"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Reading "Research" Presents More Questions Than Answers

Stephen Krashen recently noted that a "group called The74’s posted an outrageous but slick-looking column":  “Curriculum case study: How grade-level literacy doubled in just two months in a rural Tennessee District.” 

Dr. Krashen posted this comment following the propaganda piece:

Some questions and a comment

 

“Grade level literacy doubled in just two months”  meant that in the beginning of the year, seven first graders were reading at “grade level” and two months later 15 were. Thus, the spectacular headline is based on the improvement of only eight children.  What about the other children?

 

The usual definition of grade level is the 50th percentile. Did children move from the 49th to the 51st percentile or from the 5th to the 95th? We have no idea.

 

We also don’t know what kind of tests were used.  We are told only that it is based on the district’s “universal screener.” It has been established that instruction based on the “science of reading” involves heavy phonics. Studies show that heavy phonics results in better pronunciation of words  presented on a list but not in improved comprehension.


Only one case history is provided, a first grader who was “really behind and is now writing stories.” Is she the only one? 


Strong claims about “unprecedented rates of reading growth” should be made of sterner stuff. 

 

Stephen Krashen

Prof Emeritus, University of Southern California

Source: 

The effect of heavy phonics: 

Krashen, S. 2009. Does intensive reading instruction contribute to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37 (4): 72-74. https://tinyurl.com/jc6x8mk

Friday, May 20, 2022

Make the School Day Longer?

  

Make the School Day Longer?            

Stephen Krashen.   (skrashen@yahoo.com)

Language Magazine May 2022, p.13

Languagemagazine.com

 

            Will extra time in school help children make up for instruction lost because of the pandemic? The research is not encouraging: Studies show that extending school time has no effect or a very small effect  on learning (Patall, Cooper,and Allen, 2010; Kidron and Lindsay, 2014). Blad (2022) noted that one elementary school in Atlanta had positive effects by adding 30-minutes to the school day, but the school made extraordinary efforts, e.g. two adults in every classroom, tracking, and ongoing analysis of test scores. 

            Increasing instruction time by increasing homework is clearly not the answer. In fact, homework may not help at all. Based on his review of the research, Kohn (2007) concluded that  “… there is absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school.  At the high school level, the correlation is weak and tends to disappear when more sophisticated statistical measures are applied.“

            I suggest we try a different path: Decrease school pressure and encourage pleasure reading. 

            In Stanovich and Cunningham (1993), college students who were more familiar with popular literature did better on a variety of tests of subject matter, including science, social studies, technology, and cultural knowledge, suggesting that those who read more, know more. In fact, familiarity with popular literature (including books and magazines but not TV) was a better predictor of performance on subject matter tests than high school grades. Of great interest is that those familiar with popular literature knew more about practical matters as well, knowledge relevant to everyday living, e.g. how a carburetor works, how many teaspoons are equivalent to a tablespoon.

            It is reasonable to hypothesize that knowledge we absorb from reading that we select ourselves lasts longer than what we learn from study. This was Plato’s view: “Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.”

            Let’s try providing more access to interesting reading material by investing more in libraries and librarians, and let’s try giving young people more time to read for pleasure by reducing homework. As Kohn (2006) has pointed out, “authentic reading is one the casualties of homework” (p.175). 

 

Sources

Blad, E.  2022.“Why schools see extra time as the solution for making up for lost instruction.” https://www.edweek.org/leadership/why-schools-see-extra-time-as-the-solution-to-making-up-for-lost-instruction/2022/03

Kidron, Y. and Lindsay J. 2014. The effects of increased learning time on student academic and nonacademic outcomes: Findings from a meta-analytic review. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs. 

Kohn, A. 2006. The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press.

Kohn, A. 2007. Rethinking Homework. https://www.alfiekohn.org/article/rethinking-homework/2007

Patall, E., Cooper, H. and Allen, A. 2010. Extending the School Day or School Year: A Systematic Review of Research (1985–2009). Review of Educational Research 80(3):401–436. DOI: 10.3102/0034654310377086 

Stanovich, K. and Cunningham, A.  1993. Where does knowledge come from? Journal of Educational Psychology. 85, 2: 211-229.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

New Study Reveals School Racial and Economic Segregation

 NEW STUDY: First-Of-Its-Kind Analysis Reveals Widespread Racial, Economic Segregation In U.S. Schools, Ranks Most Segregated Cities


Six decades after Brown v. Board, segregation between Black and white students remains very severe in 10 percent of metro areas, significant in others


The most severely racially and economically segregated metro areas include New York City, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Newark


(New York, NY) — More than six decades after Brown v. Board, many students across the country still attend schools that are heavily segregated, both racially and economically. A new, first-of-its-kind analysis, published today by The Century Foundation, provides a uniquely detailed look at the current state of school segregation across all U.S. metropolitan areas. The results are alarming: segregation is still persistent across the country and our biggest metropolitan areas see particularly high rates of segregation between Black and white students, and between those who are lower-income and more affluent. 


Accompanying the study is a new tool, produced in partnership with the Segregation Index, led by Ann Owens from the University of Southern California and Sean Reardon from Stanford University, that allows users to dig into just how severe segregation is in their area—and what causes are behind it. The School Segregation Data Dashboard, also published today, includes data from public and private schools in all 403 metropolitan areas across the country, presented in an interactive map that shows local segregation levels as well as larger trends across the country.


“While it’s no secret that many students still experience segregation within their schools, the severity of that segregation in many metropolitan areas is shocking, and should prompt policymakers to act,” said Halley Potter, TCF senior fellow and the study’s author. “Data is essential for addressing such a pervasive problem, and what we’ve learned from this new analysis is that segregation looks very different in New York than it does in California, and in every area in between. This level of data allows us not only to better understand the causes of segregation in certain areas, but also to determine how best to address it.”


TCF’s analysis measures segregation by race and ethnicity, as well as by income, using the variance ratio segregation index, which allows researchers to compare the difference between two groups of students in their exposure to students from one of the groups. For example, a variance ratio of zero for Black-white segregation means that every school in that area would have the exact same racial composition, and a measure of one means that Black and white students would be totally isolated. “Very severe” segregation exists, in terms of this study, in areas with variance ratios larger than 0.5, meaning they are closer to being entirely segregated than entirely integrated. 


Key findings from the study include:


National Trends

  • Metro areas have particularly high levels of segregation between Black and white students 

    • In 10 percent of all metro areas, Black-white segregation levels are “very severe” (variance ratios higher than 0.5), meaning schools are closer to being entirely segregated than to fully integrated

  • Segregation levels between white students and students of other races are less stark, but still significant across the country 

    • On average, the difference between the percentage of white students at the average white student’s school and at the average non-white student’s school in the same area is 21 percentage points

  • Economic segregation is also widespread, and students of color (Black students in particular) have higher average rates of poverty

    • The rate of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch is 16 percentage points higher at the average Black student’s school than the average white student’s school in the same metro area

  • School segregation is most extreme in the Northeast, where both racial and economic segregation are more pronounced

    • Segregation between school districts causes much of this regional segregation, and is the largest driver of segregation nationally 


Cities and Metro Areas with Most Severe Segregation

  • The New York City and Milwaukee metropolitan areas stand out as especially segregated 

    • The study includes six lists of the 10 most segregated areas across six types of segregation

    • New York City and Milwaukee appear in the ten most segregated areas on two-thirds of these lists 

  • Chicago, Newark, and Philadelphia also have high levels of segregation across many groups, appearing on half of the most segregated lists

    • Boston, Detroit, Oakland, and Los Angeles, among others, come in behind these cities, and rank among the top ten most segregated areas by several metrics

  • Segregation of different racial groups of students varies across the country

    • Detroit has the highest levels of segregation between white and all non-white students

    • Milwaukee has the highest levels of school segregation among Black and white students, while Philadelphia is most segregated between Hispanic and white students

    • California is home to the most segregated schools between White and Asian students (Napa) and white and American Indian students (El Centro)

    • The Newark area has the highest levels of economic segregation 


“These findings point to many different types, and severities, of segregation across our country, but they also reveal something essential for policymakers: much of our country’s segregation is driven by segregation between school districts,” said Ann Owens, associate professor of sociology at the University of Southern California and one of the leaders of the Segregation Index. “Solving this problem is particularly complex, as it will require conversations at all levels of government. Local leaders within a district have few tools to address segregation across district lines on their own—leadership to address interdistrict segregation must come from the state or federal level.”


While interdistrict segregation is the largest driver of segregation, and most prevalent in the Northeast and Midwest, other factors, such as segregation within districts and among private and charter schools, also contribute to segregation. The report and interactive map reveal the complex realities of segregation in U.S. schools, and should prompt policymakers at all levels of government to take action.



###


The Century Foundation (TCF) is a progressive, independent think tank that conducts research, develops solutions, and drives policy change to make people’s lives better. We pursue economic, racial, and gender equity in education, health care, and work, and promote U.S. foreign policy that fosters international cooperation, peace, and security. TCF is based in New York, with an office in Washington, D.C. Follow the organization on Twitter at @TCFdotorg and learn more at www.tcf.org.




-- 
McKenzie Maxson (she/her/hers)
Press Secretary
The Century Foundation
2000 M Street NW, 7th Floor, Washington DC 20036
C: 937.789.4606 @mckenziemmaxson

Friday, April 22, 2022

North Star Academy Students Are Fed Up with Racist Charter Schools

The dominant KIPP Model for racist chain gang charter schooling, i.e. "No Excuses," has spread to other charter corporations wanting a piece of the pie.  One of the largest knock-offs is the charter school corporation, Uncommon Schools.  

What black and brown students have found is that they are uncommonly racist and de-humanizing:

. . . . North Star Academy, which is part of the Uncommon Schools network of charter schools, is one of New Jersey’s oldest and highest-achieving charter schools. In the 2019-20 school year, 83% of North Star students were Black, 15% Hispanic, and more than 86% were economically disadvantaged, according to state data, yet the students routinely outperform their peers in wealthier districts on state standardized tests.

But like other so-called “no excuses” charter schools, North Star has long had a reputation for strict discipline along with its demanding academic program. In 2019-20, the most recent year with available state data, nearly 19% of North Star students received suspensions — a rate about six times higher than the average across New Jersey or in the Newark school district.

After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 drew widespread attention to anti-Black racism in all facets of American society, many young people took to social media to recount instances of racism at school. Current and former students and staff members at Uncommon Schools began sharing their experiences through an Instagram account called Black at Uncommon, where many described a school culture that felt overly controlling and occasionally unwelcoming to Black people. . . . .

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Describing Whole Language: Response to Wexler

 Describing Whole Language

Natalie Wexler’s characterization of the nature and effect of whole language in her article in Forbes (April 12), “Let’s not make phonics political,” is inaccurate. Whole language is not “memorizing words” but is based on the hypothesis that we learn to read by understanding what is on the page. Knowledge of phonics contributes to comprehension, but so does background knowledge and knowledge of language.

Wexler clams that whole language was responsible for a “serious plunge” in California’s reading scores in the 1990’s. There was no “plunge.” In his book The Literacy Crisis, False Claims and Real Solutions, Jeff McQuillan points out that California’s reading scores had been low well before whole language was introduced. The low scores were due to high levels of poverty, which means lack of books in the home. Both California school and public libraries were well below the national average in the size of book collections, and well below average in the number of school librarians per student.

Stephen Krashen

Wexler’s letter: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nataliewexler/2022/04/12/lets- not-make-phonics-political-again/?sh=6f20d43a122d

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Over 1,000 Books Banned During the Past Nine Months

From PEN America

Book bans in public schools have recurred throughout American history, and have long been an issue of concern to PEN America, as a literary and free expression advocacy organization. Over the past nine months, the scope of such censorship has expanded rapidly. In response, PEN America has collated an Index of School Book Bans, offering a snapshot of the trend. The Index documents decisions to ban books in school libraries and classrooms in the United States from July 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.

 . . . .

It is not just the number of books removed that is disturbing, but the processes–or lack thereof–through which such removals are being carried out. Objections and challenges to books available in school are nothing new, and parents and citizens are within their rights to voice concerns about the appropriateness and suitability of particular books. In order to protect the First Amendment rights of students in public schools, though, procedural safeguards have been designed to help ensure that districts follow transparent, unbiased, established procedures, particularly when it comes to the review of library holdings. Of 1,586 bans listed in the Index, PEN America found that the vast majority (98%) have involved various departures from best practice guidelines outlined by the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and the American Library Association (ALA). Such guidelines have been designed to ensure rigorous standards and to avoid ad hoc, highly irregular acts that could run afoul of relevant legal doctrine. These guidelines include the filing of written, formal challenges by parents or local residents; the formation of review committees, generally comprised of librarians, teachers, administrators, and community members; and that books are to remain in circulation during the reconsideration process until a final decision is made. Challenges to library books and curricular and classroom materials are meant to happen first at the school-level, and then, if a decision is appealed, at the district-level. While the Supreme Court has recognized the “broad discretion” granted to local school boards in the “management of school affairs,” that discretion does not negate the responsibility of engaging in proper, considered processes concerning selections or removals. Rather, per Pico, school boards must exercise their discretion with respect to matters of education “​​in a manner that comports with the transcendent imperatives of the First Amendment.” News reports from school districts around the country indicate that this directive is being eschewed, as the responsibility of local school boards to employ appropriate  safeguards and best practices in these decisions is being widely abrogated.


Friday, April 01, 2022

Ah, Deprofessionalization

 

Teachers Welcome Deprofessionalization


NEPC Newletter, April 1, 2022
Teachers Welcome Deprofessionalization

Nancy Morrison, a social studies teacher at Atwood Middle School in Miami, Florida, was experiencing burnout this past fall, entering her ninth year of teaching. On top of the pandemic, she was feeling crushed under the weight of responding to students’ educational needs and overall well-being.

But help was on the way.

Morrison’s relief came in an unlikely form: the national push to deprofessionalize teaching. Scripted curriculum, forbidden knowledge, banned books, outlawed discussions, and hovering oversight have combined to transform the job of teaching. In doing so, this deprofessionalization has thoughtfully relieved teachers of the awful responsibility of having to make decisions that might impact students’ education.

Morrison said the first sign of hope came back in June of last year, when the state Board of Education banned what they called “critical race theory” from all public school classrooms. “The Board’s rules told us that we had to teach that racism is merely the product of prejudice—we couldn’t teach that racism has roots in American society or its legal system.” 

After that, Florida’s legislature passed the “Stop Woke Act”, which adds that teachers should be trumpeting “principles of individual freedom.” The Act gives students the option of suing schools for violating their civil rights if those students feel that a class is teaching that “virtues” like “neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race, color, sex, or national origin to oppress members of another race, color, sex, or national origin.”

Meanwhile, Florida also passed HB 1557, titled, “Parental Rights in Education” but commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which gives parents the right to sue school districts if they think that a teacher is encouraging a classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity that’s not age-appropriate. “This is a clear warning to teachers in my position,” Morrison told us, “that we risk losing our jobs if we talk about LGBTQ issues or people.”

For Morrison, the state’s overall message was also clear: Students should no longer be learning or talking about race and gender issues in school. “I teach Civics, Government, and U.S. History,” she explained:

Obviously, we can’t examine American history or civil rights without discussing the experiences and viewpoints of historically marginalized people. Yet if we do have those discussions, then a parent or student will inevitably claim that someone said something that puts us on the wrong side of these laws.

“Since I can’t safely teach what I was hired to teach, Florida’s policies have freed us to go outside and toss around the Frisbee,” she said with a relieved smile.

“Oddly,” she added, “these are the same legislators who a few years ago wanted us to carry guns to class. Now they’re scared to trust us with some words.”

In Indiana, fifth grade teacher Karen Maus has been enthusiastically keeping an eye on a similar bill that adds a requirement that teachers post all their lesson plans online, so that parents can review them. “This is terrific!” exclaimed Maus.

I decided to pursue teaching because I wanted to be in a controlled, deprofessionalized context where every move is criticized and I could be fired at any moment because I’ve inadvertently offended some repressed parent with nothing better to do than whine about a mention of the mating ritual of blue-footed boobies.

Maus explained that she feels blessed by the deprofessionalization:

Soon, all the responsibility and blame will fall on the parents, where it belongs. I’m liking that Frisbee idea. I’ll just keep posting lesson plans involving tossing around the Frisbee. If any parents want to object, let them write up their own damn lesson.



Tuesday, March 29, 2022

MIT Returns to Using SAT to Keep Out the Riffraff

During the pandemic, many colleges and universities decided to drop the most infamous discriminatory tools of the college admissions trade: the SAT and ACT. Now that wishful thinking regarding Covid has entirely displaced rational analysis in our nation's policymaking centers, it's not surprising to see the first of America's most privileged universities for the most privileged move backward to once again adopting a screening tool born in an era, unlike now, when colleges did not feel compelled to hire PR firms to disguise their racism and bigotry.

So MIT says forget the research showing how the SAT, ACT, GRE, or any other standardized test cannot account for stereotype threat or the benefits accrued by test-takers family wealth and income. 

Below is a clip from a brief paper by Tom Rudd in 2011, and below that are the charts which demonstrate clearly the points about family income and SAT scores. So congratulations MIT: you have shown us your reestablished priorities to protect your institution's white wealthy elitism. One would think such rarefied air would reek less of untreated sewage. 

A close look at the distribution of average SAT scores by race and family income suggests that what the SAT does a very good job of measuring is “access to opportunity.” The correlation between SAT scores and reported family income is very high. In 2009, the highest average score on the SAT was posted by students who reported their family income as greater than $200,000 annually.  For these students, high access to opportunity, generally evidenced by high SAT scores, is cumulative. Access to high performing primary and secondary schools leads to high SAT scores that lead to heightened opportunity to attend selective colleges and universities which leads to greater opportunity to choose a life that “one has reason to value.” Despite historic and impassioned prognostications about the public mission of the academy to energize fundamental democratic values including racial and ethnic diversity, it appears that most highly selective colleges and universities use the SAT (or the ACT) as a key component of their admissions strategy.

By Catherine Rampell, New York Times Economic Blog 2009:


SAT reading scores by incomeSource: College Board

SAT math scores by incomeSource: College Board
SAT writing scores by incomeSource: College Board

Here are all three test sections next to each other (zoomed in on the vertical axis, so you can see the variation among income groups a little more clearly):

SAT scores by income classSource: College Board

A few observations:

  • There’s a very strong positive correlation between income and test scores. (For the math geeks out there, the R2 for each test average/income range chart is about 0.95.) 
  • On every test section, moving up an income category was associated with an average score boost of over 12 points.
  • Moving from the second-highest income group and the highest income group seemed to show the biggest score boost. However, keep in mind the top income category is uncapped, so it includes a much broader spectrum of families by wealth.


Sunday, March 27, 2022

Try Illuminate Education and Make Your Student Data Accessible to Hackers

On its website, Illuminate Education states that "we deploy meaningful safeguards to protect student data." Furthermore, Illuminate pledges "our unwavering commitment to student data privacy."

Despite all the assurances, hackers just ripped off the personal data of 820,000 New York City students. From NBC New York: 

In what may be the largest breach of student data in U.S. history, personal information for roughly 820,000 current and former New York City public school students has been compromised, NBC New York has confirmed.

According to the city's Department of Education, the breach occurred in January when an online grading system and attendance system used by many public schools was hacked.

Education officials blasted Illuminate Education, the California-based company behind the system, claiming it fudged its cybersecurity protocols.

The company has not disclosed what, if anything, had been done with the data. The Department of Education is asking the NYPD, FBI and state attorney general's office to investigate the hack.

But, you know those grade cards and paper in-house attendance reports were so old school. You know, like secure. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

Reflecting on Green Dot’s Disastrous Locke Takeover

“Green Dot came and made it into more of a jail.” — Chris

My history of opposing the Green Dot Charter School Corporation back when I was an activist is well known. On Schools Matter alone there’s over a dozen pieces I wrote on them.

These days, as an educational rights attorney, I’ve successfully litigated against the corporate charter chain on a few occasions. Today I had a legal research assignment that involved looking up information on them and I came across this academic paper:

Taken Over: The Story of the Locke High School Takeover Through a Qualitative Study of Student Voice

by Loyola Marymount University’s Joshua Michael Beardall.

I only had a few minutes to skim through the paper, but it features some excellent feedback on how the students felt about the hostile take-over of a once public school by the corporate charter chain. Written through a Critical Race Theory (“CRT”) lens, the paper takes a student-centric view of what Green Dot did. It also exposes the intrinsic racism of Green Dot and its carceral, white supremacist campuses. Passage like this confirm what activists have said for years:

“The students also believed that the community and school did not interact and that the school was in opposition to the community surrounding it…”

I recommend people check the paper out.

Reflecting back on the hostile Locke takeover, a couple of things come to mind. First, the takeover was, and still is, a disaster. The Green Dot Corporation had to restructure Locke a number of times as their failed management and policies played out. Second, Green Dot, which boasted it would dramatically improve student scores on racist and classist standardized tests, actually set records for having so many schools at the very bottom — including four Locke HS branches in the bottom 25 SAT scores in 2015.

Ironically, the well-healed, white executives running Green Dot at the time of the take-over boasted that they would “turn the school around” and make it a “great school” in short order. Boastful Marco Petruzzi claimed they’d do it in three years. Braggart Steve Barr said they’d do it in one. Neither prediction by the two non-educators came true. Green Dot has run Locke for more than a decade now. Where’s all the compliant press parroting bromides of how Green Dot “cracked the code”?

Petruzzi was a hedge fund manager prior to running the corporate charter school behemoth Green Dot. His lack of background in pedagogy showed in everything he did. Today he’s a furniture salesman. Truth is, Petruzzi’s always been a furniture salesman. This passage by one of his vendors sums up the real essense of the “education reformer,” Marco Petruzzi:

“…Marco Petruzzi, is an ex-Bain partner who joined Dovetail in 2018 to increase sales and profitability and overhaul their physical and technology infrastructure. Marco appreciates working with analysts that can make short work of thorny Excel problems, as well as going beyond spreadsheets to assist in the technical complexities of an ERP database migration.”

KPCC did a piece on how the Green Dot Charter Corporation did not meet its promises with Locke. This passage is instructive:

“Yet for all these improvements, Green Dot has also found out just how difficult it is to act on its initial promises. Locke High School's graduation rate — at 55.9 percent — is one of the lowest of any comprehensive high school in L.A. Unified, charter or otherwise.”

Caught this during further search: ‘The Myth of Charter Schools’ Marco Petruzzi, reply by Diane Ravitch.