smarter: Work with our design and sales teams to identify key holes in our understanding, conduct impactful studies, and communicate actionable insights.
In interviews with a dozen mobile home residents around the country, all said their rents had risen this year. Most reported increases of 10 to 25 percent, although some said monthly payments had doubled or tripled. Their options were increasingly limited, too: Many said they had bought trailers after being priced out of apartments, homes and condominiums and were now unsure of where to go next. They had used up their savings or taken on high-interest loans to buy manufactured homes with little resale value. Some were considering moving into motels, crashing with friends or living in their cars until they could find a more permanent arrangement.
That is from Abha Bhattarai at The Washington Post. The article also cites the figure of $15,000 as the approximate expense (upper bound?) of moving from one mobile home park to another. About twenty million Americans live in such homes.
Yale University Press is republishing Mancur Olson’s The Rise and Decline of Nations: Economic Growth, Stagflation, and Social Rigidities, with a new introduction by Ed Glaeser.
Here is an earlier Alex post on the book.
…the economic decline is not as precipitous as some experts had expected it would be after the Feb. 24 invasion. Inflation is still high, around 17 percent on an annual basis, but it has come down from a 20-year peak in April. A closely watched measure of factory activity, the S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index, showed that Russian manufacturing expanded in May for the first time since the war began.
Behind the positive news is a combination of factors playing to Mr. Putin’s advantage. Chief among them: high energy prices, which are allowing the Kremlin to keep funding the war while raising pensions and wages to placate ordinary Russians. The country’s oil revenues are up 50 percent this year.
Here is more from the NYT. Most of the story focuses on how a Russian-owned version of McDonald’s has reopened, serving what is broadly the same food. But they don’t serve Big Macs because…the sauce is proprietary. Presumably they already were making the sauce on their own? It is funny which parts of international law a country will or will not break.
1. “We conclude that the ǣfrog in the panǥ (FIP) momentum effect is pervasive in co-momentum settings, suggesting that information discreteness (ID) serves as a cognitive trigger that reduces investor inattention and improves inter-firm news transmission.” Link here.
Yes, Cork Ireland. What should I do and where should I eat? Your advice is most welcome, thank you in advance.
At the critical elevator pitch, Joyce whetted investors’ appetites with the opening gambit: Dublin, a European city of 350,000, had no cinema and two more cities in the same country, Cork and Belfast, were also without a cinema. (Joyce the hustler bumped up Dublin’s population to 500,000 for effect.) Ireland, with close to a million urban dwellers, was virgin trading soil ripe for far-sighted operators. For a man who was a better spender than saver who would experience money problems throughout his life, the contract Joyce negotiated reveals a canny financial operator, and a true salesman. He convinced the partners to give him 10 per cent of the equity and profits, although he didn’t invest a penny. He was also paid expenses and a wage. Hands were shaken, the deal was done, Joyce was off. The portrait of the artist as a young entrepreneur.
…the mind that wrote Ulysses was also the mind that opened Ireland’s first cinema.
Here is the full FT story. By the way, this being the 100th year of Ulysses, you should read that book if you haven’t already. It is one of the very best books! And it really isn’t that difficult. If you need to, just keep on going, don’t try to figure it all out…
1. Why is nuclear power plant construction so expensive? Oops, correct link here.
3. The world of blind mathematicians (2002).
I will be doing a Conversation with him, here is some background:
Metaverse, metaverse, metaverse! You hear it everywhere. It’s mainstream, it’s a trendy buzzword, it’s even corporate strategy du jour.
But that wasn’t the case in early 2018. And this is when Matthew Ball, a former head of strategy at Amazon Studios, began writing a series of metaverse-themed essays – long, lucid, influential essays – that are almost uncanny in their prescience.
Matthew is now a venture capitalist as well and he has a forthcoming and already much-discussed book The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything. Here is his home page and here is Matthew on Twitter. So what should I ask him?
…this article applies machine learning and interrupted time series analysis to 54 million social media posts, both pre- and post-drills in 114 schools spanning 33 states. Drill dates and locations were identified via a survey, then posts were captured by geo-location, school social media following, and/or school social media group membership. Results indicate that anxiety, stress, and depression increased by 39–42% following the drills, but this was accompanied by increases in civic engagement (10–106%). This research, paired with the lack of strong evidence that drills save lives, suggests that proactive school safety strategies may be both more effective, and less detrimental to mental health, than drills.
Ms. Ury constantly speaks as if she’s at a podium. She is a generous interview subject, sometimes taking 25 minutes to answer a single question about her work. She uses data often, quotes Adam Grant and refers to behavioral economics experiments casually.
Her language makes a subset of her clients — especially men from Silicon Valley — “feel safe,” she said. “If it’s an engineering-focused guy, I’ll say ‘loss aversion,’ ‘sunk cost fallacy.’ I know, with certain people, that makes them want to work with me.”
Here is the full NYT story by Dani Blum.