Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bogus bashing of schools of education: The NCTQ report

Stephen Krashen

"Have Millenials turned away from teaching profession?" (Cabinet Report, June 29, 2015) https://www.cabinetreport.com/human-resources/have-millenials-turned-away-from-teaching-profession) cites the report of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), which concluded that Schools of Education were not doing a good job in preparing teachers.
The report is bogus: They evaluated Schools of Education on the basis of descriptions of courses and admission standards, not real-world results.
When we look at real-world results, American education and American teachers look very good: When researchers control for poverty, American students' international test scores rank near the top of the world.
Also, the products of our educational system do very well:  The U.S. economy is ranked as the sixth most innovative in the world out of 143, according to the 2014 Global Innovation Index, which is based in part on the availability of education, new patents and the publication of scientific and technical journal articles. The US scored 60.09, very close to top scorer Switzerland at 64.78, nearly identical to fourth and fifth ranked Finland (60.67) and the Netherlands (60.59), and far ahead of other very large economies.

NCTQ review: http://www.nctq.org/teacherPrep/findings/index.jsp
Control for poverty: Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance.
2014 Global Innovation Index:

Monday, June 29, 2015

New data on how much teenagers read.

Stephen Krashen

A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics  (2015) presented the startling result that teenagers read, on the average, only between five minutes (weekdays) and eight minutes (weekends) per day (see their table 11).

The Bureau's results are not consistent with the results of earlier surveys of time use that included daily recreational reading, as presented in the table below:  


Time reading
Link & Hopf,  1946
64 minutes
Roberts et al, 1999
37 minues
Roberts et al, 2005
44 minutes
Rideout et al, 2010
38 minutes
Bureau, 2015
5"-8" minutes
Print = books, magazines, newspapers

Some of the problem is that "reading" in the above table refers only to reading from traditional print: It does not include reading from the computer and other electronic devices.  Time on computer has been included studies since 2005, but it is not clear how much of this time is dedicated to reading. Including reading from electronic devices may account for the apparent drop in reading since 1946 (Krashen, 2011).

Either teen-age reading has suddenly dropped drastically, or there are serious methodological differences among these studies.  What we can conclude is that it is unwise to come to firm conclusions based only on the Bureau's recent report.

Bureau of Labor Statisics. 2015. American Times Use Survey – 2014. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/atus_06242015.htm#tus_tu_nr11.f.2
Krashen, S. 2011. Why We Should Stop Scolding Teenagers and Their Schools: Frequency of Leisure Reading
. Language Magazine 11 (4): 18-21, 2011.
Rideout, V., Foehr, U. and Roberts, D. 2010. Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-year olds. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Roberts, D., Foehr, U., Rideout, V., & Brodie, M. 1999. Kids & media @ the new millennium. Retrieved on November 5, 2010, from http://www.kff.org/entmedia/1535-index.cfm

Roberts, D., Foehr, U., & Rideout, V. 2005. Generation M: Media in the lives of 8 to 18 year-olds. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The "Good for Other Things" argument: The (Slim) Case for Music

Stephen Krashen

Peter Greene (2015) argues that "we should not defend music because it's good for other things…." We should defend it because music "is awesome in ways that no other field is awesome. Defend it because it is music, and that’s all the reason it needs."

I agree completely.

My point in this note is that the "good for other things" argument doesn't even hold up very well.

Even though the public appears to be eager to believe that music helps academic achievement, the evidence is slim.

On Feb 2, 2009, Science Daily reported on "A new study [that]… reveals that music participation, defined as music lessons taken in or out of school and parents attending concerts with their children, has a positive effect on reading and mathematic achievement in early childhood and adolescence."

A look at the original paper (Southgate and Roscigno, 2009) shows otherwise:

  1. Music lessons outside of school had no impact on math scores, and were negatively correlated with elementary school reading. It had a small positive effect on adolescents' reading scores.
  2. Music courses taken between grades 8 and 10 had a small positive effect on adolescents test scores.
  3. Music participation in school had only a modest effect on both reading and math for children, a much weaker effect for adolescents in reading and an insignificant for adolescents in reading.
  4. Parents attending concerts had no effect on reading at all, no effect on adolescent math scores and a weak positive effect on children's reading achievement. (It was not clear if this variable meant parents attending concerts with or without their children, or concerts in which children are performing.)

The size of the effect was nowhere near as strong as the effect of access to books.  Adolescents who were active in music both inside and outside of school were predicted to score 1.32 points higher in reading (total possible score = 57), Those doing music only in-school were predicted to score .7 points higher. In contrast, having more than 50 books in the home, and higher socioeconomic status predicted a score of nearly seven points higher (6.97). There was no investigation of the effects of access to books in school.

Data from Sullivan and Brown (2014) also supports the conclusion that the impact of music is weak.  The impact of playing a musical instrument on vocabulary knowledge at age 42 was significant, adding about 5% to vocabulary scores. But reading "high-brow" fiction was five times as strong, and reading middle-brow fiction was three and a half times as strong, as was reading nonfiction, controlling for SES and vocabulary size when younger.

Why are we so eager to look for other causes of reading achievement (e.g. chess, Latin, music) other than the most obvious?

Greene, P. 2015.  Stop "defending" music education. http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2015/06/stop-defending-music.html?m=1
Krashen, S. 2009. Anything but Reading. Knowledge Quest 37 (5): 18-25.
Southgate, D. and Roscigno, V. (2009) The Impact of Music on Childhood and Adolescent Achievement, Social Science Quarterly 90 (1): 4-21.
Sullivan, A. & Brown, M. 2014. Vocabulary from Adolescence to Middle Age. Centre for Longitudinal Studies, University of London

Thursday, June 25, 2015

You call that reform?

This letter was published in TIME Magazine, Sept. 28, 2009 following a story about Arne Duncan and his plans, early in his tenure as Secretary of Education.

You call that reform?
What I learned from TIME's story on Education Secretary Arne Duncan is that Duncan's only experience before he became head of Chicago schools was helping out in his mother's after-school tutoring program [Sept. 14]. His plan is to take nationwide the unproven, and not terribly successful, approaches he used in Chicago and also expand the Bush Administration's ineffective testing program. All because he thinks U.S. schools are "dysfunctional," despite analyses that show the primary problem is poverty, not the quality of our schools. American students who do not live in poverty have done well on international tests. Some reform!

Stephen Krashen

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Education Week op ed gets EVERYTHING wrong

Sent to Education Week

I list here Christopher Cross' claims in his column,"How to Confront America's International Skills Gap," (June 24, 2015) and my responses to each.
1.    Claim: American students score lower than many other countries on tests of literacy. 
Response: Study after study has shown that when we control for poverty, American students do quite well on international tests.
2.    Claim: According to a study done by OECD, Americans with graduate degrees do worse on international tests than those with graduate degrees in other countries.
Response: The report showed that Americans with MA's and research degrees do not do as well as some others on the PIAAC numeracy scale.  The report did not indicate what field that MA was in. Even so, only MA holders in three countries (out of 17) did significantly better than American MA degree holders.
3.    Claim: Companies are unable to find qualified employees, especially in high-tech fields.
Response: Several studies have reported that there is a surplus of scientifically trained job candidates, not a shortage.
4.    Claim: The solution to these problems is to not abandon higher standards and accountability.
Response: Even if these problems were real, there is no evidence that higher standards and more tests lead to greater achievement.

Stephen Krashen

Control for poverty: 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. Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. 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/).

Surplus: Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1034801
Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.Salzman, H. 2012. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12) http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-foreign-stem-graduates-get-green-cards/no-shortage-of-qualified-american-stem-grads. Teitelbaum, M. 2014: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-teitelbaum-stem-fears-20140420,0,120851.story#axzz2zYCn7SCA; Weismann, J. 2013. More Ph.D's than the market can absorb:The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts. The Atlantic, Feb 20, 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/the-phd-bust-americas-awful-market-for-young-scientists-in-7-charts/273339/

Higher standards and tests: 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.'Amrein, A.L. & Berliner, D.C. (2002, March 28). High-stakes testing, uncertainty, and student learning Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10(18). Retrieved [date] from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v10n18/.

Note: The OECD reported that American students did not do well even when scores were controlled for parental education.  Berliner, however, has argued that income, not parental education is an appropriate measure of SES.
Berliner, D. 2014. Criticism via Sleight of Hand. http://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/29/david-berliner-responds-to-economists-who-discount-role-of-child-poverty/. Krashen, S. 2014. Do American rich kids do worse on international tests than rich kids from other countries? http://skrashen.blogspot.com/2014/08/do-american-rich-kids-do-worse-on_3.html
Original article: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/06/24/how-to-confront-americas-international-skills-gap.html

How to Confront America's International Skills Gap
By Christopher T. Cross
Description: rticle Tools
Are we unwittingly headed toward an era of education disarmament?
As one school year ends and we look forward to a new year, the national news has been switching from coverage of education issues like testing and the common core to Iran and wars around the world. I suddenly had the thought that we might be risking unilateral education disarmament as we watch policymakers engage in endless debates about foreign policy, while not attending to a looming domestic crisis.
Uppermost in my mind is a report issued earlier this year by the Educational Testing Service, based on data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international think tank, ranking adult skills in 22 developed nations. The data should give us all pause as we consider the future course of education policy.
Using data from the recent Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies, the OECD reports that in literacy the United States outscored only Spain and Italy among the 22 participating nations. That means that adults in countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia, Australia, the Czech Republic, Canada, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and France all did better than adults in the United States.
“How will our students at least match the skill and knowledge levels of our economic competitors if we do not raise expectations and standards?”
In numeracy, we tied with Spain and Italy for last place, behind those same nations, plus England, Italy, and Spain, which all scored better than adults in the United States. Worse is that America’s young adults, ages 16 to 24, also scored at these terrible levels. And although one might assume that the younger populations would best older adults, that’s not the case.
For those who believe college-degree holders do well, U.S. graduates with bachelor’s degrees outscored their international peers only in Poland and Spain. At even higher educational levels, those with graduate degrees, the United States is in the bottom rank, with only Ireland, Poland, and Spain falling below our graduates.
All in all, this is really bad news, especially when coupled with the rising opposition to the adoption of standards that require U.S. students to learn at higher levels and have their knowledge and skills measured against those standards.
There are those who would say that none of this matters, that the U.S. education system need not be as good as those in other nations because our economy is doing just fine. The reality is far different. As those who have studied the issue point out and as people who fill job openings discover, U.S. companies are facing a shortage of high-skilled domestic talent. This has resulted in an ever-increasing flow of work going to developing nations, especially in high-tech fields.
Historians and economists cite, as a major factor in the United States’ becoming a world power in the 20th century, our education system moving from enrolling few students in high school to nearly universal enrollment. In fact, for decades the United States led the world in the percentage of high school graduates. Today, it ranks 21st among leading nations. Denmark, Portugal, Slovenia, and Germany, among others, far exceed us. Even more alarming is that minority students, students from poor households, English-language learners, and those with disabilities are almost always below the national averages in both academic achievement and graduation, yet collectively they represent what will become the major portion of the future U.S. labor force.
So, while we contemplate abandoning higher standards and eliminating assessments that provide valuable data showing us what our students are learning, we need to ask: How will we know which students and student groups need extra time, teaching, and resources? How will our students at least match the skill and knowledge levels of our economic competitors if we do not raise expectations and standards? How will we assure the continuation of our democracy if citizens are unable to analyze complex information and data when they vote and participate in civic affairs?
What does the outcry against standardized tests really mean? Each state demands that drivers pass a standardized test. Doctors, accountants, and lawyers cannot practice their professions without proving their competency. As Roy Romer, a former governor of Colorado and a former Los Angeles superintendent, is fond of pointing out, he had to pass a standardized test to get a pilot’s license. Yes, we have relied too much on fill-in-the-bubble tests, but are we willing to invest in more-sophisticated exams?
“How will we assure the continuation of our democracy if citizens are unable to analyze complex information and data when they vote and participate in civic affairs?”  
Parents must accept the fact that students today may well be taught math that is more advanced than what they learned in the past, and that helping with even middle school homework may be either impossible or a major struggle. Do we want to lower our expectations when we are far behind the international pack?

How Pearson will solve the grader problem

Sent to the NY Times, June 24, 2015.

Pearson, a company responsible for much of common core testing, employs graders at low wages who are unqualified to evaluate the exams ("Grading the Common Core: No Teaching Experience Required," June 23).
I predict that Pearson and other testing companies will confess the error of their ways and invest millions in hiring better qualified graders, training them more thoroughly, and paying them more. 

They will also cheerfully increase the cost of the tests, adding more to the already staggering amount taxpayers pay to support the common core testing program and adding more to corporate profits.

Stephen Krashen

Original article:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Why so many presidential candidates?

Sent to the Wall Street Journal, June 22.

The WSJ lists 13 GOP presidential candidates ("Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio Solidify Front-Runner Status," June 21), and one website (http://2016.republican-candidates.org/#Declared-Republican-Candidates) lists 27 Republication candidates and 15 Democratic candidates (http://2016.democratic-candidates.org/#Declared-Democratic-Candidates).

Why so many? My guess is that few people declare their candidacy with the expectation of winning. 
If you are a candidate, however, you could get lots of media time and people might conclude that you are more important than you really are. The free media publicity can result in speaking invitations and TV appearances at high fees.

Some candidates are undoubtedly sincere public servants, but for others, I suspect it's all about the money.

Stephen Krashen

Stephen Krashen has not announced his candidacy for president of the United States.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Great Fiction/Nonfiction Debate

Sent to the NY Times, June 20, 2015
Re: English Class in Common Core Era: ‘Tom Sawyer’ and Court Opinions (June 19, 2015).
Those who write about the nonfiction/fiction controversy should read more nonfiction, specifically the research showing that reading fiction has a profound impact on language and literacy development, including vocabulary, spelling, and grammar.  In a recent study, frequency of voluntary reading of both "middle-brow" and "high-brow" fiction was a very strong predictor of vocabulary size. All this makes reading "demanding" nonfiction texts possible.
Studies also show that fiction exposes readers to other views of the world and other ways of thinking, and increases the ability to deal with uncertainty, which is crucial for problem-solving.
Fiction is the bridge between everyday conversational language and "academic" language. The common core is removing this bridge.
Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California
Original article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/20/nyregion/english-class-in-common-core-era-nonfiction-joins-the-classics.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ur_20150620&nl=subscription-3&nlid=63526846&ref=headline&_r=1
Reading and Language/Literacy Development research reviewed in Krashen, S. 2004.The Power of Reading. Libraries Unlimited and Heinemann (second edition), and
Recent study: Sullivan, A. and Brown, M. 2014. Vocabulary from Adolescence to Middle Age. Centre for Longitudinal Studies, University of London
Understanding other points of view: Kidd, D. and Castono, E. 2013. Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science 342 (6156): 377-380.
Dealing with uncertainty: Djikic, M., Oatley, K. and Moldoveanu, M. 2013. Opening the closed mind: The effect of exposure to literature on the need for closure. Creativity Research Journal. 25(2): 149-154.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Stop the Summer Slide by Investing in Libraries

Sent to US News and World Report, June 18, 2015

There is an obvious, inexpensive and very effective way to deal with summer learning loss not mentioned in "Stop the Summer Slide" (June 16, Knowledge Bank): Provide more access to interesting reading material. 

Research tells us that those living in poverty have the least access to books and also show the most summer loss, and that those who read more over the summer make better gains in reading achievement.

Let's invest in libraries filled with books and other kinds of material that students will read, as well as librarians who will help children find what is right for them. We are living in a golden age of literature for young people; let's take advantage of it.

Stephen Krashen

Professor Emeritus

University of Southern California


Original article: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/2015/06/16/summer-slide-is-bad-for-students



Poverty and access to books: Neuman, S. and Celino, D. 2001. Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities. Reading Research Quarterly 36(1): 8-26.

Summer loss and poverty, more reading and gains:

Allington, R. and McGill-Franzen, Anne. 2012. Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap. New York: Teachers College Press.

Heyns, Barbara. 1975.  Summer Learning and the Effect of School. New York: Academic Press.

Kim, Jimmy. 2003. Summer reading and the ethnic achievement gap, Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 9, no. 2:169-188.

Shin, Fay. and Krashen, Stephen. 2007. Summer Reading: Program and Evidence. New York: Allyn and Bacon. (Available for free download at www.sdkrashen.com).








Sunday, June 14, 2015

Neil Gaiman talks about Science fiction

This is not hard scientific data, but deserves our attention. Neil Gaiman talks about the influence of Science Fiction:
"I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?
It's simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls."
From: Neil Gaiman, Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming
See also for more discussion of Neil Gaiman's quote: http://damiengwalter.com/2011/09/05/science-fiction-is-the-most-valuable-art-ever-discuss/

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords."

"I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords."
Remember the Simpsons, 1994, "Deep Space Homer"? A radio announcer thinks the Earth is going to be taken over by giant space ants and says: “One thing is for certain: there is no stopping them; the ants will soon be here. And I for one welcome our new insect overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.”
United Opt Out did not welcome the common core overlords but launched a counterattack. And it is working.