Monday, August 22, 2016

High school grades vs. the SAT.

Published in the Boston Globe, August 23, 2016

"Colleges cutting ties with the SAT" (August 22) is supported by research. In a study published in 2007, UC Berkeley scholars Saul Geiser and Maria Veronica Saltelices found that adding SAT scores to high school students' grades in college prep courses did not provide much more information than grades alone. In 2009, William Bowen, former President of Princeton University, Matthew Chingos, Senior Fellow of the Urban Institute, and Michael McPherson, President of the Spencer Foundation, reached similar conclusions in their book Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Universities.

In other words, it appears that teacher evaluation of students does a better job of evaluating students than standardized testing does: The repeated judgments of professionals who are with students every day is more valid that a test created by distant strangers.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Friday, August 19, 2016

Failing schools or inaccurate reporting?

Sent to the Los Angeles Times, August 19

Dave Pierce ("Early Learning," letters, August 19) is tired of reading stories about failing schools.  Mr. Pierce thinks the problem is parents who don't make their children do homework, but there is good evidence that the problem is that the media gives the public the impression that our schools are much worse than they are.

Every year, national polls report that people rate their local schools much more positively than they do schools in the US in general. In last year's Gallup Poll, 70% of parents said they would give the public schools their oldest child attended a grade of A or B, but only 19% would give public schools in the nation A or B.

The explanation: Parents have direct information about the school their children attend, but their opinion of American education comes from the media. For decades, the media has been reporting more academic failure than actually exists.

American schools are doing quite well: When researchers control for poverty, American students' international test scores rank near the top of the world.

Stephen Krashen

Monday, August 15, 2016

The problem is poverty, not unions: Response to Fox News

August 15, 2016.

The low ranking of US students on international tests (“If your child's school is failing, thank a union," foxnews, August 15) has nothing to do with unions.  There is overwhelming and consistent research that it has everything to do with poverty. When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American students rank near the top of the world. Also, middle class American students in well-funded schools score very well on international tests.     
About 25% of American children live in poverty – the highest level of all industrialized countries, and in some urban districts, 80% of students live in poverty. This is the reason for our mediocre overall scores.
Poverty means poor nutrition, poor health care, and underfunded school libraries, which means little access to books.  Spending on schools is NOT directed at protecting students from high poverty families from the effect of poverty.
Real reform means less spending on useless tests and computers – let's only spend on tests and technology demonstrated to help students. Instead, lets spend on making sure no child is left unfed, no child is without proper health care, and every child has access to good libraries and helpful librarians.

Stephen Krashen
Author: The Power of Reading (2004, second edition, Libraries Unlimited).

Original article:

How to raise graduation rates in LAUSD: Improve school libraries, support librarians

Sent to the Los Angeles Times: August 14, 2016

If LAUSD wants to raise graduation rates (editorial, August 14), it might consider investing more in libraries and librarians.
LAUSD students scored far below the national average on the national reading test (NAEP) in 2015; these scores are closely connected to how much students read on their own.
Research also tells us that more reading means better grammar, spelling, vocabulary, writing and more knowledge of literature, social science, and science, all crucial for school success.
Research consistently shows that students read more when they have more access to books. LAUSD students have very little access to books at home, in their communities, or at schools.
According to the Times' article, "The Poverty Gap," the national level of poverty is 15%. But 80% of LAUSD students live at or below the poverty line. Students living in poverty have far fewer books in the home.
In 2015, Los Angeles ranked 68th out of 77 American cities in public library quality.
In LAUSD's school libraries the books-per-student ratio is 35% below the state average.
The presence of a credentialed librarian is related to reading achievement. LAUSD has one teacher-librarian for every 5,784 students, the national average is one per 1,026.
The low graduation rates are no surprise.

Stephen Krashen

original article:

Sources and details:
More reading means better ….. : Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Second edition. Libraries Unlimited.
More access to books > more reading. Krashen. S 2004. Ibid.
80% of LAUSD students at or below poverty line.
Fewer books in the home: Krashen, 2004, ibid,
LA Libraries 68th out of 77: (2015) "America's Most Literate Cities report."
LAUSD school libraries 35% below state average:
Credentialed librarians: Studies by Keith Curry Lance and Associates: Small, R.V. and Snyder, J. (2009). The Impact of New York’s School Libraries on Student Achievement and Motivation--- The Phase II In-Depth Study. School Library Media Research, 12.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Teachers are not the problem, poverty is

Published in the Washington Post, August 18, 2016
Regarding the Aug. 12 news article “Gates Foundation to ‘stay the course’ with approach to education policy”:
Melinda Gates still thinks that teacher quality is the problem in American education. Of course we should always be trying to improve teaching, but there is no teacher quality crisis in the United States: When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American students score near the top of the world on international tests. Our overall scores are unimpressive because of our unacceptably high child-poverty rate, now around 21 percent. The problem is poverty, not teacher quality.
Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care and lack of access to books. Each of these has a strong negative influence on school performance. Let’s forget about developing new ways of evaluating teachers, fancy databases and other ideas from Gates that have no support in research or practice. Instead, let’s invest in making sure no child is left unfed, no child lacks proper health care and all children have access to quality libraries.
 Stephen Krashen

Published at:

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why is research on bilingual education ignored?

Proposition 227 dismantled bilingual education in California. But Proposition 58, which would reverse much of Prop 227, has "has so far generated only the slightest ripple of attention." ("Not a bang but a whimper: bilingual ed ban’s likely exit," August 8, The Cabinet Report).
The following appears close to the end of the article: "The education community, backed up by piles of research, never embraced the tenets of Prop. 227 …."
THIS IS A RARE MENTION OF THE STRONG RESEARCH SUPPORTING BILINGUAL EDUCATION. Despite the many attempts of some of us to share the results of this research with the public, it never became part of the debate in 1998 and is peripheral today.
In the final sentence of the aritlce, the founder of the California Tea Party Coalition is quoted: “(Removing the bilingual ban) seems like such a disservice to kids, because everything they are going to need and everything they are going to do is in English.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Don't forget the real problem with testing

Sent to the Fort-Worth Star Telegram, August , 2016

The problems described in "STAAR Struck" (August 7) can  eventually be solved, or at least reduced enough to stop complaints from coming. The testing boondoggle will continue, however, with more and more testing in various forms, despite evidence that more testing does not lead to more achievement. 
I suspect that the tests are flawed on purpose, in order to encourage resistance and debate over details. When repairs are made, it will give critics a sense of accomplishment, while they forget what the real problem is: huge sums of money wasted on tests that have never been shown to do students any good, while genuine educational needs are unmet. 
Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

More testing does not lead to more achievement.  Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). OECD.