This article appeared at Edspresso earlier today.
“Clayton County had the highest turnover rate for regular teachers among metro school districts between the 2003 and 2005 school years, statistics show”
How does a change in curriculum this year cause losses in previous years? Perhaps something else is causing the losses? We'll never know because the article jumps right to a disgruntled teacher who claims to be leaving because DI is “too scripted” and that she “no longer uses her expertise to assess students individually and tailor lessons to their weaknesses.”
Our intrepid reporter fails to catch the inconsitency in the teacher's claim. The “teaching expertise” the teacher is referring to was resulting in a large number of students who were failing academically. That’s why the district changed to DI. Ironically enough, considering she hates scripts so much, this teacher appears to be following the same script we get from other critics of DI.
According to Zig Engelmann, the creator of DI, “The main complaints are that the programs require teachers to follow a script, which supposedly limits their creativity, and that the programs are boring.” But, these claims have not been substantiated by research. “Good teachers become superior DI teachers. Although the program may be boring for some teachers, it is not for the students. The rate of misbehavior is a lot lower during the structured DI periods than it is during less structured times of the school day.”
And, there are many good reasons why DI uses scripts instead of allowing teachers to teach in the same manner which previously wasn’t working with many students. The scripts are based on extensive research regarding student retention, and every aspect of every script is based upon results that were demonstrated through research. The great advantage of this approach is that every teacher using the script becomes the beneficiary of that research and will probably teach much more effectively than if left to her own devices.
We next learn that this disgruntled teacher “has a master's degree and has taught reading for 14 years." This is an appeal to authority without any authority. To find out what a teacher has actually taught, you have to look at what the students have actually learned. But, the reporter doesn't give us any statistics on student learning in this district. And I don't trust the inflated scores on the Georgia state test to be a reliable indicator of student success. The only thing I can vaguely find approaching a standard, though it is rife with selection bias, is that the high school students are performing over a 100 points below the national average in the SAT, even though only about half the students took the tests. No doubt these were the smart ones.
Another teacher also considered leaving because of DI and claimed that teachers “don't feel they are getting respect… We don't have any input on anything."
And, there we have the real reason for the discontent: teachers aren’t being permitted to continue what they’ve always done even though it was resulting in lots of academic failure. It’s all about the teachers and their precious feelings, not whether the students are actually learning.
At this point the article gets around to telling us the reason why the administrators brought DI in. “Administrators said they were trying to bring research-based methods into the classroom and standardize lessons so children who changed schools midyear didn't get lost." The new approach also ensured that lessons built on each other from year to year.
Seems reasonable enough to me, especially considering the high mobility rates (upwards of 25%) in these districts.
Then we finally hear from a teacher who liked DI. "I would base my 34 years of experience on saying that it does work." I suppose that counts for something, but wouldn't it be a little more persuasive to hear from an administrator or teacher from a school that successfully implemented DI. How about the City Springs School in the inner city of Baltimore.
In 1998 the city springs school was the worst school in Baltimore City, which is quite an accomplishment considering the general wretchedness of the schools in Baltimore City. CTBS/TerraNova scores for the fifth grade were 14th and 9th percentile for reading and math respectively. Then they changed the curriculum to DI and five years later the scores improved to 87th and 79th percentile respectively. That's about as good as it gets.
The principal of the City Springs School has said “It bothers me that the critics say, ‘Oh, Direct Instruction, so robotic.’ It’s what you make it.” Whether a curriculum is engaging to pupils and helps them learn depends on how teachers teach it. “Any curriculum can be boring to a kid,” she said. “If you give the kid motivation—that they are achieving—you’ve got them.”
Who would you rather have teaching your kids?