Saturday, May 25, 2013

Why are we promoting STEM preparation so vigorously?

Sent to Education Week, May 25, 2013.

“High school students are being told to take more rigorous math and science courses if they want to be prepared for college and get lucrative jobs in STEM careers.” (“High School Students Taking More Math and Science Courses,” May 23).

Will taking more rigorous math and science courses lead to “lucrative jobs in STEM careers”? Maybe not.

There is published data that suggests that American students are taking more math and science than the economy needs: According to Ed Week, in 2009, 16% of high-school seniors had taken calculus, but according to Michael Handal of Northeastern University, only 5% of new openings require calculus.

Rutgers Professor Hal Salzman has concluded that there are two to three qualified graduates for each science/tech opening. Studies have also shown the US is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb.  

Why are we promoting STEM preparation so vigorously?

Stephen Krashen

Original Article:


No STEM crisis: 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:; Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.; Teitelbaum, M. 2007. Testimony before the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, November 6, 2007 ;Toppo, G. and Vergano, D. 2009.  Scientist shortage? Maybe not. USA Today, August 9, 2009; The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts.

Only 6% require calculus:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The end of the teaching profession?

"No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up." - Lily Tomlin.

Anthony Cody has posted an interesting (and chilling) vision of the future of education, predicting that by 2018 all teaching will be strictly controlled, with frequent testing, classes monitored and taped for regular inspection, and teacher evaluation based, among other things, on value-added analyses of student test scores, and videos evaluated by outsiders.

I wonder if Anthony is being too optimistic.  There may not be any professional teachers left in the schools in 2018.  I suspect that the plan is to vilify and push out teachers, and replace them with temps, part-timers, and technology. The goal, the only goal, is to make a lot of money for the .01%.

The details:

The goal of the war against teachers is to eliminate the concept of teaching as a profession, to be replaced by temps (eg Teach For America) and eventually be replaced largely by technology (ultimate goal of flipped classrooms). The reason is 100% financial – so that the .01% can grab nearly all of the money teachers earn as well as profit from electronic/virtual teaching.

The .01% want as much of the (at least) 500 billion we spend yearly on education as they can get. 

The .01% plan
1.     Keep pressure on teachers by making their lives as difficult as possible and their task totally impossible. The common core standards and tests are a major part of this.
2.     Continue to attack the teaching profession: The message will continue to be that the US is in economic trouble because of bad education, which is because of bad teachers.
3.     The public, media, and politicians will have no sympathy for teachers’ pointing out how difficult teaching has become, This will be seen as whining, and teachers will then resign/quit in greater numbers.
4.     Continue to stress the importance of teacher evaluation, This sends the message that teachers are not doing their job and that there are a lot of bad teachers out there who must be identified and fired.
5.     Continue to push the idea that TFAs as just as good or better than experienced teachers.
6.     Do not reward teachers for experience, for years of service. This will also encourage more experienced teachers to retire/resign, creating more room for lower-paid temps in the system.
7.     Gradually increase the percentage of teachers who are temps as teachers retire and as they leave the profession because of frustration, This releases money because experienced teachers cost much more than temps. The result is more money for technology.
8.     Continue to convince the public that all technology is wonderful. Use this to push  flipped classrooms and glorify the Khan Academy.  The role of teachers will then be diminished to the equivalent of TA’s. This reduces time spent in classrooms (lowers salaries even more), and lowers the status of teachers even more, as well as saving more salary money and increasing teacher frustration.  Hire part-timers (no benefits) to serve as supplements to virtual teaching. This will be promoted as expanded opportunity for jobs, no teaching credential required.  The public will accept this because they will have lost all respect for teacher credentials.

Look for even more attacks on teachers and teachers unions. This makes sure there is no sympathy for teachers when they complain and no public outcry when teachers leave the profession and are replaced with temps and part-timers.

The above is a reasonable and likely scenario. My conjecture is that in addition, the reformers will continue to expand testing, will charge students for taking the required tests, and in fact make it illegal for students not to take the exams. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Winners of International English Contest (Korea) credit reading

Award Winners Credit Reading for Good English
Korea Times
December 8, 2006

By Jane Han
Staff Reporter

``Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” Those famous words of 19th century critic and journalist Margaret Fuller are reflected in the values of the five grand prize winners of the Korea Times-hosted 2nd International English Contest. The awards were presented Friday.
``Reading is my all-time favorite hobby,” said Song Jee-un, eighth grader at Oryun Middle School, who is one of this year’s grand prize winners in the English Proficiency division. ``I always kept consistent in my reading because I enjoy it a lot, but winning this prize came to me as a surprise.
The 14-year-old said she didn’t think she would get graded so high in her English skills, but is grateful for the award because it will be a great addition to her credentials.
Another student who was surprised was Kang Sung-hye, student at Gyeongbuk Foreign Language High School.
``I hadn’t even planned on participating in the competition because I wasn’t confident, but I’ m so thankful to my parents because they trusted my English skills till the very end, said Kang, smiling cheerfully. ``And they are actually the ones who filled out and submitted the application form for me.
Kang said she reads many different genres of story books in English and also listens to English story cassette tapes at night.
``I find it fun to listen to English tapes before going to sleep because it’s like listening to bedtime stories, she added. ``But it was actually a pretty helpful pointer in improving my English skills.
The youngest winner Seo Hwee-tak, third grader at Du Jeong Elementary School, also credited his winning to constant reading.
``I love reading, said Seo, as his mother agreed. ``My son enjoys reading newspapers. He always reads The Korea Times to help him get a firm grasp of English writing.
Kim Min-june, fifth grader at Seryun Elementary School, and Cho Hye-Ryeong, eighth grader at Imae Middle School, were the other grand prize winners.
The five winners will be given an opportunity to take a one-month trip to Canada on an English study program.
More than 2,500 students from kindergarten to high school participated in this year’ s competition that awarded five grand prize, 10 gold prize, 15 silver prize and 50 bronze prize winners.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Grammar and Spelling: What the Research Says

Re: Eleven-year-olds wake up to compulsory spelling and grammar test (May 14)
Sent to the Guardian (UK)  (Hat-tip Ray Wiggin)

The real reading problem in England is that policy-makers in education have not read the research on literacy development.  Results are very consistent:  (1) Direct instruction in grammar and spelling produces very limited results. (2) Nearly all of our knowledge of grammar and spelling is acquired, absorbed, through extensive reading. 

These studies have been appearing in scientific journals regularly for over the last 100 years. Policy-makers are free to disagree with the research, but not free to ignore it.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Some sources:

Cook, W. (1912) Should we teach spelling by rule? Journal of Educational Psychology 3, 316-325.
Cornman, O. (1902) Spelling in the Elementary School. Boston: Ginn.
Elley, W., I. Barham, H. Lamb, and M. Wyllie. (1976) The role of grammar in a secondary school curriculum. Research in the Teaching of English 10, 5-21.
Hammill, D., S. Larson, and G. McNutt. (1977). The effect of spelling instruction: A preliminary study. Elementary School Journal 78, 67-72.
For more sources, please see:
Krashen, S. (2004) The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, and Westport: Libraries Unlimited.

Confusion about whole language and phonics

Sent to the Missourian

Much of the confusion about the “reading wars” (“Reading wars pit literacy instruction methods against each other,” May 14) is a confusion of terminology.

What the article calls “phonics-based instruction” is actually “intensive systematic phonics instruction,” a view of phonics that insists we teach all children all the major rules of phonics in a strict order.

Whole language is NOT look-see (or look-say). It is firmly based on the hypothesis that we learn to read when we understand what is written, when we understand the text.  Some knowledge of phonics can be helpful in making print more comprehensible, but there are severe limits on how much phonics can be directly taught and consciously learned: many of the rules are very complex with numerous exceptions. They cannot be taught but are gradually acquired, or absorbed, through reading.

Research supports whole language: Published scientific studies show that intensive systematic phonics is effective only for performance on tests in which children pronounce lists of words presented in isolation. It has only a microscopic influence on tests in which children have to understand what they read -- tests of reading comprehension given after first grade. Prof. Elaine Garan concluded that this was the case in The National Reading Panel Report and other studies show this as well.

Study after study has shown that performance on tests of reading comprehension is heavily influenced by the amount of self-selected free voluntary reading that children do, strong evidence for whole language.

The whole language position described here is very similar to the position of authors of Becoming a Nation of Readers, a book widely considered to provide strong support for phonics instruction:  “...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.”

Stephen Krashen

Original article:

The Common Core will require far more testing than NCLB

 Sent to The Nation
David Kirk (“The rebellion against high-stakes testing,” May 27)  feels that the common core offers “an opportunity to recognize the mistakes of the No Child Left Behind era.”
Enforcing the new standards will require testing far beyond the already excessive levels demanded by NCLB. Documents from the US Department of Education and PARCC, one of the organizations developing the tests, make it clear that testing done at the end of the school year will be expanded to include all subjects that can be tested and more grade levels (K-12!). There will be “interim” tests given through the year and there may be pretests in the fall to measure growth through the school year.
This means about a 20-fold increase in testing over NCLB.
The cost of implementing these electronically delivered national tests will be enormous and we can expect it to increase, as computer upgrades and replacements are inevitable, bleeding money from legitimate and valuable school activities.
There is no evidence that all this testing will improve things. In fact, the evidence we have now strongly suggests that increasing testing does not increase achievement.
Stephen Krashen
Some sources:
Testing in more subjects: The Blueprint A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. United States Department of Education  March 2010

K-12 testing:

Interim tests: Duncan, A. September 9, 2010. Beyond the Bubble Tests: The Next Generation of Assessments -- Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks to State Leaders at Achieve's American Diploma Project Leadership Team Meeting: The Blueprint, (op. cit.) p. 11.

Measuring growth:

Increasing testing does not increase 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. Tienken, C., 2011. Common core standards: An example of data-less decision-making. Journal of Scholarship and Practice. American Association of School Administrators [AASA], 7(4): 3-18.

Monday, May 13, 2013

An easier, more pleasant, less expensive path

Sent to the Springfield (MO) News-Leader

Missouri plans intensive remediation for students a year or more behind in reading (“Holding children back called 'the last option',” May 12).

I hope the remediation includes improving access to interesting reading material. 
Study after study shows that students of all ages can make remarkable progress if they develop a reading habit.  The research literature is filled with cases of those who started to read late, often around ages 10 to 12, but became voracious readers. Learning to read late did not prevent many eminent people from reaching the highest levels of literacy. Einstein is reported to have learned to read at age 9, Rodin at 10 and Woodrow Wilson at 11.
In all of these cases, readers made rapid progress once they began reading material they were genuinely interested in of their own volition, and all had the advantage of having easy access to books.
The real problem is that many children do not have easy access to books. Children in poverty are the most likely to be behind in reading, and they also have the least access to books. For these children the only source of books is the library.  Studies consistently show that better libraries, staffed with qualified librarians, are associated with higher reading achievement.

Let’s at least include this more pleasant, less expensive path, demonstrated again and again to be highly effective.

Stephen Krashen


Some sources:

Krashen, S. and McQuillan, J. 2007. Late intervention. Educational Leadership 65 (2): 68-73.
Krashen, S., Lee, SY., 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. 
Lance, Keith. The Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Let’s put out the fire, not measure the temperature of the blaze.

Sent to USA Today

The government is planning to collect an astonishing amount of detail in order to get a more precise measure of student poverty  (“Plans aim to determine students’ socioeconomic status,” May 9).

This will cost millions in data gathering, and analysis, followed by changing guidelines and evaluating the results of the changes.

We have more than enough data to accurately identify which students live in poverty and a great deal of evidence showing that students living in poverty do poorly in school because they suffer from hunger and malnutrition, have inadequate health care and have little access to reading material.  Instead of measuring the problem, we need to invest in solving it, improving food programs, health care and school libraries.

The building is obviously on fire. Lets put out the fire now, without first developing expensive and more precise ways of measuring the temperature of the blaze. 

Stephen Krashen

And also at:

Susan Ohanian’s comment:

I find it fascinating that the Feds want to further detail the conditions of poverty--instead of doing something about poverty, such as raising the minimum wage, providing housing support, and so on.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Value of Read-Alouds

Posted as a comment at Brookfield Now  (WI)

Reading aloud to Kindergartners at Dixon Elementary in Elmbrook is being reduced, because it is “passive.” (“Elmbrook turns page with new literacy curriculum,” May 7).

The research on reading aloud to children is very impressive: Children who are read to regularly outperform children not read to on a wide variety of measures of language and literacy: they develop higher levels of vocabulary, grammar, and a better knowledge of how stories are constructed, which helps make book reading more comprehensible.
Even more important, read-alouds increase enthusiasm for reading. Anyone who has worked in elementary school (anyone who has been to elementary school) has seen this: The teacher reads Charlotte’s Web to the class; the book disappears from the school library and local bookstores. Children go from there to Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, and eventually to fine authors such as Judy Blume. The result is a lifetime reading habit, and very high levels of literacy.

Stephen Krashen

Some sources:
Brassell, D. 2003. Sixteen books went home tonight: Fifteen were introduced by the teacher. The California Reader 36 (3): 33-39.

Bus, A., M. Van Ijzendoorn, and A.Pellegrini. 1995. Joint book reading makes for success in learning to read: A meta-analysis on intergenerational transmission of literacy. Review of Educational Research 65: 1-21.

Krashen, S. 2011. Reach Out and Read (Aloud): An inexpensive, simple approach to closing the equity gap in literacy.  Language Magazine 10 (12): 17-19.

Trelease, J. 2006. The Read-aloud Handbook. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Wang, F. Y., and S.Y. Lee. 2007. Storytelling is the bridge. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 3(2), 30-35.

Monday, May 6, 2013

No Evidence American Science Education is “Failing” & No Evidence of a Shortage of Qualified STEM Professionals

 No Evidence American Science Education is “Failing” & No Evidence of a Shortage of Qualified STEM Professionals

Posted on Science website.

“Transformation is possible …”  (April 19) contains ideas for improvement, but the suggestions should not be framed as a response to the accusation that the US has been failing in science education:  “…. universities are squandering talent at a time when U.S. higher education is being criticized for not turning out enough science-savvy graduates to keep the country competitive”  (p. 292).

There is good evidence that this accusation is false: There is no evidence that American science education is failing and no evidence that we face a shortage of qualified STEM professionals.

American students are doing well not only in science and math but in other subjects as well.  Our unspectacular scores on international tests are because we have so many students living in poverty, 23%, the second-highest among all industrialized countries. When researchers control for poverty, American international test scores are at the top of the world. In fact, middle class American students in well-funded schools outscore students in nearly all other countries on international tests. Poverty means poor nutrition, poor health care, and little access to books: All of these have powerful effects on school performance.

The US produces more top science students than other countries: On the 2006 PISA math and science tests, 60,000 American students scored in the top category, compared to 34,000 Japanese students. Also, American students are taking more math and science than the economy needs: In 2007, 30% of college-bound high-school seniors had taken calculus, but only 5% of new openings require a math/science background.

According to Rutgers Professor Hal Salzman, there is no shortage of science and technology graduates. In fact, Salzman has concluded that there are two to three qualified graduates for each science/tech opening. Studies have also shown the US is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb.  

There is good evidence that contrary to popular opinion, we are turning out more than enough “science-savvy graduates.”

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Impact of 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. 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.

Levels of poverty: 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.
“Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books”: 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.;   Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership  55(4): 18-22.

No STEM crisis: 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:; Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.; Teitelbaum, M. 2007. Testimony before the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, November 6, 2007 ;Toppo, G. and Vergano, D. 2009.  Scientist shortage? Maybe not. USA Today, August 9, 2009; The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A weapon of mass distraction

A Weapon of Mass Distraction
Stephen Krashen

PARCC* is now inviting us to review performance level descriptions and an “accommodation” manual” to help them develop more tests (

As usual, we are not invited to discuss whether we need these tests. For those who haven't been paying attention, the US Department of Education, through PARCC, is planning to impose more testing than has ever been seen on this planet, far more than is helpful or necessary.

Those who accept the invitation to discuss performance level descriptions and the accommodation manual will have the impression they have a seat at the table. In reality, these kinds of invitations are a means of control, diverting attention from the real issues.

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum … That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate" (N. Chomsky, The Common Good, p. 42, 2002)

The problem in American education is not a lack of appropriate tests. The problem is poverty. Our students from middle-class families who attend well-funded schools score at the top of the world on international tests, and when poverty is controlled statistically, American students rank near the top of the world.

The US has the highest level of child poverty among all industrialized countries. If all our children were protected from the effects of poverty our overall international test scores would be spectacular.

Poverty means little health care, poor nutrition and little access to books and has a devastating effect on school achievement. The best teaching is ineffective when children are hungry, ill, and have nothing to read. The impact of poverty could be profoundly reduced if we invested more on food programs, health care, and libraries, instead of on useless standards and tests.

We have been told not to worry about these things but support the movement to invest instead in more testing, and to debate whether the proposed rubrics for the fourth-grade writing assessment are appropriate.

Susan Ohanian notes that issuing standards is like presenting menus to starving people. Now PARCC is inviting us to discuss what should be on the menu.

“PARCC is an alliance of states working together to develop common assessments serving nearly 24 million students.”