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2008 NEA Convention Episode 5: The Phantom Dennis EIA
The 2008 National Education Association Representative Assembly adjourned at 8:26 p.m. this evening - not too bad by historical standards but egregious because there were not many crucial issues to debate.

Apple2_cropped2Examining Sensationalized Teacher Pay  Ed Policy Watch
Most free newspapers in Washington, D.C. are full of drab political fare, but the sensationalist cover of last Monday's Examiner caught the attention of Ed Money Watch.

The Company Formerly Known as Edison Schools Tom Toch
Edison spent 16 years and nearly half a billion dollars trying to find a way to run high-quality public schools for disadvantaged kids as a viable business--surely one of the most important experiments in American educational history--and failed.

Why an Anti-Abortion Truck May Be Coming to Your School Mark Walsh
A federal appeals court ruled today that authorities violated the rights of members of an anti-abortion group by ordering them to stop driving a truck displaying large, graphic images of aborted fetuses around a California middle school.

Teach for America: The One That Got Away Ed Notes Online
All the very people claiming that closing the achievement gap is a civil rights issue, promote a program that provides a very different educational experience to the kids most in need.

Apparently the poor can be taught to read DR
Here's a large scale study that answers two important questions regarding the educability of "poor" students.

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Its interesting that kderosa made a point that the schools who raised reading scores in Baltimore fed into the infamous Frederick Douglass HS featured in the HBO documentary. His point was that the failure at the high school was the result of the incompetent decision-making of the Baltimore administration.

He seems oblivious, however, to a more constructive way to approach the issue. Follow the 1st grade students who raised test scores through their career and study whether they had better outcomes. First grade numbers may or may not mean something. But if a program worked so well over so many years, then presumably their reading comprehension would increase over time, and presumably those scores would generalize into subsequent increases in learning and graduation.

Combine the allegedly "gee whiz" results with DI with the strong increases in Open Court, and you should have had students entering middle schools ready to succeed. If you argue that your pet program can overcome the effects of poverty, then the burden of proof is in your court. Its been more than a decade since DI started, and they studied 42,000+, so why not attempt a study that would tell us something real?

His point was that the failure at the high school was the result of the incompetent decision-making of the Baltimore administration.

This wasn't my point, John. The students in Douglas in 2004 were in K and 1 before the project even began and the decision to terminate it. The Douglass documentary shows the effects of the pre-study curriculum.

Follow the 1st grade students who raised test scores through their career and study whether they had better outcomes.

All this would tell us is what is the result of the k/1 intervention followed by 8+ years of the typical crap dished out by the local schools.

But if a program worked so well over so many years, then presumably their reading comprehension

Not necessarily. Comprehension has little to do with decoding ability. Though the former is a prerequisite for the latter when it comes to reading comprehension which is a subset of comprehenion. Boosting comprehension requires a sustained intensive effort over many years; there are no shortcuts.

Combine the allegedly "gee whiz" results with DI with the strong increases in Open Court, and you should have had students entering middle schools ready to succeed.

That depends on what went on in grades 2-5.

If you argue that your pet program can overcome the effects of poverty, then the burden of proof is in your court.

The study proved that the instructional intervention overcame the "effects of poverty" and then some by the first grade. This is all I claimed that the intervention showed. Whether these gains can be maintained in later years depends on the quality of the education in the later grades. I do know that most of thegains were maintained in the City Springs schools which tracked performance of the 1998 cohort up through fifth grade.

They only used a program for 1st grade, although they did keep it up for several years. I'd agree that that is inexplicable.

But you say,

"The study proved that the instructional intervention overcame the "effects of poverty" and then some by the first grade" and you say THAT based on NUMBERS from one year per child?

That is equally inexplicable. In other words, we know almost nothing and the study tells us almost nothing more.

If the gains were continued in the City Springs schools, what were those numbers? Maybe they can tell us something.

Hey I'm open to hearing good news. Elementary isn't my field, and I'm not emotionally invested in the positions of either side. You are challenging some of the best-documented conclusions in social science. That takes much more evidence. In fact, I'd like to hear from someone more knowledgable on this than me. What conclusions can be drawn on 1st grade numbers?

There is some longitudinal data that wasn't reported in the study but can be found on NIFDI's website.

The study was for grades K-1. The implementation of the intervention, however, was for the grades K-5 for all 11 schools. The implementation was gradually introduced in school years 96/97, 97/98, and 98/99. I do have some fifth grade results for 1998 and 2002, which were not reported in the study -- bearing in mind that the 2002 fifth grade cohort did not recieve the intervention from K and theimplementation had not yet stabilized.

In 1998, for fifth grade half the schools performed at or below the 0th percentile and the other half performed below the 20th percentile. By 2002, all but 2 schools performed above the 30th percentile. One school performed at the 40th percentile, one at the 55th percentile and one (City Springs) at the 64th percentile. (4 schools were above the 50th percentile, and 2 above the 70th percentile, in grade 3 by 2002)

In 2003, City Springs fifth grade performed at the 87th percentile in reading and the 79th percentile in math.

The poverty rate at City Springs is 97%, 95% received free lunch.

The 5th grade CTBS is heavily skewed to reading comprehension, unlike the 1st grade CTBS.

You are challenging some of the best-documented conclusions in social science.

I'm not sure what you mean by well documented. There isn't much experimental data on the subject. There is correlational data which isn't exactly science and the conclusions drawn therefrom aren't exactly scientific. The correlation between SES and student achivement is known, but that correlation depends on the sad state of elementary education. This study and others like it, such as project follow through, tell us that student achievement of low-SES students can be increased to about national norms in elementary school solely by improving instruction.

KDeRosa,

You are making an hypothesis when you write,

"The correlation between SES and student achivement is known, but that correlation depends on the sad state of elementary education,"

To prove it would require much more than your scattershot assertions.

You also write, "student achievement of low-SES students can be increased to about national norms in elementary school solely by improving instruction"

That of course is true. The key word today is "can." Than "can" doesn't happen much in neighborhood schools. It is even less common in neighborhood secondary schools.

You should realize you wouldn't be digging yourself into such a deep hole if you would back off from gratuitious attacks on others, like the people who issued the Bolder Broader challenge, and didn't try to refute the Coleman Report with sweeping comments. Just today I was reading your comment in another blog where you questioned why teachers would invest time, that could be applied directly to instruction, in order to build motivation by building an interest in the subject matter. What level of evidence would that take - to prove that teachers are wrong when they try to get students to enjoy learning?

KDeRosa said:

"This study and others like it, such as project follow through, tell us that student achievement of low-SES students can be increased to about national norms in elementary school solely by improving instruction."

Forgive me for asking, but how can it be done? What schools are doing it? Can you provide a link or some other pointer? Are you saying that City Springs changed due to instruction, rather than a demographic change or a selection process of the students?

Thanks.

No, John, the correlation does depend on the education the students are receiving because studies like this show that there is a causal link between the quality of instruction and student achievement. Admittedly, my assertions in this comment thread are scattershot, but I have two years worth of posts on my blog that make the case more clearly.

"That of course is true. The key word today is 'can.' Than 'can' doesn't happen much in neighborhood schools. It is even less common in neighborhood secondary schools."

I'm not sure what your point is here, John. The problem appears to be that schools are unwilling to adopt effective teaching methods. That's why the "can" isn't happening more often, not because there is something wrong with the students.

It would take a miracle for a secondary school to get failing students to turn around after 8-9 years of academic failure and lacking many important skills.

I'm not trying to refute the Coleman report which, of course, was issued before we found instructional inteventions that actually worked. The Coleman report spoke of correlations as well, not causations. Low SES has never been proven to cause low student achievement. Your misguided support for Broader, Another way of saying this is that improving SES has never been shown cause the improvement academic achievement. This is the underlying problem with Broader, Bolder.

Your last comment belies a profound misunderstanding of how student motivation works. Take a look at Applied Psychology For Teachers by Wes Becker, you should be able to pick it up used cheaply.

Anon, Alexander has a link to tmy original post and my post has a link to the study itself. You can also google "NIFDI" and look for the rest of the data I referenced from their "Data" page.

KDR,

I was just about to post to your blog, but I stumbled on our 15 minutes of fame together.

Your elementary data, just like so much of the good news in state scores on the elementary level, may or may not tell us something. If it translates into higher, not lower, performance over time, we will have something. In the meantime, you need some nexus between your numbers and reality. I love sitting at the keyboard with stat people who know much more math than I so that we can figure out what the numbers mean, and design research accordingly. But you need a guide into the nitty gritty of schools and how kids learn.

I'm reminded of the famed Harvard econometricians who used Kentucky data to prove that slavery was profitable, so the Civil War was inevitable. Their numbers were flawed despite their conscientious design because they assumed that 1/2 of Kentucky's mules would be mommy mules, and 1/2 would be daddy mules, and that they would produce x number of baby mules. ...

Regarding today's post on Willingham's cognitive explanation, I always love his work. I savor its professionalism and quality. Then rereading it I cross-exam my practice and make plans for incorporating the lessons.

THAT'S WHY HE'S PUBLISHED IN THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS QUARTERLY.

How can you take is piece and interpret in order to attack teachers?

Similarly, how do you get to scripted instruction from his article. Willingham could have had you in mind when he wrote:

"teachers who have taken a course in cognitive development may think that such specific guidance is not far in the future ... Unfortunately, researchers are far from being able to provide teachers this type of guidance, and probably will never be able to do so."

John, the difference is that this study was a large scale controlled experiment. All the examples you've provided so far have not been. There is a world of difference between this and small shifts in state tests under NCLB.

Whether these gains will be carried through to high school depend largely on the instruction provided in middle school. But, I'm thinking the probability of success will be much higher for the average fifth grader who performed at the 87th percentile as opposed to the 11th percentile, as was the case at City Springs.

With respect to the Willingham piece, I am not attacking teachers, I am criticizing developmentally appropriate practices and those who employ them, which is also the implication of Willingham's article point, though he takes a softer approach, probably because he's writing in a magazine directed to teachers.

With respect to scripted instruction, you have to understand that most instruction, scripted or otherwise, is bad and I am not talking about that kind. I am talking about the scripted instruction that is good -- the kind that was used in the curriculum used in the study under discussion. My point was that that those scripts which were extensively field tested in order to eliminate the very infirmities that Willingham noted in his article as plaguing most insruction. The existence of those scripts and the fact that they've been shown repeated to work so well bolster Willingham's point that developmentally approopriate practice should not limit what we think can be taught. lastly, Willingham is right that researchers are far away from providing guidance on instruction based on cognitive development. The scripts I am referring to are not based on cognitive development theories, but rather on an entirely different theory of instruction. See Theory of Instruction: Principles and Applications by Engelmann and Carnine 1991.

KDR,

Do you see how you always go back to the same circular argument? When numbers go up, then its good instruction. When numbers go down, its bad instruction. When numbers go up and then good down, its because good instruction was followed by bad instruction.

If you've got garbage in, then its garbage out. I'm not God. I can't say which numbers are meaningful and which are garbage. And which are somewhere in between. Neither can you. Keep an open mind and practice the ART of trying to use real world evidence along with numbers, and then we can get a dialogue going.

As far as Willingham, its deja vu all over again. When numbers go up, its good scripted instruction. When numbers don't, its bad scripted instruction. I don't see the black and white world you operate in. My world is almost completely shades of grey.

John, I must be missing your point.

In a controlled experiment in which the experimental conditions have been carefully controlled except for the the experimental variable -- the instructional program -- what else could possibly explain a difference in student achievement except for the the sole variable -- the instructional program. Ths is why we do controlled experiments.

The numbers that are meaningful are teh numbers dervied from the experiment. The numbers that aren't meaningful, or at least not amenable to interpretation, are the numbers derived outside of or after the experiment ended because of the confounding factors, such as the subsequent instruction the student received.

You don't happen to teach science?

My arguments are based on more than numbers, John, but also on the opinions of all the actual educators who were the ones responsible for raising student achievement in these studies. It appears that you have neither the numbers or the track record backing up your assertions.

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