Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A lousy way to evaluate teachers

Published in the  Chicago Sun Times, July 1, 2016

The Chicago Public Schools have decided that student scores on the PARCC test will be used as part of teacher evaluation ("PARCC will count in CPS teacher and school ratings," June 29).
Everything is wrong with this plan. A number of studies have shown that rating teachers using test score gains does not give consistent results. Different tests produce different ratings, and the same teacher’s ratings can vary from year to year, sometimes quite a bit.
In addition, using test score gains for evaluation encourages gaming the system, trying to produce increases in scores by teaching test-taking strategies, not by encouraging real learning.
This is like putting a match under the thermometer and claiming you have raised the temperature of the room.
We are all interested in finding the best ways of evaluating teachers, but using student test-score gains is a lousy way to do it.
Stephen Krashen

original article:
this letter published at:

Sources (not included in published letter)
Different tests produce different ratings: Papay, J. 2010. Different tests, different answers: The stability of teacher value-added estimates across outcome measures. American Educational Research Journal 47,2.
Vary from year to year: Sass, T. 2008. The stability of value-added measures of teacher quality and implications for teacher compensation policy. Washington DC: CALDER. (National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Educational Research.) Kane, T. and Staiger, D. 2009. Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation. NBER Working Paper No. 14607;

Monday, June 27, 2016

Should summer reading programs emphasize intensive phonics?

Sent to the Globe Gazette, Mason City, Iowa, June 27, 2016

From the description in "West Hancock focuses on literacy during summer school," (June 26), the West Hancock summer reading program for first and second graders appears to be an intensive phonics program.  For example, the article describes students learning the "silent e" rule: an e at the end of the word makes the vowel coming before it say its name,  as in "kite." Not mentioned is that there are numerous exceptions: horse, love, puddle, come, are, were., etc and the rules for these words are very complicated.
Early readers should only be taught the straight-forward rules. The complex ones, like "silent e" are acquired through reading.

The famous "Becoming a Nation of Readers" report, published by the National Institute of Education, agrees:
“…phonics instruction should aim to teach only the most important and regular of letter-to-sound relationships … once the basic relationships have been taught, the best way to get children to refine and extend their knowledge of letter-sound correspondences is through repeated opportunities to read. If this position is correct, then much phonics instruction is overly subtle and probably unproductive."

In contrast, there is a lot of research showing that summer reading programs should focus on developing a love of reading and making actual reading experience possible.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Author, with Fay Shin: Summer Reading; Program and Evidence. Allyn and Bacon.
original article:

Friday, June 10, 2016

Challenging Unz' Challenge

Sent to Language Magazine, June 10, 2016

   "Unz Challenges California Initiative"  (May, 2016) quotes Ron Unz as saying that dropping bilingual education resulted in "nearly a full generation of young Latinos  ... learning English perfectly well ...".  That's not what the research says: According to standardized test results, dismantling bilingual education in 1998 did not result in obvious and significant improvements in English language development in California (Jepsen and de Alth, 2005; Parrish, 2006).
     Careful experimental studies show that students in bilingual programs consistently outperform comparison students in all-English programs on tests of English reading. In the most recent meta-analysis, Grace and David McField examined all available studies comparing bilingual education and English immersion. They concluded that when both program quality and research quality are considered, the superiority of bilingual education was considerably larger than previously reported.

Stephen Krashen

Jepsen, C. and de Alth, S. 2005. English learners in California schools. San Francisco: Public Policy Institute of California
McField, G. and McField, D. 2014.  "The consistent outcome of bilingual education programs: A meta-analysis of meta-analyses." In Grace McField (Ed.) The Miseducation of English Learners. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing. pp. 267-299.
Parrish, T. 2006. Effects of the Implementation of Proposition 227 on the Education of English Learners, K–12: Year 5 Report. American Institutes for Research and WestEd.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

North Korea

Published in the Christian Science Monitor Weekly Magazine,  JUNE 6 2016
North Korea a different situation?
Regarding the April 23 online article “North Korea tests submarine-launched ballistic missile: Is that unusual?” ( The United States claimed that it attacked Iraq because of the threat of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein denied that Iraq had such weapons. In addition, there was no clear evidence that Iraq was preparing for war.
North Korea openly admits it has weapons of mass destruction and is preparing for war. There has been little discussion of a US attack on North Korea. Why the difference? Iraq had oil. The evidence is clear that obtaining control of Iraqi oil was the real motivation for the US attacking Iraq. North Korea has to import oil from China. 
This suggests that the US does not go to war to defend itself. It goes to war for oil.
Stephen Krashen

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Power of Libraries

Submitted to to the Santa Monica Daily Press, May 28, 2016

California's reading scores are consistently among the lowest in the country.  Research has shown that this is related to our high level of child poverty (now 27%, the highest in the nation) and failure to provide children with access to reading material.

For most children of poverty, the library is their only source of books. California's school libraries, for years among the worst in the country, have shown some improvement in collection size in the last decade. We are still dead last, however, in another important category: Ratio of school librarians per student.

A number of studies have shown that the presence of a credentialed school librarian is related to higher reading scores. In the US as a whole, there is approximately one credentialed school librarian per 1000 students. In California, there is one school librarian for every 1700 students. Only 9% of California schools have a credentialed school librarian.

Public libraries are not taking up the slack. Public libraries are especially important for young readers during the summer, when school libraries are usually closed.

California's public libraries are not well-supported.  California cities captured seven of the bottom ten places in the public library category of the most recent "America's Most Literate Cities report" (2015). The report analyzes data from 77 cities with populations of 250,000 and above, and is based on number of branch libraries, holdings, circulation and staffing.

Here are the bottom ten:
68. Los Angeles
69. Anaheim
72. Bakersfield
73. Sacramento
74. Chula Vista
75. Stockton
77. Santa Ana

Oakland and San Francisco were the only California cities to escape the bottom 20.

I wonder if any of the state senate or assembly candidates are aware of these figures. 

Stephen Krashen
Profesor Emeritus
University of Southern California


Poverty, access to books, and reading scores: 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.
Data on school libraries in California:
Summer and public libraries: Heyns, Barbara. 1975.  Summer Learning and the Effect of School. New York: Academic Press.
Most literate cities report:
Reading scores:

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Research supports value of school libraries

Published in Education Week, June 1, 2016, as Research Supports Value of School Libraries
To the Editor:
Megan McDonald adds another convincing case history showing the value of the library and librarians in schools ("How the School Library Saved My Life").
Studies agree: Keith Curry Lance's research in the United States consistently shows that school library quality is positively related to literacy development. Research completed by Sy-ying Lee, Jeff McQuillan, and me also suggests that access to a good school library can offset, to a large extent, the negative impact of poverty on reading achievement.
Despite this research, support for school libraries has been dwindling over the years.
We complain about the low levels of literacy in young people, but we destroy the most obvious source of reading material for students: robust and well-staffed school libraries.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, Calif.
Vol. 35, Issue 32, Pages 28-29
Published at:

In case of failure, do it harder

Sent to the Los Angeles Times, June 2, 2016

The Times editorial, "Gates Foundation failures show philanthropists shouldn’t be setting America's public school agenda" (June 1) should have a different title: "Gates Foundation blames unengagted educators, 'particularly teachers, ' for failure of the common core; calls for even more untested technology."
There is no hint that the Gates Foundation has considered the possibility that the idea of the common core was a mistake. Instead, they want to do it harder.

Stephen Krashen

Original article: