Publication Date: June 29, 2018
Medical products are required to disclose both their intended outcomes and known side effects. Educational policy and practice, however, carries no such labels. Thus, teachers, school leaders, and the public are not told, for example, that “this program helps improve your students’ reading scores, but it may make them hate reading forever,” or that “school choice may improve test scores of some students, but it may lead to the collapse of American public education.”
In his new book, Yong Zhao, distinguished professor and specialist in education policy, shines a light on the long-ignored phenomenon of side effects of education policies and practices, bringing a fresh and perhaps surprising perspective to evidence-based practices and policies. Identifying the adverse effects of some of the “best” educational interventions with examples from classrooms to boardrooms, the author investigates causes and offers clear recommendations.
This volume will help the field of education to advance beyond the extreme pendulum swings that characterize today’s school reform efforts.
Yong Zhao is a Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas and a professorial fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Health and Education Policy at Victoria University in Australia. He is a recipient of the Early Career Award from the American Educational Research Association and is an elected fellow of the International Academy for Education.
“Yong Zhao has written a highly readable and important book about the side effects—the unintended consequences—of education reforms. Every educator and researcher should read this book and take its lessons to heart.”
—Diane Ravitch, New York University
"As he did in Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon, Yong Zhao has again produced a stunning analysis of the problems encountered in our efforts to improve education. In What Works May Hurt, he has succeeded in demonstrating that the schooling of youngsters is at least as complex as marriage, war, or religion. If he has not delivered the death blow to naive empiricism, he has at least severely wounded it."
—Gene V. Glass, San José State University
"What Works May Hurt puts together a convincing argument, supported by a wide range of evidence, that we must begin to mind the unintended side effects of educational ‘treatments’ just as we have done with medical procedures and products. This book is a brilliantly written analysis of well-known educational change efforts followed by a concrete call for action that no policymaker, researcher, teacher, or education reform advocate should leave unread. If taken to action, Yong Zhao could become a long-awaited peacemaker in century-old political and educational rivalries and an advisor to those who hold the power to design sustainable education policies to benefit all the children in the United States and beyond."
—Pasi Sahlberg, Professor of Education Policy, Gonski Institute for Education, University of New South Wales, Sydney
“In this wonderful and crucial book, Zhao has made clear that the obsession with testing in our public schools has hurt students, teachers, and the quality of the citizens produced by our schools. Nothing less than the future of the republic is dealt with in this most thoughtful book about the field of educational research and policy.”
—David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University
Tentative Table of Contents
Chapter 1. When Risks Outweigh Benefits: The Faulty Diagnosis, Prescription and Harmful Side Effects of NCLB
The Effects and Effectiveness of NCLB
Side Effects of NCLB
Chapter 2. Lesson from Medical Research for Education: Why RCT Couldn't Cure Reading First
The Case of Reading First
Side Effects: The Missed Lesson from Medicine
Moving Beyond RCT: A Summary
Chapter 3. Unproductive Successes and Productive Failures: DI and Classroom Side Effects
The Grievance of Direct Instruction
Effectiveness vs. Effects of Direct Instruction
Effects and Side Effects of Direct Instruction
Chapter 4. At What Cost Side Effects: The Cage That Comes with the Asian Education Tiger
The Surprising Admiration of East Asian Education
Evidence of Effectiveness
The Asian Treatment and Its Side Effects
Asian Treatment at Work: Effects and Side Effects
Chapter 5. Beware the Rabbit Hole of Visible Learning—Invisible Side Effects Lurk Ahead
Many Educational Outcomes
An Ecological Metaphor
Outcomes vs. Outcomes: Side Effects of Pursuing Academic Achievement
Homogenizing vs. Diversifying
Short-Term vs. Long-Term
Cognitive vs. Non-cognitive
Chapter 6. From When Is It Effective to Who Gets Hurt: When Vouchers Don't Work
Aptitude-Treatment Interaction (ATI)
Lessons from ATI Research
From Effects to Side Effects
Who Gets Hurt: The Case of School Vouchers
Chapter 7. The Futile Quest for Panacea: Wars, Pendulum Swings and Snake Oils in Education
Cyclical Warfare and Pendulum Swings in Education
The Elusive Middle Ground
The Quest for Panacea
Neglecting Side Effects
Raging Wars and New Panacea: A Summary
Chapter 8. Studying Side Effects Now: A Call to Action
Why Studying Side Effects?
Why Haven’t We?
A Call to Action
Side Effects of Studying Side Effects: Conclusion
About the Author