June 24, 2008

Ask D-Ed Reckoning

Let's take advantage of the slow and uninteresting education news cycle.

If you have a burning k-12 education question you've been itching to ask (ignore that mixed metaphor) now is your opportunity to ask it.

Leave your question in the comments and I'll try to answer it or, at least, give my opinion. And, since the commenters are often more knowledgeable and smarter than me, and not shy about giving their opinions you'll get the benefit of their expertise as well.


Anonymous said...

Here's a question for you Ken (or anyone else who knows the answer):

Why is it next to impossible to identify schools in a given area that use DI either for certain subjects, or as a whole-school model?

The last comprehensive list I have seen is on Martin Kozloff's website, but that infomation is around 7 years old or so... so some of the info is outdated.

Posting on the DI list doesn't produce much. Nor does contacting researchers/DI people who teach at the university level.

Think contacting ADI would work? Or contacting one of the Engelmanns? Think again. Bryan Wickman of ADI refers folks to SRA regional sales persons. The SRA sales persons don't seem to know what is going on. Both entities (ADI and SRA) almost seem like giving out such information is proprietary, or is like some other kind of secret that they can't let members of the general public know about.

I find that very strange.

The irony is that the ADI website says that DI is being impemented as a school-wide model in over 500 schools nationwide.


It's strange that a website about DI that cites such a figure -- especially one that actively seeks to propagate the use of DI and train folks adequately to use DI -- has absolutely ZERO information on where these schools are located, if you contact them and ask.

I'd love for others to try to see if they can find out this information, and be shown where a person can find out where DI is used, which school have undergone sufficient training, etc.

For an effective instructional method that can't get no respect, and is always wanting respect -- one would think they'd be shouting the names of these schools to the hilltops so that folks could go check them out.

Roger Sweeny said...

I teach high school and every year at this time, I get slapped in the face by the following situation.

During the year, students had "learned" various things. How do I know they learned them? Because they correctly answered questions on tests or used the appropriate formulas and ideas to solve problems (I teach physics and physical science).

But when they take the final, they show that they don't know lots of the things that they seemed to know earlier in the year.

So maybe it's incorrect to say that they actually "learned" those things. Maybe it's more accurate to say that they "memorized" various things and then forgot them.

Two questions: One, does anyone doing education research care about this? My impression is that it's a gigantic elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. And yet teachers know it's there. Every teacher knows that if she gave the same test a month later, her students would do considerably worse. Casually say to a teacher, "I feel like my students will have forgotten half of what they learned by August." You are more likely to get one-upmanship--"Half? Try 90% "--than disagreement.

So question two: Does anyone doing educational research use long-term learning as a measure of success? When researchers try to determine if various things "work," how many test for knowledge 24 hours later? a week later? a month later? more?

RMD said...


I might suggest you look at Precision Teaching (PT) as a way to determine if your students are retaining knowledge. PT research indicates that students who can reach various frequency milestones (e.g., see/say math facts at rate of 60 per minute - I'm not sure if this is a valid rate, but rather an example) have "learned" the material, and will retain this knowledge "forever".

Here's one of my favorite resources for this: www.fluency.org.

RMD said...

ignore my name in the last post . . . it's not correct


EHT said...

Hi! Roger has an interesting point, and I feel his pain. My question is should we expect each and every student to have total recall 9 months later? OR Should we expect students to be able to read a question regarding older content and be able to touch upon the right answer by reviewing the answer choices carefully and logically? AND shouldn't we expect students to forget certain things, but be able to have the skills to jog their memory such as how to check a reference source, etc.?

Anonymous said...

1) My sister is teaching her 4 year old daughter with "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons"
What should be the next step for her?

2) What does Singapore Math (the new CA standards version) look like from the perspective of Direct Instruction?


KDeRosa said...

I can answer most of these, keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

since you asked for commenter viewpoints, here they are:

1. Knowledge retention

"Fluency" is the key concept for knowledge retention. Fluency builds retention (ability to use a skill after a period of misuse), endurance (ability to use for a long period of time) and application (ability to apply knowledge in other areas).

The problem is that schools don't build knowledge to fluency.

Once you understand fluency and its power, you'll never go back. And it doesn't take much time or resources to implement it.

Here's the best introduction I've found: http://tinyurl.com/3ubdkf

2. Followup to 100 Easy Lessons

I'd recommend Michael Maloney "Teach Your Children Well" series. He has programs for reading upper elementary grades, and even a program to help older readers.

His programs incorporate direct instruction, precision teaching and behavioral techniques. He is willing to help, and his audio CD for reading instruction is great.

I don't work for the company, but I am using the reading program with my 3 1/2 year old and it works. (Note: I used Funnix to get my 5/6-year old to a 2nd grade reading level and loved it). I also own the spelling program.

Here's a link:


I hope that helps.


Robert Sperry said...

What is the total number of people/budget for R&D in DI? What portion of that is outside of Eugine Oregon?

Why are not more of the materials made targeted at the home school market? 100 math lessons, 100 writing lessons..etc.

Topic two Prologue:
It seems to me that DI is good at instilling basic skills, probably to about the 5th grade level. But that there must be a transition at some point to a more conceptual, self directed learning style after that. Such that an properly prepared 5th grader (or 6th or 7th etc) should be able to be given a algebra book and expected to learn form it and ask questions every few days if they need help. Given that I know this happens with some kids, I think it good to figure out if this could happen with more kids. Part of this also has to deal with instilling an internal drive, because an unmotivated child being given an algebra book isn't going to get real far.

Drawing back a bit, DI can be used to transmit known systematized information, but at some point the learner needs to get beyond that into creating knowledge of their own...it seems like there should be some more transitions between DI and Graduate School, but I am not sure what those transitions look like.

Any ideas?

Third topic:
Does DI have any long term affect on measured IQ?

It seems like there are very few cultural/instructional things that have good longitudinal evidence of being able to move IQ over in a way that does not later regress to the mean (sigh language to infants being a decent candidate). But it also seems like almost no one is trying to do such a thing and that further its viewed quite negatively to bring the idea up.

So questions:
What can be done to improve long term IQ?

What can be done to maximize a persons ability to capitalize on the IQ that they have? (outside if DI)

IQ being used here as a proxy for something more abstract than just what IQ tests measure.

for those people reading that might want to say that it takes more than IQ to succeed, I agree, but then the question becomes how do you improve those other things.

CrypticLife said...

4trogan has a great question. It would be great to know for many reasons, among them to refute Jim Horn's latest post here, in which he seems to imply a heavy reliance of schools on DI (and in a link from that post, implies that DI is racist).

I don't know how strange the lack of availability of the data is, since I've never tried to get data on any other curriculum either.

Roger Sweeny said...

eht and whatever your name is,

Thanks for your responses.

eht: I don't expect any students to have total recall 9 months later, but I'm concerned by how much less than total it is. I would be deliriously happy if they forgot most of the details but understood the basics and could reason from them. That doesn't seem to be the case.

As to whether they will be able to jog their memory by knowing what and how to look up, I hope they can but I will never know. Once they are out of my class in the middle of June, I have no official contact with them.

not (st anne's reading support group): I'll check out fluency.org.

Anonymous said...

another question:
in an interview, Zig Engelmann said that he doesn't believe in using manipulatives for teaching math. I thought it was universally accepted that kids start with counting blocks, fingers, etc


RMD said...

anonymous. . . about manipulatives

I have read tons of materials from Zig. Let me hazard a guess.

Zig's focus from the 60s has been on helping low SES kids (check out the title of his recent book: it includes a picture of a very destitute little girl and "needy kids" in the title). In fact, in his most recent book, he talks about a conscious decision to help the most needy kids, since the middle/upper class kids can get along pretty well without his help.

so he focuses on kindergarten as a key element in getting these kids on the right track. It takes a lot to accelerate these kids because they lack so much of the basic knowledge that middle- and upper-class kids have.

He also focuses on very lean instruction, only introducing simple concepts one at a time and reinforcing them in later sessions.

With all this in mind, here's my best guess as to why no manipulatives: Since math is primarily a symbolic language (i.e, "1" means one, while "10" means 1 ten), he goes straight for the jugular (so to speak) and simply works with kids on the symbolic language of math, working with them to make sure they "get it".

I'm guessing that he doesn't think manipulatives are bad, per se, but that they waste time in a curriculum where there is so much ground to cover.

I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

about no manipulatives
OK but how can you teach math without manipulatives?


Anonymous said...


I'm guessing here, but:

you don't need manipulatives to teach math in the same sense that you don't need to bring an actual apple to school to teach what an apple is.

sure, nearly all teaching of counting starts with manipulatives--count fingers, count things, teach a 1 to 1 correspondence between numbers and the count of the things. But you can teach how to add 2 and 3 by counting without referring to things--just by counting.

It could also mean that Engelmann is referring to the experimenting with manipulatives, where children are doing discovery learning. I'm guessing he sees no value in any kind of unstructured setting of playing with manipulatives. His scripts have examples and words and numbers and colors and symbols and they are very tightly controlled examples so you don't mistakenly learn the wrong categorization. Maybe he's simply saying that manipulatives are too open to an uncontrolled script. Instead, he'll write the numbers you need, draw the items you're counting, etc.

Certainly you don't need manipulatives to memorize groupings of numbers, or therefore, multiplication or division. and the reliance on whole number manipulatives can easily become a stumbling block when trying to abstract ot fractions and algebra down the line.

dweir said...

Hi, Ken.

Late to the game, but thought I'd post in case you get some time to answer more questions.

I'm interested in your (and readers') thoughts on Partnership for 21st Centrury Skills.

Sounds like bunk to me.