Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Science Education: The Problem is Poverty, not Lack of High Standards
Sent to Scientific American, July 31, 2012
Scientific American thinks that high science standards are the reason some states do better than others on science tests (Can the US get an ‘A’ in Science? August 2012). There is no evidence this is so. The two top states, in science, as mentioned by Scientific American, are Massachusetts and Minnesota. They also rank near the bottom of the country in percentage of children living in poverty.
Study after study has shown that children who come from high-poverty families do poorly on standardized tests, and the factors related to poverty, insufficient food quality and quantity, lack of health care, and lack of access to books, have been shown to be strongly related to student achievement.
American children from middle class families who attend well-funded schools score at the top of the world on standardized tests, including math and science. Our mediocre overall scores are because of our unacceptably high level of poverty: 23% of our children live in poverty, which ranks us 34th out of 35 economically advanced countries.
The problem is poverty, not lack of high standards.
University of Southern California
Notes and sources:
Massachusetts has only 14% child poverty, Minnesota, 15%.
Child poverty in the US, individual states: National Kids Count Program: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/acrossstates/Rankings.aspx?ind=43
Children from high poverty families:
Berliner, D.C. (2006). Our impoverished view of educational reform. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 949–995.
Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential;
Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics
achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.
Krashen, S., Lee, SY., and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1)? 26-36.
American children from well-funded schools: Berliner, op cit.
23% in poverty: UNICEF. Innocenti Report Card 10
Monday, July 30, 2012
Instead of worrying about applying the standards, we should be resisting them. To do this, we have to work together.
The Common Core Standards is a tsunami that will destroy all of us unless it is stopped. It is going to cost billions, bleeding money from where it is badly needed and it will soon impose what can only be described as an astonishing amount of testing. All this is happening under false pretenses. There is no evidence that our schools require these harsh measures, and plenty of evidence that they will not improve student achievement. There is plenty of evidence that the Common Core will further enrich the .01%, those whose only concern is profit:
Let me repeat: This will destroy all of us.
Professional groups, with the exception of NABE, have not opposed the standards. They have only been concerned about making sure their group is included, and that the standards and tests are right for their students. School librarians want to make sure the standards include information skills. Bilingual educators want to be sure that tests will be administered in the students’ first language. ESL specialists want to be sure that the standards and tests are sensitive to the needs of the English learner, etc etc.
All of these kinds of objections assume that the Common Core is a good idea. It isn’t. Instead of worrying about applying the standards, we should be resisting them. To do this, we have to work together.
The Common Core train has left the station, but it hasn’t arrived at its destination.
Colleagues, please please please inform yourselves. The case against the standards is overwhelming and backed up by a great deal of evidence. It has been presented by well-respected and honored members of the profession. The leaders of the standards movement have simply ignored this counterevidence, but I hope you won’t.
If you do nothing else, get on Susan Ohanian’s mailing list.: susanohanian.org Ohanian’s blog is the center of gravity of the resistance.
Read Diane Ravtich’s blog (dianeravtich.net).
Read David Berliner’s analyses. Start with http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/23/your-homework-berliner-on-education-and-inequality/
Follow Alfie Kohn on twitter and check out his website: alfiekohn.org
Follow Paul Thomas on twitter.
Follow Sudan Dufresne1 (@GetUpStandUP2) on twitter. She retweets nearly all tweets of interest and helps you get to the central issues quickly.
Here are my recent efforts:
The New York Times Sunday dialog: http://www.susanohanian.org/core.php?id=305
I presented the arguments against the common core in a letter, critics and supporters responded, and then I responded.
How much testing?
Posted on Diane Ravitch’s blog: http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/25/stephen-krashen-how-much-testing/ AND
Posted on The Answer Sheet, Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post blog: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/
I presented evidence that we soon will have more testing than ever seen on planet Earth.
And an older attempt:
The National Standards Discussion: A Weapon of Mass Distraction. http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/08/national-standards-discussion-weapon-of.html
We are invited to comment on the details of the standards but not whether we need standards in the first place. Some excerpts from my short paper:
Those who accept the invitation to discuss the content of the standards will have the impression they have a seat at the table. In reality, invitations to discuss the standards are a means of control, diverting attention from the real issues.
“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum … That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate" (N. Chomsky, The Common Good, p. 42, 2002).
The Common Core: The wants of the selfish few are outweighing the needs, desires, hopes, dreams and even the lives of the many. (modified from Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan, and Robert J. Sawyer 2012. Triggers, p 285 Ace: New York).
Who would have ever imagined that Pearson would be at the epicenter of the final quake?
By MORGAN SMITHIn 2006, a math pilot program for middle school students in a Dallas-area district returned surprising results.
The students’ improved grasp of mathematical concepts stunned Walter Stroup, the University of Texas at Austin professor behind the program. But at the end of the year, students’ scores had increased only marginally on state standardized TAKS tests, unlike what Mr. Stroup had seen in the classroom.A similar dynamic showed up in a comparison of the students’ scores on midyear benchmark tests and what they received on their end-of-year exams. Standardized test scores the previous year were better predictors of their scores the next year than the benchmark test they had taken a few months earlier.Now, in studies that threaten to shake the foundation of high-stakes test-based accountability, Mr. Stroup and two other researchers said they believe they have found the reason: a glitch embedded in the DNA of the state exams that, as a result of a statistical method used to assemble them, suggests they are virtually useless at measuring the effects of classroom instruction.Pearson, which has a five-year, $468 million contract to create the state’s tests through 2015, uses “item response theory” to devise standardized exams, as other testing companies do. Using I.R.T., developers select questions based on a model that correlates students’ ability with the probability that they will get a question right.That produces a test that Mr. Stroup said is more sensitive to how it ranks students than to measuring what they have learned. That design flaw also explains why Richardson students’ scores on the previous year’s TAKS test were a better predictor of performance on the next year’s TAKS test than the benchmark exams were, he said. The benchmark exams were developed by the district, the TAKS by the testing company.Mr. Stroup, who is preparing to submit the findings to multiple research journals, presented them in June at a meeting of the Texas House Public Education Committee. He said he was aware of their implications for a widely used and accepted method of developing tests, and for how the state evaluates public schools.“I’ve thought about being wrong,” Mr. Stroup said. “I’d love if everyone could say, ‘You are wrong, everything’s fine,’ ” he said. “But these are hundreds and hundreds of numbers that we’ve run now.”Gloria Zyskowski, the deputy associate commissioner who handles assessments at the Texas Education Agency, said in a statement that the agency needed more time to review the findings. But she said that Mr. Stroup’s comments in June reflected “fundamental misunderstandings” about test development and that there was no evidence of a flaw in the test.After a lengthy back and forth at the meeting, the committee’s chairman, Rob Eissler, suggested a “battle of the bands” — a hearing where the test vendors and researchers traded questions. Mr. Eissler, Republican of The Woodlands, said recently that he found Mr. Stroup’s research “very interesting” and that he was weighing another hearing.Mr. Stroup’s research comes as opposition to high-stakes standardized testing in Texas is creating an alliance between parents, educators and school leaders who wonder how the tests affect classroom instruction and small-government conservatives who question the expense and bureaucracy they impose.This is not first time the use of standardized test scores in Texas has been questioned. In 2009, the state implemented the Texas Projection Measure, a formula that critics said allowed schools to count students as passing who did not. After outcry from lawmakers, the state dropped the measure in 2011.State Representative Scott Hochberg, Democrat of Houston, led the charge against the measure and has since proposed legislation aimed at reforming the role of standardized testing because of data showing that a student’s test score on the first year highly predicted it for the next.“I have for a long time said that the accountability system doesn’t give us all the information that the numbers are used to generate,” Mr. Hochberg said, adding that basing accountability “more on the kid’s history than the specifics of what happened in the classroom that year may make us feel good but it doesn’t give us any true information.”
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Friday, July 27, 2012
Schooling in the Ownership Society
According to Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters and a public school parent in NYC, "The Parent Trigger was devised as an underhanded trick by the charter lobby to manipulate parents into letting them privatize more public schools. The fact that it has aroused huge controversy and has so far failed to achieve any results in California is one more reason legislators should be wary of passing it here in New York State. Parents want to be involved from the ground up in devising positive reforms to improve their children's schools, like class size reduction or offering a more well-rounded curriculum. They do not want their schools either closed, converted into charters or half their staff fired."http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/27-5
Thursday, July 26, 2012
The discussion of the finer points of mathematics is more akin to the nuanced conversations you may find in a university math department or a scholarly journal. But the source of this controversy is Sal Khan and his Khan Academy—which leads us to our need to pull back from the slope debate and address just why is there a controversy about Khan?
I don't know Sal Khan, and I recognize the inherent danger in making claims about anyone's intent. On the surface, Khan's drive to make educational videos accessible to more people has some elements of equity and social justice that I share, but those stated goals are deeply marred by the fact that the equity gap embedded in all technology appears likely to wipe out any access advantage Khan claims his academy offers.
This leads to one very important point about the Khan Academy: The problems with the Khan Academy are primarily couched in the many distorted and corrosive messages and assumptions that the Khan Academy perpetuates as well as how political, popular, and media responses to the Khan Academy deform the education reform debate. Here are the reasons for the controversy:
• Sal Khan directly and indirectly (through media messages about him and his videos) perpetuates a popular and flawed assumption that effective teaching is a direct and singular extension of content expertise. Khan's allure is in part built on the misguided view in the U.S. that anyone who can do, can also teach. Khan has neither the expertise or experience as a teacher to justify the praise and claims made about him or his academy. Khan is a celebrity entrepreneur, not an educator. [If Khan had created a series of free videos showing people how to do surgery, I suspect the response would be different, although the essence of the venture is little different.]
• The videos themselves are nothing more than textbooks, static containers of fixed content. Learning, then, is reduced to the acquisition of static knowledge. The videos reinforce that content is value-neutral (it isn't), and the videos allow teaching and learning to remain within a transmissional paradigm that is neither new nor what is best for the purposes of universal public education in a free society. Whether a video, a textbook, or a set of standards, fixed content removes the agency from the teacher and the learner about what content matters. While the videos are offered as substitutes for lectures, Khan and those who support the academy appear unaware that even lectures in classrooms are reinforced by discussions—content is presented and then negotiated among teachers and students.
• Inherent in the allure of the Khan Academy is the naive faith that technology is somehow offering teaching and learning something new, something revolutionary. The blunt truth, however, is that technology has been heralded for that quality for a century now, and it simply isn't all it is cracked up to be. Khan's videos are no more revolutionary than the radio, TV, VHS player, or the laser disc. Technology is often, as with the Khan Academy, a tragic waste of time and energy that misleads us away from the very human endeavors of teaching and learning. Technology at its worst is when it further isolates the learner and learning—already a central problem with traditional classroom practices.
• Sal Khan as a celebrity and self-proclaimed educator feeds into and perpetuates the cultural belief that education is somehow not a scholarly field and that education is a failure because of the entrenched nature of the "education establishment." Khan as an outsider hasn't thought of anything that hasn't already been considered by the many and varied scholars and practitioners in education. Does any field benefit from ideas and practices outside that field? Yes, that is not the issue. But Khan is but one of many of the leading voices heralded as educational revolutionaries (think Gates ad Rhee) who have either no or very little experience or expertise in education. The ugly truth is that if education is failing, that failure is likely because the scholars and practitioners in education have never had the primary voice in how education should be implemented. The great irony is that education scholars and practitioners (notably critical ones) are the true outsiders of the "education establishment." If you want to know something about math and how to teach it, talk with my high school math teacher, Karen Neal, first, and then you may be able to decide how valuable Khan's work is.
• The Khan Academy reinforces the misguided faith we have in a silver-bullet answer to complex educational problems. Education in the U.S. is not suffering from a lack of packaged content (in fact, our commitment to textbooks is one of the major problems in public education); education is burdened by social and education inequities that are far more complex than substituting classroom lectures with videos anyone can access (if that person has internet access and the hardware to view the videos). It is easier and less painful to praise the essentially empty solution Khan is offering than to confront the serious failures of U.S. society and universal public education.
Without the fanfare and hyperbole, Khan's quest to make content accessible online may have some real value—if Khan is willing to bring into that plan the expertise of education scholars and practitioners. Khan's plan would certainly benefit from a strong dose of humility; a first step to real learning is to acknowledge what one does not know.
But Khan and his academy are likely doomed because of the feeding frenzy around him. The public and media have an unquenchable thirst for rugged individualism, a thirst that is blind, deaf, and ultimately corrosive; and Khan appears to present a simplistic message about how to save a very important but complicated public institution.
The controversy about Khan isn't about the definition of slope, but the slippery slope of believing the hype because that is easier to swallow than the truth.
Note: See the critique by Christopher Danielson and Michael Paul Goldenberg for a more detailed explanation of problems I have identified above.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Research: Rosen’s writers are right about reading and writing
Sent to the Guardian, July 24, 2012
Research supports Michael Rosen and 90 other writers and artists who urged a reduction in spelling, grammar and phonics teaching and testing, and an increased emphasis on reading for enjoyment (“Children must be free to read for fun,” July 24, 2012).
Studies done over the last 100 years show that spelling instruction has very little effect on spelling accuracy.
Studies done over the last 100 years show that the formal study of grammar does not improve students’ reading and writing.
Studies done over the last 25 years show that heavy phonics study (termed “systematic intensive phonics”) only helps children do better on tests in which they pronounce lists of words out-loud. It has no significant effect on tests in which children have to understand what they read.
Decades of research also confirm that those who read more are better readers, better writers, spell better, have larger vocabularies, and have better control of complex grammar rules.
The best way to make sure students develop a strong command of written and spoken English is to encourage wide, self-selected reading.
University of Southern California
Spelling: Research reviewed in Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading: Heinemann, Libraries Unlimited. Earliest study: Rice, J. 1897. The futility of the spelling grind. Forum 23: 163-172, 409-419.
Grammar: Research reviewed in Krashen, S. (op. cit.)., Hillocks, G. (1986). Research on Written Composition. New Directions for Teaching. Urbana, IL: ERIC.
Phonics: Garen, E. 2002. Resisting Reading Mandates. Heinemann. Krashen, S. 2009. Does intensive decoding instruction contribute to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37 (4): 72-74.
Those who read more …. Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann and Libraries Unlimited.
Children must be free to read for fun
July 24, 2012
Letter published in The Guardian
We are writers and artists who produce books for children. In our view, the proposed draft primary English curriculum, the phonics screening check at the end of year 1, and the new spelling, punctuation and grammar test at the end of year 6 pose a threat to reading for pleasure in primary schools.
The recent Ofsted report Moving English Forward made a specific recommendation to the government that it call on all schools to develop policies on reading for enjoyment. To date, there has been no such move by government. On the other hand, millions are being spent on systematic synthetic phonics programmes and training, subsidised by the government, although there is no evidence that such programmes help children understand what they are reading.
As a result, more school time will be devoted to reading as an academic, test-driven exercise; less time will be available for reading and writing for enjoyment. We deplore this state of affairs and consider that the quality of children's school lives is about to be altered for the worse.
We call on the government to implement the Ofsted recommendation on reading for pleasure, to withdraw the phonics screening check and the spelling, punctuation and grammar test, and to reinstate mixed methods of initial reading methods (which include "basic phonics" and real books).
Bob and Brenda Swindells
Dr Jenny Sullivan
Dr Lydia Syson
Chris De Cordova
"Prior research, then, strongly suggests that charter programs have not lived up to their initial promise of transcending the segregating effects of traditional district boundary lines. In fact, these studies indicate charters exacerbate already rampant school segregation, particularly for Black students." — Erica Frankenberg, Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, Jia Wang
Fists of Freedom: An Olympic Story Not Taught in School, this morning and several things stood out and had me thinking in terms of how Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and its related high-stakes testing regimes not only distort curriculum, but how they are intended to distort students' consciousness of their reality.
It was probably Zirin's mention of the testing-industrial-complex conglomerates Pearson and Prentice Hall in his first paragraph that had me thinking of the article from a perspective of the damage Corporate Core Standards are poised to inflict on working class children. Zirin points out that entire history and context that are associated with the iconic image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City is completely lost in the corporate account of the photo and the period. Also absent from the curriculum published by the profitable firm best known for Pineapplegate is an explanation of white supremacist Avery Brundage's kowtowing to Hitler in 1936.
Zirin proceeds to fill in all the details and context missing from Pearson's corporate account in a way that will frighten StudentsFirst's David Coleman since it exposes power inequalities and racism at every level of society. As in the case of Texas textbooks, this is the kind of history that Corporate Core Standards is trying to obscure, distort, and deny at every turn.
The essay ends with:
The story of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics deserves more than a visual sound bite in a quickie textbook section on "Black Power." As the Zinn Education Project points out in its "If We Knew Our History" series, this is one of many examples of the missing and distorted history in school, which turns the curriculum into a checklist of famous names and dates. When we introduce students to the story of Smith and Carlos' defiant gesture, we can offer a rich context of activism, courage, and solidarity that breathes life into the study of history—and the long struggle for racial equality.
Several very important points here. First Zirin cites "many examples of the missing and distorted history in school," which of course, is by design. Our oppressors not only don't want young people to learn specific ideas and examples of struggle, they especially don't want students to draw the conclusion that they can actually change their reality through struggle. Instead students should become depositories for what Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, and David Coleman feel prepares them "college and career" (read low paying service sector jobs). Never let students begin to engage in critical thinking since that might allow them draw their own conclusions of society, or worse, try to address systemic problems. Confer:
It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings. The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world. The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them. — Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)
Keeping the history of struggle away from the most oppressed in society is of paramount importance to the billionaires, profiteers, and racist politicians pushing school privatization via charters and vouchers. We see examples of this everywhere. From the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Corporate Charter chain denying African American students their history and culture, to Michael Hicks, Tom Horne, or John Huppenthal's book
burnings banning in Arizona, to the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) removing access to ethnic studies and heritage language programs for impoverished students of color, there's a deliberate effort on the part of the corporate education reform junta to prevent teaching critical thinking in lieu of memorization of material for standardized tests.
Zirin then mentions that shrinking curriculums, epitomized by CCSS, "turns the curriculum into a checklist of famous names and dates." Putting aside the glaring fact that this again speaks precisely to the banking concept of education aforementioned, CCSS and its attendant testing regime have all but enshrined the "Great Man Theory" of history. This isn't surprising given the extremely high opinion Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Reed Hastings, and all the other corporate education reform billionaires hold of themselves. Much of corporate education reform, including the idea that market concepts like competition will improve education, are a reflection of its proponents' extreme narcissism.
Common Core State Standards, like all the other components of corporate education reform, are an antithesis of social justice. Reducing students to repositories of information deemed important by David Coleman is part and parcel the banking system of education. Instead of teaching students what they need to liberate themselves, Corporate Core Standards were designed to insure passivity and compliance. We must resist the real "status quo" of arbitrary standards and high-stakes standardized tests by every means possible. We must use Smith and Carlos' example of resistance not as something to regurgitate on a Scantron form, but as something we must do ourselves.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Monday, July 23, 2012
The record of mass apoplexy to my post is presented below with my response to each comment that deserved one. When I talked on the phone with one Board member about what might be done to stem the likelihood that some activists may wonder why SOS has not taken a position on Common Core, even as the guy who writes their checks is selling Common Core PD to poor schools, she responded that everyone is complicit, even teachers who work for schools that use high stakes testing to sort, segregate, and punish.
When I responded that, even so, teachers do not make their living by selling products that would not exist were it not for the tests that same teachers would rather burn if they had their way, it did not seem to make an impression. And so Bob George continues to work his behind-the-scenes magic in putting together a line-up for the upcoming SOS March to Happy Hour at the Marriot Wardman, where 3 days will be devoted to creating a platform (it's the season of the Platform) that will be handed to both the DNC and the RNC this Fall. Yeah, right?
Me? I thought the platform was clear and the rationale was pretty well developed by the past 15 years or so of research and commentary by Bracey, Berliner, Ohanian, Emery, Anyon, Saltman, Substance News, Ravitch (post 2005), Giroux, Karp, etc. and by dozens of others who have published on what needs to done to end corporate interference and control of public schools. But what do I know--I thought a VP of an edu-corp on the Board of an outfit aimed to end corporate control of ED was a big deal.
Anyway, one of the first to respond to my sleazy suggestion that Bob George might be no more pure than Margaret Spellings' booking agent was Anthony Cody, who has one of the many blogs for Ed Week. So now I see that Anthony, upon his return from a pilgrimage to Gates Central in Seattle, is urging us all to tone it down, as Anthony and his readers enter a new phase of "dialogue" with Gates' lawyers and economists.
We plan a process where we will take turns posting our perspective on a given theme, followed by a response from the other party. All posts will be carried here, and at the Gates Foundation's [name eliminated to protect the innocent]. We will ask everyone to join in a lively discussion. The education reform debate has deteriorated at times—our goal is to engage in a constructive conversation, to turn down the heat, and to seek a bit more light.In a bow to post-partisan discourse, in fact, Anthony has even opened his blog up to posts from inside the inner sanctum, where the Gates war plan is spread out in hi-def virtuality across two walls (or so I imagine). I think Anthony is making a big mistake, for reasons that should be obvious to someone of Anthony's experience:
The Gates Foundation does not care what Anthony or the rest of you rabble-rousers feel or think. They are on a mission from Bill, and there is only one master who will be served. Pretending to care provides them a semblance of openness, while it provides them with a major (well, maybe not major) venue for countering anything that Anthony or you or I might post there between classes or before work. Gates has an army of Ivy-Leaguers to dissect, slice, and dice any suggestion by anyone foolish to enough to think they are interested in listening, rather than issuing communiques in the form of phony dialogue provided by a good man naive to enough to believe what they say over lattes.
The only way to end corporate control of education is through non-violent civil disobedience and relentless puncturing of the bad policy ideas and actions that the Gates and Broad and Walton non-educators float up into the edusphere. By Anthony opening his blog up to the Borg, he stands to make the "debate" about his ideas, rather than the self-serving positivized neo-eugenics of the corporate Rat Pack. Speaking truth to power is not an option when power doesn't give a shit about what you say. Action is the only way to alter the power dynamic, and the sooner the conventioneers realize that, the sooner we can begin to expand the action.
Speaking of a lot of useless talk, here is the whole thing below, based on this post that asked a simple question: Does Corporate VP Bob George's carrying the checkbook for SOS represent the appearance of conflict of interest: