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

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Discarding what works

Sent to NewJersey.com, Jan 2
Discarding what works

The Washington Park Elementary School is spending a lot of money on an untested product while discarding what really works ("Boro students close books and open online learning," Dec. 31). The product is "Study Island," a "Web-based instruction, practice, assessment program."

The only studies that exist on the effect of using Study Island are uncontrolled, poorly described, and unscientific. They would never be accepted for publication in any respectable journal, nor even be acceptable as an undergraduate student paper.

In contrast, the research on the positive impact of reading and libraries on school achievement is scientific and is overwhelming.

For individuals, Study Island cost $49. Think of how many good books a school could buy for that.

Stephen Krashen

Magnolia Consulting, 2008. Case study research of Study Island in Michigan. Louisa, Virginia: Magnolia Consulting
Comment: Study Island (SI) schools made better progress non-SI schools on overall standardized test scores, but researchers don't indicate how many schools did SI, whether they were comparable to the non-SI schools in level of poverty, or how well the SI students did the year before they started SI. They might have been higher scoring before the study began.

Study Island, 2006. Solid research equals solid results.
Comment: A higher percentage of students in SI schools in Pennsylvania scored at the proficient or above level in reading, compared to non-SI schools, but no details are provided about the number of schools involved, poverty levels, or previous reading level. In a second analysis, SI schools improved, with 84% achieving Annual Yearly Improvement goals on combined tests in 2004, before doing SI, and 88.5% achieving AYP one year later. Again we are not provided with any other real details.

Magnolia Consulting, 2008. Study Island Scientific Research Base. Louise, Virginia: Magnolia Consulting.
Comment: This document, which reads like an advertisement for Study Island, provides no actual evidence that Study Island works, but, as the title indicates, it cites research that seems to validate the components of Study Island. In other words, there is no research showing that Study Island works, only extrapolations from research.

Boro students close books and open online learning
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Passaic Valley Today
TOTOWA — From kindergarten to eighth grade, Totowa students are ditching the books and clicking online to new online learning quizzes, games, and lessons.
Washington Park students recently began using Study Island, a Web-based instruction, practice, assessment program that uses material listed in NJ state standards to formulate material. "NJ state standards are listed in clusters like algebra or numbers and operations," said Principal John Vanderberg. "Study Island is set up with the same clusters as those standards."
Students are largely questioned on areas in the fields of mathematics and language arts and win blue ribbons for good work. Right now, third and fourth graders are doing virtual storytelling with the program.
As they go through the lessons, teachers are able to see where students need help and address it in the classroom. Once students read through several lessons and quizzes, they can advance and participate in a game with the program. Study Island can be used for homework assignments and parents may access it as well.
Although Study Island has been in existence for several years, Principal Vanderberg noted that the program went through many changes. "They did recent updates to the program and I think it is much better now than it was five years ago," Vanderberg said.
Over at Memorial School, the younger students are experiencing online learning with their new program, Reading Street. This program starts with engaging literature and adds instruction and assessments designed for kindergarteners on up. Once again, the program is completely aligned with state standards for reading and parents are able to access it at home with their child to continue learning with it at home. "It was tough at first for the students with not typing skills, but now they seem to get it," said Principal Lindsey.
Washington Park students have had a big technology infusion in recent months. Third and fourth graders are now making podcasts with video, sounds, and photos, on their class work. Third graders created a podcast on landforms in NJ while fourth graders created a podcast on inventions.
With thirty new laptops in the classrooms, students are able to use the computers as microscopes or watch an astronomy simulation. "Google earth is a big thing now," said Principal Vanderberg. "Students learning about energy can pull up Saudi Arabia on Google Earth and see its size and oil production," Vanderberg. Eventually, the new laptops may be used for Study Island as well.

1 comment:

  1. My school in rural Oregon has had Study Island for a few years now. IF teachers constantly monitor how individual students are doing, and I mean vigilant monitoring, and I am not sure how possible that is in a big group of students, teachers can see where individuals are struggling. What I see, however, is that students figure out how to choose the games they want to play and they don't have to "advance" to any level to do that, they can guess and go. It can lead to NOT using critical thinking if no one intervenes.

    I would like to see the program used in small groups of students that are working on mastering a certain skill with a teacher helping them learn how to find the correct answers. The questions are very similar to the high stakes test questions with which teachers are NOT allowed to help students.

    If the students have any gaming background, the games on Study Island may not be much motivation for them, either. They pale in comparison to the 3-D animation that is becoming commonplace in video games now.

    This kind of program does allow students to do Study Island independently while the teacher is facilitating podcasts with video, sounds and photos which I believe creates a language rich, authentic reason for doing class projects by creating an audience outside of their peers.