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

Friday, April 24, 2020

Wishing Away Goliath, Part 2 w/updates

Jim Horn
Part 1 can be found here

Updated May 3, 2020

Just over ten years ago when Diane Ravitch signaled that she was about to leave the corporate ed reform ship and walk ashore as an apostle of the Resistance, I and many others were hoping to read The Death and Life of the Great American School System as a roadmap to the inner workings of the corrupt education reform establishment.  Finally, I thought, if the world was ever to know the full story of the seminal events that had misshaped, corrupted, and, otherwise, damaged public education over the three prior decades, an insider-backslider like Diane Ravitch might be the one who could spill the beans.  After all, as an historian, wouldn't she want to set the record straight as part of her redemption plan?

What was the inside scoop, for instance, on the manipulations of NAEP cut scores to make American students appear underprepared and their schools grossly negligent in preparing them?  Diane was on the scene when those cut scores were set in stone by Checker Finn, who served as President of NAEP's Governing Board in 1989:

In an article titled "A Test Everyone Will Fail," the late Gerald Bracey (2007/2011) wrote this about the manipulated NAEP cut scores and why nothing has ever been done since 1989 to make them realistic metrics of American student achievement:
. . . these numbers are useful as scare techniques and bludgeons. If you can batter people into believing that the schools are in awful shape, you can make them anxious about their future and you can control them. In the 1980s the schools-suck-bloc used such numbers to make us fearful that Japan, now emerging from a 15-year-long recession-stagnation was going to take away all of our markets; today India and China play the role of economic ogres.
Diane served on the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), from 1997 to 2004.  During her tenure, she did nothing to change the cut scores, which the National Academy of Science described in 1993 as "fundamentally flawed."  

In fact, at a Hoover Institution press briefing in 2001, Koret Task Force member, Diane Ravitch, bragged:
The National Assessment of Educational Progress has gotten, I think, much stronger. When Checker [Finn] was chairman of the NAGBE Board, the governing board, they created real standards so that now we are able to report periodically to the nation about where American kids are in terms of learning different important subject areas in their school studies.
And to this day, Diane has said nothing in any of her three books written since 2010 about this ongoing scandal. The same scandalously high proficiency levels remain scandalously high and "fundamentally flawed," and they are the same unreachable proficiency targets that "reformers" use to hammer schools whenever new NAEP results are published.

And so it quickly became clear even in my initial reading of The Death and Life . . . that Ravitch was much less interested in blowing the whistle than preaching a message of redemption to her former allies.  Rather than sharing the facts about the NAEP scandal or the two other prominent scandals that will be the focus of Parts 3 and 4, Diane has offered the education reform establishment homilies, tsk-tsks, and finger wagging. 

Meanwhile, the real history American education policy's greatest manipulations remains untold by someone with all the facts to tell it.  To this day, Diane regularly presents the education reform establishment as simply misguided and misinformed individuals and organizations with good intentions, rather than as an ideologically and cash-driven movement to monetize and privatize public institutions.  

Monday, April 20, 2020

As Data Becomes "New Oil," Your Mind is for Fracking

I urge you to read the results of Alison McDowell's latest investigations into the new Silicon Valley money fronts, as Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. angle to become the 21st Century equivalents of the early 20th Century oil barons.  As Alison points out, "[d]ata is the new oil and the electrical engineers and innovative financiers of Silicon Valley have teamed up to devise a plan to frack it from our minds and from our bodies while framing it as a social good."

Here's an example below of a patent request (click it to enlarge) that Microsoft filed this year.  I think it offers a pretty clear picture of efforts of a new capitalist model based not on "pay to play" but, rather, "get paid to play." Of course, the crypto-crumbs to be collected by human data-fuel sources will be insignificant in comparison to the real money saved by efficiency-seeking governments dependent upon Silicon Valley's social steering contractors. 

Certainly gives the term "social capital" a whole new meaning!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Wishing Away Goliath

Wishing Away Goliath
Jim Horn
Part 1

Diane Ravitch’s Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America's Public Schools is the latest of the Good Diane’s three books written since the Bad Diane departed the corporate education reform ship around 2009, just as it was running into stiff headwinds from a fierce storm front developing over No Child Left Behind, which at the time was devastating thousands of public schools and threatening tens of thousands of others. 

In this third installment of the Good Diane’s recurring mea culpa and political distancing exercise from the Bad Diane’s 30 years of service to the corporate education reform agenda, the Good Diane makes a consistently-shaky case for the imminent victory of the “Resistance” over the “Disruptors,” of good over evil, of educators over the edupreneurs, of the informed over the clueless, of Davids over Goliaths, and, most importantly, of Diane Ravitch over her own past.

The first book, The Death and Life of theGreat American School System, was the Good Diane's first attempt to undo with words what she had spent her adult life doing with policy implementation and carefully crafted “free market” propaganda aimed to increase testing accountability, merit pay, phonics, school vouchers, national standards/curriculum, and corporate steering of public education. 

She explains in The Death and Life . . . that the harmful effects of the policies she previously spent so much effort pushing became clearer to her only when she descended from her flyover view as a high-rolling policymaker and edu-elite, where she had used her positions of power “looking at schools and teachers and students from an altitude of 20,000 feet and seeing them as objects to be moved around by big ideas and great plans” (p. 10).

As the emerging Good Diane explained, sort of, in The Death and Life. . . , it was around 2008 when the Bad Diane began to notice a negative aspect to the privatization of the public schools, which she had actively supported since the Reagan Era.  Yet even as the Good Diane inside the Bad Diane grew more worried that her privatization agenda might finally be realized, she continued to cycle from one conservative think tank to another, discussing abstractions such as “choice,” “national standards,” and “accountability” with the likes of Paul Peterson,Terry Moe, and Checker Finn.

Finally, when it became clear that her think tank pals planned to do nothing to alter the original timing device on the bunker-busting bomb buried in No Child Left Behind, which, by 2008, had become a toxic mess that was increasingly unpopular, the Bad Diane began to flounder for real.  A political esthete with a preference for debate over bomb making, the Good Diane says that, by 2009, her “basic conservatism about values, traditions, communities, and institutions” finally forced her to see the light: 

It remains a little unclear as where those “values” had been stored during the Bad Diane’s 30-year membership in the Privatization and Testing Accountability Club. When I now read the excerpt just above from The Death and Life. . ., it seems as likely as it did 10 years ago when I first read it that the Bad Diane knew from the beginning that the NCLB bomb to blow up public schools was armed even in 2002, when the 100 percent proficiency timer started ticking. 

Was it her "basic conservatism" that led her finally to salvation, or was it a realization that she had become a callous careerist on the wrong side of history? We'll probably never know, even though Ravitch is still making the distinction between the Bad Diane of her past and the Good Diane of the present. Just last week, for instance, in an interview with Education Week, she said, “In the last 10 years, I’ve become an activist on behalf of public schools and the importance of public education in a democracy, and this is a big change in where I was before then.”  (By the way, the five minute clip of the interview is worth watching, as it fits the corporate union version of the "Resistance" comfortably within the Clintonian boundaries that Joe Biden's candidacy demands.)

What we do know is that every other insider knew that, from the get-go, NCLB was a device to blow up public schools. That's where Part 2 of this meditation will begin.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Some Notes on Commercial Language Teaching Progams

S Krashen. April 9, 2020

As noted in “Amid coronavirus, students flock to Kahoot! and Duolingo. Is it the end of language teachers?”  (USA Today, April 7) online language teaching companies are advertising their products aggressively these days. A look at the published research on the independent use of the most popular programs, however, shows mixed results. 

Rosetta Stone appears to be is about as effective as traditional language instruction, which is nothing to brag about. The results of the studies do not support Rosetta Stone’s advertised claim that it is “The fastest way to learn a language.”

About 80% of former Duolingo students said they were “satisfied” with the course, but only 66 out the 156 who started the program finished it and responded to the questionnaire. I calculated that it would take Duolingo students about 60 hours to achieve what regular college students do in one semester .(45 hours of classtime). 

Babbel did better. Based on the results of two months of Babbel study, researchers estimated. that Babbel users could accomplish about one semester’s progress in 21 hours of Babbel. Nearly all users said they liked Babbel.  

In all the studies I examined, conclusions are based on performance of the WebCAPE examination, and unfortunately we don’t know much about this test, other than that it is multiple-choice: As far as I could tell, sample questions are not available. 

Few other evaluations of commercial programs were available. 

Rockman, et. al. S. 2009. Rosetta Stone Evaluation Report. resources.rosettastone.com/.../Rockman-Evaluation-Report.pdf 
Vesselinov, R. and Grego, J. 2012. Duolingo effectiveness study. Final Report. static.duolingo.com/s3/DuolingoReport_Final.pdf 
Vesselinov, R. and Grego, J. 2016. The Babbel efficacy study. https://press.babbel.com/en/releases/downloads/Babbel-Efficacy-Study.pdf
Vesselinov, R., 2008, Measuring the Effectiveness of Rosetta Stone. http://resources.rosettastone.com/CDN/us/pdfs/Measuring_the_Effectiveness_RS-5.pdf.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Please consider reading, signing, and sharing SaveIDEA.org today!

Betsy DeVos is trying to use the current crises to impose IDEA waivers, robbing students with disabilities of their right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Students with disabilities, their families, educators, special education (SPED) advocates, and SPED organizations are encouraged to read and sign.

The organizers are also looking for testimonials and anecdotes from parents.

Please consider reading, signing, and sharing SaveIDEA.org today

Also featured here: Save IDEA! Sign This Petition to Betsy DeVos!

John Prine - Angel From Montgomery (with lyrics) - HD

Monday, April 06, 2020

Mike Petrilli: Fail All the Poor Kids and Pass the Affluent

The headline writers at WaPo couldn't quite bring themselves to put in bold print what Mike Petrilli is advocating in today's opinion piece.  

Their headline leads the reader to believe that Dr. Mike is talking about everyone returning to the same grade in the Fall:

Schools should consider keeping kids in the same grade this fall

But only some kids:

Perhaps middle and high school students can overcome these challenges, given their ability to work and read independently. But most low-income, low-performing elementary students will struggle mightily, almost surely falling even further behind [link is to Kevin Huffman's op-ed that I blogged on March 29: http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2020/03/mutual-parasitism-coronavirus-and.html]. Thousands of Title I schools nationwide, serving upward of 10 million students, are full of kids fitting this description.
The routines, indeed.  After 6 months away from No Excuses corporate charter schools and the urban public schools that emulate them, the children of the poor will require new rounds of social, emotional, and mental booster shots to further strengthen their immunity against any autonomous thought and action that they might have encountered while away from chain gang schooling. 

According to the Petrilli plan for next Fall, children who are held back in their current grade levels in the Fall should then be administered a standardized test to determine their levels of deficiency.  Those who should have been passed to begin with will then move ahead. (Never mind the logistical nightmares of re-leveling classes after school begins).

And, of course, Dr. Mike has a prescription for instruction in these failed groups next Fall: more homogeneous grouping, more tutoring, and more "personalized" screen time (just in case another pandemic hits, even though these same children won't have any more internet access then than they have now).
The next step would be for teachers to develop plans for each pupil to make progress, aimed at getting them to grade level by June. The plans should involve as much small-group instruction as possible, with kids clustered according to their current reading or math levels, plus some online learning opportunities in case schools are closed again. Those who are furthest behind could get regular one-on-one tutoring from specialists.
If Dr. Mike's pedagogical solution sounds remarkably similar to the corporate welfare charter school planning book, you would be right.  And even though failure-for-the-poor plan sounds and looks and smells like repeating the same grade, which research shows is counter-productive, Dr. Mike says we should not think of it that way: "This would be different from just 'repeating the grade,' which, research shows, rarely helps students catch up."

Petrilli ends his op-ed by reminding us that we could have avoided all this confusion if schools had already adopted the latest public education demolition plan, "personalized learning:"
It would have been far better if U.S. schools had embraced “personalized learning” long before the crisis hit — whereby kids move at their own pace, rather than in lockstep with their peers.
But, but, what would happen to homogeneous grouping!?


Saturday, April 04, 2020

Self-Selected Fiction: The Path to Academic Success?

Self-Selected Fiction: The Path to Academic Success?
Stephen Krashen
CATESOL Newsletter, in press

The Common Core emphasized nonfiction and the use of “informational” texts in order to prepare students for academics. But there is exciting news: there is evidence showing fiction might do a better job. And the best kind of fiction may be the fiction students select themselves, not “assigned reading.”

All this comes from recent research. 


Studies done with speakers of English as a first language not only show that reading fiction a better predictor of vocabulary size among adults than nonfiction (Sullivan and Brown, 2014. Centre for Longitudinal Studies, University of London), but also that the vocabulary used in fiction is what young readers need for academic success: 
*  McQuillan (Reading Matrix, 2019) examined the vocabulary used in 22 novels written for young people (e.g. Nancy Drew, Twilight) and reported that the texts included 85% of the words on academic vocabulary word lists, and many appeared frequently enough to make acquisition of these words likely: 44% appeared 12 times or more.  
* Rolls and Rogers (English for Specific Purposes, 2017) found that if a person read one million words of science-fiction (about a year’s worth of pleasure reading), the reader would encounter nearly all of the 318 science words that appear on a list of words that appear in different areas of science, with nearly half (445) appearing ten or more times.
* Green (Lingua, in press) examined over 5000 contemporary novels, and concluded that they contained more than 90% of the academic vocabulary in students’ high school textbooks in a variety of subjects.

Self-selection helps makes sure the reading is interesting; In Lee (RELC Journal, 2007), university level Taiwanese students of English as a foreign language who did self-selected reading made superior gains in general vocabulary compared to comparisons who did assigned reading, and gains for “academic” words were not significantly different, confirming that self-selection is helpful for academic language development. The books read by both groups were largely fiction. 


Fiction is not only a good source of academic vocabulary, it is also an important source of academic knowledge. Studies (e. g. Stanovich and Cunningham, Cognition, 1992) show that those who read more know more about history, literature and science. 
Among adults who are regular readers, a large percentage of what they read is fiction; about half of what women read and about one-third of what men read (National Endowment of the Arts, 2015; p. 86) is fiction.

Does fiction do a better job teaching content than study? Maybe. Filback and Krashen (Knowledge Quest, 2002) found that frequency of voluntary reading of the bible was more closely related to biblical knowledge than years of formal “bible study.”

It may be the case that we can best prepare our ESL students for academic success not with painful drills and exercises and demanding (and sometimes boring) informational texts but by providing them with easy access to reading material that they find extremely interesting. 
It may be the case that path of pleasure is more effective than the path of pain.