Saturday, February 28, 2015

Evidence lacking for annual testing

Sent to the Los Angeles Times, Feb. 28, 2015

Paul Peterson (Op-ed, Feb. 23) asserts that yearly testing done under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) resulted in increased test scores ("modest" gains in math), "solid evidence" in support of annual testing. Ron Harris (letters, Feb. 27) argues that the increased test scores are due to better test-taking strategies. 

Researchers Jaekyung Lee and Todd Reeves analyzed data from all 50 states from 1990 to 2009 and concluded that the NCLB testing policy did not increase reading gains and did not close ethnic/racial and socio-economic achievement gaps in reading. Gains in math were not "modest" but small, and the reduction of the math achievement gap fell far short of reaching NCLB targets.  Lee and Reeves based their conclusions on the NAEP test, a "low-stakes" test that is immune to "test preparation."

NCLB test score gains were not due to better test-prep: Lee and Reeves' analysis strongly suggests that they never happened.

Stephen Krashen

Original articles:
Lee, J. & Reeves, T. (June 2012). Revisiting the impact of NCLB high-stakes school accountability, capacity and resources: State NAEP 1990-2009 reading and math achievement gaps and trends. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34(2), 209-231.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Proposed reductions in testing: the boondoggle remains

LETTER Published in Substance
February 26,2015

In my e-mail today I received a note from President Obama which included this statement: "We need a better education plan -- one that cuts standardized testing to a bare minimum ...".

Of course I agree, but the proposed reduction in testing that has been submitted to congressional committees appears to be only a modest cutback from the current massive, nonstop testing program. I suspect that the plan of the US Department of Education is to reduce testing just enough to satisfy at least some critics and keep the same profits flowing to the testing and computer companies.

With the proposed reductions, there will still be plenty of tests, and they will still be administered online, a huge and ever-growing boondoggle that bleeds money from schools, money that is desperately needed for legitimate educational purposes. Even if the amount of testing is cut 50%, the profits will be about the same, and we will still have far too much testing.

Is the US Department of Education (or anybody else) making any serious efforts to determine just how much testing is necessary and helpful? The answer to a proper inquiry might be very disappointing to the testing industrial complex.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Monday, February 23, 2015

Strong claims require strong evidence.

Sent to the Oregonian, Feb. 23, 2015

"As teaching methods improve, Oregon cuts years off English-language instruction," (Feb. 21) is based on the finding that there are currently fewer students in ESL classes in upper grades than in previous years. This evidence, at best, is only slightly suggestive. Fewer students in ESL classes could be the result changes in reclassification criteria, increased drop-out rates, changes in the test (a new test was introduced in 2008), and more teaching to the test.

Strong claims of superiority for a teaching method should be made of sterner stuff.

Stephen Krashen

Original article:

Will public school teachers become "independent contractors"?

An interesting article: Why we are all becoming independent contractors (Nation of Change,  Feb. 23, 2015).

My comment, posted at

Many college professors are now independent contractors, known as "adjuncts." They are paid separately for each course they teach, and are not paid very much, and get no benefits.  As budgets at universities get tighter, departments are gradually moving toward adjuncts.

Will public school teachers become independent contractors? This is,  I think, one of the goals of school "reformers," whose reforms are all dedicated to more profit for the .01%. Elminating retirement and benefits, and making teaching a part-time profession would release billions for more unnecessary technology in the schools (of course some technology is great, but much of it is being imposed on schools in a great hurry without proper testing).

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Does white matter have anything to do with learning to read for meaning?

Sent to the New Yorker:

The research reported on in "How children learn to read" (Feb. 11) is the most recent of a series claiming that properties of white matter in the brain are related to reading ability. The results of these studies, however, may have little or nothing to do with learning to read for meaning.
Reading experts distinguish between "decoding," the ability to pronounce words outloud, and reading for comprehension, understanding what is read. The white matter research, thus far, has nearly exclusively examined the relationship between white matter and decoding.

It is often assumed that children have to learn to decode as a necessary step in learning to read, but there is a great deal of evidence challenging this view, and supporting the idea that we learn to read by reading, by understanding what is on the page, not by first learning how to decode. This includes studies showing that many children who don’t decode well learn to read at high levels when they get interested in reading in areas of their own interest: Studies also show that intensive instruction in decoding leads only to better decoding, not to better reading for meaning: The best predictor of reading for meaning is the amount of self-selected reading done.

Opposing the idea that we must learn to decode during a certain "critical period" are many studies showing that readers can improve in any age by doing a great deal of interesting reading.

To my knowledge, not a single study of the relationship between white matter and “reading” has included sufficient measures of reading for meaning, nor have any of them considered the most consistent predictor of reading ability: The amount of reading done for personal interest.

Stephen Krashen

Sources and notes:
Original article: Konnikova, M. 2015. How children learn to read. The New Yorker.

Most recent study: Myers, C., Vandermosten, M., Farris, E., Hancock, R., Gimenez, P., Black, J., Castro, B., Drahos, M., Tumber, M., Hendron, R., Hulme, C., and Hoeft, F. 2014. White matter morphometric changes uniquely predict children's reading acquisition. Psychological Science 25(10): 1870-1883.

Series of studies: For others, please see: Krashen, S. 2009. The white stuff.  Language Magazine 8 (6): 16-17. (

We learn to read by reading: Smith, F. 2004. Understanding Reading. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Sixth Ed.: Flurkey, A. and Xu, J. (Eds). 2003. On the Revolution in Reading: The Selected Writings of Kenneth S. Goodman. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Poor decoders learn to read well: Krashen, S. 2001a. “Low PA can Read OK” Practically Primary 6(3): 17-20; Fink, R. 1995/96. Successful dyslexics: A constructivist study of passionate interest reading. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 39 (4): 268-80.

Intensive instruction in decoding: Krashen, S. 2009. Does intensive reading instruction contribute to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37 (4): 72-74.

Best predictor of reading for meaning: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann and Libraries Unlimited.

Improve at any age: Krashen, S. and McQuillan, J. 2007. Late intervention. Educational Leadership 65 (2): 68-73; Sullivan, A. and Brown, M. 2014. Vocabulary from adolescence to middle age. London: Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Institute of Education, University of London.

Insufficient measures: Myers included the Woodcock Passage Comprehension test in which words are omitted from a sentence, the student supplies an appropriate word and tells the examiner the word. This test was only one of five reading measures: the others were nonsense word reading, single-word reading, a measure of reading speed (with no consideration of meaning) and spelling. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Punishing schools for child poverty doesn't help students

Published in the Los Angeles Times, Feb 17, 2015

To the editor: Richard Whitmire thinks the answer to "turning around" school districts is more "gutsy" leadership, closer relationships with charter schools and pushing students to take more demanding courses. ("Troubled school districts need more than prizes," Op-Ed, Feb. 12)
All this macho talk ignores the big problem: poverty. The rate of child poverty in the U.S. is at an astonishing 25%, the second highest among industrialized countries. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is about 5%.
There is strong evidence that poverty is the major problem in American education: When researchers control for poverty, our performance on international tests is at the top of the world. Poverty means poor diet, inadequate healthcare and lack of access to books.
The best teaching and strongest exhortations to work hard have little effect when students are hungry and ill and have nothing to read. Let's not worry about "turning around" school districts; instead, let's work on protecting children from the effects of poverty.
Stephen Krashen, Los Angeles
The writer is a professor emeritus of education at USC.

Monday, February 9, 2015

When taking longer to finish school is not failure but heroism

Sent to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, February 9, 2015

Like Peter Smagorinsky ("Opinion: Issue isn’t welding vs. Chaucer. It’s how to remove barriers to college," Feb. 9). I also "admire people who persist through obstacles."  As Smagorinksy points out, many of those who take longer than the traditional time period to finish high school, community college, or a "four-year" college need to work to support themselves and their families. 
We must allow working students to take a reduced course load and and occasional leaves of absence.  During the depression, the father of a colleague of mine alternated working a year and going to high school a year, because his family needed the money.  Another colleague told me that she and her dad graduated high school at the same time. These are not cases of failure but of heroism.

Stephen Krashen

original article:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Condoleezza Rice: A leader in educational policy?

The recent appointment of Condoleezza Rice (Ph.D, Political Science, former US Secretary of State) as chair of the Foundation for Excellence in Education shows that necessary qualifications for positions in educational policy still include (1) no actual experience teaching in public schools (2) no record of contributing to or even having read educational research.  Dr. Rice joins Arne Duncan, Margaret Spellings, Lamar Alexander, David Coleman and others from both political parties in being completely unqualified for positions of leadership in educational policy.
Published in SUBSTANCE:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Responses to critics

38. Krashen, S. 1977. Some issues relating to the Monitor Model. In H. D. Brown, C. Yorio, and R. Crymes (Eds.) Teaching and Learning English as a Second Language: Trends in Research and Practice. Washington, DC: TESOL. pp. 144-158.
45. Krashen, S. 1978. Is the “natural order” an artifact of the Bilingual Syntax Measure? Language Learning 28: 187-191.
56. Krashen, S. 1979. Response to McLaughlin, “The Monitor Model: Some methodological considerations.” Language Learning 29: 151-167.
66. Krashen, S. 1981. Letter to the editor. Language Learning 31: 217-221.
88. Krashen, S. 1984. Response to Ioup. TESOL Quarterly 18: 350-352.
89. Krashen, S. 1984. Response to Faltis. TESOL Quarterly 18: 357-359.
93. Krashen, S. 1985. The Input Hypothesis. Beverly Hills, CA: Laredo Publishing Co,
101. Krashen, S. 1987. Letter to the editor. TESOL Newsletter 21, 3:21.
109. Polak, J. and Krashen, S. 1989. Response to Duff. TESOL Quarterly 23: 164-167.
122. Krashen, S. 1991. How much comprehensible input did Heinrich Schliemann get? System 19/3: 189-190.
135. Krashen, S. 1993. The effect of formal grammar study: Still peripheral. TESOL Quarterly 27: 722-725.
138. Krashen, S. 1994. Self-correction and the Monitor: Percent of errors corrected of those attempted versus percent corrected of all errors made. System 22: 59-62.
203. Krashen, S. 1997. Steve to Jill: You’re Unprofessional (Response to Jill Stewart). CABE Newsletter 21,2: 9,17.
211. Krashen, S. 1997. A response to Green. ETAI Forum (English Teachers’ Association of Israel) 9 (1): 11-12.
229. Krashen, S. 1998. Comprehensible output? System 26: 175-182.
232. Krashen, S. 1998. Response to Chavez (letter to the editor). Commentary  106(3):12
246. Krashen, S. 1999. Condemned Without a Trial: Bogus Arguments Against Bilingual Education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing Co.
247. Krashen, S. 1999. Three Arguments Against Whole Language and Why They are Wrong. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing Co.
252. Krashen, S. 1999. What the research really says about structured English immersion: A response to Keith Baker. Phi Delta Kappan 80 (9): 705-706.
302. Krashen, S. 2002. The lexile framework: The controversy continues. CSLA Journal (California School Library Association) 25(2): 29-31.
310. Krashen, S. 2002. Is all-English best? A response to Bengston. TESOL Matters 12.3: 5
325. Krashen, S. 2003. Explorations in Language Acquisition and Use: The Taipei Lectures. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
331. Krashen, S. 2003. Comments on Rogers, “Computerized reading management softwore: An effective component of a successful reading program.”  Journal of Children’s Literature 29 (2): 31-36.
358. Krashen, S. 2005 Is In-School Free Reading Good for Children? Why the National Reading Panel Report is (Still) Wrong Phi Delta Kappan 86(6): 444-447.
364. Krashen, S. 2005. Second language “Standards for Success”: Out of touch with  language acquisition research. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 1(2): 12-16.
402. Krashen, S. 2008. Letter to the editor: The Din in the Head hypothesis: A response to de Bot (2008). Modern Language Journal 92 (3): 349.
428. Mason, B. and Krashen, S. 2010. The reality, robustness, and possible superiority of incidental vocabulary acquisition. TESOL Quarterly 44 (4): 790-792.
434. Krashen, S. 2011. A note on error correction: The effect of removing one outlier in Ryoo (2007). International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 6(1): 5-6.
435. Krashen, S. 2011. Incidental acquisition of spelling competence: A re-analysis of Pérez Canado (2006). International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 6(1): 15-24.
437. Krashen, S. 2011. Nonengagement in sustained silent reading: How extensive is it?
What can it teach us? Colorado Reading Council Journal 22: 5-10.
450. Krashen, S. 2012. The Limited Effect of Explicit Instruction on Phrasal Verbs: A Comment on Magnussen and Graham (2011). Applied Language Learning 22, numbers 1 & 2: 81-83
451. Krashen, S. 2012. Direct Instruction of Academic Vocabulary: What About Real Reading? Reading Research Quarterly, 47(3): 233.
457. Krashen, S. 2013. Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition: Supporting Evidence and Some Objections. Iranian Journal of Language Teaching Research, 1 (1): 27-43, 2013.
475. Krashen, S., Mason, B. and Smith, K. 2014, Can we increase the power of reading by adding communicative output activities? A comment on Song and Sardegna (2014). RELC Journal 45(2): 211-212.
492. Krashen, S. 2016. Response to Sugiharto, "Comprehensible input as social alignment." Turkish Online Journal of English Language Teaching (TOJELT), 1(2), 105.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Against the Common Core Standards and Tests (Occupy US Dept of Education, April, 2013).

Against the Common Core Standards and Tests
Stephen Krashen
Presented at: OCCUPY US Department of Education, April 6, 2013

The movement for national standards and tests is based on these claims:
(1) Our educational system is broken, as revealed by US students' scores on international tests; (2) We must improve education to improve the economy; 
(3) The way to improve education is to have national standards and national tests that enforce the standards.

Each of these claims is false.

(1)  Our schools are not broken. The problem is poverty. When researchers control for poverty, our test scores are among the best in world. Our unspectacular overall scores are due to the fact that the US has the second highest level of child poverty among all 34 economically advanced countries (now over 23%, compared to high-scoring Finland’s 5.4%). Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books, among other things. All of these negatively impact school performance.
(2)  Existing evidence strongly suggests that improving the economy improves children's educational outcomes. Yes, a better education can lead to a better job, but only if jobs exists.
(3)  There is no evidence that national standards and national tests have improved student learning in the past.

No educator is opposed to assessments that help students to improve their learning. The amount of testing proposed by the US Department of Education in connection to national standards is astonishing, more than we have ever seen on this planet, and much more than the already excessive amount demanded by NCLB: US Department of Education documents show that testing will be expanded to include all subjects that can be tested and more grade levels. There will be “interim” tests given through the year and there may be pretests in the fall to measure growth, defined as increases in standardized test scores, or “value-added” measures.
The cost of implementing standards and electronically delivered national tests will be enormous, bleeding money from legitimate and valuable school activities. According to media reports, New York City and the State of Florida are each budgeting a half a billion dollars just to connect children to the internet so that they can take tests. And we can be sure that as soon as the equipment is set up, it will be declared obsolete. The boondoggle will never end.
This money could be spent to protect children from the effects of poverty, i.e. on expanded and improved breakfast and lunch programs, school nurses (at present there are more school nurses per child in low poverty schools than in high poverty schools) and improved school and public libraries, especially in high-poverty areas.

Rather than spend on standards and tests, investing in protecting our children from the effects of poverty would improve school achievement. More important, it is the right thing to do.

Some sources:

“Test scores of students from middle class homes ...: 
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.

“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.

Improving the economy ....:  Baker, K. 2007. Are international tests worth anything? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(2), 101-104; Zhao, Y. 2009. Catching Up or Leading the Way? American Education in the Age of Globalization. ASCD: Alexandria, VA.; Ananat, E., Gassman-Pines, A., Francis, D., and Gibson-Davis, C. 2011. Children left behind: The effects of statewide job less on student acbievement. NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) Working Paper No. 17104, JEL No. 12,16.

There is no evidence that national standards and national tests have improved student learning in the past: 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.

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

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.

Value-added measures:

New York CIty budget: New York Times, "In city schools, tech spending to rise despite cuts," March 30, 2011.

School nurses: Berliner, 2009 (op. cit.)

Libraries: Krashen, S. 2011. Protecting students against the effects of poverty: Libraries. New England Reading Association Journal 46 (2): 17-21.



Michael Bennet outspoken and clueless about education

Sent to the Denver Post, Feb. 1, 2015
Re: Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet for vice president? (Denver Post, Jan 30, 2015)
At senate hearings considering the federal education law, Sen. Bennet proclaimed: “In my mind if you want to cure this problem of poverty in our country, the way to do that is by making sure that people can read when they’re in the first grade.”

This is dead wrong. Studies consistently show that children can learn to read much later than grade one, and do very well in school. Also, even if learning to read at grade one helped academic achievement, education is not the answer to reducing poverty: Reducing poverty is the key to improving education. Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and little access to books: all of these mean lower academic achievement.

Based on his lack of knowledge of education issues, Michael Bennet is not qualified to run for any public office, let alone vice-president.

Stephen Krashen

Michael Bennet quote: Washington Post, The Answer Sheet, February 1, 2015.

Sources available in these publications:

Learning to read early:
Krashen, S. 2011. Need Children Read "Proficiently" by Grade 3? Some Possible Misinterpretations of the "Double Jeopardy" Study. Language Magazine 11,2: 24-27.
Krashen, S. and McQuillan, J. 1996. The Case for Late Intervention: Once a Good Reader, Always a Good Reader. Culver City, CA: Language Education Associates. (19 p.) . Reprinted in C. Weaver (Ed.) Reconsidering a Balanced Approach to Reading. Urbana, Il: NCTE. pp. 409-422.
The effect of poverty:
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.