Monday, April 29, 2013

Does the common core deserve credit for kindergarten readiness gains?

Sent to the Baltimore Sun, April 29, 2013
It is premature to attribute gains in kindergarten readiness to basing pre-K on the common core, introduced two years ago. (“City's revamped pre-K showing promise,” April 27). 
Contrary to the Sun’s statement, the rise in readiness scores was not “unprecedented.” Examination of the data, available from a Baltimore City Schools press release (March 27) shows that the 4% gain seen from 2011 to 2012 is part of a general trend of increased readiness test scores in since 2007 for all children entering kindergarten in Baltimore, whether enrolled in common core aligned pre-K or not. 
In fact, most of the gains in non-common-core aligned pre-K programs were larger than those seen in common-core pre-K programs
Stephen Krashen
City's revamped pre-K showing promise

Helping English Language Learners: Some Suggestions

Helping English learners: Some suggestions
Published in the Los Angeles Times, April 30, 2013

“Lawsuit: State fails some English learners” (April 25) does not mention two approaches to help those acquiring English, both with substantial research support.

One is bilingual education, dismantled by Proposition 227 over a decade ago. Research consistently shows that students in bilingual programs outperform students in all-English programs on tests of English reading.  Also, studies show that Proposition 227 did not improve English proficiency.

Second, there is strong evidence that those who do more pleasure reading in English do better on English language tests, and case histories reveal that those who succeeded in acquiring the English needed for school were dedicated readers. California English learners, however, have a hard time finding books: California ranks near the bottom of the country in school library quality and is dead last in the ratio of school librarians per student.

Lawsuits should include restoring bilingual education and investing more in libraries and librarians.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California

Some sources:

Research on bilingual education: Crawford, J. and Krashen, S. 2007. English Learners in American Classrooms. New York: Scholastic.

Pleasure reading and English: Krashen, S. 2011. Free Voluntary Reading. Westport: Libraries Unlimited. Krashen, S. and Williams, C. 2012. Is Self-Selected Pleasure Reading the Cure for the Long-Term ELL Syndrome? A Case History. NABE Perspectives September-December 2012, p.26

Thursday, April 25, 2013

the "facts" of failure: respone to the NY Post, published April 24

The Issue: The Common Core curriculum and tests that are being introduced in New York schools.
The Post argues that the common core standards and tests are necessary because our students are doing so poorly: “the facts of failure are becoming impossible to ignore.
Last year, 79.3% of public high-school grads who enrolled in CUNY’s community colleges had to take remedial classes in math, reading or writing because they failed basic qualification exams. These 10,000 students had to score a 35 on pre-algebra and 40 on algebra tests to “pass” — and thereby escape remediation.
In any other universe, that would be an ‘F.’”

My response, Published in the New York Post, April 24, 2013

The Post’s complaint about high school grads not being ready for college (“Spotlight on failure,” April 21) is part of a proud tradition that goes back over 100 years. 

More than half of Harvard freshmen failed the entrance exam in 1874. As a result of an analysis of essays written in 1894, the Harvard Board of Overseers criticized high school writing teachers for the poor performance of the students. In 1930, Thomas Biggs of Teachers College wrote that high school English classes resulted in written English that was “in a large fraction of cases shocking in their evidence of inadequate achievement.”

If we believe these reports, our high school students were terrible in 1874 and have been getting even worse ever since. Another interpretation is that there has been no decline in performance, that we have always been expecting too much, and are, for some reason, over-eager to scold students and their schools.

Stephen Krashen

The Post also published these letters, one agreeing that students are doing poorly, and one attacking unions. All three letters are from outside New York.

Those who are on the front lines of the education system in this city have known all along that our children have been failing miserably for quite some time (“Spotlight on Failure,” Editorial, April 21).
The histrionics coming from the teachers’ union regarding testing is no more than a massive coverup of its own poor performance.
One would imagine that after finding out that our children rank so poorly among other nations in math and science, someone might care. This is not so in New York, where teachers only care about perks and pensions, not kids.
Theodore Miraldi
Los Angeles
I think that unions can serve an important function, but over the years I have derived a pretty good test for determining whether or not a policy makes sense.
If a policy provokes loud union opposition, like that of Richard Iannuzzi and the state teachers union, it is probably worthwhile.
Common Core is one such example. We must assess a problem before we can begin to solve it.
Teachers and the unions that control them must demonstrate with more than lip service that they have the best interests of our children at heart.
Paul Bloustein

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Core meltdown

Published in the New York Daily News, April 19, 2013.

We have been told that the new tests based on the Common Core will result in low scores (“Just what the kids need,” editorial, April 15). What has not been mentioned is that scores are likely to rise for the next few years as teachers and students get used to the format and content. The Common Core will claim the credit for this bogus “improvement.” It will stop after a few years, but by then the apparent success will be considered proven. Stephen Krashen

Will the common core claim credit for bogus test score improvement?
We have been told that the new tests based on the common core will result in low scores (“Just what the kids need,” April 15). What has not been mentioned is that new tests typically result in low scores, and then scores rise for the next few years as teachers and students get used to the test format and content, and teachers learn how to teach to the test. This has been confirmed in studies by Prof. Robert Linn of the University of Colorado. The common core will claim the credit for this bogus “improvement.” The improvement will stop after a few years, but by then the apparent success of the common core will be considered “proven.”
Stephen Krashen

 Source: Linn, R., Graue, E., & Sanders, N. 1990. Comparing state and district test results to national norms: The validity of claims that "everyone is above average." Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice 10: 5-14.

Original article:

PS: This is exactly what happened after California dismantled bilingual education. In 1998, the same year Proposition 227 passed, a new test, the SAT9, was introduced. Scores went up for everybody the first year, and 227 got the credit. Unnoticed was the fact that scores also went up by the same amount for districts that kept bilingual education, and after two years, there were no more gains for anybody. And all the controlled studies showing that bilingual education was superior to all-English for English literacy development was ignored.
 Krashen, S. Why Did Test Scores Go up in California? A Response to Unz/Reinhard.