April 24, 2006

Kozol -- Part II

As I wrote in Part I, Kozol has jumped the shark. He's no longer content spewing his crackpot theories, he's now actively disparaging successful instructional programs that work in favor of those that don't:
And when children are demonstrably in bad trouble, I would never institute Skinnerian approaches like Success for All. I would spend a lot of money to use remarkably successful and highly enlightened programs such as Reading Recovery, which I'’ve watched being used many times. Everything I criticize I've seen; I could teach SFA, because I've been in so many classrooms where I'’ve seen it done. And I'’ve watched Reading Recovery, and that'’s probably the most effective way of catching children up very quickly. It's usually done only for first graders, but some schools use the same ideas for second and third graders who still need to catch up. ItÂ’s very expensive, but itÂ’s the best way.
Oh really.

"Wasik and Slavin (1993) compared the relative effect sizes achieved by five treatments for reading problems. Reading Recovery was not nearly as effective as two programs that provided explicit systematic phonics with extensive practice reading decodable text (the Success for All and Wallach and Wallach programs)."

If I'm reading this bar graph correctly, SFA is nearly twice as effective as Reading Recovery.

But, this is the part I like the best:

"If a school's goal is to raise the overall level of reading performance, Reading Recovery is not the appropriate intervention to choose. Overall school achievement scores are not improved with the use of Reading Recovery (Hiebert, 1994). Both Reading Recovery advocates and critics agree on this point (Hiebert, 1994; Pinnell & Lyons, 1995)"

Even the Reading Recovery advocates admit it doesn't work. They won't deter Kozol though:
In the Success for All schools the teacher is not allowed to do this. And I'll broaden that statement: This is true in all these heavily scripted, test-driven schools where the principals are in a state of perpetual anxiety because of the threat of sanctions and humiliation. So in these schools the teacher has to cut that little boy off, because he may want to talk of tears of laughter, but tears and laughter won't be tested on the standardized exam. There's nothing in NCLB about the sorrows of a child's heart or the laughter that comes naturally from a child's spirit when he's in a reasonably healthy public school.
What is it about scripted instruction that draws out the over-heated rhetoric?

Here's a script from the third grade Reading Mastery program. Please, someone, tell me what is so objectionable.

Don't teachers make-up their own "scripts" or lesson plans already? So, if teachers make up the scripts, it's OK; but, when the instructional program designer does it, it's not. Nevermind that the instructional designer's scripts have proven to be highly successful with low-performing students whereas teachers' own scripts have not.

Oh, that's right, these scripted programs, like SFA and Direct Instruction, are supposed to be soul killing "drill and kill" drudgery for students. Such charges have been around for a long time:
Critics have often complained that the DI model was a pressure cooker environment that would negatively impact students' social growth and self-esteem. As the Abt Associates' authors note:

Critics of the model have predicted that the emphasis of the model on tightly controlled instruction might discourage children from freely expressing themselves and thus inhibit the development of self-esteem and other affective skills. (Stebbins, St. Pierre & Proper, p. 8)
Because of this expectation, the affective scores are of interest. Three of the five lowest scoring models on the affective domain were models that targeted improving affective behavior; none of the affective models had positive affective scores. In contrast, all Basic Skills models had positive affective scores with the Direct Instruction model achieving the highest scores. The theory that an emphasis on basic skills instruction would have a negative impact on affective behavior is not supported by the data. Instead, it appears that the models that focused on an affective education not only had a negative impact on their students' basic skills and cognitive skills, but also on their affective skills.
You mean to tell me there is a study, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars, out there that conclusively shows that a scripted program had the highest self-esteem scores while Kozol's beloved whole-language (the TEEM program) had the lowest. I'm shocked.

But, Kozol still won't be deterred:
In suburban schools, children are being enabled to ask interesting questions, they're being educated to interrogate reality, they're being educated also to read beautiful children's books, to inherit all of the treasures of this earth. In the drill-and-kill curriculum in the inner-city schools, there's often no real literature.
Compare the cognitive and basic skills scores for Direct Instruction and the scores from the programs from the right of the graph which used all the stuff the Kozol advocates.

Now tell me who would you rather educate your child?

The defense rests.

Update: Unexpected bonus post on Reading Recovery.


1citizen said...

Amen. For the funny side of reading recovery and some serious stuff too, please see


Anonymous said...

There's nothing in NCLB about the sorrows of a child's heart or the laughter that comes naturally from a child's spirit when he's in a reasonably healthy public school.

All I can say to you, Mr. D-Ed, is, Are you stuck on stupid, or what?

What about the sorrows of a child's heart?

What about the laughter that comes naturally from a child's spirit when he's in a reasonably healthy public school?

You can't write a script for the sorrows of a child's heart and the laughter that comes naturally from a child's spirit when he's in a reasonably healthy public school.

Anonymous said...

1citizen I found the blog, but the link there didn't work....

1citizen said...

works now

Anonymous said...

Great one-two punch to the Kozol fallacy. I'm going to make this post required reading for the 45 staff we train each year!

If you're ever in Boston, you can come pick up your "royalties" in the form of any bev from Dunkin' Donuts (the one across the street from our school).


Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that you use Slavin's own research to support SFA. I am sure that he was completely objective in his research, the fact that he created the program had nothing to do with his findings. Forget about the research completed by objective parties, let's just focus on the research done by the program creators. It is surely valid! I better go now, I need to complete a learning style assessment on a student before he goes to his dolphin therapy session. It will take a long time because he uses facilitated communication.

KDeRosa said...

Hi Flipper,

The bias charge doesn't work for me when the research paper is freely available online. Surely you can find one real flaw in the research instead of merely raising a potential flaw.

Furthermore, there has been lots of independent research on SFA, not just by Slavin, and most of it comes to the same conclusions that Slavin does, further weaking your charge of bias.