March 1, 2009

Watch what you ask for

For years we've been hearing from educators that their failure to improve under NCLB is because NCLB wasn't "fully funded." Only with more money could we expect education utopia.

Educators just lost that convenient excuse. The recently passed stimulus plan just gave educators all they've been asking for and then some.

And, the Administration is (naively) expecting to see results and soon. Here's Biden talking to educators.

I genuinely need your help to make this work because, folks, look at it this way. We've been given all the ammunition. If we shoot and miss, if we squander the opportunity, tell me how long you think it's going to take for another American president to go and ask for more dollars to correct the education system.

...

You've got a president and vice president absolutely committed to having all the tools you need to finally get it right in American public education


He doesn't realize it yet, but he'll regret those words.

Public schools have lots of problems, but lack of money isn't one of them (though fiscal management certainly is).



This graph only captures a fraction of educational spending (mostly operating expenditures) but is sufficient to show the real dollar increase schools have gotten since the 1970s. Don't try looking for an increase in achievement during this doubling of funding, you won't find it.

Educators now find themselves in a pickle -- they've been given everything they've been asking for and which they've promised us will lead to miracles. Now they have to perform.

Of course, we already know that they're not going to be able to perform. And, quite frankly, I think they know it too.

But it will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few years. Expect lots of backpedaling and "I don't remember saying that" type of stuff.

42 comments:

Dick Schutz said...

You're right, Ken. El-hi schools aren't managed--either fiscally or instructionally. They're administered. That holds at both the District and the State level. At the Federal level the Government regulates, but its mandates have been accompanied by indefensible performance indicators, and indefensible instructional requirements.

Consider NCLB. It was founded on a pseudo-science of reading. "Proficiency" was reduced to arbitrarily-set cut scores on ungrounded tests administered at grade levels after the formal task of teaching kids how to read is finished. Not satisfied with those fatal flaws, a statistically impossible formula for "adequate yearly progress" was tacked on.

President Bush and the Congress received very bad intelligence in both military and educational matters. The failure of military intelligence has now been recognized and is being dealt with. The educational intelligence failure still goes unnoticed.

The increased per-student costs you cite can largely be attributed to increases in teacher and administrator salaries. But the costs of all instructional logistical paraphernalia have also increased disproportionally to increases in the general cost of living.

It's clear that the productivity of the el-hi enterprise has steadily declined. But that's to be expected when there is complete disregard of reliability of effects, time and cost.

The el-hi enterprise has been running on rhetoric and on the placebo effect that some kids learn without any instruction, and some learn despite mis-instruction. The rest are labeled "specific-learning disabled" and shunted into very expensive "special education" that's anything but "special."

Until it is recognized that the el-hi instructional arsenal is loaded largely with weapons of mis-instruction, both the government and the media will be peddling misguided "news."

The thing about the ed stim package is that it does not outweigh the funding cuts at state and local levels in most states. So while the feds and media are saying, "You're getting the money you asked for," local school districts are seeing only cuts.

As you say, Ken, it will be interesting to see how all this plays out.

Paul B said...

All change is a derivative of stress. I'd argue that more money relieves stress thereby reducing the likelihood of change.

There could be no better example of ready, fire, aim than this. I predict an epic failure.

tft said...

Just for the record, I never thought NCLB would do anything, funded or not. I have always held it is issues other than schools that need to be addressed, like poverty, and crime, racism.

Reformers, status-quoers and the like are barking up the wrong tree.

Obama's progressive budget is a start, though his education ideas are not.

Like you said, more money ain't gonna fix this. Less poverty and more equality might.

Dick Schutz said...

"All change is a derivative of stress."

Is this the Dick Cheney theory of change, Paul? I haven't come across it before.

But irrespective, the ed stim package isn't going to relieve any stress anywhere. One of Ken's points in that the Feds are naive in thinking that the package per se is going to do anything. That's going to increase stress at the Fed level.

Boots on the ed ground, there is no increase in funds and the NCLB sword is still over head. Those are hardly stress reducers.

TFT, you are hardly alone in your belief that "society has to be fixed before schools can be fixed."--words to that effect. Certainly, the elimination of things "like poverty, and crime, racism" are worthy aspirations in their own right but they are much more complex and ambitious aspirations than thing like reliably teaching kids to read, do math through algebra, and acquire other academic expertise that Ken periodically reminds us as being feasible if we go about it the right way.

A "society first" orientation concedes all opportunity for endogenous change/improvement and abrogates all professional educational responsibility.

tft said...

Dick,

I couldn't disagree more.

Considering we have been reforming education for 100 years without success, and neglecting society for at least as long, I am confident I am right when I say we need to address the more basic, societal problems if we ever hope to produce top notch students. They sort of need to show up ready to learn, no?

Your complaint flies in the face of evidence, anyway; schools and teachers are not the fix! They are simply parts of the machine.

KDeRosa said...

I wish the solution were as easy as simply lifting the poor out of poverty.

And isn't there an strong educational component to SES? Doesn't the birth to kindergarten environment of a student require the presence of educated parents? Where are we going to get them, if not by improving education in the first place?

And don't the adoption and twin studies show that even if we were to take a child from low-SES parents and place them in the rich/stimulating environment of high-SES college-educated parents, we get almost none of the predicted boost in student achievement at least in the existing school environment?

I'd really like the see the compelling evidence that eliminating poverty is going to solve our educational problems because I think going that route is going to be a lot easy than trying to reform our public school system. I just don't think that the route exists. I haven't even seen a reliable signpost for the route yet.

Dick Schutz said...

Shouldn't that be "harder"
or "not as" rather than "easy" in the penultimate sentence, Ken?

KDeRosa said...

Replace easy with easier.

I think going that route is going to be a lot easier than trying to reform our public school system.

You can, in theory, eliminate poverty simply by handing out money.

Reforming the schools is proving to be close to impossible, even though we (a) know how to do it (mostly) and (b) it doesn't take any extra money.

Dick Schutz said...

You've got it right, Ken, per my view.

Since you mention “100 years” TFT, the record shows tremendous advances in equality and racism in the interval, but they certainly haven’t yielded general instructional advances in teaching reading. See:

“In the Days When Reading Instruction Was Not a Problem: Nellie Dale and the Dale Readers”

http://ssrn.com/author=1199505

Obtaining reliable instructional consequences demands a focus on the instructional product/protocols involved. Researchers as well as “reformers” have shown little interest in that (present company excepted.)

tft said...

We know how to do it, mostly? Really? How?

no name this time said...

Now, Ken, naive you ain't, so I'm surprised you made a statement like "Public schools have lots of problems, but lack of money isn't one of them. "

It would have been more accurate to state, "Public education has lots of problems but lack of money isn't one of them." Just because money flows through the pipeline to the school district bureaucrats does *not* mean it trickles down to the schools. Extortion, embezzling, graft and corruption of all sorts is rife, especially in the large urban districts. Those are the places where you'll find schools infested with rats, with broken windows, furnaces not working, boarded-up windows, no books or paper or pencils for the students, and so on. Never mind school libraries or textbooks or even books in the classrooms. The world's best reading curricula won't have much effect if there is nothing for the students to read -- nothing at all.

I've taught in such a school, and they are more common than I first supposed. Joe Biden may need the teachers' help for reasons other than he assumes -- to pay for the basics in the classrooms. A number of studies have found that the average elementary teacher spends around $500 annually on material for his or her class -- not frills, but texts, paper, pencils, markers, paper clips and so forth -- the rudimentary materials that Joe Public thinks his tax dollars provide (in a way he is right -- the tax dollars pay the teachers' salaries, and then the teachers buy the materials).

$500 is only an average -- many of my peers on professional fora sheepishly admit to spending up to $3000-$4000 per year (these are people in very depressed areas, like Chicago and Detroit). I am trying to hold my own purchases to under $2000/year. I need to buy another car soon, as my current wreck is 12 years old and has 250 000 miles on it.

The siphoning away of funds intended for the classroom into private pockets is well-known but little-publicized. Perhaps smaller districts are less prone to such criminal activity (I wouldn't know - I would hypothesize that it is harder to hide financial finagling in a small district) but large ones offer opportunities galore, and little chance of apprehension or retribution. When a senior officer in our district's accounting department was caught embezzling some twenty million dollars, he managed to avoid any charges and even got a recommendation for a job elsewhere -- because he threatened to name the other (prominent) people in the district who were also involved.

This goes on a lot more than the average person supposes.

I agree that schools don't need "more money" allocated -- they need to receive the money that IS allocated for effective services to children. I don't know what kind of accountability or enforcement measures would be needed to make this happen, but until then, allocating "more money" is just flushing it down the "glory hole'".

KDeRosa said...

TFT, the simple answer is do what they did at City Springs. KIPP schools do similar things with similar results. After 5th grade its just content area instruction and you can use the same techniques.

The long answer is go through my three years of archives for the specifics.

No Name, I understand that the money isn't filtering down to the schools as it should. There's also no reason to think that extra money will make it down the pipe either. See Kansas City for a great example. As you say, the whole system is corupt -- it is the nature of politicized public monopolies. Can anyone name evenone example of a well run efficient public monopoly?

Dick Schutz said...

"the whole system is corupt -- it is the nature of politicized public monopolies. Can anyone name evenone example of a well run efficient public monopoly?"

Aw c'mon, Ken. The el-hi schooling enterprise is currently systemically inept, but it's hardly systemically corrupt. There has been much more corruption in the charter public schools than in non-charter public schools.

And public schooling is not a "monopoly" any more than firefighting, the police or the courts are a monopoly. That's a red herring.

Compared with the private banking system right now, the public school system looks very good by comparison.

The el-hi enterprises only real weakness is in the area of reliable instructional accomplishments. Ironically, that's their prime societal function. But that weakness stems not from the school level but from the unaccountables at the top.

Instruction aside, the schools are worth the cost as largely nurturant parent surrogates, as first-order health screeners, as farm clubs for the sports sector, as screeners for the college and university enterprise, as first-start political offices on school boards for politicians. If we didn't have the public school enterprise we'd have to invent it to perform these and other functions.

But we're drifting from the point of your post. Your blog, your drift.

This is not in any way to condone the incompetence and insensitivity of governance and administration in some districts and schools, that "no name" describes. But rather than meekly spending personal funds for school supplies, it seems to me that "no name" and colleagues would perform a more productive service by exposing what's going on.

But it's not hard to find incompetence and insensitivity in any institution, corporation, or organization. Reducing it is a never-ending task.

tft said...

Since you mention “100 years” TFT, the record shows tremendous advances in equality and racism in the interval, but they certainly haven’t yielded general instructional advances in teaching reading...

To use your truncated meaning of my quote, during "100 years" some of those advances were the abolition of slavery and Jim Crow laws, passage of the voting rights and civil rights acts, and other rather huge advances. They were merely the prerequisites for the work we need to do now which is reduce then eliminate institutionalized racism and poverty. We have no advanced far enough, yet.

I mean, come on!

That said, I agree with you on corruption in your last post. Charters are winning that race. And I try to expose as much as I can about waste in my school, but I have to eat and pay the mortgage, so I am afraid to be public about it.

Dick Schutz said...

No, I was not referring to the societal advances you list but in within-ed advances. And I certainly didn't contend or imply that we have come far enough in reducing/eliminating (institutionalized racism) or (poverty).

But these are two very different considerations instructionally. Poverty as such is not an obstacle to improving el-hi instructional accomplishments. Contending that it is, ironically works against the societal and educational aspirations.

Institutionalized racism and cultural bias IS consequential in improving el-hi instructional accomplishments. Aggregate kids enter Kindergarten with adequate personal and social prerequisites to be successful. The schooling enterprise disadvantages some skids, and it does so along racial and socio-economic lines. But rather than working to eliminate these inadvertent practices, many blame the student or the student's family and conclude that nothing can be done until families, the subcultures of society can be changed.

And as Ken has said, the people who take this position haven't the foggiest notion of how to change society, let along change their sloppy logic. [Wording after the last comma is from me, not Ken.]

KDeRosa said...

corrupt was a poor choice of words; I meant inept.

Lots of private enterprises are inept, but the market weeds them out quickly.

And, firefighters, police departments, and the courts all suffer from the similar problems as schools. Might as well add the postal service while you're at it. The DMV too.

Banks are a bad example. They are highly regulated and the regulations have created perverse incentives.

There will always be prejudice and discrimination in society. But, I think it is fair to say that black students in K-12 are no more discriminated against than any other group today.

And (and this is the important bit), societal racism should not affect the environment that a parent provides for their children and doesn't explain how NAM children still continue to enter K far behind their white and asian peers. Not to mention that fact that many asians are immigrants themselves and they also have a history of discrimination they can point to.

Parry Graham said...

Slightly off topic, but you mention the increase in education spending over time. Do you know the specific factors that have led to this increase? My sense is that teacher and administrator salaries have not risen at nearly the same rate, and that those expenditures likely account for only a small fraction of the increase. If I had to bet, I would guess that health care costs, pension costs, and an increasing number of program-related personnel (e.g., special ed personnel, ESL personnel) account for a large portion, but I would be interested in the actual numbers.

Parry

tft said...

Institutionalized racism and cultural bias IS consequential in improving el-hi instructional accomplishments.

Agreed.

Aggregate kids enter Kindergarten with adequate personal and social prerequisites to be successful.

Really? So the aggregate, the average kid is prepared? What about the below average kids, who number in the millions?

The schooling enterprise disadvantages some skids, and it does so along racial and socio-economic lines.

How? And if you come with how, are you sure it is the schooling enterprise, and not the societal one?

But rather than working to eliminate these inadvertent practices, many blame the student or the student's family and conclude that nothing can be done until families, the subcultures of society can be changed.

Name the inadvertent practices, unless you mean institutionalized racism.

I just don't understand how you can make claims, as you do, without at least pointing to something tangible.

And about changing society, it is a slow process. I think the election of Obama indicates society is changing. Not his ed policies, necessarily, his election.

I assume you guys are fans of the patriarchal model. We might have a little common ground there....

Dick Schutz said...

"So the aggregate, the average kid is prepared? What about the below average kids, who number in the millions?"

Look up "aggregate." With few bio exceptions children enter K with the requisites for academic success--if properly instructed.

I said: "The schooling enterprise disadvantages some skids, and it does so along racial and socio-economic lines."

"How? And if you come with how, are you sure it is the schooling enterprise, and not the societal one?"

Look. the kids are in school. It's the school and not "society."

"Name the inadvertent practices, unless you mean institutionalized racism."

Fatally flawed instructional product/protocols.

"I assume you guys are fans of the patriarchal model. We might have a little common ground there..."

NOT!

Tracy W said...

ttf: Just for the record, I never thought NCLB would do anything, funded or not. I have always held it is issues other than schools that need to be addressed, like poverty, and crime, racism.

Well that depends on what your goal is. If your goal is that every kid in the country learn to read and write, with the exception of the severely cognitively disabled, I don't see how addressing poverty, crime and racism would help. Even rich compulsively-law-abiding white parents occasionally have kids who for whatever reasons fail to learn to read without good teaching, sometimes because of a diagnosed cognitive disability. Addressing poverty, crime, racism, etc is a great goal, but I don't see any reason to believe that it will mean schools won't continue to need to worry about the quality of their instruction. There will still be significant variations in the abilities of incoming students.

On the flipside, I know plenty of obviously Maori-looking students who managed to get a reasonable education, my Gran being one of them and another being a cousin who was adopted at birth by a white family that really placed a low value on education. Racism doesn't prevent schools from doing their job.

tft said...

Well Tracy, if you don't know how reducing poverty and crime would help with educational outcomes, I am not sure discussing anything with you will be productive--for either of us.

Education does not begin and end with a school, or teacher. Nor does a student arrive in a classroom a tabula rasa. Because of these 2 facts, education is a shared responsibility among all members of a society.

If you keep putting it on teachers, you may feel like you are righteously placing blame, however inappropriately, but you are not fixing a damn thing.

Tracy W said...

Well Tracy, if you don't know how reducing poverty and crime would help with educational outcomes, I am not sure discussing anything with you will be productive--for either of us

Tft, you are free to think that I am an idiot for doubting your claim that reducing poverty and crime would help with educational outcomes. However, I do think you are wrong in dismissing so quickly the benefits of discussing your ideas with me. There are potentially significant benefits to yourself. To quote from John Stuart Mill, who can write far more elegantly than me (although I note the gender-bias of his language):

" In the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen to all that could be said against him; to profit by as much of it as was just, and expound to himself, and upon occasion to others, the fallacy of what was fallacious.
...
He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. ... He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their very utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form; he must feel the whole force of the difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of; else he will never really possess himself of the portion of truth which meets and removes that difficulty."
On Liberty, chapter 2. http://www.bartleby.com/130/2.html

In other words, if you explain to me how reducing poverty and crime would help with educational outcomes and what evidence there is for your beliefs about that, this will improve your own understanding of the process even if you don't change my mind.

As for the rest of your points, what are you talking about? I looked back at my previous comment and I can't see anywhere where I blamed teachers.
And why the focus on teachers? I think everyone in the school system is responsible for doing their professional best. And I also distinguish between blaming and responsibility. School staff as paid professionals are responsible for doing their professional best, like doctors are responsible for diagnosing and prescribing the right treatment, independently of whether they are to blame or not.

I agree that education is a shared responsibility among all members of society. That's why I support paying for public education through taxes.

Dick Schutz said...

Ken says: "Lots of private enterprises are inept, but the market weeds them out quickly."

You've dealt with different "markets" than I've dealt with. But the undifferentiated role of "teacher" and the "pay by seniority" are anachronisms. Pay generally is in terms of expertise and in terms of scope of the responsibility for the endeavor that the individual shoulders.

Attacking "tenure" misses that point. Presently tenured teachers could readily be "grandfathered" and "early retirement" buyouts offered. But without other structural adjusts, knocking out "tenure" just maintains the status quo.

Ken says: "I think it is fair to say that black students in K-12 are no more discriminated against than any other group today."

They are just more likely to be mis-instructed. Let's exclude English-language learners for purposes of making the point. And I'll try to make the point without elaboration.

Blacks, browns and low-SES kids, in the aggregate, enter K with smaller vocabularies, and narrorer general background information. Schools don't look for prerquisites. They look for deficits. And the available instructional product/potocols (DI and a few others excepted) don't provide teachers with clear feedback re instructional status.

Teachers are taught that they have to differentiate instruction. So they do. And who tends to end up in the "slow group"? You guessed it.

And once in that slow group, you tend to stay there. You get extra-helpings of "review" and you are stuck with slow peers.

This is a continuing process. There's even a name for it "The Matthew Effect." ECLS-K data at the 5th grade, show how stable the mis-instruction continues to be.

The "gap" actually widens and it becomes large when the structure shifts to courses. Again, no one looks at different course-taking pattern across ethnic/racial and SES categories. That's where the action is, not in the instructionally-insensitive standardized achievement tests

The mis-instruction tragically is a self-fulfilling prophecy, both for those who are racist-inclined and for those who believe that something has to be done outside of schooling before anything can be done within the el-hi enterprise.

KDeRosa said...

Blacks, browns and low-SES kids, in the aggregate, enter K with smaller vocabularies, and narrower general background information. [And as a result, "[t]hey are just more likely to be mis-instructed.]

I think this is exactly right, Dick.

Though, I think it has little to do with the effects of racism or poverty (not that you were trying to make that point).

What I think it mostly has to do with with cognitive ability. Those with less of it learn less from their environment, such as the informal instructional environmental young children are exposed to prior to school age.

Which is not to say that the environment doesn't play a significant role, such as the advantage that first-borns possess which is thought to occur because they have more time with the parents.

tft said...

What I think it mostly has to do with with cognitive ability. Those with less of it learn less from their environment, such as the informal instructional environmental young children are exposed to prior to school age.

Wow. The "it" to which you refer, would that be why "blacks, browns, and low SES" students? And did you really just say they were less intelligent?

Does this prove my racism theory?

Please tell me why I am so wrong about KD's post.

tft said...

Tracy, I never called you an idiot. And your argument doesn't make sense to me, nor does your desire to have me read J. S. Mill move me to actually do it.

Your claim is that every child who isn't "disabled" can learn, and it is up to the teacher to see to it that they do. I just disagree. A teacher has a role to play, as does the student, the parents, and other members of society.

When children grow up impoverished (I can't believe I need to explain this to you) they suffer deficits; parental deficits, nutritional deficits, cognitive deficits, and more.

Reducing the circumstances that create these deficits would make for a better educated populace, no?

Maybe you should make some truth claims, brush on your Mill, and figure out what you mean, then get back to arguing with me, eh?

KDeRosa said...

TFT, the racial IQ gap, unfortunate though it may be, is generally recognized as existing. From the American Psychological Association's Board of Scientific Affairs Task Force Report:

The differential between the mean intelligence test scores of Blacks and Whites (about one standard deviation, although it may be diminishing) does not result from any obvious biases in test construction and administration, nor does it simply reflect differences in socio-economic status. Explanations based on factors of caste and culture may be appropriate, but so far have little direct empirical support.

You then go on to say:

When children grow up impoverished (I can't believe I need to explain this to you) they suffer deficits; parental deficits, nutritional deficits, cognitive deficits, and more.

The parental deficits are real, but we don't know how to remedy them. This is one reason why we have a public school system in the first place: to provide a free education to children whose parents cannot afford to or are unwilling to do so.

Nutritional deficits are a red herring. From the same APA report:

"There is little evidence to show that childhood diet influences intelligence except in cases of severe malnutrition."

Plus we offer free and reduced priced lunches and breakfasts for the lower 40%.

And, cognitive deficits? Didn't you just imply these didn't exist and that I was a racist for pointing out that they did?

Reducing the circumstances that create these deficits would make for a better educated populace, no?

It's a nice thought, but the evidence is thin on the ground.

Also, the adopted/twin studies indicate that when you "reduce the circumstances that create these deficits," such as by placing a low-SES child in a high-SES household, the children still perform academically like a low-SES student.

Tracy W said...

tft - I never said you called me an idiot, I said you were free to think me an idiot. Important difference.

What part of my argument doesn't make sense to you? That debating me might lead to sharpening up your own thinking?

You also have a puzzling method of debate. Earlier you said "If you keep putting it on teachers, you may feel like you are righteously placing blame". I have no idea where you got that from, as I don't blame teachers. You haven't said what I said that made you believe it, but now you are saying that I am claiming that "every child who isn't 'disabled' can learn." I not only believe that every child who isn't disabled can learn, I believe that nearly every child who is disabled can learn. I am disabled and I have learnt to type, if nothing else. You may be able to find some child on the planet whose brain is in such a bad shape that they can't learn, but, well, that hardly means that only non-disabled children can learn. If you believe that only non-disabled children can learn, how do you explain Helen Keller?

And why do you think I think it's up to the teacher to see that every child can learn? I think everyone in the school system is responsible for doing their professional best. Read some teachers' blogs some day, and look at the crap they have to put up with from school administration. Teachers who have no support in maintaining discipline. Teachers whose school administration let them be interrupted once every ten minutes on average during teaching time. Teachers who are assigned classes vastly varying in background knowledge. Teachers who are given curriculum passed by politicans who were so busy pampering every interest group that they never stopped to consider if any teacher with ordinary students could cover all the stated topics within the school year. To me, only focusing on teachers seems insane.

Again, I repeat myself, it's the school system's responsibility, not merely the teacher's.

A teacher has a role to play, as does the student, the parents, and other members of society.

Yep. The role of the parents is to deliver their child to school on time at the start of the day, unless health reasons supersede.
The role of the other members of society is to pay taxes for education.
Children of course have a role to play, which is why I think that schools shouldn't be held responsible for failing to teach severely-cognitively disabled children to read and write.
Also, why do you only mention the role of teachers, and not of everyone else hired by the education system?

As for your other claims, KDeRosa has replied to them. Your argument sounds logical, but it's not being borne out by experimental data.

Dick Schutz said...

The fact that some kids enter with fewer academic prerequisites than others begs the question of how they should be instructed.

My point is that,(a few transparent bio disabilities excluded) they ALL have adequate prerequisites to be taught how to read and do math.

After kids begin school, scores on "intelligence tests" are importantly affected by the schooling received. Zig has a book on this.

The "achievement gap" is created by differential schooling. This isn't racism. It's professional ignorance. MDs weren't murderers in the days when they were drawing blood. The mis-instruction and mis-testiing that creates the gap is inadvertent.

But we won't get "Change in education we can believe in" until we stop mis-instructing and mis-testing.

KDeRosa said...

The "achievement gap" is created by differential schooling.

Not entirely, Dick.

Even with good instruction, some students can proceed through lessons faster than others because they are capable of learning the material quicker and need less repetitions for mastery.

Zig says as much in the prologue:

Surprisingly, I chose the unattractive direction. I pretty well cut ties with the middle-class road and focused on working with at-risk kids. Why? Because they needed effective education, while the middle-class kids would be okay without it. I drew this conclusion one afternoon when Carl Bereiter and I were going over the results of our preschool effort. The at-risk kids gained a lot. The middle-class kids that were in the same group learned a lot more. It seemed pretty evident that if both groups received high quality instruction, the gap between middle-class kids and poverty kids would be even greater than it already was. On the other hand, if the at-risk kids received high quality instruction and the middle-class kids received only the current status-quo instruction, the gap could be narrowed greatly.

With good instruction the achievement gap will likely grow since the kids who are more cognitively able and have a better home environment will be better able to capitalize on that instruction.

Dick Schutz said...

Zig says: "if both groups received high quality instruction, the gap between middle-class kids and poverty kids would be even greater than it already was."

This would hold only if the "gap" is viewed in terms of rate of achieving any given instructional accomplishment.

That gap would be in part a function of general ability. But it would also be a function of such things as general health, and general interest. Ethnic/racial and SES characteristics largely wash out.

Moreover, if children are reliably taught to read, the reading "gap" is eliminated.

Some children learn to read without any formal instruction. Some learn to read despite the mis-instruction. It's the remainder where the "treatment" is of "placebo" power that's the concern.

The "remainder" are disproportionately black and brown and lower SES on school entry. They get placed in the "slow group" and they are given "instruction that meets the needs of the individual child" This all-but ensures the gap.

Some children will already know how to read when they enter Kindergarten. With proper instruction, some will figure out how to handle the Alphabetic Code and the other linguistic conventions involved in reading very quickly. For others it will take longer. But with proper instruction the job of teaching kids how to read can be reliably completed by the end of grade 2 and most can be delivered earlier than that.

KDeRosa said...

This would hold only if the "gap" is viewed in terms of rate of achieving any given instructional accomplishment.

I think that's a pretty good way of looking at things. Time is going to be a factor. If the KIPP hours become the norm for low-SES kids, it will filter up and middle class kids will start spending (on the behest of their parents) more time on academics as well.

Ethnic/racial and SES characteristics largely wash out.

Moreover, if children are reliably taught to read, the reading "gap" is eliminated.


I think this point does not fully take into account the considerable amount of time kids spend out of school learning from their environment (also a function of cognitive ability). Background knowledge matters. And, while we can define Reading in a way that is indepedent of background knowledge, ultimately a person's ability to understand/comprehend information presented to him will be a function of background knowledge.

Dick Schutz said...

Ken says, "Background knowledge matters."

Indubitably! But there are more than ample words within the spoken vocabulary of (virtually) all entering K kids to make it feasible to launch instruction that will teach them all to read. If this is completed by Grade 2--or even Grade 3, the kid is enabled to independently increase background knowledge. The playing field is leveled.

Certainly, out of school experiences matter. Culture matters. Income matters. But these differences need not impede the reliable delivery of specified
instructional accomplishments by schools.

When a child is a Certified Reader, there are all kinds of alternative academic choices. Kids and their parents should be making these choices with planning and forethought re what time and effort the choice entails.

Right now they have the largely- pseudo choice of school to attend. And that choice is largely based on wishful rehetoric/ideology.

KDeRosa said...

If this is completed by Grade 2--or even Grade 3, the kid is enabled to independently increase background knowledge. The playing field is leveled.

Enablement is different than actual accomplishment. I agree that many are enabled, but few will have the wherewithal to see it through, outside of the those with relatively high cognitive ability. Those who aren't will have to put in longer hours and work harder just to keep pace. And even then the smarter ones will more often than not come out on top. This then leads to more self-selecting their way off of the academic track -- and the achievement gap persists.

Dick Schutz said...

Ken says: "I agree that many are enabled, but few will have the wherewithal to see it through, outside of the those with relatively high cognitive ability."

I dunno, Ken. Let's take a closer look at this.

Gladwell says an IQ of 120+change is enough to be in the "outlier" class. If an individual can read by grade 2-3, that's enough enablement to have a have a real shot at going as far as the individual cares to academically.

High income unquestionably makes it easier. All kids at grade 2-3 still have a lot to learn, and they still need quality instruction. But the academic opportunity gap has been closed. Standardized reading comprehension tests won't show it, because they are measures of general ability/background information rather than reading expertise. But on a transparent measure of reading expertise, "Read this and tell me what it says" they'll all be able to do it.

I'm not contending there will be not anomalies, but the causes will by and large be self-evident.

KDeRosa said...

Standardized reading comprehension tests won't show it, because they are measures of general ability/background information rather than reading expertise.

But that's exactly my point, Dick.

General ability/background information ultimately does matter for comprehension purposes.

We can't just discount this. Students have to possess this ability/knowledge to succeed academically in a non-compsenatory education environment.

I don't know of any school that reliably produces students who entered school with low-IQs (without selection-bias problems) who received excellent instruction, say from k-8, and then were able to succeed in a typical high school and/or college. These schools do produce some capable students buts it's consistent with skimming the high-IQ students from the pack and/or students with sufficienctly "high work ethics" that can compensate for their cognitive deficiencies.

I do think with excellent instruction we can get many kids functioning at a solid eighth grade level (say), but above that it gets dicey (for many reasons, not all cogntively related).

Dick Schutz said...

Background information matters for comprehension/understanding of either spoken or written communication.

What gets messed up is when a test of general ability is viewed as a measure of reading expertise.

By closing the gap in reading by grade 2-3, a school has attained academic equality up to this point.

Each child now has the prerequisites necessary to progress through high school and as far into "higher ed" as the individual may care to go.

Indeed there are sub-cultural and income differences that will continue to operate. But none of these preclude the student's future educational accomplishments.

Schools in the US clearly haven't taught all kids to read by Grade 2-3. The UK government policy is that "Synthetic Phonics" instruction will be implemented in all schools in our equivalent of Kindergarten. This would get the job done. But, in the UK as in the US, there is no mechanism for determining what is going on in any school instructionally or what instructional accomplishments are being attained.

The best intelligence I can gather is that in both the UK and the US, Whole Language rules. In the US it thrives under the cloak of Balanced Literacy. In the UK the cloak is Mixed Methods.

There are pockets of DI in the US and pockets of SP in the UK, but the achievement testing theory and practice in each country provides a cover for mis-instruction and fails to acknowledge the accomplishments of proper instruction.

My contention in this thread has been that to get educational change we can believe in we're going to have to quit mis-instructing and mis-testing kids. That's a tough order, because the first step entails at least suspending, if not reversing, the "standards and accountability" policy the US has pursued since the 1989.

Then it requires at least one state or local education agency (the more the better) to assume the responsibility of teaching all students how to handle the Alphabetic Code and the other linguistic conventions involved in written communication with the same expertise they handle spoken communication.

The time is ripe to dust off and update the Planned Variations methodology that was pioneered in the Head Start Evaluation and Follow Through initiatives. We didn't get it right the first time, and the subsequent el-hi history has been dismal.

The good news is that Info Tech has advanced almost miraculously in the meantime and there is now interest in the matter at a national level. It's no longer possible to pull off the kind of highjacking and coverup that characterized the first round.

Tracy W said...

By closing the gap in reading by grade 2-3, a school has attained academic equality up to this point.
Each child now has the prerequisites necessary to progress through high school and as far into "higher ed" as the individual may care to go.


Dick, does this follow?
For example, my mother is a very good reader, and did very well in mathematics at primary school, but she flamed out of the subject in high school and failed her School Certificate in it. She eventually went on to university anyway because she did well at the humanities, so I don't think it was a reading problem.
I think good maths teaching is always going to be a concern for school students. A good foundation in maths consists of far more than just reading ability. And of course if you can't do maths that blocks off much of the sciences.

Another example is being able to write logically and clearly. Can all the useful skills in this area really be learnt by the end of 3rd grade, even with the best teaching practices?
How about making logical arguments? I think this requires more than reading ability, I think this requires active feedback about bad logical arguments.

I mean, I'm not sure, perhaps all that is needed to learn these skills is reading ability such as an efficient school could cover by the end of 2nd or 3rd grade. But you haven't provided any reason for your certainity stated here that I can see.

Dick Schutz said...

Hey, I didn't say or men to imply that a child who has been taught how to read by grade 2-3, "has it made" academically. There is still lots of learning down the road. One should never stop learning new things.

But the flip side is as important as the enabling. If you haven't been taught how to read by the end of Grade 3, the probability is high that you will always be a "struggling reader," be labeled "dyslexic" and have difficulty with all school subjects."

There are new reading instructional architectures in the hopper that have promise for fixing the early misinstruction. But it's a tough process, because the individual has acquired "workarounds" that are not easily extinguished and a negative psychological patterns that are also obstacles.

Dick Schutz said...

Hey, I didn't say or men to imply that a child who has been taught how to read by grade 2-3, "has it made" academically. There is still lots of learning down the road. One should never stop learning new things.

But the flip side is as important as the enabling. If you haven't been taught how to read by the end of Grade 3, the probability is high that you will always be a "struggling reader," be labeled "dyslexic" and have difficulty with all school subjects."

There are new reading instructional architectures in the hopper that have promise for fixing the early misinstruction. But it's a tough process, because the individual has acquired "workarounds" that are not easily extinguished and a negative psychological patterns that are also obstacles.

Tracy W said...

Dick, I agree that if you haven't learnt to read by the end of third grade the evidence is that it is very likely that you will continue to struggle academically.

However, earlier you said Each child now has the prerequisites necessary to progress through high school and as far into "higher ed" as the individual may care to go.

To use some mathematical jargon: we are both agreed that reading is a necessary skill for progressing as far into higher ed as the individual may care to go, however I am not sure that it is a sufficient skill.
If you did not mean to imply that reading was sufficient to go as far into higher ed as an individual may care to go, what did you mean by your statement?

Dick Schutz said...

Tracy says: "I am not sure that [reading] is a sufficient skill [for going on with future education]."

I'd put it this way. If you take care of reading by grade 2-3 the "other skills" are very likely to be included. Note. I'm NOT saying the job of "taking care of instruction" is over. Just that if we do this, all kids will have a shot at being all that they can be.