Wednesday, December 31, 2014

stupid/outrageous comment from DOE official

An "unnamed Education Department official" said these stupid and outrageous things: ”We’re responsible for student learning every single day and every single year … If you’re waiting every three years to measure student learning, then what happens when a student has been falling behind? … Do you wait until that third year to figure out what their interventions ought to be?” IN OTHER WORDS, THE ONLY WAY OF KNOWING HOW CHILDREN ARE PROGRESSING AND THE OTHER WAY TO HELP CHILDREN IS THROUGH FREQUENT STANDARDIZED TESTING. TEACHER EVALUATION MEANS NOTHING. If you accept this, it means we should give standardized tests "every single day."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The common core: Not a "promising opportunity" but a tsumani about to wreck American education

 Prof. Kenji Hakuta has sent out a year-end message to colleagues in language education.  The letter is posted on the Sunshire State TESOL Adovcacy E-forum and on the Oregon State Department of Education website.

I present below my response, which I posted on the Sunshine State TESOL Advocacy E-forum. Prof. Hakuta's letter is posted after my response.

I am not as cheerful as Kenji Hakuta is about the common core. I see not as a "promising opportunity" but as a tsunami about to wreck American education.
The standards and tests were created without significant teacher input. There are no plans to determine if the standards help students. The language arts standards look like they were written for English majors, and parents throughout the country are suffering with their children over the math standards.  The standards are enforced with what Susan Ohanian calls "nonstop testing," more than we ever seen had anywhere on planet Earth, again with no evidence that they will help our students.  They will, however, be of great benefit to the publishing and computer companies.
The huge cost of the CC$$ will increase, thanks to the requirement that tests be administered online.  There is already little left for anything else.
And we should not forget that there was never any need for the common core: Our schools are not "broken." The real issue is our very high rate of poverty. But instead of investing in protecting our students from poverty via food programs, health care and libraries, we are increasing testing at every level.  If the brave new standards and tests do not result in improvement, teachers will be blamed and there will be a call for even more testing.
I will be in Ft Lauderdale in a few weeks to speak at an opt-out (of the tests) conference:  - The opt-out movement is the best and fasted way to put an end to this outrage.  I hope to see some of you there.

A Year-End Message from Kenji Hakuta...
Dear Friends:
As the year comes to a close, I cannot let 2015 dawn without noting the important anniversaries that passed this year.
          Sixty years ago (1954), Brown v. Board set the stage for racial desegregation, that “separate but equal” was not enough. 
         Fifty years ago (1964), President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in the presence of Dr. Martin Luther King, outlawing discrimination based on race, color, gender, religion and national origin. 
         Forty years ago (1974), the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Lau v. Nichols, a landmark decision declared that the same educational treatment given to English Language Learners as that given to native English speakers without taking into account their language circumstances violated the Civil Rights Act. 
         Thirty-five years ago (1989), the governors under leadership from President George H. Bush convened at a national education summit chiming in the era of “standards”, setting the stage for a wave of reforms that have culminated in the Common Core and related College- and Career-Ready Standards. 
Phew, that’s a lot of history!
From where I sit, the new year brings promising opportunities for making education better for all students, based on the history that has brought us here -- if we commit and build the will and the capacity of the system to learn from our experiences. 
English Language Learners have always been the “canary in the mine” in English-only environments – among the most vulnerable of students in the face of the fact that human learning and cognition are grounded heavily in language.  Language is the primary tool for communication as well as mental representation and cognitive processing.  When the chain of connections between the mind and language is disrupted, such as when a student does not understand the language of instruction, learning is disrupted. In our history, we have recognized this disruption, and tried various programs of bilingual and of English-as-a-Second-Language and sheltered language methodologies to help the students – none being a silver bullet, and all leading to the realization of the importance of commitment, capacity, and implementation.
Well, the most obvious face of the Common Core is the magnitude and depth to which successfully meeting the standards requires student active engagement using language – and this applies to *all* students.  The math standards for example require students not just to come to the correct answer, but to explain their reasoning through language.  While in the past English Language Learners struggled, now *all* students are struggling to put their language to sophisticated use, to explain their reasoning.  I am certain that the results of this academic year’s testing in Spring, 2015, will bear out the enormous challenge that language has now posed for *all* students, not just English Language Learners.
This fact is now dawning on thoughtful educators throughout the nation.  School districts as different as Seattle, Dallas, Hartford and Sanger have come to the realization that promoting rich student discourse and other academic uses of language in the disciplines is essential to attaining new content standards not just for English Language Learners, but for all students.  They have arrived at the systemic realization (many individuals have long know this, but they have been separated by the stovepipes of bureaucracy) that collaboration across the system is essential for student success.
The conditions necessitate a systemic response against separation of language and content.  The first signs of recognition can be found in the language or recent policies of states such as California and New York that recognizes that ESL (or ELD, ENL, whatever one wants to call it) needs to happen in a dedicated as well as an integrated manner within the content areas.  The second is the beginning signs of acceptance of the effectiveness of bilingual education programs and of the benefits of bilingualism for all students – this can be seen in the growth of two-way immersion programs in many school districts. 
So, even recognizing the many troubling conditions in which we humans find ourselves, there is promise that good work in the coming year will yield progress in the realization of the important role that language plays in how we learn and how we communicate – and that it applies to all of us.  We sit on the shoulders of Brown, King, Lau, and (whoa!) Bush, and all have contributed to our progress.
I feel enormously fortunate to have you among my many friends and collaborators at all levels of the profession – may 2015 be an important landmark year for you both personally and professionally!
Kenji Hakuta
Lee L. Jacks Professor of Education
Stanford University

The math standards: not necessary, limited need for math beyond basics, no STEM crisis, no evidence that new standards will help

COMMENTS ON "THE MAN BEHIND COMMON CORE MATH" Dec 29, 2014, NPRed. Article and my comment posted at:

There is no evidence that math education needs a drastic overhaul.  When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American students score at the top of the world on international tests of math. Our mediocre scores are because we have such a high rate of child poverty, now 25%.
Payne, Kevin and Bruce Biddle. “Poor School Funding, Child Poverty, and Mathematics Achievement.” Educational Researcher 28.6 (1999): 4-13.
Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 
Step one should be to eliminate poverty, or at least reduce it, and at the very least protect students from the impact of poverty: eliminate food deprivation (S. Ohanian: "no child left unfed"), improve health care, and improve access to books. Instead we are investing in untested standards and nonstop testing

There is limited use for math beyond the basics. Only about 10% of the workforce uses math beyond algebra II. (Handel, M. 2010. What do people do at work? OECD, forthcoming. Available at‎)'

It is not clear that there is a compelling need for more STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) workers. Some studies conclude that there are too many qualified candidates. There are approximately three qualified graduates annually for each science or technology opening, and recent studies have also shown that the U.S. is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb.
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:
Weissman, Jordan. The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts. The Atlantic, Feb 20, 2013.

Even if our math education were shown to be lacking and even if more math were needed: Any set of new standards should come with evidence that it will improve things.  As far as I can tell, there has never been any attempt to find out if the new standards will help students learn more, or be more enthusiastic about the subject.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Let's dump recess

Published in the Statesmen Journal (Oregon), December 18, 2014, as "Is trimming recess really the best decision?"

It was inspiring to read the Dec. 15 article "Recess cut short for some Salem-Keizer kindergartners" (Dec. 15).
Let's get rid of recess and focus completely on academics. The unfortunate tendency of children to want to play and enjoy themselves must stop, despite the claims of mushy-minded "experts" who claim that play improves "social and emotional development," whatever that is.
Children should not be allowed to behave like children.

Stephen Krashen

This letter posted at:
And at

Hat-tip: Christine Davenport

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Bilingual education is better than all-English for English language development

Sent to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, December 13, 2014

"A longtime teacher and foe of the district" and his wife have made a formal complaint to the Rochester school district about bilingual education, which they claim is not helping children acquire English ("City teacher files rights complaints on students’ behalf," December 12).

The Democrat and Chronicle points out that state law requires English learners to be a class that helps them acquire English, but does not mention that study after study shows that children enrolled in properly designed bilingual programs do better than children in all-English programs on tests of English. Recent research has confirmed that this difference is substantial and consistent across a wide range of scientific studies.

Stephen Krashen

Recent research: McField, G. and McField, D. "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.
Original article:

City teacher files rights complaints on students’ behalf
Democrat and Chronicle, Dec. 12, 2014
A Rochester School District teacher has filed two federal civil rights complaints against the district for discrimination against special education students and English language learners.
Josh Mack also is creating a new parents organization that he promises will bring forth more such complaints.
One complaint, filed in August, describes a situation at the Young Mothers and Interim Health Academy on Hart Street, where Mack taught math. He wrote that a 19-year-old girl with only a few high school credits was placed in his Algebra 2 and Trigonometry class, despite having failed the Algebra 1 exam on four occasions.
“The district was well aware she could not perform at this level but placed her in the class anyway,” he wrote. “(She) often displayed frustration through being verbally abusive to staff (and) eventually ... stopped attending school.”
Mack counted the problem as a violation of the girl’s civil rights, as a minority member and as a person with a disability.
The second complaint was filed earlier this month by Mack and Ana Casserly on the topic of bilingual education for Latino children who do not speak English proficiently. It accuses the district of unfairly placing them in “segregated” bilingual classrooms, where part of the instruction is in Spanish, rather than helping them learn English in an immersion program.
State law requires that people learning English be placed in a language support class of some sort, but the complaint alleges the district’s policies have the effect of unfairly segregating English language learners.
Mack is a longtime teacher and foe of the district. He has sued it on several occasions, most recently this year when his private tutoring company lost its business with the district.
Federal civil rights complaints are generally not made public, but Mack provided redacted copies.
In a statement, district spokesman Chip Partner said: “The district takes any credible complaint of discrimination seriously. We are cooperating fully with the Office of Civil Rights and investigating internally to determine whether the individualized education plans of any students at Young Mother’s and Interim Health Academy were not followed properly.”
Regarding the second complaint, Partner said the district has not yet been notified. An internal investigation would not be warranted, though, he said, because “the district is always working to improve services to students with limited English proficiency.”
Also Thursday, Mack announced the formation of a new not-for-profit parents group, the Rochester Parents Association. It is envisioned as a sort of bargaining unit for parents, with paid staff that would be eligible to receive federal parent engagement money.
Mack is still raising money to get it off the ground but promised it will be a strong voice for parents.
“Parents are students’ first and most influential teachers,” he said. “The relationship between parents and the district has become extremely toxic and downright adversarial.”

Kindergarten Kalculus

Comment on: "New Math Standards a Hurdle for Some Students and Teachers," Dec 12, The Texas Tribune

Posted on

School children in Texas will learn fractions in grade three, not four, and learn to use protractors in grade four, not six.

This is a step in the right direction, but if we are ever going to catch up to the Chinese, we need to get serious and put the pedal to the metal: Fractions and basic geometry should be thoroughly covered in pre-school, so kindergarten children can begin pre-calculus.

I feel, however, that kindergarten children should only be required to study differential calculus; Integral calculus and differential equations require a bit more maturity.

Stephen Krashen
President, The Society for Kindergarten Kalculus

Friday, December 12, 2014

The math standards: Sentence first ... verdict afterwards.

“Sentence first…verdict afterwards”. -The Queen (Alice in Wonderland)

The need to ask if the common core math standards “are going to help” is outrageous. This question should have been answered by educational research long before the standards were imposed on millions of students. I agree with David Wees, who suggests that the math standards should not be implemented all at once. But they should have also been carefully tested, so see if they help or hurt understanding of math, both in the short and long term.

Comment on: Does Common Core really mean teachers should teach differently? (The Hechinger Report, December 12, 2014) 

Posted at:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Does Accelerated Reader dumb down students' reading choices?

Sent to T/H/E Journal, December 10, 2014
To the editor:

"Student Reading Practices Lag Far Behind National Goals" (Dec. 9) claims that young people these days are reading books that don't challenge them, that is, fiction written below their grade level.  The data comes from a report published by the Renaissance Learning company, and is based on what young people read when they participate in the Accelerated Reader program in school. Accelerated Reader is a commercial program owned by Renaissance Learning that gives readers points on tests based on what they read, and awards prizes in exchange for the points. 

What the report really shows is that students have discovered that they can earn more points by reading easier books. Contrary to the Renaissance Learning report, previous studies have shown that reading that young people choose on their own is typically at grade level, or harder than the reading typically assigned by teachers, and gets more challenging as children mature.

This suggests that Accelerated Reader dumbs down students' reading practices.

Stephen Krashen

original article:

Some sources:
Self-selected reading at grade level: Shin, F. & Krashen, S. (2007). Summer Reading: Program and Evidence. New York: Allyn & Bacon.
Self-selected reading harder than assigned reading: Southgate, V., Arnold, H., and Johnson, S. (1981). Extending Beginning Reading. London: Heinemann Educational Books.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Vocabulary lessons for kindergarten children?

Published in the Oakland Tribune, Dec.11, 2014, with the title "Improving libraries is the best course."

Those interested in making sure kindergarten children learn lots of "academic" or "really big" words ("San Lorenzo kindergartners make big strides in mastering language," Dec. 8) might want to read a recent study done by Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown of the Centre for Longitudinal Studies in London. The study shows that having a large vocabulary at age five has only a small relationship with having a large vocabulary when you are an adult. In contrast, Sullivan and Brown reported the amount of reading we do as adults has a strong relationship to adult vocabulary size. 
This is in agreement with many studies that show that we gradually acquire the meaning of complex words as we see them in print in a comprehensible context.
Developing a love of reading through stories and strengthening libraries might be a better investment than giving five-year-olds vocabulary lessons.

Stephen Krashen

Sullivan and Brown report: Sullivan, A. and Brown, M. 2014.  Vocabulary from adolescence to middle age.  Centre for Longitudinal Studies 
Institute of Education, University of London.

Original article:
San Lorenzo kindergartners make big strides in mastering language
By Rebecca Parr  12/8
SAN LORENZO -- "We are learning collaboration," a group of Colonial Acres Elementary School kindergartners read out loud Friday as their teacher pointed to the words.
The San Lorenzo kindergartners have explored their community, taking a field trip to the library, walking around the neighborhood and being visited by firefighters. Using what they had learned, the 5-year-olds built miniature towns, giving "tours" of their works to parents and staff Friday.
"I'm surprised and amazed at how much they have learned," said Veronica Ruiz, mother of Ricardo Lieba, who proudly pointed out the Ashland Community Center replica he had constructed. "We read a Dr. Seuss book last night, and Ricardo could read every word. He loves to read and go to the library now," Ruiz said.
On a board in the classroom were some sentences students had written. "Firefighters extinguish wildfires," one read. Many of the children wore toy firefighter helmets.
"Most of these students didn't know their letters at the beginning of the year," kindergarten teacher Tammy Braun said.
The 112 students in five kindergarten classes are taking part in a Sobrato Family Foundation pilot program to help them be literate earlier, said Colonial Acres Principal Linda Santillan. The program integrates reading and spoken and written language, with a lot of writing and focus on language, she said.
The Sobrato Family Foundation started its Sobrato Early Academic Language program in 2008 to help Spanish-speaking students develop language and academic skills so they can succeed.
The program is based on the work of educator Laurie Olsen, considered an expert in English learner education. Most of the program is in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, where more than 25 percent of students entering public schools are English learners.
This is the second year the San Lorenzo Unified is taking part, and the early language is being phased in at all its schools. The Sobrato program includes preschool through third-grade students, with the goal of closing any academic achievement gap by the beginning of the fourth grade.
Of the 700 students at Colonial Acres, more than 60 percent come from homes where English is not the primary language. The number is even higher -- more than 80 percent -- for students through the third grade, most of them Spanish speakers.
"We are addressing the problem of long-term English learners" who never master the language, said Katarin Jurich, San Lorenzo Unified director of assessment and English learners programs. In the past, the schools had inconsistent instruction for those students, she said. The goal is that by the end of third grade, all students will be fluent in English.
All San Lorenzo kindergarten students, not just English learners, take part in the language project.
The children are learning more than just phonics vocabulary words such as "hat" and "cat," Santillan said. They are being taught academic language, or words they are going to encounter later in school.
"When they enter ninth-grade science and see the word 'crustacean,' they'll say, 'Oh, I learned that in kindergarten,'" Braun said.
The students studied what firefighters, custodians and librarians do, Santillan said. But their model towns also included churches, supermarkets, a courthouse and other landmarks. One town had a Kaiser hospital with a paper nurse in front, her face a girl's cutout school picture.
"That's me!" Adriana Camarena said. "I drew the gloves; I want to be a nurse. But sometimes I like being a vet," she said.
Friday's open house was a swirl of excitement; in one room, children read sentences out loud to their parents in one area, children sang as Braun pointed to the words and others put stickers with their names on a hand-drawn map of the community. Maps of their classroom that teams of children had drawn hung in the hallway outside.
"Collaborating is when people are listening to each other and they work together," kindergartner Layla Valle said, her soft voice almost drowned out by the noise from all the activities around her.
"It's really powerful in terms of what the kids have learned in such a short time. They're 5, and they know how to use some really big words," Santillan said.
"They're learning academic language that will help them understand content. At same time, they're learning to read -- not just words, but long words with big chunks of Latin roots."
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473, or follow her at

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Gurnee District 56 buys lots of Apple stuff. Apple gives them an award. US DOE is proud of Gurnee.

For more details, see See "Home Room: The official blog of the US Department of Education":
PS: The DOE blog claims Gurnee 56 had excellent test score gains. I was unable to confirm this from the Gurnee 56 district website.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Profiting from Preschool

Comment posted in response to "Poll: Californians strongly in favor of preschool" Education Week December 4, 2014 and in response to "Poll shows support for high-quality preschool," EdSource, Dec, 2, 2014.

Preschool would be great if it were really preschool. But it is now "school." Preschool is now "academic," filled with academic standards and tests.  Every test given, (excuse me, every "assessment") is profit for the .001%. (Eager parents, in fact, can download preschool tests (see e.g.  tests available at the oddly named "have fun teaching" website:

I suspect that at least some of the pious pronouncements we hear about the importance of preschool are because more children in preschool means more tests are given, and this increases profits for the testing industry.

Posted at: