Category Archives: NAEP

Time to Panic? The NAEP Scores Didn’t Go Up!

The NAEP scores are in and the “reformers,” or as Diane Ravitch has taken to calling them, the “Disrupters” are up in arms because the scores haven’t improved. The disrupters promised all of us that charter schools, testing, vouchers, and other “reforms” would solve the low achievement scores, but as we now can see, that didn’t happen. Perhaps there’s something else that might be affecting the achievement of the students in our classrooms…

When reading through the articles noted below it’s important to remember two things.

First, the National Reading Panel did not support heavy phonics instruction despite what “phonics-first” partisans might tell you. It’s true, the National Reading Panel Summary said that a phonics-based approach was supported, however, that was different than what was actually in the full National Reading Panel report! (See also I Told You So! The Misinterpretation and Misuse of The National Reading Panel Report by NRP Panel member, Joanne Yatvin and More Smoke and Mirrors: A Critique of the National Reading Panel (NRP) Report on “Fluency” by Stephen Krashen.)

The actual National Reading Panel Report says (p. 2-97),

…it is important to emphasize that systematic phonics instruction should be integrated with other reading instruction to create a balanced reading program. Phonics instruction is never a total reading program. [emphasis added]

So…the NRP recommends something akin to Balanced Literacy…something the “phonics-firsters” decry as “unscientific.”

Second, as Steven Singer (Gadfly on the Wall Blog) reminds us, NAEP proficient level isn’t the same as grade-level. Diane Ravitch, who served on the NAEP Governing Board for seven years explains it this way

Proficient is akin to a solid A. In reading, the proportion who were proficient in fourth grade reading rose from 29% in 1992 to 34% in 2011. The proportion proficient in eighth grade also rose from 29% to 34% in those years. In math, the proportion in fourth grade who were proficient rose from 18% to 40% in the past twenty years, an absolutely astonishing improvement. In eighth grade, the proportion proficient in math went from 21% in 1992 to an amazing 35% in 2011.

Basic is akin to a B or C level performance…

In other words, Proficient is the level where the highest-scoring students achieve. Basic is closer to what we think of as “grade-level.”

NAEP scores and “the science of reading”

The miniscule changes in reading scores since 2015 are interpreted in “National Reading Emergency” as a reason to embrace “the science of reading,” which is code for heavy phonics instruction. The real “science of reading,” based on a substantial amount of research, consistently shows that intensive phonics instruction produces strong results only on tests in which children pronounce words out of context. It has little or no impact on tests in which children have to understand what they read.

The best predictor of performance on tests in which children have to understand what they read is real reading, especially self-selected reading.

The Big Lie about the “Science of Reading”: NAEP 2019 Edition

Paul Thomas’s bullet points below are a good summary of why the NAEP scores do not signal a “national emergency.”

With the release of 2019 NAEP data, as we should expect, the same folk are back at over-reacting and misunderstanding standardized reading test data (mostly mainstream media), and dyslexia/phonics advocates are cherry picking evidence to reinforce their ideological advocacy.

All in all, these responses to NAEP data are lazy, and incredibly harmful.

Broadly, responses by the media and advocates have been overly simplistic, and lacking even a modicum of effort to tease out in a scientific way (ironic, eh?) mere correlations from actual causal associations among student demographics, reading policy, reading programs, the fidelity of implementing policy/programs, NAEP testing quality (how valid a proxy is NAEP reading tests for critical reading ability?), etc.

…Only fair things to say about new round of NAEP reading scores:

• The US has never had a period over the last 100 years when we said “reading scores are where they should be.”

• There is always a claim of “reading crisis.”

• This is irrespective of how reading is taught.

• NAEP scores, like all standardized test scores, are mostly (60% +) correlated to out-of-school factors.

• NAEP scores only marginally about student achievement/reading, teacher/teaching quality, reading program effectiveness.

• NAEP scores are very pale proxies of reading

This is a good place (see bullet #4, above) to remind you to read Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, by David C. Berliner. Unfortunately, little has changed since the report was first published in 2009.

Organizations with the Audacity to Blame Teachers for Poor NAEP Reading Scores!

The low scores are, as they always have been, just another excuse to blame teachers, label schools as “failing”, and promote the privatization of public education.

The latest “criticize teachers for not teaching the ‘science’ of reading” can be found in “Schools Should Follow the ‘Science of Reading,’ say National Education Groups” in the Gates funded Education Week.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds most of the organizations in this report that criticize public schools and teachers for low NAEP scores. Yet they are behind the Common Core State Standards, which appear to be an abysmal failure.

Most individuals and groups never teach children themselves, but they create policies that affect how and what teachers are forced to teach. They have always been about privatizing public education.

Reading instruction is the conduit for corporate school reformers to reach their privatization goals.

NAEP Test Scores Show How Stupid We Are… To Pay Attention to NAEP Test Scores

The US Education Secretary, she who must not be named, is, of course, ignorant about what testing in general means, what “grade-level” means, and what the NAEP scores mean specifically. It’s time we replace her with someone who actually knows something about the education of children.

[Note: While the current US Education Secretary is certainly the worst person we’ve ever had in charge of the nation’s K-12 public schools, she’s not the only Secretary of Education who displayed ignorance of the field of education. In fact, only three of the eleven Secretaries of Education had training and experience in the field of K-12 education.]

Education Blogger Peter Greene claims that this move is based on a reading comprehension problem the Education Secretary is having, herself.

She says that the NAEP results mean that 2/3 of American students read below grade level. However, Greene points out that she is conflating two different things – grade level proficiency and NAEP proficiency.

Here’s what the NAEP wrote:

“The NAEP Proficient achievement level does not represent grade-level proficiency, but rather competency over challenging subject matter. NAEP Achievement levels are to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted and used with caution.”

Which kind of begs the question of why we need these scores in the first place.

📝🚌📝

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Listen to this – 2019 #2

Meaningful quotes…

RED FOR ED IN INDIANA

On November 19th, thousands of teachers across Indiana will converge on the state capital in Indianapolis, or gather in their local communities to draw attention to the lack of government support for public education in Indiana.

Indiana teachers, through the Indiana State Teachers Association, sponsors of the event, have several priorities.

  • Don’t blame Indiana teachers for student performance on tests. There are too many variables that have an impact on test scores to single out teachers as the only, or even the main cause. 
  • Repeal the requirement for teachers to spend their valuable time as business interns in their communities. 
  • Stop the move to grade school systems and schools based on what their students do after graduation. Again, there are too many variables in students’ lives to assume that schools are the only cause of their choices after they graduate.

Hundreds of school systems throughout the state have canceled classes for the day to allow teachers to participate including the largest district in the state, Fort Wayne Community Schools. When FWCS decided to close their Superintendent, Wendy Robinson, Indiana’s 2018 Superintendent of the Year, wrote a letter to teachers which was published locally. In it, she reminded teachers that a one-day march was not enough to change the culture of education in the state.

From Wendy Robinson, Superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools
FWCS to close for Red for Ed Day

The State did not reach this point with public education overnight, and it won’t be fixed in a day. There has been a long, concerted effort to systematically dismantle public education through standardized testing, constantly changing accountability systems and pouring money into private schools. We have been sounding the warnings for years. To change things now will require just as much planning and effort, if not more. True change will only come through legislative action, and that won’t happen if the same people continue to have control of the rule book.

PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

From Alfie Kohn
@alfiekohn

The late James Moffett suggested this slogan for elite, selective schools: “Send us winners and we’ll make winners out of them!”

From Heather DuBois Bourenane
Executive Director at Wisconsin Public Education Network

They call them ‘innovation schools” because they are an innovative way to remove local control, remove public oversight of public funds, place public property and decision-making under private control, and convince the public that failed old ideas are good and new ideas.

From William J. Mathis
in Beat the dead horse harder

…schools were mandated to solve the test score problem. The trouble was that the policymakers got it backwards. Poverty prevents learning. It is the threshold issue. Without resorting to what we knew, the dead horse was beaten once more with the No Child Left Behind Act. We adopted the Common Core curriculum, punished schools, and fired principals and teachers whose misfortune was being assigned to a school with high concentrations of needy children. It was literally expected that a child from a broken home, hungry and with ADHD would be ready to sit down and learn quadratic equations. Nevertheless, the test-based school accountability approach emerged and still remains the dominant school philosophy. While it is claimed that successful applications exist, the research has not been found that says poverty can be overcome by beating the dead horse. The irony is that the tests themselves show that a test based system is not a successful reform strategy.

From Peter Greene…in answer to Betsy DeVos
in DeVosian NAEP Nonsense

No. For three decades you and many others have used aggressive chicken littling as leverage to remake education in your preferred image. You said, “Let us have our way and NAEP scores will shoot up like daisies in springtime.” Do not even pretend to suggest that you have somehow been hammering fruitlessly on the doors of education, wailing your warnings and being ignored. The current status quo in education is yours. You built it and you own it and you don’t get to pretend that’s not true as a way to avoid accountability for the results.

From Doug Masson
in Some thoughts on Red for Ed, Caleb Mills, and Indiana’s School Policies

The privatization fad isn’t working. Voucher and charter schools do not produce better results than traditional public schools and there is some evidence that they produce worse outcomes. A fractured approach to education cannot produce consistent results. If we’re looking to be responsible with our money, we can’t afford to have education dollars sucked up by self-dealing charter management companies with opaque accounting or vouchers sent to private institutions with books closed to the public. We can’t spend tens of millions of dollars on tests with arbitrary faulty metrics

LIFELONG LEARNING

Vlogger John Green talks about learning new things, communication, friendship, innocence, and connections.

From John Green
in still learning

…I still like learning even at my extremely advanced age because new learning can reshape old learning and because learning is a way of seeing connection. And all the little connections across time and space are reminders to me of how deeply connected we all are.

ON TEACHING

From Steven Singer
in Are Teachers Allowed to Think for Themselves?

Teaching may be the only profession where you are required to get an advanced degree including a rigorous internship only to be treated like you have no idea what you’re doing.

🎤🎧🎤

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2018 Medley #10

Teacher Activism, Retention-in-Grade,
Charters, Testing,
First Amendment, Science

TEACHER ACTIVISM

The 9 states where teachers have it worst

According to CBS teachers have it pretty good, specifically because of pensions,  which they imply make up for low salaries…a debatable proposition at best. Why, if pension programs are so great, did we stop providing them?

In the meantime, Indiana teachers have seen their inflation-adjusted earnings drop by nearly 16 percent since 2000. Have Indiana legislators seen the same drop? What about the CEOs of Indiana’s Fortune 500 companies – Eli Lilly, Anthem, Cummins, Steel Dynamics, Zimmer Biomet Holdings, NiSource, and Simon Property Group? Have they seen the same loss of income? Would you like to hazard a guess?

As a sample, click here for the salaries of Eli Lilly’s executives.

So Indiana is having trouble finding enough teachers. What a surprise.

From CBS News

Pay for Indiana teachers has suffered the biggest inflation-adjusted drop since 1999-2000, according to the Department of Education. They now earn almost 16 percent less.

Average annual pay is about $50,500, slightly lower than the national average.

Indiana is having trouble finding enough qualified teachers to fill its classrooms, with some pointing to pay as a culprit.

“People won’t be as interested in going into a field where they will have to take a huge lifetime pay cut,” said Partelow of the Center for American Progress’. 

Bill Maher Zings Eric And Donald Trump Jr. As He Comes Out Fighting For Teachers

Perennially obnoxious Bill Maher comes up with a commentary in honor of the teachers on strike…

From Bill Maher

We pay such lip-service to kids…they’re the future, our greatest natural resource, we’ll do anything for them. And then we nickel and dime their teachers?

If we really think children are our future, shouldn’t the people who mold their minds make more than the night manager at GameStop?

…Here’s an idea. Don’t give the teachers guns, give them a living wage. 

‘I need a college degree to make this?’ asks Arizona teacher who posted salary online

Arizona teacher Elisabeth Milich reminds us that teachers are underpaid because school systems are underfunded. In what other job would you be forced to buy your own paper clips and tape? Do the CEOs in the article, above, have to buy their own sharpies?

From Elisabeth Milich

I buy every roll of tape I use, every paper clip i use, every sharpie I grade with, every snack I feed kids who don’t have them, every decorated bulletin board, the list could go on.

HOW DOES RETENTION HELP TEST RESULTS

Reforms that work: Worldwide data offer useful hints for US schools

Education “reform” in the United States requires us to use unfounded and even damaging education practices such as retention in grade. Dozens of U.S. states require third graders to pass a test in order to move to fourth grade. Research has found that retention in grade is ineffective in raising student achievement and retention in grade based on a single test is tantamount to educational malpractice.

In Indiana, however, retention of children in third grade is grounds for celebrating. With the lowest achieving third graders removed from the pool, those who did move to fourth grade scored a higher achievement average on the NAEP. High enough to brag about…

Want your students to score higher on standardized tests? Simply remove the low achievers.

From the Editorial Page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

The IREAD 3 exam, which third-graders must pass to be promoted to grade 4, went into effect in 2012. As a result, 3 percent of Indiana students were retained that year.

“Those who weren’t held back took the fourth-grade NAEP tests in 2013, and got positive attention for how well they did,” Hinnefeld noted. “Advocates credited Indiana reforms like expanded school choice and limits on teacher collective bargaining. But a more likely explanation is that removing the lowest-performing students gave the 2013 fourth-grade scores a boost.”

CHARTERS AND TESTING

Indiana students’ scores lag after transferring to charter schools, new study shows

Another Educational “reform” popular in Indiana is the expansion of charter schools. When a district’s poverty levels rise too high, resulting in lower achievement on tests, the state moves in and hands the school over to private charter operators.

The only problem is…the charter schools are, as we’ve said so many times before, no better. In fact, a recent study shows that kids lose achievement points after transferring to charter schools.

From Shaina Cavazos at Chalkbeat

“Overall, these results indicate that the promise of charter schools as a vehicle for school improvement should be viewed with some skepticism,” said study co-author Gary R. Pike, a professor of education at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. “Our results suggest that charter school experience for most students does not measure up to expectations, at least for the first two years of enrollment.”

Never one to miss tossing in an excuse for privatization, Chalkbeat uses an excuse despite the fact that “no excuses” is the cry used by “reformers” to declare public schools “failing.”

ISTEP scores during this time, the researchers note, were not the most reliable. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, test glitches and scoring problems invalidated thousands of students’ scores. Also during this time, the academic standards on which the tests were based changed, as did the test itself and the company that administered it.

WHAT FIRST AMENDMENT?

DHS to Track Thousands of Journalists

Where are the people who were marching to protect the Second Amendment?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

From Ed Brayton

Mr. Orwell, please report to your office immediately.

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.”…”

SCIENCE DEFIERS

Gang of Foxes

The science deniers in the current administration are trying to remove the barriers protecting us from poisoned air and water.

From Dan Pfeiffer, former Senior Advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama for Strategy and Communications.

We do sort of gloss over the f-ing insanity of the fact that one of our [political] parties not only doesn’t believe in climate change, but is actively trying to make it worse.

🎧🎤🎧

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What’s Bugging Me Today: Testing Ignorance – RTFM

What’s bugging me today is people who interpret standardized test results without understanding what the scores, and the labels attached to those scores, mean.

Even from people I agree with…

THE STATE OF AMERICA’S CHILDREN

Late last year, the Children’s Defense Fund issued its 2017 report on the State of America’s Children.

The State of America’s Children® 2017 Report

This is a very challenging and scary time for America’s children. As new policies threaten to eliminate the safety net that millions rely on to survive, the reality is millions of America’s children today are still suffering from hunger, homelessness and hopelessness. The Children’s Defense Fund’s new report, The State of America’s Children® 2017, provides a comprehensive look at the status of America’s children in 11 areas: child population, child poverty, income and wealth inequality, housing and homelessness, child hunger and nutrition, child health, early childhood, education, child welfare, juvenile justice and gun violence.

Indiana’s numbers in those areas are as disturbing as the numbers for the nation as a whole. It’s shameful that a nation as wealthy as the United States allows one-fifth of its children to live in poverty. It’s horrifying that more children have been killed by guns since Sandy Hook than U.S. soldiers in combat since 9/11. We need to make the children of our nation, and locally, of Indiana, a priority. Our future, literally, depends on it.

You can click either of these links to reach the Children’s Defense Fund website to download

WRONG ABOUT THE NAEP

I agree with the Children’s Defense Fund about the state of children in the U.S., but they’re wrong about testing. They’re not wrong that schools need to improve, but they’re wrong about how they interpret the need for improvement based on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).

The report’s section on education begins with this graphic:

The statement that 67% of eighth graders are unable to read at grade level is based on results from the NAEP, the “Nation’s Report Card.”

The number, 67%, is reported on page 59 of the Children’s Defense Fund full report. Below is the table from page 59, cropped to show the national results…

Note that the table purports to display, according to its title, the percentage of eighth graders who were performing below grade level.

You can see that 67% is listed under All Students on the Reading side of the table. Below the table, we’re told that the source for this data is the

U.S. Department of Education. 2016. “2015 Mathematics and Reading Assessments Report Card: Summary Data Tables with Additional Detail for Average Scores and Achievement Levels for States and Juristictions.”

This is followed by a link to the information

https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2015/#reading/scores?grade=4

If we dig a little deeper, however, we find that the authors have mistakenly equated the term Grade Level with scoring Proficient on the NAEP. This is incorrect. Proficiency, on the NAEP, has nothing to do with “grade level.”

Misrepresenting the achievement levels leads to graphics like the one above, and headlines like the one below. Fortunately, the article below also explains that the achievement level, proficient, doesn’t equal grade level. I only hope that the Senator read the article.

See also: What Does ‘Proficient’ on the NAEP Test Really Mean?

PROFICIENT vs BASIC

The NAEP Glossary of Terms defines NAEP’s three achievement levels, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced.

Basic is defined as…

…denoting partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade assessed…

Proficient is…

…representing solid academic performance for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to the subject matter…

In the pamphlet, A Closer Look at NAEP, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB, an independent, bipartisan organization that oversees the NAEP) debunks myths about the NAEP.

Myth: The NAEP Proficient level is like being on grade level.

Fact: Proficient on NAEP means competency over challenging subject matter. This is not the same as being “on grade level,” which refers to performance on local curriculum and standards. NAEP is a general assessment of knowledge and skills in a particular subject.

When Diane Ravitch, a former member of the NAGB, discussed this topic in her book Reign of Error, she wrote,

From what I observed as a member of the NAGB who reviewed questions and results over a seven-year period, a student who is “proficient” earns a solid A and not less than a strong B+.

“Basic,” as defined by the NAGB, is “partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade.” In my view, the student who scores “basic” is probably a B or C student.

This means that the 67% of students who scored below proficient on the NAEP’s 8th grade reading test were not honor students, not that they were “below grade level.” Students who are “proficient” are high achieving students. Students who are “basic” are average, and students who are “below basic” are the ones who are at risk of failure. 67% of students below “proficient” does not mean that 67% failed the test!

In fact, 76% of eighth graders scored at “Basic” or above on the NAEP nationally. That’s still not perfect…and some might argue that it’s not even acceptable, but it’s much better than the mistaken assumption that “67% of eighth graders score below grade level.”

A more serious issue, is that, while 85% of white students scored at Basic or above, the number of black, hispanic, and other minority students scoring Basic or above is much lower. That should be the focus of the Children’s Defense Fund’s report on Education…

For further reading on this issue see:

THE DANGER OF MISUSING WORDS

The Children’s Defense Fund is not entirely at fault, however. When the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) releases scores and reports, they use the “proficient” level as the default level of discussion which makes education in the U.S. – as measured by the NAEP – sound much worse than it really is.

This is a serious problem and at least one educator, James Harvey, has suggested that NAEP change the wording of the achievement levels to prevent further distortion of our students’ achievement levels [emphasis added].

The Problem with “Proficient”

…recommends replacing the terminology NAEP currently applies to its performance levels (Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced) with the performance levels employed in international assessments: Low, Intermediate, Advanced, and Superior. This simple change in terminology would go a long way toward reducing the confusion the term proficient has introduced into the national discussion of school performance. And we should educate the public about the flaws embedded in these benchmarks and emphasize to everyone the caution that Congress has always assigned to them. It would also be highly desirable if the views of independent psychometricians and assessment experts guided NAEP’s thinking about other technical judgments that could improve NAEP.

In the meantime, the Children’s Defense Fund, and everyone else who reports U.S. students’ achievement based on NAEP test results, should take the time to learn what Basic, Proficient, and Advanced, actually mean.

In other words, before you try to interpret test scores…

📝✏️📊

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2017 Medley #17: Privatization

Privatization: Choice, Bipartisanship, Testing

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

Why Care About Other People’s Children

Since charter and voucher schools’ test scores are no better than those of public schools, the privatizers had to change their argument for diverting public money into private and parochial pockets. The reason, they say, is for “parents to have choices.” Most refuse to allow “choice” when it comes to opting out of a state’s standardized test, but that’s another story.

The idea behind “school choice” is that it should be up to a parent where his or her child goes to school and there are reasons other than achievement for choosing one school over another. This is a legitimate reason, except it’s not up to the government to use public funds to pay for private educational choices.

No other public service provides “vouchers” to divert money to privatization. We can’t choose to get a voucher for money paid to public libraries in order to shop at a commercial book store.

We can’t choose to get a voucher for money paid to municipal park departments in order to fund membership in a country club.

We don’t get vouchers to help pay for our cars instead of supporting local public transportation.

We don’t receive vouchers in any other area, and we shouldn’t receive them for education either. Public tax money is collected for the public good…for the community…for all of us.

Is the drive for “choice” in public education just another symptom of America’s growing selfishness? It’s framed in a selfish way focusing on “what’s best for me no matter what it does to the community.” I understand the desire to want the best for our own children, and I can’t blame parents for trying to find a good “fit” for their child, but every citizen has a stake in the children of their community.

In a 1992 speech nominating Bill Clinton for President, Mario Cuomo said,,

They are not my children, perhaps. Perhaps they are not your children, either…They are our children.

And we should love them. We should, we should love them. That’s compassion.

But there’s common sense at work here as well, because even if we were hard enough to choose not to love them, we would still need them to be sound and productive, because they are the nation’s future.

The selfishness of Americans will come back to haunt us when neglected, undereducated, undercared for children grow into adults. Pennsylvania teacher-blogger, Steven Singer, echoes Cuomo…

That’s why some folks champion privatized education – they only care about their own children. In effect, when a parent sends their children to a charter or voucher school, they are telling the community that they don’t care what happens to any one else’s kids so long as their kids are properly cared for and educated.

…So why should we care about other people’s children?

Because it’s better for ours. Because doing so makes us better people. Because all children are ends in themselves. Because they’re beautiful, unique sparks of light in a dark universe.

THE BIPARTISAN DESTRUCTION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Don’t Like Betsy DeVos? Blame the Democrats.

Thank you, Diane Ravitch.

In this post Ravitch says what I (and many others) have been saying for a long time. Democrats, at least nationally, are not friends of public education. They might be slightly better than Republicans because they haven’t been pushing as hard for vouchers, but support for education “reform” in the U.S. is definitely bipartisan.

The trend towards blaming teachers, closing schools, encouraging charters, and misusing and overusing tests, was part of the education plan of President Bill Clinton…took shape with the passage of NCLB supported by Edward Kennedy and George Miller…and doubled down with Barack Obama’s Race to the Top…all Democrats. There’s a myth that Democrats love public schools, partly because they nearly always get endorsements from teachers unions, but, while they love teachers unions, they don’t actually love the teachers or the public schools they teach in.

Obama, for example: In 2007, candidate Barack Obama told the National Education Association Representative Assembly,

…Don’t label a school as failing one day, and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test. We know that’s not true…

President Obama’s Race to the Top, unfortunately, did just the opposite of what the candidate said – it literally labeled schools as “failing” and then, by encouraging states to replace the bottom 5% of schools with charters, walked away from them. Yet, the NEA endorsed him. In the same speech, he endorsed merit pay for teachers. Candidate Obama said that he was against using an “arbitrary” test to link teacher pay to performance, and then President Obama, in Race to the Top, did exactly that.

Ravitch tells the Democrats to give up their “privatizing” ways and return to support for public schools, public school teachers, and the children of America.

Listening to their cries of outrage, one might imagine that Democrats were America’s undisputed champions of public education. But the resistance to DeVos obscured an inconvenient truth: Democrats have been promoting a conservative “school reform” agenda for the past three decades. Some did it because they fell for the myths of “accountability” and “choice” as magic bullets for better schools. Some did it because “choice” has centrist appeal. Others sold out public schools for campaign contributions from the charter industry and its Wall Street patrons. Whatever the motivations, the upshot is clear: The Democratic Party has lost its way on public education. In a very real sense, Democrats paved the way for DeVos and her plans to privatize the school system.

Two Privatizers: Democratic Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, with
Republican Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

PRIVATIZATION: TESTING

National and Urban NAEP Results: Neighborhood Public Schools 23, Charters 4

For years privatizers have decried the low test scores of American students as proof that our public schools are “failing.” The fact that it’s not true hasn’t seemed to matter.

Here’s a study showing that charter schools don’t do as well as real neighborhood public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the NAEP test. What will the “reformers” say to that? Perhaps they will claim that standardized tests don’t tell the whole story when it comes to student learning…I have my irony meter ready for that one.

But, here in Indiana the change in tone has been obvious. We are no longer privatizing public schools just to save poor children from “failing” public schools. Now it’s about “choice” for “choice’s” sake…just because.

In conclusion, the school-level national and large city NAEP results drawn from the Data Explorer are informative for the public discourse as charter schools are presently being presented as a superior alternative to the public school system. These descriptive school-level results from the NAEP Data Explorer suggest that the relationship between charter schools and improved student performance is not being realized nationally and in large cities. As a result, the present conversations promoting outstanding overall success of charter schools clearly need to be reconsidered and reframed.

🎯🎯🎯

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I Learned to Read on the #82 Bus

LEARNING TO READ

After I got married (beginning 3 days after, as a matter of fact) I rode the #82 bus every day from Bryn Mawr and Kimball to the Ravenswood “El” (now the Brown Line) station at Lawrence Avenue. From there it was a 40 minute ride downtown to the Loop and my job at Carl Fischer Music at 312 South Wabash Avenue in Chicago. The full trip was about an hour…and it was during the 2 years I worked at Carl Fischer and made that trip daily that I finally “learned to read.”

I could read before that. I had an Arts and Sciences degree from Indiana University (IU) and had been reading books, novels, short stories, and non-fiction for most of my life. I don’t remember when I learned to read in elementary school, but I was never a very good student. There were other things getting in the way of my learning, and reading was a chore. I could do it, but I always had trouble focusing on what I had to read. I had trouble remembering what I read…characters, plot…it all went in as I read, but dissipated almost immediately. So I didn’t really “learn to read” until I started riding public transportation, the CTA, to downtown Chicago every day.

One of my co-workers was a voracious reader and he got me in the habit of writing down the name of a book and its author in a little date book whenever I finished reading it. The first few months I only read a couple of books, but after a while, with two hours a day devoted to reading I made quick progress.

I read more, faster, and with greater comprehension and clarity than I ever had before. I also started reading books which had been more difficult for me…books by people like Dickens, Hesse, Proust, and Thomas Mann. I remember the latter especially. I had tried reading Buddenbrooks when I was in college, but found it to be too long and drawn out…too boring. In other words, too hard. But after a few months reading for two hours on the CTA I picked up a copy of Mann’s Magic Mountain and thoroughly enjoyed it. I followed that with Joseph and His Brothers. Years later I was amazed when I picked up my copy of Joseph and found that the first paragraph in the introduction ran for several pages, and the language was once again, too hard for me to handle.

But during those two years I read and enjoyed so many great novels…like The Lord of the Rings and Pickwick Papers. Some of the books (like the Tolkien) I had read before, but not deeply. I hadn’t retained what I had read…I missed a lot. I hadn’t really enjoyed them. By the end of the two years I had read dozens of classics and popular novels and had understood them and actually had fun reading.

What was different? I hadn’t gotten smarter in the two years since I graduated college. What I had done, though, was to practice reading every day for two hours a day.

SUSTAINED SILENT READING

That lesson stuck with me and when I started my post graduate work in pursuit of my teaching certificate I pounced on Sustained Silent Reading.

Earlier this month I wrote about how important it was to read aloud to children…at home and at school. In Reading Aloud: Still the Most Important Part of Reading Instruction I mentioned how Dr. Madden introduced me to reading aloud and it became the basis of my reading program from my first day in the classroom. He also introduced me to Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), and with the reinforcement I got from my own experience on the CTA in Chicago, as well as Jim Trelease, I used both reading aloud and sustained silent reading every day.

Trelease wrote,

The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
The more you read, the more you know; the more you know, the smarter you grow.

Sustained Silent Reading is, according to Jim Trelease, “read aloud’s silent partner.”

Among the many purposes of reading aloud, a primary one is to motivate the child to read independently for pleasure. In academic terms, such reading is called SSR— sustained silent reading. Take a book, a newspaper, a magazine, and enjoy it! No interruptions for questions, assessments, or reports; just read for pleasure.

The best thing about it is that SSR works, too.

“Wait,” you say, trying to remember the staff inservice you went to 12 years ago, “didn’t the National Reading Panel report that SSR didn’t work?”

No. They didn’t. For a complete treatment of the National Reading Panel’s coverage of SSR read the following…then come back. I’ll wait.

The Benefits of Sustained Silent Reading: Scientific Research and Common Sense Converge

At first SSR programs were designed to show students that reading could be fun…and didn’t have to be connected to school, a test, or a goal of some sort. Reading was good in and of itself. Writing in Educational Leadership, Steve Gardiner wrote,

The primary goal of silent reading programs has always been to increase students’ enjoyment of reading. Researcher Janise Arthur (1995) investigated the connection between sustained silent reading programs and attitudes toward reading, with special attention to aliterates— those who can read but choose not to. She found several studies that correlated daily reading opportunities with improved attitudes, which in turn produced other benefits.

Studies of children in kindergarten, primary, and middle grades who have demonstrated a voluntary interest in books were not only rated to have better work habits, social and emotional development, language structure, and overall school performance, but also these children scored significantly higher on standardized reading tests. (p. 2)

Sustained silent reading programs do more than improve students’ attitudes toward reading. Studies show that students who enjoy reading also read more books and develop better skills in reading comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary.

Trelease goes a step further. He talks about “summer setback.”

…the at-risk child’s summer includes a home without books, magazines, or newspapers, and without adults who read avidly; no car by which to leave a dangerous neighborhood; no bookstores or convenient library; a daily routine in which the child seldom encounters new people, new experiences, or new vocabulary, thus there is no growth in background knowledge; and little likelihood that educational or informational TV or radio will be seen or heard.

So it’s important to build that habit of reading “for fun” during the school year.

Jimmy Kim’s study of 1,600 sixth-graders in eighteen schools showed that the reading of four to six books during the summer was enough to alleviate summer loss. He further noted that when schools required either a report or essay to be written about a book read during the summer or that parents verify the student had read one summer book, this greatly increased the chances of its being read.

[See: Jimmy Kim, “Summer Reading and the Ethnic Achievement Gap,” Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk ( JESPAR) 9, no. 2 (2004): 169– 88. See also Debra Viadero, “Reading Books Is Found to Ward Off ‘Summer Slump,’ ” Education Week, May 5, 2004.]

The results from the latest NAEP progress report (The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress) are also clear. Reading for fun helps.

Results from previous NAEP reading assessments show students who read for fun more frequently had higher average scores. Results from the 2012 long-term trend assessment also reflect this pattern. At all three ages, students who reported reading for fun almost daily or once or twice a week scored higher than did students who reported reading for fun a few times a year or less…

The NAEP data reported a decline in the number of students who read for fun. In NAEP’s Solution to Flat Reading Scores: “Read for Fun” Educator’s Room author, Colette Bennett tries to figure out why — technology, television, whole language vs. phonics debate — whatever the reason, she says,

The sad truth is that there was plenty of research by 1995 to support a focus on independent “reading for fun” in a balanced literacy program…Yet seventeen years later, as detailed in the NAEP report of 2012, the scores for 17-year-old students who read independently for fun dropped to the lowest level of 19%.

Ironically, these authors are assessment experts, data collectors, who have INCLUDED a strategy that is largely anecdotal, a strategy that can only be measured by students volunteering information about how often they read.

A POWERFUL COMBINATION

Now you know. Reading aloud to children helps improve their vocabulary, introduces them to language they wouldn’t normally hear in their daily lives, and increases their interest in books. Sustained silent reading gives them an outlet for that interest…and an increase of reading “for fun” improves students’ reading achievement.

Reading aloud and SSR are much more effective learning tools than test prep or drill and kill…and they’re more fun.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Filed under NAEP, National Rdg Panel, Personal History, read-alouds, SSR