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

Sunday, December 06, 2009

LEARN: Obsolete before it was written

Dr. Jerome Groopman, interviewed in the New York Review of Books (12/17/09), points out that in medicine, clinical guidelines drawn up by committees don't last long: "A recent analysis of more than a hundred evidence-based conclusions about clinical practice reported that after two years more than a quarter of the conclusions were contradicted by new data, and that nearly half of the 'best practices' were overturned at five years." (see "Evidence-Based Practice, Best Practices, and Other Lies " by Susan Ohanian.)

The LEARN Act insists on direct instruction, reinforced by frequent testing (sometimes known as "skill-building"). A great deal of research, done over decades, shows that direct instruction has very limited value in the areas mentioned by LEARN (phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension, reading fluency, knowledge of text structure), and that most of our competence in these areas is absorbed through extensive reading.

Dr. Goopman points out that half of the pronouncements of committees on clinical guidelines were overturned in five years. Some of the guidelines in the LEARN Act were overturned before the Act was written.

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