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Report about U.K.-Style School Inspection Not Useful in Determining if Approach is OK for U.S.A.

Recent Education Sector report promoting English system of school inspections presents advocacy, but little evidence

Contact: 
Jamie Horwitz, (202) 549-4921, jhdcpr@starpower.net
Steven Jay Gross, (215) 204-8064, sgross02@temple.edu

URL for this press release:  http://tinyurl.com/82m54n2

 

BOULDER, CO (February 28, 2012) – A recent report from the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Education Sector urges American educators to look to an English system of school inspections as a means of assessing schools and as a tool for guiding policymakers and educators to better understand and improve student achievement. A new review of that report from the National Education Policy Center, however, finds that the document lacks any research base and has little to offer any discussions of education reform on this side of the Atlantic.

Evaluating schools is a hot topic amid current debates over reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act. Education Sector’s report suggests that the English system of reviewing schools is a worthwhile alternative to evaluating schools based on high-stakes testing. The report, On Her Majesty’s School Inspection Service, by Craig D. Jerald, was reviewed for NEPC’s Think Twice think tank review project by Steven Jay Gross of Temple University.

Jerald’s report offers an outline of the English inspection system, the rubrics it uses to judge teaching, the characteristics of inspectors, and the potential costs of implementing such a system in this country. These descriptions may be useful to many readers in introducing the approach. What the report doesn’t offer, according to Gross, is any research to support the efficacy of the approach – or, for that matter, to demonstrate any faults it might have.

“No research questions are posed and few examples from the extensive literature on English school inspections are offered, thereby excluding scholarship that is critical of the inspection process or of the concept of the inspection service itself,” writes Gross in his review. While the report does present data from recent inspections results, neither those data nor other data in the document are analyzed.

“Because there is no research question, no formal method, little reference to the literature, and little analysis of data, readers are dealing with a testimonial,” Gross continues.

At bottom, the report is a descriptive and journalistic account of the English system, and it is an advocacy document. Lacking any research questions or research-based evidence to analyze, Gross points out that the report is ineffective in three key areas: building the case for the English inspection system, alerting readers to challenges to that system, and illuminating the evaluation of quality teaching under the system.

In the end, Gross writes, the report leaves many relevant questions unasked and unanswered, and it never engages an extensive body of literature critiquing the English inspection system. Further, in the area of assessing teacher quality, while the report includes language from the inspection system’s teacher-assessment rubric, it never explains how inspectors can make accurate evaluations against that rubric “based on only two days of observation in which each inspector is required to see more than one classroom.”

Even assuming that an English-style inspection system does have solid evidence to support it, the report never acknowledges the enormous challenges likely to face any attempt to graft such a system onto the American education system, especially under the current twin pressures of time and money facing public schools across the country. 

“In order to make sound judgments, states need clear information about alternative approaches, hence the possible attraction of publications such as the one reviewed here,” Gross concludes. Given its shortcomings, though, “the potential for On Her Majesty’s School Inspection Service to provide such help is marginal at best.”

 

Find Steven Gross’s review on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-on-her-majestys

Find On Her Majesty’s School Inspection Service, by Craig D. Jerald, on the web at:
http://www.educationsector.org/sites/default/files/publications/UKInspections-RELEASED.pdf

The Think Twice think tank review project (http://thinktankreview.org) of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) provides the public, policy makers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. The Think Twice think tank review project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information on the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.

This review is also found on the GLC website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org