Saturday, January 21, 2017

Trump not informed about education




Sent to USA Today, January 21


In his inaugural address, Mr. Trump said that our educational system "leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.'”  President Trump is apparently unaware of the fact that when researchers statistically control for the effects of poverty,  American students score near the top of the world. 

Poverty means, among other things, food deprivation, poor medical care, and lack of access to reading material.  All of these have profound negative effects on school performance. The best teaching in the world will have little value if students are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read. Our child poverty rate is 21%, the highest of all industrialized countries. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is about 5%.

Martin Luther King was right: "We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” (1967, Final Words of Advice)
President Trump's staff needs to focus on the real problem in American education.


Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Friday, January 20, 2017

Why School Improvement Grants didn't work

Sent to the Washington Post, Jan. 20
The Post reports that "billions spent to fix failing schools" didn't work (January 19). But none of the "solutions" (replace staff, become a charter, new teaching strategies, a longer school day, new teacher evaluations) addressed the real problem: Failing schools are largely high poverty schools. Poverty is the problem.
Poverty means food deprivation, insufficient medical care, and little access to reading material; research confirms that each of these has a strong negative impact on school performance.
The best teaching in the world will not help if children are hungry, ill, and have nothing to read.   
Let's do the obvious and do it immediately: Protect children from the impact of poverty by improving food programs, improving in-school health care, and investing more in libraries and librarians.
Research confirms that making sure no child is left unfed, no child lacks proper health care, and all children have access to quality libraries will improve academic achievement, and for less cost than expensive interventions that don't work. It will also improve the quality of life for millions of children.
This should be the first priority for the US Department of Education.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Original article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/obama-administration-spent-billions-to-fix-failing-schools-and-it-didnt-work/2017/01/19/6d24ac1a-de6d-11e6-ad42-f3375f271c9c_story.html?utm_campaign=buffer&utm_content=buffer48643&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_term=.5a31e9d1d8ee#comments

Sources:
Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential:  Out-of-School Factors and School Success.  Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential;   Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership  55(4): 18-22. Krashen, S., Lee, S.Y. and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1): 26-36.  (available at www.sdkrashen.com, under "free voluntary reading")



Monday, January 16, 2017

My philosophy on activism



My response to a request to comment on academics and activism,
from a journalist/scholar writing for the New Indian Express.

My activist philosophy is based on Bertrand Russell's statement: "Facts which ought to guide the decisions of statesmen (sic)... do not acquire their importance if they remain buried in scientific journals." (Betrand Russell, The Social Responsibilities of Scientists, 1962)

I regard my "activist" responsibility to be the sharing of results of research on language and literacy development that are often "buried in scientific journals," findings that appear to be unknown to the public but that could make life much easier as well as more interesting for millions if they were more widely known.

I do this largely in the form of letters to the editor to newspapers throughout the world, and I post my letters (published and unpublished) on facebook, on skrashen.blogspot.com and link to them on twitter. I have not kept track of my published letters, but I estimate that over 1000 have been published. (I am still far behind the world record holder, Subhash Chandra Agrawal from New Delhi, who has probably published over 4000 by now.)

I don't know if my letters have done much good, but I feel compelled to continue. As stated in Jewish philosophy, You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it"  (Ethics of the Fathers (2, 21).

Stephen Krashen


Saturday, January 14, 2017

The secretary of education's first priority



Sent to the Wall St. Journal

The Secretary of Education's First Priority. Re: Who's Afraid of Betsy Devos? (January 14).

The Wall St. Journal asserts that Betsy deVos is dedicated to  "helping poor kids escape failing public schools," blaming low academic achievement on public schools. 
   Research consistently confirms that low academic achievement is the result of poverty. In some urban areas, the child poverty level is 80% (the national average is an unacceptable 21%; in high-scoring Finland it  is 5%).
   When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American students' performance on international tests is near the top of the world. This shows that low achievement is not due to poor teaching, low standards, or unions. The major cause is poverty.    
   Poverty means food deprivation, insufficient medical care, and little access to reading material; each of these has a strong negative impact on school performance. The best teaching in the world will not help if children are hungry, ill, and have nothing to read.
   Let's do the obvious and do it immediately: improve food programs, improve in-school health care, and invest more in libraries and librarians. This will work. For example, in a study involving 40 countries, my colleagues and I reported that the presence of an adequate school library significantly reduces the negative effect of poverty on reading achievement.
   Making sure no child is left unfed, no child lacks proper health care, and all children have access to quality libraries will improve academic achievement, as well as the quality of life for millions of children. This should be the first priority of the new Secretary of Education.
Stephen Krashen

original article: http://www.wsj.com/articles/whos-afraid-of-betsy-devos-1484352708?mod=djemMER#livefyre-toggle-SB11290374184297783384704582553324188822302

Sources:
Study involvoing 40 countires: Krashen, S., Lee, S.Y. and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1): 26-36.  (available at www.sdkrashen.com, under "free voluntary reading")
   Levels of child poverty: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2012), ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.
   Control for the effect of poverty: Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/). Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report;
   Impact of poverty:  Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential:  Out-of-School Factors and School Success.  Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential;   Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership  55(4): 18-22.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Libraries, librarians and school success


Sent to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan 10, 2017

The most important sentence in "Philadelphia school district librarians: A species nearly extinct?" (January 9) is: "The research is clear: Students who attend schools with libraries and credentialed librarians perform better on standardized tests than those who lack them. Lower-income students benefit the most."

The reason: Studies show that the most consistent and important predictor of reading achievement is the amount of self-selected reading students do. The school library is an important source of reading material for all students and is often the only source for students living in poverty. The school librarian is often the major source of information and advice about selecting reading material and is responsible for making sure quality reading material of interest to students is available, whether print or electronic.

Given the centrality of reading ability, the Philadelphia School District's lack of support for libraries and credentialed librarians makes school success impossible for many students.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

original article: http://linkis.com/www.philly.com/phill/zDAVY

Monday, January 9, 2017

A business lesson for schools: only test small groups

Submitted to the Los Angeles Times, Jan. 9, 2017

Samuel Abrams' fifth "business lesson" for schools ("The wrong and right business lessons for schools," January 8) is to stop testing every student but use only "high quality exams administered to small groups of students," as in done in Finland. Research by distinguished scholar David Berliner and his colleagues supports this recommendation: more testing does not result in higher test scores. 

We can do this now using the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), a highly respected standardized test given to small groups of students who each take a portion of the test every few years. Results are extrapolated to estimate how larger groups (states, large districts) would score, and the NAEP is used to compare our achievement to that of other countries.

Let's find out if the NAEP tells us what we need to know about student performance, and whether the time-consuming and expensive tests we currently give students add any useful information.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California



 source:
"More testing does not result in higher test scores: Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v14n1/. OECD.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Focus on interests to result in more learning

Published in the Straits Times, Singapore (January 2, 2017).

I predict that Singapore's move toward helping students develop their interests and talents will result in far more student learning and more satisfaction ( ("Learning through life rather than exams"; Dec 27, 2016).

This was clear to the Greek philosopher Plato (The Republic, VIII, 7): "Compulsory physical exercise does no harm to the body, but compulsory learning never sticks in the mind ....". 

Those who have developed encyclopedic knowledge and mastery of their fields did it through attempting to solve problems of great interest to them, not through "study."

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Original article: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/learning-through-life-rather-than-exams