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

Monday, January 03, 2011

Answering Arne Duncan

Answering Arne Duncan.

Stephen Krashen

Comment posted on Washington Post website.

Original article at: Arne Duncan, School reform: A chance for bipartisan governing


Duncan states that schools and their "local partners" are "overcoming poverty" by "investing in teachers, rebuilding school staff, lengthening the school day and changing curricula."

I know of no evidence that this is so. Rather, the research indicates that there are very few high-performing schools in high poverty conditions. Also, to my knowledge, no detailed studies have emerged with descriptions of rebuilt schools with longer days showing consistent, startling progress.

There have been occasional media reports (e.g. Felch, Song and Poindexter, 2010), but these cases of improvement are sketchy. It is not clear whether scores are being pumped up by test prep or are the result of genuine teaching and learning. The lack of comparison groups makes it impossible to dismiss the possibility that all students in the district are getting better, possibly due to the introduction of new tests and "test inflation," improvement due to greater familiarity with the test. Bracey (2009) reports that one highly publicized "success story" published in the NY Times about the Harvard Promise Academy, was true only for one grade, one subject and for one year.

Duncan gives the impression that "overcoming poverty" happens all the time under his administration. There is no real evidence that it happens at all.

Bracey, G. (2009). The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit.


Krashen, S. 2002. Don't trust Ed Trust. Substance 27 (6): 3.

Felch, J. Song, J. and Poindexter, S. "Teacher Quality Often Ignored in Reform of LA School," 12/23/10, available at http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2010/12/23/mct_cateacherquality.h30.html#comments.

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