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

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Arne Duncan responds to Krashen questions, sort of

Wolf Blitzer asks Arne Duncan about my criticisms of his Washington Post article. Duncan responds, sort of. My comments are included.

Duncan Washington Post article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/02/AR2011010202378.html?referrer=emailarticle

My criticisms at: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/education-secretary-duncan/a-response-to-arne-duncan.html?wprss=answer-sheet

Both available at: http://susanohanian.org/show_nclb_outrages.php?id=4085

THE SITUATION ROOM: Interview With Education Secretary Arne Duncan Aired January 4, 2011 –

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about this article you wrote in "The Washington Post," because you suggested that there was an opportunity to improve education by dealing with poverty, which is the huge source (ph).

There was criticism of your article coming in from Professor Stephen Krashen of the University of Southern California, saying, "Duncan gives the impression that overcoming poverty happens all the time under his administration. There is no real evidence that it happens at all."

Is there any evidence that you are overcoming this?

DUNCAN: Wolf, that's one of the biggest challenge our country is still -- folks to believe, that somehow poverty is destiny. I spent my whole life working in the inner city in a desperately poor community. I know those challenges as well or better than anyone.

Bright stars and young people from very poor communities, very tough family situations, lots of violence in the neighborhood. Despite those very real obstacles, with long-term support and guidance and real education opportunity, people go on to do extraordinarily well.

BLITZER: Is there any, like, real scientific evidence of that other than anecdotal evidence?

DUNCAN: There's evidence all over the country. You look at what Geoffrey Canada is doing to the Harlem Children's Zone, where they're basically closing the achievement gap. We've never had more high- performing, high-poverty schools around the country. That's why I'm so hopeful.

[SK COMMENT: (1) Duncan simply repeats his assertion that the evidence is there. It isn't. (2) In my response to Duncan, I specifically mentioned the Harvard Promise Academy of the Harvard Children's Zone, and Bracey's conclusion that the "success" was due to one grade, one subject and for one year. Bracey presents a through analysis of the research on this school. (3) There is no published analysis that I know of that supports Duncan's statement "We've never had more high- performing, high-poverty schools around the country." What we do know is that the number of high-performing high-poverty schools claimed to exist has been exaggerated. See the references in my commentary.]

The challenge, Wolf, is those kinds of opportunities aren't at scale yet. We have to invest in those best practices, we have to create more of those opportunities. Great principals, great teachers make a huge difference in students' lives.

BLITZER: The other criticism, he says, more of this testing is a disaster. He says, "We are about to make a mistake that will cost billions and make school life even more miserable for millions of teachers and students. The only ones who will profit are the testing companies. We should be talking about reducing testing, not increasing it."

DUNCAN: We need better evaluations. And right now, in part thanks to Race to the Top, we have 44 states working together and two consortia coming up with the next generation assessments.

Teachers, parents, students want real information. They need to know, are students learning? Where are they improving? Where are they not? Where do they need more help?

Those next generation of assessments are going to help us to get there. That leadership is being provided at the local level, not by us in Washington.

[SK: His answer: We need new tests! Teachers, parents and students already have real information. This real information is being discarded in favor of more tests imposed by outsiders.]

Those next generation of assessments are going to help us to get there. That leadership is being provided at the local level, not by us in Washington.

[SK: Duncan does not mention that the next generation of assessments will mean more testing that we have ever done before. According to the Department of Education Blueprint, it will include summative (end of year) testing, interim testing, and will encourage testing more subjects. Since the Blueprint also calls for value-added testing, we can also expect pre-tests at the start of the school year. And this "leadership" comes from Washington, from the Department of Education, not for the local level. ]

1 comment:

  1. While I know the corporate overlords would never allow it, I for one would love to see a debate between the distinguished Dr. Krashen and the bumbling Secretary of Education. Duncan's ability to avoid answering questions, duck facts, and his propensity for self-aggrandizement would make for some very entertaining theater.

    It's astonishing how the corporate ed-reform crowd has nothing substantial backing their wild claims. It's more astonishing how they can dominate the narrative despite them being wrong on every account.