Here are a few of the high points.
On the lack of benefits of sustained silent reading for at-risk kids (p. 9)
The studies compared outcomes of our procedures to those of traditional approaches. For instance, he did studies on the extent to which young, at-risk beginning readers benefit from engaging in independent, silent reading. The answer was none. If anything, the practice tended to galvanize the mistakes they made because they received no feedback when they worked independently, so they simply practiced the same mistakes or inappropriate strategies they made when they read aloud to a teacher.
On teaching by use of examples (p. 11)
Doug did three large studies that addressed the number of differences between positive and negative examples. One study involved five groups of preschoolers. All children received the same positive examples. (A positive example of red is red; a negative, not-red.) Each group, however, received unique negative examples. For one group, positives differed in only one way from the negative (like those in the sequence for red). For the next group, the negative examples differed in two ways (which, for the example of red, would be a difference in color and possibly in the size of the circle). The next group had negatives that differed in three ways from the positives (possibly not red, larger, and oval, not round) and so forth to the fifth and final condition, which had only positives, no negatives.
As the logical analysis predicted, the children who received negatives that differed in only one way from positives outperformed all the other groups, and the poorest group was the one that was shown no negatives. Note that the vast majority of traditional teaching demonstrations do not have any negatives, or, if they do, they are greatly different from the positives in an attempt to make the learning "easier."
These again are picky details, but that’s what makes the difference—saving ten trials here, thirty there, avoiding inducing a misconception that will later require reteaching. The result is acceleration and greatly increased confidence of children that they will learn what the teacher tries to teach.
On the futility of Elegant Variation (pp. 11-12)
Consider the unfortunate teacher who goes out of her way to make the directions and “tasks” more interesting by varying wording. Her presentation may sound better to the naïve observer, but she has greatly compromised the clarity of what she is trying to teach. In the same way, the teacher who doesn’t know the details of the positive and negative examples will do what intuitively makes sense, which guarantees that her presentation will be more difficult for the naïve learner.
Intuition might dictate that a concept would be easier to teach if the presentation did not involve positive examples that are minimally different from negatives. The outcomes of intuition are not supported by either logic or experimental outcomes. A long list of popular practices (such as first teaching students fractions that have 1 as the numerator) makes no sense logically or empirically.
On teachers' claims that they know best: The evidence says they don't (pp. 13-14)
Self-sponsored sites in Follow Through are based on the “theory” that local schools know more about their children and the problems they are experiencing than remote writers of instructional programs or sponsors who are not knowledgeable about local children. Because local teachers know more about the children, they are better prepared to orchestrate effective instruction for them. There were 15 self-sponsored districts, and many implemented in more than one school. If Follow Through had been limited to the 15 self-sponsored communities, it still would have been the largest educational experiment ever conducted.
The performance of these sites would be important to those in the educational community who believed that teacher autonomy and collaboration would transform failed schools into effective ones. Nearly all the self-sponsored sites promoted teacher autonomy and school autonomy. They permitted enormous latitude in how teachers developed material and practices to meet the needs of children, and nearly all had provisions for teachers working collaboratively to meet the children's need. If judged on the appeal of goals and practices, these sites should have been 10s. In fact, all failed. Incredibly, the self-sponsored sites performed below the average of the sponsored sites, which was considerably below the level of children in Title 1 schools.
On teaching crack babies (p. 20)
During a visit I made to Bridgeport, a trainer mentioned the problems they were having with the low performers in another school. She indicated that these children were crack cocaine victims. I told her I had never worked with such children and wanted to see them. We drove to the other school. After I worked with some of them, I told the trainer that if these children showed the effects of their mothers’ crack cocaine habits, there must have been a lot of crack cocaine mothers back in the sixties in Champaign-Urbana, because these children performed just like the lower ones we had worked with in the preschool. They entered school very low, but could learn with careful instruction.
On schools not knowing how to motivate students (p. 32)
Instead, foundations fund limp practices like showing role models—professional athletes, reading to kids— or by staging events that celebrate reading. These attempts are based on the notion that if kids are motivated, they will read. In fact, they punish low performers who know they can’t read by showing how important it is to read and showing the happy faces of children who do what low performers have unsuccessfully tried to do for years.