why don't education interventions matter more?
Distinguish two potential outputs of education:
1. Education might impart technical skills and knowledge of facts and mechanisms.
2. Education might inculcate norms and ideology (in a word, civics).
Consider four combinatorial possibilities, re: the impact of an intervention:
a. An intervention durably changes skills/knowledge and civics.
b. An intervention durably changes skills/knowledge, but not civics.
c. An intervention durably changes civics, but not skills/knowledge.
d. An intervention changes neither civics nor skills/knowledge.
If an intervention has a durable effect, then what is the sign of the effect? (Think of Sonny Corleone's quip to his brother Michael: "Whatcha go to college? To get stupid?") Now we have seven combinatorial possibilities.
As Arnold Kling suggests, usually an intervention's effect on *skills/knowledge* is weak, its sign varies among individuals, and the result is noise or a null effect.
By contrast, discourse around an intervention's effects on *civics* typically assumes:
i. The effect on civics is strong.
ii. The sign of the effect is unambiguous.
However, there is polarization about whether the sign fo the effect is positive or negative. Think discourse around CRT in schools, the 1619 project, or sex education.
It would be interesting to poll the minority of social scientists, who believe that interventions in education have null effects on skills/knowledge, to ask them whether they believe also that interventions in education that target civics have null effects. My hunch is that most of them would say that civics interventions have durable effects -- and do more harm than good.
My interpretation of the study is that you have to care about retaining whatever the material is you’re learning. The medicine clearly seemed to help them to focus better, but most 7-12 year old boys (unsurprisingly) don’t care very much about knowing vocabulary.
Regardless, helping children attain short-term success may still be worthwhile. Staying out of trouble and turning things in on time is a big part of life, and insofar as adhd medicine availability has a positive “disparate impact” on boys I think that could be a worthwhile intervention.
I wonder if the unmedicated ADHD kids' "disruptive behavior" makes the teacher veer more from the plain-vanilla lesson plan, and thereby (sometimes) makes the subject more interesting to everyone else.
This one may defy trivial explanation; but my first pass assumption would be that the students adapt to spend their time on things that aren't on the test and return to their baseline level of classroom motivation, whatever that was.