August 8, 2006

When Anti-NLCBers Attack

Peter Campbell of Transform Education [Ed: Return to the Status Quo Ante NCLB Education would have been more accurate] responds to my post The Hive Mind's New Buzz in which I criticized the anti-NCLBer's new meme 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who are underperforming) can't be taught to read at grade level in a timely manner" and, as such, NCLB should be repealed, burned, buried, and the ground salted so we can return to the halcyon days when kids didn't learn how to read and no one really cared (except for a few marginalized crackpots).

Peter posted a longish comment in which he disagreed with my tough-love [Ed: fair but firm] criticisms which I'm reposting here. Since I just learned how to change font colors, I'm going to put my rebuttals in blue. Anyway, here's Peter:

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?

Goodie, I love games.

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.

In every class I've ever been in, they only gave one test to every students (one size fits all, if you will). They didn't give one test to the kid who didn't speak English well, another test to the kid who wasn't that smart, and another test for the rest of the kids. (This is not about giving accommodations to non-cognitively handicapped kids.) You had to pass the third grade reading test if you wanted to say you were proficient in the third grade reading standards set by the school. Otherwise you went to summer school, learned some more (hopefully), and then retook the test.

I don't know what all the fuss is all about under NCLB now that the states are setting the standards and giving the tests. Remember, if the schools were doing their job properly and not socially promoting kids who they hadn't been taught, we might not have NCLB today. Unless, of course, you believe that this was a plot hatched by Karl Rove to steal tax dollars and funnel them to his fat cat friends, in which case I'd suggest adjusting your tin-foil cap.

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

Hold on, cowboy, you're jumping to conclusions. Why are we blaming all this on the kids? Could it be that maybe, just maybe, the schools are at fault by not adequately teaching these difficult-to-teach kids. NCLB doesn't blame the kids. NCLB blames the schools. I believe that that is where the responsibility rightly belongs. Some believe the responsibility should be shared between the schools and the students (and their parents). But, almost no one believes that kids are solely to blame with the antics that pass for teaching today. But I digress, certainly if a student has not passed the test, which presumably is aligned with the state standards, it's a good indication that he has not met the state's grade level expectations. The test merely tells us that there is a problem with the education at the school. Don't shoot the mssenger.

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.

Repeating a grade may not be the best thing for failing students (the research, such that it is, is mixed and inconclusive), but, the alternative, social promotion, hasn't worked too well either now has it? Maybe this whole grouping by age idea instead of grouping by ability was a bad idea from the get go. But again, why are you just blaming the students? Show me a failing student and I'll show you a kid who was in all likelihood inadequately taught.

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

Yes, it is awful when schools fail to adequately teach their students, especially when so much money is spent on education. Many people viewed this as a bad thing. That's why we have NCLB -- flawed perhaps, but better than what we had before.

I love this game!

Hey, I thought we were going to play a game. That wasn't a game. That was a series of weak arguments based on a faulty premise. I feel gypped.

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,

What happened to steps one and two? Step One: Teach kids poorly. Step Two: kids don't learn and fail. Step Three: Kids held back. Maybe if we worked on step one a bit more, we'd reach step three a lot less often. And, what about all the research that says that kids who don't learn in school are the ones who tend to drop out. It's the failure to learn that's causing the problem, not the failed test. This is one of those root cause issues that the left thinks is so important.

and you've read the research that shows that the vast majority of prison inmates dropped out of school,

See above re root causes. And bear in mind that correlation isn't causation.

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.

Liberal whining, perhaps. Irrelevant, definitely. And, I think you lost you're liberal creds when you started calling kids stupid, you meanie.

And, yes, you know that a kid with an IEP has been diagnosed [giggle] as such after thorough evaluation by a team of trained experts [giggle] who know a thing or two about learning disabilities [that they likely caused or made up] , and you know that if the IEP says that a 4th grader reads at a 1st grade level [because his school failed to teach him in grades K through 4 inclusive] 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 [i.e., someone answering the questions for him] that this child will more than likely fail this test, you still want to fail this stupid kid [there you go again] because he needs it and it's good for him.

No, I want to fail his school for failing to teach him. Then if the school doesn't shape up, I want to close the school so it doesn't damage any more kids.

After all, you believe that all children can learn [Indeed I do, though you apparently don't], and that all kids -- ALL of them -- should be held to high standards.

By "ALL" you must mean 99% of students, because 1% are already excluded from "the high standards" under NCLB and get to take an alternative assessment, i.e., held to a low standard. We may disagree whether 1% is too low, but I'd rather err on the side of excluding as few kids as possible who might be capable of meeting the "high standards" (which, in actuality, are already pitifully low).

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.

No problem, just send over a highly-qualified teacher in translating complex passages from Farsi to English who is willing and able to teach me for a year and I'll get right on it. Oops, I forgot that you didn't know that there was this magical "teaching step" that is supposed to come in between the setting of the standard (in this case learning to translate Farsi) and passing the test (actually translating a passage). I understand the misconception though because what passes for teaching in most schools is mostly non-existent.

And since we're asking for favors, could you do me a favor and translate the latin term "non sequitur" into English for me?

If you object to this proposal, then you are a racist bigot [I was getting worried, I thought you'd never pull out the race card. I'm so relieved] who does not believe that all educational policy experts like yourself can learn. You should really dream bigger, friend.

Lucky for me I didn't object then. And, watch who you call friend, pal.

Hopefully, Peter realizes that we kid because we love. But seriously, Peter, you need to examine some of the assumptions you're basing your arguments on.

Update: the comments are flying fast and furious over at the original post.


Peter Campbell said...

Ah, I love the smell of a good fur fight in the morning. It smells like . . . calumny.

So, Kenny Boy. It seems we agree on a few things. For example, you write:

"And, what about all the research that says that kids who don't learn in school are the ones who tend to drop out."

I could not agree more. Of course, this revelatory insight is on par with, "Gee, when the sun comes up, it's brigher than when the sun goes down." Clearly you are a master of the obvious. Congratulations.

But what you're not so good at, KB, is subtlety. See, reality is often referred to as "multi-faceted." And, as you are quick to remind us, causation is not the same as correlation. (cf. "master of the obvious," above)

Here's evidence of where you quickly forget your own (obvious) wisdom:

"It's the failure to learn that's causing the problem, not the failed test. This is one of those root cause issues that the left thinks is so important."

Hmmm . . . what happened to causation and correlation? Ah, I see. Causation is just fine when you can bend it to make your obvious arguments.

So let's see now. "The failure to learn is causing the problem." Wow. That feels almost biblical in weight, like it's the 11th Commandment or something. "The failure to learn is causing the problem."

So let me ask you, KB. Since you now clearly pausit the validity of causality, what else might be causing the problem? Or, to peel it a different way, what is causing the failure to learn?

Now let me just throw up (literally and metaphorically) a red flag here: if you are going to do a Charles "I Never Met a Bell Curve I Didn't Like" Murray on me, then I'll exit this dialogue and leave you to stew in your eugenic stew of IQ tests and self-fulfilling racist propaganda. Debate is fun, Kenny Boy, but I don't debate racists. Fair enough?

If you pass the Chuck Murray test, then let's ponder together this odd little notion you have of causality, shall we?

I take it that you've read Richard Rothstein's work, particularly Class and Schools. If not, go out and read it, and then get back to me.

Peter Campbell said...

P.S. - love the shark!

KDeRosa said...

Sorry, Peter. I was stating the obvious merely because your arguments seemed to be oblivious to the obvious.

You see, when you blame a test (which only measures student achievement) for the lack of student achievement, it's a fair inference that you're not aware that there might be other factors responsible for the lack of student achievement.

So let me ask you, KB. Since you now clearly pausit the validity of causality, what else might be causing the problem? Or, to peel it a different way, what is causing the failure to learn?

I thought I made that abundantly clear in my comments, but I'll say it again more slowly and using smaller words.

Students failure to learn is caused by schools' failure to teach them adequaterly. Most kids won't learn if they haven't been taught properly (I know this should also be obvious, but you appear to be missing the point.)

Hmmm . . . what happened to causation and correlation?

Nothing. We have causation. Perhaps you heard of Project Follow Through that little billion dollar study in which it was conclusively shown that if you actually taught poor kids well, they actually started to achieve about as well as their middle class peers. The kids didn't have to be pulled out of poverty first before they could learn. Kinda kills your Rothstein hypothesis, doesn't it?

Debate is fun, Kenny Boy, but I don't debate racists. Fair enough?

Playing the race card again?
Peter, you're forgetting the old joke that a racist is someone a liberal is losing an argument to.

I take it that you've read Richard Rothstein's work, particularly Class and Schools. If not, go out and read it, and then get back to me.

Rothstein is the poor man's Kozol and I've dealt with Kozol extensively here

Peter Campbell said...

Let's start with the most obvious: the race card. No, KB, I don't think you're a racist. I have no evidence to suggest that you are. At least not yet. The two references I made to race were as follows: (1) in satirizing Bush's classic phrase "the soft bigotry of low expectations" and (2) making sure you were not a devotee of Chuck Murray. I still don't know where you are with Murray. So what is it, KB? Do you have a picture of Mr. Bell Curve above your bed, or do you find him a bit hard to swallow? If the latter, then we're good. If the former, I bid you happy trails.

As for the "soft bigotry of low expectations," the logic of the Bush/Spellings regime is to argue that "all kids can learn," which is actually just cover for "there are no excuses." So if anyone -- Richard Rothstein, David Berliner, Jerry Bracey, et al -- raises arguments and presents data that actutally complicate this brutally simplistic and idiotic formulation, they are called racists. Or, more precisely, they are charged by Bush, et al, with being guilty of -- you guessed it -- "the soft bigotry of low expectations." What this amounts to is conservatives calling critics of NCLB "racists." Now, what was that you were saying about the old joke that a racist is someone a liberal is losing an argument to?

I object to being called a racist simply because I don't buy the pat pablum of cheesefood logic. The sting of this horrendous irony is that NCLB's implementation results in nothing but a racist policy that denies the legitimacy of the experience of those who suffer under poverty and racist oppression. I deal with this argument, made most recently by Manhattan Institute shill John McWhorter and most prominently by comedian-turned-social-critic Bill Cosby in this post at Transform Education. If you are not familiar with Michael Eric Dyson's work, then I suggest you add his book Is Bill Cosby Right, Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind? to your reading list. You can read it once you finish the Rothstein book.

Since you refer to Rothstein as "the poor man's Kozol," you obviously have not read him. You really should. Kozol and Rothstein might be ideologically similar, but their methods are night and day. For what it's worth, I like Kozol, but I'm not a huge fan. Rothstein, however, is my boy.

As for the "success" of Project Follow Through/DI and your claim that "it was conclusively shown that if you actually taught poor kids well, they actually started to achieve about as well as their middle class peers," let me simply remind you that Glass, et al, came to a different conclusion on this study. In short, hardly conclusive. However, DISTAR/DI has risen from the ashes and now stars -- thanks to Reid Lyon and his cozy relationship with Bush -- as Open Court and . . . Direct Instruction! It's like a bad parody of Poltergeist. I comment at length on the NRP, Lyon, and Bush in this post on Transform Education.

I am again struck by your irreconcilable dichotomy on causation and correlation. You can't have it both ways, chum. Things either cause other things to happen or they don't. But because you are someone who preaches causation while paying lip service to correlation, your arguments don't carry much weight. Sorry to break it to you.

At the end of the day, we have to do everything we can to close the achievement gap and improve public education. Yes, yes, yes - let's reform schools and curricula. But, at the same time, let's do everything we can to level the playing field so that more kids have a better chance of making it. Fair?

Kilian Betlach said...

Yo, how do you change those there colors? Drop the knowledge, KdR.

KDeRosa said...

TMAO, if you're using the blogger interface, there is a text coloe tool between italicize and hyperlink in the java console. Select your text and pick your color.

Otherwise, you coould manually insert the following HTML code

style="color: rgb(0, 0, 153);"

for the shade of blue I used.

KDeRosa said...

Peter, how does being a devotee of Charles Murray make someone a racist?

If anything, the weight of scientific authority seems to support Murray's viewpoint. When someone disproves Murray's theory and Murray refuses to recant, your point may be valid. Until then you're overreaching.

I've never actually read Murray's bell Curve so I don't know if I'd qualify as a devotee, but I do agree with the the American Psychological Association's Board of Scientific Affairs special task report that agreed with many of Murray's contentions concerning IQ:

* IQ scores have high predictive validity for individual differences in school achievement.
* IQ scores have predictive validity for adult occupational status, even when variables such as education and family background have been statistically controlled.
* Individual differences in intelligence are substantially influenced by genetics.
* There is little evidence to show that childhood diet influences intelligence except in cases of severe malnutrition.
* There are no significant differences between the IQ scores of males and females.

Is there something in there you find objectionable?

As for the Glass report, it was point-by-point refuted by Berieter and Kurland and revealed as more a hatchet job than serious criticism. Plus, subsequent DI research has served to confirm the findings of PFT rather than to disprove them.

So when you claim "[t]hings either cause other things to happen or they don't" you're still ignoring the PFT research which showed that bad teaching practices resulted in student failure in at-risk children. That's causation. An actual experiment was conducted, not a statistical correlation.

But, at the same time, let's do everything we can to level the playing field so that more kids have a better chance of making it. Fair?

There is no evidence, save the unsupported writings of Rothstein, Kozol et al., that "leveling the playing field" (whatever that may mean) will result in "more kids hav[ing] a better chance of making it." When you find the evidence, then we'll talk. Until then the money is better spent on improving teaching and the curriculum, things that have some evidence of success.

Peter Campbell said...

OK, Ken. I'm outta here. If you are really asking the question, "How does being a devotee of Charles Murray make someone a racist?" and then list your support for the American Psychological Association's Board of Scientific Affairs special task report -- "Individual differences in intelligence are substantially influenced by genetics." -- then you are worse than a racist. You are a clueless racist blind to his own bigotry.

There was a guy named Hitler (maybe you've heard of him?) who had very similar ideas about the genetic basis of intelligence. Add a book called Mein Kampf to your reading list. You'll enjoy it.

But before I go, Ken, let me just say this. All of the crap you spew about the validity of DI is just that: crap. I take it that you've read the NRP's Report of the Sub-Groups? If so, you'll recall that while the NRP does acknowledge in the sub-section "Specific Outcomes in Younger Readers" that "phonics instruction exerted a significant impact on reading comprehension," (Report of the Subgroups, Chapter 2, p.115), the NRP qualifies this conclusion by puzzling over the fact that phonics skills "facilitated reading comprehension more than oral reading" and concluding, "It may have to do with the nature of the tests." Here's the crucial part:

"Standardized comprehension tests at this level generally use extremely short (usually one sentence) 'passages.' On these short passages, the effects of decoding should be strong. Some tests, such as the Gates-MacGinitie, favor phonetically regular words in these passages. Oral reading measures, on the other hand, use longer passages, sometimes containing pictures which would enhance the utility of context." ("Specific Outcomes in Younger Readers," Report of the Subgroups, Chapter 2, p.115)

So while phonics instruction may have an effect on "reading comprehension" for first graders and kindergartners, such "reading" essentially amounts to decoding phonetically regular words in a single sentence.

It comes as no surprise whatsoever that the Bush administration considers this "reading."

The Foorman study reported on by the NRP shows that Open Cout (OC) showed high effect sizes in decoding for first graders but moderate for spelling and SMALL for comprehension with a mean of .91, which is highly significant. HOWEVER, by second grade, the kids dropped in every single skill with NEGATIVE results for kids trained in Open Court in those skills requiring application of phonics to real reading or writing (comprehension and spelling)--- the overall mean dropped to .12 which is NOT statistically significant.

In other words, train kids in OC in first grade and you get high ability in isolated skills (decoding nonwords on lists, i.e. dat, wat, etc.). However, ask the kids to apply those skills and there's a huge discrepancy in the ability to apply those decoding skills to text--- even in first grade where comprehension is only weakly significant after OC training. However, the sad news comes in second grade where the kids cannot apply those decoding skills to real text. Stunningly, comprehension and spelling are NEGATIVE after OC training.

KDeRosa said...

Oh boy, Peter's taken his ball and run home, but not before giving us a good example of Godwin's Law in action, so it's not a complete loss.

But, just in case you're still lurking, are you saying you disagree with the APA too? Perhaps it is Murray's views that are more in the mainstream than your own.

And, with respect to phonics instruction and reading comprehension, phonics instruction is for teaching kids how to decode (read) and encode (write), not for reading comprehension. You are setting up a strawman, and a flimsy one at that.

Neither OC or DI begin or end with phonics instruction. In fact much of what gets taught in DI reading programs after the first six months focuses on reading comprehension, not phonics. Much of the problems low performers having in learning to read is caused by vocabulary deficits which is also why there is a separate course that focuse on remediating these deficits.

And, finally, Open Court is not DI, so I'm not sure why you're citing open court research in what began as a DI criticism. So, if you don't like OC or DI, what do you like Peter and what evidence of success do you have to support you choice, especially for "stupid" kids, as you call them?

Anonymous said...

The level of venom is inversely proportional to the quality of argument.

I'm disappointed that P.C. didn't feel it was important to respond to my and TracyW's comments on the other thread. We didn't even bring up the issue of IQ.

It would be nice if P.C., and other educators, would peel off the layers of ed-speak and get down to the basics. What defines a quality education. What is the curriculum. What are the grade-level expectations. What testing and grading are to be used, and what pedagogy is to be used. In other words, how do you know when a school is doing a good job? Most parents I talk to may not know much about ed-school pedagogy, but they sure know low expectations when they see them.

My view is that most anti-NCLBers just do not like testing of any sort. They should just come out and say so.

"It comes as no surprise whatsoever that the Bush administration considers this "reading."

What do you consider to be reading? What tests do you use? When do you apply these tests? What are your grade-level expectations? What do you do with the kids who don't meet these expectations? Apparently, you use the Foorman study to say that there is a better way of testing. If so, then why not just advocate for changed NCLB testing. It's more than that, isn't it?

Many of these people want to apply an educational model that uses same-age tracking, full-inclusion, mixed-ability learning, and some vague sort of individualized performance evaluations, like rubrics and portfolios. OK, just say so and be sure you hand out this manifesto to all of the parents. Don't try to hide behind ed-speak.

Do you just not like grade-level testing of any sort, or do you just not like the standardized tests being given? Perhaps you just don't like others having a different opinion than yourself. If you were head of a private school, I wouldn't care one bit what you did or said. However, we are talking about the public school monoply here and there appears to be a big difference in what constitutes a good K-8 education.

Anonymous said...

"NCLB represents the end of the line as far avoiding, emasculating, co-opting standards. ..."

Good points Allen. Our state changed from the NSRE to the NECAP exam. Throw out all past data.

Full choice where the money follows the child is the only solution.