August 7, 2006

The Hive Mind's New Buzz


I'm starting to see the educrats loading up the anti-NCLB siege guns with new ammunition. Apparently, the old ammunition wasn't working.

There is definitely a new anti-NCLB meme forming in the edusphere. The hive has begun to swarm. (But who is the queen bee?) Here's one formulation courtesy of Transform Education:

I keep looking for NCLB's Achilles heel. I think it has two: (1) testing of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students and (2) testing Learning Disabled (LD) kids at grade level. When I give my talks on education and NCLB, the majority of people I speak to are outraged that non-native speakers of English and kids who do not read at grade level are required to take the same test as their native speaking and non-LD peers. Doing so makes zero sense. People get this.
You can also see the meme playing out in the comments of this Education Wonks post on this press release by Secy of Education Spellings reminding educators that special education kids fall under NCLB too. I thought that was pretty obvious, after all they didn't call the law No Child Except Special Ones Left Behind.

In any event, the new meme is based on the underlying assumption that English language learners (kids whose primary language is not English) and learning disabled kids (kids of average intelligence who are underperforming) can't be taught to read at grade level in a timely manner.

Remember, under NCLB 99% of all students (1% can take an alternate assessment) tested (a few percent can be absent on the test day) must meet state standards. And bear in mind that most state's have already jiggered the tests and standards so that the only kids who aren't meeting state standards are the bottom 25% of the curve which consists mostly of special education and LEP students. But the well has finally run dry, state's can't manipulate the standards and tests any further to pass the lowest 25%. The only way to get these kids to pass is going to improve education -- something the educrats are either loathe or unable to do.

Of course, this new meme is all bunk. Reading instruction can be dramatically improved and, by doing so, would improve the ability of almost all kids across the board. Not surprisingly, these improved teaching methods work almost as well with kids who don't know English very well:

The evidence cited here is consistent with the conclusion reached by Fitzgerald (1995) that effective beginning reading programs for English language learners are likely to be similar to those for English proficient children, with appropriate adaptations to their language proficiency. The programs with the strongest evidence of effectiveness in this review are all programs that have also been found to be effective with students in general: Success for All (Slavin & Madden, 2000, 2001), Direct Instruction (Adams & Engelmann, 1996); Reading Recovery (Pinnell et al, 1994) [Ed: giggle], and phonetic tutoring (e.g., Wasik & Slavin, 1993). In fact, several of the studies evaluating Success for All (e.g., Nunnery et al. 1997; Livingston & Flaherty, 1997; Ross et al., 1998) as well as DI (Gunn et al., 2000), also included non-ELL students, and in each case those students also gained from the interventions, to about the same degree. The beginning reading programs with the strongest evidence of effectiveness in this review made use of systematic phonics, such as Success for All, Direct Instruction, and Jolly Phonics, but systematic phonics has been identified as a component of effective beginning reading programs for English proficient students as well (see National Reading Panel, 2000; Gersten & Geva, 2003).

I think what we're seeing here is the end-game for the anti-NCLBers. It's an eight year set-up. When 2014 rolls around and the bottom of the curve fails to become proficient through the nonfeasance and malfeasance of our educators, they're going to point to this meme, say "I told you so," and hope no one pokes beneath the patina of this nonsensical argument

This is one of the great deficiencies of NCLB, a product of political comprise; it's too toothless to force the educrats to change what they're doing once they decided they weren't going to play along with the new rules. The law was based on the premise that schools would change for the better and only a small percentage would fail. The law never contemplated that almost none of them would change and we would see mass failures in 2014.

There is solidarity in failure.

It is difficult to get a monopolist to change, especially when that monopolist if feeding at the public teat. Perhaps it is time to finally break the monopoly.

27 comments:

SteveH said...

"Perhaps it is time to finally break the monopoly."

There is no other conclusion. I can make a case that the success of NCLB would be worse than failure. Proficiency levels will be lowered and enough wiggle room will be had so that it will be business (almost) as usual by 2014. Slow improvement towards a minimal goal will be institutionalized by NCLB.

Education might be somewhat better than before, but if the anti-NCLB crowd decides to embrace it and play the game, then it's all over. There is nowhere left to go.

This is what they are doing at our public schools. The administration and teachers are all on board the standards-based education bus. Our schools are "high performing" even though they have a very fuzzy and progressive idea of education and all anyone can get for math in 8th grade is algebra lite. (And, even though our IEP percentage is at about 22 percent.) Ours are model NCLB schools, but the standards are still low enough that parents pay to send 25 percent of the town's kids to other schools. The affluent will still have choice and the poor will have none.

No Child Left Behind will never become Best Education for Each Child. The best that NCLB can aspire to is to not allow schools to be completely incompetent. This is not a great bargaining position to give public schools the right to retain their monoply.

TMAO said...

Ken, You'll get no argument from me that LEP (we call them ELLs in CA) can be taught to read, write, and think on grade level within -- what was your word -- "appropriate" time frame. NCLB provides a single year to accomplish this goal. Most, if not all, credible research tells us kids need 3-5 years of immersion and high quality instruction to develop BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) in their L2 and 7 years for CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency).

I think you can shorten that to 1-2 years and maybe 3-5 (assuming literacy in their L1, and that is NOT the norm), but a single year is fairly ridiculous. If the legislation can come up with a reasonable standard and I'll support it.

KDeRosa said...

There is no other conclusion. I can make a case that the success of NCLB would be worse than failure. Proficiency levels will be lowered and enough wiggle room will be had so that it will be business (almost) as usual by 2014. Slow improvement towards a minimal goal will be institutionalized by NCLB.

I'm all for setting standards on a gradient based on student IQ, but then we'd have to admit that such a thing as IQ actually exists and that, heaven forfend, some groups will perform better than others.

KDeRosa said...

Hi TMAO.

For older transfer students, I agree. But, I'm not so sure for kids who enter the school system in K. ELL kids starting in K have sufficient time to learn English and make grade level expectations by the end of first grade. Expectations are sufficiently low to accomplish this.

I intended to exclude transferring students from the discussion, but clearly the anti-NCLBers aren't limiting their argument to just transferring students.

Transfer students are a serious problem under NCLB. No school should be responsible for getting a transferring student who is seriously behind up to grade level within one year. The ELL student is just a variation on this theme. In the former case the transferring school should be held responsible, in the latter case, no one is responsible and some accomodation should be made,

Peter Campbell said...

Since KDeRosa cited my blog post out of context, I thought I'd clarify this a bit more.

Let's play a game, shall we? You've heard of the poker game "Texas Hold 'Em" that's sweeping the nation, right? Well, the game I want to play is called "Texas Test 'Em." Here's how it works.

1) You create a one-size-fits-all test for kids. This includes kids who can barely speak English and kids who cannot read at grade level due to a developmental disability, learning disability, etc.

2) You tell the kids that fail the test that they are stupid, a.k.a. they "do not meet grade level expectations."

3) In some states, e.g., Florida and Texas, you make these stupid kids repeat the grade they failed because this is good for stupid kids.

4) Keep repeating this cycle until all the stupid students have dropped out or have been imprisoned.

I love this game!

Yes, you've read the research that shows that holding kids back and making them repeat a grade actually increases the likelihood that they will eventually drop out of school, and you've read the research that shows that the vast majority of prison inmates dropped out of school, and you've read the research that shows that per pupil expenses in this country are about $10K per student whereas per prisoner expenses in this country are about $30K, but you think that most of this crap published by educrats is just more liberal whining.

And, yes, you know that a kid with an IEP has been diagnosed as such after thorough evaluation by a team of trained experts who know a thing or two about learning disabilities, and you know that if the IEP says that a 4th grader reads at a 1st grade level that that means that this child reads at a 1st grade level, and you know that if this child takes a 4th grade reading test without any kind of accommodations that this child will more than likely fail this test, you still want to fail this stupid kid because he needs it and it's good for him.

After all, you believe that all children can learn, and that all kids -- ALL of them -- should be held to high standards.

Now, if you would please do me one more favor. Please translate several short passages from the ancient Persian philosopher Rumi from Farsi to English. I recognize that this might be challenging. But I believe that we should hold you to high standards. If you object to this proposal, then you are a racist bigot who does not believe that all educational policy experts like yourself can learn. You should really dream bigger, friend.

SteveH said...

"And, yes, you know that a kid with an IEP has been diagnosed as such after thorough evaluation by a team of trained experts who know a thing or two about learning disabilities"

About 22 percent of the kids in our schools are IEP students. Many of these students are perfectly normal other than needing help in one particular area. The only way to get the funding to help these kids is to get the IEP designation.


"1) You create a one-size-fits-all test for kids."

You create a very simple test that sets minimal standards of knowledge and skills.


"2) You tell the kids that fail the test that they are stupid, a.k.a. they 'do not meet grade level expectations.'"

Maybe that's what you would do. I would pin the blame on the schools and give the parents school choice.


"3) In some states, e.g., Florida and Texas, you make these stupid kids repeat the grade they failed because this is good for stupid kids."

What is the alternative? Pass these kids along so that everyone gets a bad education? Do you have absolutely no standards or expectations? Do you socially promote them and just don't tell them they are ignorant? It's OK if the kids are ignorant as long as you don't call them that? They will graduate from high school still ignorant, but everyone will be happy and they won't be headed to jail?


"4) Keep repeating this cycle until all the stupid students have dropped out or have been imprisoned."

So, the problem is not really, really bad schools, but the tests?



"Yes, you've read the research that shows that holding kids back and making them repeat a grade actually increases the likelihood that they will eventually drop out of school, and you've read the research that shows that the vast majority of prison inmates dropped out of school, ..."

Ken, since you are talking about research and cause and effect, you should check out this old nugget. Requiring kids to meet minimal grade-level expectations causes more crime.


"After all, you believe that all children can learn, and that all kids -- ALL of them -- should be held to high standards."

I hate to think what your standards are. When I show other parents typical NAEP test questions, they are horrified. Many parents believed the schools when they were told that the standards were high.


"You should really dream bigger, friend."

It's easy to dream bigger than low or no expectations.

KDeRosa said...

Ken, since you are talking about research and cause and effect, you should check out this old nugget. Requiring kids to meet minimal grade-level expectations causes more crime.

yeah, this is one of those unfortuante IQ correlation things.

Lower IQ people tend to make more bad decisions than smarter people. So they tend to drop out of school more and commit more crimes than the average person. Of course, its more complicated than that, but that's teh general idea.

For those of you playing along at home, never forget that correlation is not the same as causation.

Tracy W said...

if the IEP says that a 4th grader reads at a 1st grade level that that means that this child reads at a 1st grade level, and you know that if this child takes a 4th grade reading test without any kind of accommodations that this child will more than likely fail this test,

Stupid question time perhaps. If the kid is reading at 1st grade level, why don't you teach the kid to read at 4th grade level before they have to sit the test?

I mean, it's not like it's just about passing the test, is it? If the kid can only read at 1st grade level when they leave school, then their adult life is going to be pretty darn limited. Eg how will they able to decide what policies are good or bad if they can't read?

If the school teaches the learning disabled kid how to read, not only will they pass the test, but the rest of their life will very likely be better. And the school will reduce the likelihood of the government spending $30k a year keeping another illiterate adult in prison. I think this is called a win-win-win result. (First win, the kid who has been taught to read. Second win, the school who has a better passing rate. Third win, society from having another adult who is literate).

Peter Campbell said...

"Requiring kids to meet minimal grade-level expectations causes more crime." What a terrific distortion of what I wrote, steveh! Boy, you're good!

Of course there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever between crime and lack of education. It is sheer and utter coincidence that the vast majority of prison inmates are high school dropouts. It is completely unimaginable why people without a high school diploma might turn to crime. It is sheer nonsense to suggest, even hint at, the relationship between the anti-social, destructive behavior that is often associated with drop-outs and the anti-social, destructive behavior that is often associated with criminals. Silly me.

Does this mean that all kids who drop out will turn to crime? No. Does this mean that the likelihood of kids turning to crime increases if they drop out? Without question.

As for what I would do about failing stupid kids, let's try this on: dare to consider why these kids are struggling to begin with and then do something that addresses the cause of these struggles, not punish the children and schools for exhibiting symptoms of their "inability" to meet arbitrary standards created by politicians and technocrats who know zippety-doo-da about teaching and learning. Of course I don't want to simply pass them on to the next grade if they are still struggling. The question is, how do we make sure they can succeed? And, even more importantly, how do we measure and support their success relative to who each child is as an individual learner?

As to the first question, let's start with two very simple yet powerful school improvement reforms: (1) class size reduction and (2) improved teacher training and development. If we don't want to promote kids that are not learning, then by gum we have to be sure they are getting the appropriate care by highly-skilled professionals. As the STAR study pointed out, class size reduction has a statistically signficant impact on student learning, but this impact is even greater with minority kids. It's an absolute no-brainer that more kids can learn better with fewer kids in the classroom. It's also a no-brainer that more kids can learn better if the person doing the teaching knows what he/she is doing.

So how to solve the social promotion problem? By making them do the whole thing all over again? Absolutely not. The real solution: do it right the first time. Spend the necessary money to reduce class size and improve teacher training and professional development. Then talk to me about making kids repeat a grade. That issue will be moot.

Of course, making classes smaller means creating a lot more classes. More classes means more buildings. And more buildings means more teachers. More classes, buildings, and teachers means a lot more money. Quite a lot more.

We can also commit as a nation to improving the quality of teacher preparation and dedicate the funds necessary to provide on-going, high-quality professional development to people charged with shaping the future of our country, i.e., teaching our children.

This will cost a lot more money, too. Quite a lot more. Richard Rothstein, in his book Class and Schools, estimates it will cost somewhere around $156 billion.

But this is not a money issue. This is a political will issue. Love him or hate him, George W. Bush summoned the political will to invade Iraq and commit more than two billion dollars per week to its care and feeding . . . with no end in sight. On occasion, objections are raised to this new overseas adventure. But by and large, we do not say, “This costs too much.” The reason? Because it is believed to be vital to our national security. And so we spend whatever it takes to get it done.

But for the cost of a year and a half in Iraq, we can create smaller classes, we can train and support teachers, and we can take substantive steps towards closing the educational achievement gap.

And why would we do this? Because it is vital to our national security to do so. Indeed, nothing could be more vital to our national security than to ensure not only that our future will be prosperous, but that we will have a future at all.

SteveH said...

P.C. wrote:

"Does this mean that the likelihood of kids turning to crime increases if they drop out? Without question."

Education driven by the lowest common denominator.


"Of course I don't want to simply pass them on to the next grade if they are still struggling. The question is, how do we make sure they can succeed?"

More money, but you would continue social promotion until everything is fixed.


1. Smaller class size
2. More (!) teacher training

Talk about the party line. Fix those things and everything will be OK. Even if there is a correlation (to what? standardized tests?), how do you know that everything will be fixed? Your opinion? Apparently, curriculum, low expectations, and pedagogy are not big factors.



" ... dare to consider why these kids are struggling to begin with and then do something that addresses the cause of these struggles, not punish the children and schools for exhibiting symptoms of their "inability" to meet arbitrary standards created by politicians and technocrats who know zippety-doo-da about teaching and learning."


"dare"? Actually, I have a problem with schools and teachers who know "zippety-doo-da" about math. "Arbitrary standards"? It's always interesting to show other parents some of these standardized questions. I haven't met one parent who thought that any of the questions were above grade-level, or, that there was some other kind of learning that would make flunking these tests acceptable. Standardized tests define a minimum, not a maximum.


"And, even more importantly, how do we measure and support their success relative to who each child is as an individual learner?"

How? You don't know already? You complain about minimal testing, but you cannot say how schools are supposed to know if they are doing a good job? How will you know when everything is fixed? You have to show that your concept of a good basic education (it seems that you don't really even know what that is yet) is more than just your vague opinion. I know what I want for my son's education, and it's a lot more clearly defined than what I hear from you or our public schools. It has to do with assumptions, curriculum, pedagogy, and expectations - not class size or more teacher training.

KDeRosa said...

As the STAR study pointed out, class size reduction has a statistically signficant impact on student learning, but this impact is even greater with minority kids.

But, not educationally significant. At best, you might be able to eke out a 0.20 standard deviation increase in student performance by reducing class sizes to STAR levels. So, your typical Title I school performing at the 20th percentile will shoot all the way up to the 28th percentile. Wahoo! Break out the champagne!

But don't put the party hats on quite yet because STAR is not without some not insignficant methodoliical flaws and hasn't been replicatable.

Spend the necessary money to ... improve teacher training and professional development.

Yeah, like we don't spend enough on that already. And, look at the fine results it's gotten us. What kind os training and professional development did you have in mind and what evidence do you have that it'll be successful?

You can quote Rothstein and Kozol all day long, but it's not a question of money. It's a question of their ideas having no evidence of success. You have heard of the failed Kansas City experiment haven't you?

Tracy W said...

The question is, how do we make sure they can succeed? And, even more importantly, how do we measure and support their success relative to who each child is as an individual learner?

Okay, you think that measuring kids' success is even more important than ensuring they succeed?

And I thought I was a fan of testing. I only care for testing because it's the most reliable way to know that you're succeeding in your goal, you seem to think it an even higher goal than actual success ("how do we make sure they can succeed? And, even more importantly").

Nor do I think that it is most important to measure children's success relative to where they are as an individual. A child who can't read a newspaper, even if their reading skill is 400% better than it was a year ago, still needs to be able to read better.

If most educators are like you and think that how to ensure kids succeed is not the most important question, then no wonder politicians and technocrats get involved in schools. Educators are off the rails, thinking measuring against where the child is now and celebrating their successes is more important than results.

Peter Campbell said...

steveh - are you a betting man? If so, I'll wager you that if we do what you suggest -- "assumptions, curriculum, pedagogy, and expectations" -- and add this to what I suggest -- class size reduction, better teacher training, and ongoing, school-based professional development -- you will have a greater impact than if we just did it your way or my way.

So, you wanna bet?

Here's the thing: we need to do everything we can to increase the probability that kids will be positively affected by policy -- local, state, and federal. Yes, let's do what you suggest. Let's raise expectations. Let's alter the assumptions that teachers and administrators have about the ability of certain children to learn. Great. But how do you do that? Or, more pointedly, how do you create a policy that has as its outcome (1) the expectations of students will officially be raised and (2) our attitudes about certain kinds of children and their ability to learn will be forever altered? Answer: you can't! You can't legislate these kinds of attitudinal, perceptual realties.

Just look at how NCLB is going. Do you honestly think that one bright, sunny morning in the year 2014, all kids -- 100% of them -- in every single sub-group are going to wake up and be at the state's level of proficiency? This is nonsense at best. Just by saying you want things to be different and just by punishing kids and teachers and schools for NOT being different (the way that you demand them to be) does not a federal policy make. In reality, it simply creates an even more insidious, pernicious level of cynicism on the part of teachers. And we do not need to make teachers -- esp. teachers who teach in poor schools -- even more cynical than they already are.

So what gives them hope? Check out a very positive review of what makes teachers quit and what makes them stay by Susan Moore Johnson and The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers.

For me, it's all about increasing the likelihood of success. It's not about putting all my eggs in one basket. It's not about a naive, positivist belief that any single intervention will work like a silver bullet and magically "cause" the problems to go away. Rather, it's how all these things work together.

In order to accomplish substantive school-based reform, we need to focus on the factors that most contribute to the reasons why children and schools struggle in the first place. For example, do children struggle to read because they are not as phonemically aware as they need to be, or is something more substantive involved? If you ask the Bush administration, they will tell you – through their Reading First initiative – that the only reason that children cannot read is because they are not properly trained to decode words into phonemes. But others argue that kids might have a hard time reading if they have a toothache, have not had breakfast, or cannot see properly. But these latter ailments go undiagnosed and untreated because the “scientifically-based” recommendations of the National Reading Panel have nothing to say about them.

Yet I challenge you to take a high-stakes test without having eaten breakfast and with a toothache. I challenge you to pay attention in class when you can't see the chalkboard. I challenge you to have an upbeat view of the world when you live in a dirty neighborhood, when you see drugs being sold on the street every day, and when gunshots and murder are a common occurrence. I challenge you to believe that college is in your future, or that a future is in your future, when everything around you mocks you for having hope in anything beyond your squalid conditions of hopelessness. Finally, I challenge you to open your mind, to have empathy for those who suffer, and to work tirelessly for social justice.

Of course, some kids make it under these conditions. Miraculously, some do. But most don't. We don't hear about the ones that don't make it. They are just statistics. Inmates, convicts, drop-outs, unskilled labor -- they go by many names. We only hear about the ones that do make it. And why do we hear about them? Because their making it is so incredibly rare that it is newsworthy. We say, "Wow! Did you hear that story about the poor kid with the crack-addicted mother that became the president of General Motors??"

Yet, for some extraordinary reason, our brains freeze up when we hear these stories. Somehow, we are simultaneously -- and paradoxically -- aware that (1) this is very rare and yet (2) if he could do it, anyone can. This makes absolutely zero sense logically. But we are inherently sentimental beasts, we Americans. So we eat this shit up because we are addicted to stories of inspiration. All we really want to do is feel good. Believing that this extraordinarily remarkable event is somehow reproducible may not make sense logically, but it makes us feel good to think that it might be possible. But feeling good is not the foundation on which public policy should be placed.

You and your ideological doppleganger Kenny Boy DeRosa are so obsessed with single causal agents that you overlook the complexity of the thing known as "reality." For example, what caused me to get up this morning? Or what caused World War 1? Or what caused the stock market to crash in 1929? You two, like the Florida State legislature and Jeb Bush, think reality is all a series of discrete facts, that things happen due to discrete causes, that these facts and causes can be known and isolated independent of any other contextual relevancies, most of which can never be shown to actually cause the other. Causality is an epistemological and phenomenological frame that allows us to interpret reality. But we must never mistake the frame for what is so. Jeez - haven't you guys ever heard of Heisenberg and the Uncertainty Principle? Moreover, no serious researcher would ever claim that an intervention such as DI caused reading to improve. Rather, you might be able to establish a correlation between the two, but you can't prove that they are related. All you can do -- all anyone can ever do -- is argue by means of a rhetorical strategy that a correlation exists. And people either believe you or they don't. But the choice to believe the so-called "evidence" is more a matter of faith and less a matter of empirical veracity or reliability. More precisely, the choice to believe or not believe is a foregone conclusion. If the study supports what you already believe to be true, then you are more inclined to believe it than if the study challenged or discredited what you believed. This is called a "self-fulfilling prophecy." The French call it a "fait accompli." Down in Georgia, where I grew up, they call it a "done deal." Now, more than ever before, "science" is being hijacked and used to serve ideological ends. "Science" as it is practiced now is a means to accomplish specific outcomes that are envisioned prior to the results actually being known. Nowhere is this more glaringly apparent than in the NRP report or in the studies on global climate change.

Peter Campbell said...

Tracy W. - what do you know about formative assessment?

See http://www.assessmentinst.com/

Rick Stiggins has got it figured out.

SteveH said...

"steveh - are you a betting man? If so, I'll wager you that if we do what you suggest -- "assumptions, curriculum, pedagogy, and expectations" -- and add this to what I suggest -- class size reduction, better teacher training, and ongoing, school-based professional development -- you will have a greater impact than if we just did it your way or my way."

This doesn't make sense. You don't even know what "my way" is. And, I am really trying to understand the details of your way. You talk about lowering class size and more teacher training, but how do you know they will have any more than a minor effect? I really don't want to "bet" when it comes to education. What is your criteria for success?

I get the impression that you want to do a bunch of stuff that should improve education and hope that this will make standardized testing superfluous. OK, but lets keep testing so we will know when that is. Lets use some research to determine how best to spend the money. Don't bet. Can't agree on what is valid research? Well, you've got a problem.

Perhaps you don't like the type of test? That's a separate issue. Perhaps you don't like testing at all. Perhaps you just don't like testing that has an impact on the child. In our state, standardized tests affect the schools and not the child. Is this OK, or do you still not like tests. You raise the issue of high-stakes tests, but that's just a side issue of testing. What is your criteria of a quality education. I'll bet it's quite different than mine.


"For me, it's all about increasing the likelihood of success. It's not about putting all my eggs in one basket. It's not about a naive, positivist belief that any single intervention will work like a silver bullet and magically "cause" the problems to go away. Rather, it's how all these things work together."


"Likelihood"? How will you know when it works? Do you just try a lot of things and hope to see an improvement? How do you define improvement? This is not just about improving education, whatever that is. It has to do with getting everyone on the same page before you do something. You haven't even defined what that page is. My assumptions, curriculum, pedagogy, and expectations are probably quite different from yours. How could we possibly combine what you want with what I want?


"Just look at how NCLB is going. Do you honestly think that one bright, sunny morning in the year 2014, all kids -- 100% of them -- in every single sub-group are going to wake up and be at the state's level of proficiency?"

Not when schools and teachers are fighting it so hard. My position is that the tests are so trivial that all teachers should laugh at them. Actually, I'm not a fan of NCLB because it will institutionalize slow progress towards a minimal goal. Then again, I'm not sure what you are advocating. No specific expectations, do some stuff, and hope for the best?



"Finally, I challenge you to open your mind, to have empathy for those who suffer, and to work tirelessly for social justice."

Excuse me? Your kind of social justice. Set low expectations for the poor inner-city kids because of all of their problems? This is what it's all about, isn't it? You don't want to set specific grade-level content and skill expectations for kids who might be have lots of external (from school) issues. Don't expect anything unless a bunch of social problems are solved first? Are you really doing these kids a favor? This will guarantee that they will never get out of poverty. Maybe your goal is just to keep them out of jail. Maybe your goal is to use all of these individual kids as leverage or bait for your social agenda - all for their own good, of course.

Even if a school is perfect, kids will still have external issues. What then? Do you separate those who can or will from those who can't or won't? Why not do that right now? Is this unfair? To whom? Surely not the inner-city child who could make it to Harvard on his or her own brain power and not affirmative action. Education is not about group equality or social justice. It's about individual opportunity. That's how you get real equality.

Individual kids are important right now, not pulbic schools or some strange idea of social justice.

Peter Campbell said...

SteveH - I think you'll see that we are saying much of the same thing. You said that I don't know what your way is. Based on what you wrote, "your way" = "I know what I want for my son's education, and it's a lot more clearly defined than what I hear from you or our public schools. It has to do with assumptions, curriculum, pedagogy, and expectations - not class size or more teacher training."

So I agree partially. Assumptions (by which I take it you mean altering assumptions and attitudes about what kinds of kids can learn, correct?), curriculum (by which I take it you mean that which gets taught in the classroom, correct?), pedagogy (by which I take it that you mean how the curriculum is taught, correct?), and expectations (by which I take it that you mean that we must have high expectations for the achievement of all students, correct?) are all very important. You will get no argument from me on any of these.

But how do you know that "assumptions, curriculum, pedagogy, and expectations" are the only keys? Moreover, how do you know that any of these will work? What evidence do you have?

See, you can't lob these questions at me without asking them yourself. I happen to agree with you on all of these. I can cite evidence. Can you?

But why stop there? Why not not reduced class size and more teacher training? Do you think that making classes smaller will make things worse? Do you think that better training and preparing teachers will send test scores in the basement? Of course not. That would be silly. And if you don't agree with me, then look at the STAR study and the conclusions it came to on reduced class size. And if you don't believe the STAR study, then tell me how many affluent schools sell themselves on how large their classes are? And if you don't believe this, then tell me which you -- as a teacher (you are a teacher, aren't you?) -- would prefer: a class of 15 students or a class of 30? Of course you'd prefer to teach a class of 15 students. Why? Because not only is it easier to manage 15 students as opposed to 30, but you can spend more time and attention on 15 kids. And if you can spend more time and attention on kids, you can better help them learn. What part of this do you still not get??

As for better teacher training, our colleges of education -- with some exceptions -- do a poor job of preparing teachers to teach. This is especially true in the areas of (1) reading instruction and (2) teaching in low-income schools. Are you suggesting that they do a good job??? That they do NOT need to be reformed??? Your not supporting better teacher training makes zero sense, especially since you and I both agree that pedagogy is so crucial. So how do teachers become better teachers? Luck?

But if you really want to make a dent and improve public schools, you have to focus on policies that have a fighting chance of making it. As I said in my earlier post, you can't create policies around assumptions and expectations. So, although I agree with you on this, there's nothing that can be done. So, from "your way," that leaves curriculum and pedagogy. As I said above, the way you improve pedagogy is better teacher training. But you don't leave it at that. Please check out a very positive review of what makes teachers quit and what makes them stay by Susan Moore Johnson and The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers. As a teacher (you are a teacher, right?), you may have experienced working in a school where teachers supported each other in identifying strategies for specific students. If so, you'll know what this does for the quality of pedagogy. Also see this post on my blog about a low-income school that used just-in-time peer coaching and mentoring where each building was assigned an "expert" teacher to provide continuous professional development to other teachers. The results are impressive.

Which leaves us with curriculum. If you and KB are aligned ideologically, then you and I will likely disagree on curriculum. I'm a Reading Recovery kind of guy. KB is a DI guy. I'll leave the curriculum debate for another post.

If we do these things - reduce class size, improve pre-service teacher training and enhance ongoing professional development - we can take care of your pedagogy concerns. Fewer kids in classrooms with better trained and supported teachers -- how can learning NOT be positively affected by this?

KDeRosa said...

Peter, if what you say is true, we still have the fundamental problem between us that is causing the disagreement.

You appear unable to evaluate education research. You take all research at face value and assume its all the same and equally valid. Then you appear to have formed your opinions alongyour idealogical biases and latched onto the "research" that you found most compelling.

There's not other way to explain liking a program like Reading Recovery (which doesn't work) and not liking DI (which does).

SteveH said...

"SteveH - I think you'll see that we are saying much of the same thing."

I seriously doubt it.


"But how do you know that "assumptions, curriculum, pedagogy, and expectations" are the only keys?"

"Only keys"? I didn't say that. Throw away most of your post.

This is the starting point. Kids will not learn algebra if you don't teach them the subject. It doesn't matter how few kids there are in a class if you don't expect much from them. It doesn't matter how much teacher training you get if the methodology doesn't work.


"Assumptions (by which I take it you mean altering assumptions and attitudes about what kinds of kids can learn, correct?),"

No. I didn't say anything about "altering" assumptions. I'm talking about educational assumptions, such as the importance of content and mastery of basic skills - assumptions about what is included in a proper education.



"See, you can't lob these questions at me without asking them yourself. I happen to agree with you on all of these. I can cite evidence. Can you?"

Evidence for assumptions? Evidence for expectations? Evidence for grade-level curriculum content? Besides, I'm not the one telling you what kind of education your child should have. Our public schools don't get around to enforcing mastery of adds and subtracts to 20 until sometime in the third grade. Is there evidence (can there be evidence) that supports this? This is not all about research and evidence.


"Your not supporting better teacher training makes zero sense, especially since you and I both agree that pedagogy is so crucial. So how do teachers become better teachers? Luck?"

I'm (almost) at a loss for words. You seriously need to reread my comments if you think this is what I said. Besides, there is teacher training and there is teacher training. Your simple argument is that more training is better than less training? Duh! I would hope so, but how can you tell?


"As I said above, the way you improve pedagogy is better teacher training."

Huh? Teacher training seems to be more about pushing the latest pedagogical fad than the other way around.


"As a teacher (you are a teacher, right?)"


You keep asking. I used to teach college math and computer science, but right now I'm a parent who can't believe what passes for K-8 education.


"I'm a Reading Recovery kind of guy. KB is a DI guy."

I'm a pragmatic, get down to work kind of guy. No fuzzy, top-down, thematic, spiraling child-centered learning. I'm not strict DI, but I expect teachers to know content and skills and be albe to teach, not just let the kids figure things out themselves. Is this just my opinion? Well, then why should I have to suffer through, and pay for, someone else's opinion of education?



"I'll leave the curriculum debate for another post."

Actually, curriculum is how I got into this debate in the first place. What passes for math curricula in (K-8) public schools is so pathetic that it virtually guarantees failure of students in high school, unless they get outside help. Even if one discounts how horribly the material is taught, the content and skills covered is insufficient. This is my professional opinion.


" ... how can learning NOT be positively affected by this?"


But how do you know when you succeed? Testing or what? You really have to answer this.

Peter Campbell said...

Uh . . . um . . . KB? You're lecturing me on the inability to evaluate education research? This from someone that supports the eugenic notion that there is a genetic basis for intelligence.

Nice try, KB. But it won't wash.

Of course I can and already have pointed to substantial research that invalidates your claims. You have your literature. I have mine. This is the inherent trap within positivism as a whole and with educational research in particular. So does DI work? Or is it the spawn of Satan? Does Reading Recovery work? Or is the product of pot-smoking hippies? You say potato, I say pohtahtoe.

As I already said:

"Haven't you guys ever heard of Heisenberg and the Uncertainty Principle? Moreover, no serious researcher would ever claim that an intervention such as DI caused reading to improve. Rather, you might be able to establish a correlation between the two, but you can't prove that they are related. All you can do -- all anyone can ever do -- is argue by means of a rhetorical strategy that a correlation exists. And people either believe you or they don't. But the choice to believe the so-called "evidence" is more a matter of faith and less a matter of empirical veracity or reliability. More precisely, the choice to believe or not believe is a foregone conclusion. If the study supports what you already believe to be true, then you are more inclined to believe it than if the study challenged or discredited what you believed. This is called a "self-fulfilling prophecy." The French call it a "fait accompli." Down in Georgia, where I grew up, they call it a "done deal." Now, more than ever before, "science" is being hijacked and used to serve ideological ends. "Science" as it is practiced now is a means to accomplish specific outcomes that are envisioned prior to the results actually being known. Nowhere is this more glaringly apparent than in the NRP report or in the studies on global climate change."

Bottom-line: thanks to Dubbya, "research-based" anything might as well be "This ideology brought to you by the US Department of Education, the Fordham Foundation, and The Business Roundtable."

Evidence?? Please! As if any "evidence" can be shaped and presented outside of the political context in which it originates!!

Just for a laugh, check this out:

http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/science_idol/science-idol-abuse-examples.html

Peter Campbell said...

But how do you know when you succeed? Testing or what? You really have to answer this.

Two words: formative assessment.

Tracy W said...

Tracy W. - what do you know about formative assessment?

See http://www.assessmentinst.com/


I've read it. Unlike you, Rick Stiggins appears to believe in formative assessment as a way of getting kids to succeed, rather than as a goal in itself.

It's perfectly logical. Test a child to see how they are performing. If there are gaps (eg 4th grader reading at 1st grade level) teach the child to correct those gaps. Test again to see if they have reached standard. Repeat until the child has reached the standard.

Your attitude seems to be that if a kid is a 4th grader reading at 1st grade, the last thing a school should do is find that out.

Yet I challenge you to take a high-stakes test without having eaten breakfast and with a toothache.

I've sat a systems and control engineering exam under similar circumstances (it was a bad pain in my foot, not a toothache). And I got a 'B'. If you know something very well, toothaches, lack of breakfast, etc, doesn't make you forget it.

I challenge you to pay attention in class when you can't see the chalkboard.

The teacher should move the kid closer to the chalkboard.

I challenge you to have an upbeat view of the world when you live in a dirty neighborhood, when you see drugs being sold on the street every day, and when gunshots and murder are a common occurrence.

Schools aren't responsible for supplying an upbeat view of the world. They're responsible for teaching kids how to read.

I challenge you to believe that college is in your future, or that a future is in your future, when everything around you mocks you for having hope in anything beyond your squalid conditions of hopelessness.

A school district and its teachers should not be mocking its students for having hope in the future. Consequently, any kid at a school should not have everything around them mocking them for having hope.

And a school district and teachers should insist on their kids learning to read, regardless of said kid's feeling of hope or not. Being able to read is a good step towards hopefulness.

KDeRosa said...

Two words: formative assessment.

Yes, that's right. Properly done formative assessment (a fancy term for testing to receive feedback on student learning) is crucual. That's why successful programs like DI have multiple levels of continuous formative assessment and structure the classes so that student knowledge is made overt to the teacher.

KDeRosa said...

Peter, you can believe the weight of the scientific research that says that there is a genetic component to IQ without being a proponent of eugenics. If you don't believe me, just ask the APA.

Of course I can and already have pointed to substantial research that invalidates your claims. You have your literature. I have mine.

But that's the problem. Your research isn't actually scientific research. It's mostly pseudo-research and unfounded opinion. Believe me, I wish we lived in the fantasy world where your research was actually valid and every kid could learn in a child center paradise and ride flying unicorns across rainbows to learn their ABCs. I want that socialist paradise as much than anybody, because I hate work. Unfortunately, we don't live in that fantasy land no matter how much your research tells you that we do.

Bottom-line: thanks to Dubbya, "research-based" anything might as well be "This ideology brought to you by the US Department of Education, the Fordham Foundation, and The Business Roundtable."

I like lurid innuendo as much as the next guy, but please. The underlying studies put out by these organizations are freely available and I'm sure they'll let you review their data sets too. When you find a valid criticism, let me know. I don't like bad research no matter who puts it out.

Evidence?? Please! As if any "evidence" can be shaped and presented outside of the political context in which it originates!!

Oh boy. This is the preferred way those with no research base criticize those that have one. There is a way to criticise bad research; this is not it.

Peter Campbell said...

OK. Uncle. You win. Battling wits with nit-wits is now boring.

Good luck in your hell-on-earth, eugenics-based schools. I'm sure the students or children you raise will be grateful for you.

KDeRosa said...

Phere goes Peter.

Love him or hate him; agree or disagree.

Once you get past some of the more inappropriate ad hominems, he did a decent job of presenting what passes for the arguments for returning to the status quo ante NCLB. Correction: the status quo ante but with a lot more money thrown in so we can afford all the misguided programs that never worked in the past.

SteveH said...

"Two words: formative assessment."

So he does like testing and feedback. Well, the standardized tests should be a piece of cake. What's the problem?


"Yet I challenge you to take a high-stakes test without having eaten breakfast and with a toothache."

So, he doesn't support testing?!? But now he plays the high-stakes card. Without breakfast AND a toothache! Wow, a double header. No fair! What percentage of kids meet this condition on testing day?


"Evidence?? Please! As if any "evidence" can be shaped and presented outside of the political context in which it originates!!"

I don't understand. He was asking me for evidence before (about assumptions, acutally), but now he plays the all-research-is-crap card. As I said before, either there is a process and research you can trust, or there isn't.


"This from someone that supports the eugenic notion that there is a genetic basis for intelligence."

You mean that all IQ is nurture? All kids have equal learning potential? I'll bet there are lots of parents out there who would strongly disagree based on very personal experience.

I don't usually talk about IQ. It's like waving a red flag in front of a bull. But, I find it interesting that it's OK to talk about fast versus slow learners or some such thing. It's just not politically correct to use the term IQ.

I don't think IQ matters if the goal is to meet minimum NCLB targets. At such basic levels of education, I think success (just getting over the bar) correlates more with selecting a proper curriculum, setting specific grade-level expectations, and good teaching methods.

If, however, the goal is to give each student what he/she needs to meet his/her education potential, then that is a quite different story. Even for this case, IQ doesn't matter if the student is able and willing to do the work. Ability-based groupings should not care about nurture versus nature on an individual child basis. I think the problem comes from the worry that some might use an IQ test, rather than a performance test, to track students. Then again, some don't even want to do this. They try to pretend that all kids are equal - they just have different learning styles.


"Battling wits with nit-wits is now boring."

OK. Where is your research-based evidence for this!?!?!?

SteveH said...

" he did a decent job of presenting what passes for the arguments for returning to the status quo ante NCLB."

Well, he really couldn't define success except for saying "Formative Assessment". Kind of like saying "Plastics". We still don't know how he sees that working in practice. I still don't know how he would quantify school success. Mostly, it was about trying a bunch of things and remarking how that had to be better than before. Teacher training is better than no teacher training. Trust him.