Showing posts with label Challenges of common core. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Challenges of common core. Show all posts

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Common Core and the School Librarian

Yesterday I spoke at the Michigan Association for Media in Education--in other words, the school librarians. They wanted me to overview the Common Core Standards for the English Language Arts in terms of what school librarians need to know and how they might help their teachers and students to accomplish the core. Even though this talk covers much of the same ground that a similar talk would for English teachers, I thought there was a enough new here to make it worth posting. You might want to send it along to your friends who are school librarians. Their work is important and they could help a lot I decided.

https://sites.google.com/site/tscommoncore/school-librarians-and-common-core

Monday, November 4, 2013

Who's Right on Text Complexity?

It seems that there is a lot of conflicting information coming out about accuracy and complex text. In the April edition of The Reading Teacher, Richard Allington wrote an article pertaining to struggling readers. In this article he says that there are studies showing the benefits to teaching children using text where their accuracy is high. Our district just raised the running record accuracy rate expectation to 95-98% accuracy based on the current research. Yet, your blog postings pull in the opposite direction. How do teachers know what is right and what is wrong? After all, teachers want to do what is best and most effective towards student learning.
  
What a great question. In my blog post, I cited particular studies and Dick Allington’s focused on a completely different set of studies. This is what teachers find so confusing. 

The experimental studies that I cited randomly assigned students to different treatment groups, so that children were matched to books in different ways, which allows a direct comparison of the impact of these methods—and gives us some certainty that the differences in learning were due to the different ways students were matched with text and not to something else.

Allington cites several correlational studies that examine existing patterns of relationship. These studies show that the lowest readers will tend to be placed in relatively harder texts and that they tend to make the least gains or to be the least motivated.

The problem with correlational studies of this kind is that they don’t allow us to attribute causation. From such evidence we can’t determine what role, if any, the student-book match made in kids’ learning. 

The students may have lagged because of how they were matched to books. But their low learning gains could also be due to other unmeasured instructional or demographic differences (many differences between high and low readers have been documented, but those were not controlled or measured in these studies). It could just be that the lowest readers make the least gains and that it has nothing to do with how they are matched to books. That’s why you need experiments (to determine whether the correlations matter).

I looked at studies that actually evaluated the effectiveness of this instructional practice (and these studies found either that student-text match made no difference or that harder placements led to more learning). While Dick looked at studies that revealed that there was a relationship between these variables, omitting all mention of these contradictory direct tests or of any of the correlational evidence that didn’t support his claims.

There were two experimental studies in his review, but neither of them manipulated this particular variable, so these results are correlational, too. For example, Linnea Ehri and her colleagues created a program in which teachers provided intensive reading support to young struggling readers (mainly explicit instruction in phonological awareness and phonics). However, teachers varied in how much reading they had the students do during the intervention and how they matched children to books; the kids who did a lot of reading of easier materials seemed to learn the most. That is an interesting finding, but it is still just a correlation.

One possibility is that there were other differences that weren’t measured (but that were somehow captured indirectly by the text-match variable). Perhaps the teachers were just responding to the students who were making the biggest gains and were undershooting their levels since they were gaining so fast. That would mean that it wasn’t the student-book match that was leading to learning, but that the better learning was influencing teacher decision-making about student-book match. How could we sort that confusing picture out? With experiments that systematically observe the impact of book placement separate from other variables; such as the the experimental studies that I cited.

A couple of other points worth noting: the kids who gained the least in the Ehri study were placed in texts in the way that you say your school is doing. In the Ehri study, the kids who made the biggest gains were in even easier materials than that; materials that should have afforded little opportunity to learn (which makes my point—there is no magic level that kids have to be placed in text to allow them to learn).

Another important point to remember: Allington’s article made no distinction based on grade levels or student reading levels. His claim is that all struggling readers need to spend much or most of their time reading relatively easy texts, and his most convincing data were drawn from studies of first-graders. However, the Common Core State Standards do not raise text levels for beginning readers. When students are reading at a first-grade level or lower (no matter what their ages), it may be appropriately cautious to keep them in relatively easy materials (though there are some discrepant data on this point too--that suggest that grouping students for instruction in this way damages children more than it helps them).

Experimental studies show that by the time students are reading like second-graders, it is possible for them to learn from harder text (as they did in the Morgan study). If we hold students back at their supposed levels, we are guaranteeing that they cannot reach the levels of literacy needed for college and career readiness by the time they leave high school.



Monday, October 28, 2013

Where are We on Common Core?

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is the biggest change to the English Language Arts (ELA) in my entire 40+ year career.

In February 2012, the Thomas Fordham Institute conducted a nationwide survey of ELA teachers (upper elementary grades, middle school, and high school) to find out about current practices relevant to CCSS. The fact is we don't know what teachers are doing in terms of working with challenging text, informational text, or where they are in regard to the teaching of some of the exemplary texts recommended by CCSS.

The 2012 data are a baseline; the plan is to go back in a couple of years (2015) to see what changes have taken place.

Last week, we reported the results of the baseline data (I served as author of the report). We both released the report and provided an hour-long presentation/discussion on the CCSS standards. Here is a link to that information. I think you will find it helpful for estimating the degree of challenge inherent in implementing some of the standards.

http://www.edexcellence.net/

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Powerpoints from Summer Speeches on CCSS

This has been a very busy summer with lots of projects, research analysis, article writing, and, of course, many presentations around the country. These talks have focused on the shifts or changes required by Common Core, the foundational skills preserved by CCSS in the primary grades, disciplinary literacy, challenging text, and close reading. The Powerpoints from those presentations are all now available at this site.

https://sites.google.com/site/summer2013ccss/home/summer-2013-presentations

Monday, May 13, 2013

Indiana Backs Down on Common Core


Indiana is the first state to withdraw from the common core state standards. Previously, there were four states that had not adopted the standards, but of those that had done so, Indiana is the first to back down. Technically, they have only “suspended” their CCSS efforts for further study so it is possible that this will just be a delay and not an actual withdrawal, but the politics around this in Indiana suggest that this may be the beginning of the end of CCSS there.

Various state leaders have made noises about withdrawing from CCSS to re-embrace their previous low educational standards, and some (e.g., Alabama) have already pulled out of the PARCC and Smarter Balanced testing, but Indiana is the only one to act on their second thoughts.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence gave several reasons for the suspension, including the added costs. I’ve written about that issue in this space before, so it should be clear that I’m sympathetic to that problem. Many states, perhaps Indiana being one of them, adopted these standards without much forethought, and now are trying to implement without much real financial support either. That may be a good way to drive teachers crazy, but it won’t help kids learn.

Most of Governor Pence’s concerns seem to be about states rights, rather than learning. He apparently doesn’t like the federal government poking its nose into Indiana business. This is the same reason Virginia and Nebraska stayed out in the first place; the idea that these standards  emanated from President Obama and not from the states that combined to develop and implement them. I admit that I don’t have expertise on states rights, but I do know – Indiana politics aside — that Obama wasn't the source of these standards. That makes this concern more of a political wedge issue than an education concern. 

Also, I remember the state fights against the No Child Left Behind law during the last administration. The Supreme Court, a conservative court, was quite clear that states could be exempt from federal education mandates as long as they refused to accept the federal education money—which in Indiana’s case is more than $300 million per year that Governor Pence would need to send back. (I might not understand the ins and outs of political power, but I’ll bet you a quarter that Governor Pence for all of his enthusiastic independence from Washington would sooner outlaw basketball in Indiana before he’d that much money back to DC).

When Virginia’s Republican governor rejected the CCSS originally, he made the same state’s rights claims. He had been for the standards until he found out the Obama administration wanted them too, so for him it had become an issue of states rights (surprising how it sounds more like expediency). But the Virginia governor also indicated that the CCSS standards had been reviewed carefully and rejected because they were no higher than Virginia’s educational standards. I’ve written about that before, and it is a silly claim that doesn’t bear scrutiny. I have no idea whether Virginia or Indiana should adopt common core or cling to the lower standards, but pretending to not be able to tell the difference is embarrassing.


Indiana is the first state to withdraw from the common core state standards. Previously, there were four states that had not adopted the standards, but of those that had done so, Indiana is the first to have backed down. Technically, they have only “suspended” their CCSS efforts for further study so it is possible that this will just be a delay and not an actual withdrawal, but the politics around this in Indiana suggest that this is likely the beginning of the end of CCSS there.

Various state leaders have made noises about withdrawing from CCSS to re-embrace their previous low educational standards, and some (e.g., Alabama) have already pulled out of the PARCC and Smarter Balanced testing, but Indiana is the only one to actually take action on their second thoughts.

Indiana Governor Mike Spence gave several reasons for the suspension, including the added costs. I’ve written about that issue in this space before, so it should be clear that I’m sympathetic to that problem. Many states, perhaps Indiana being one of these, adopted the standards without much forethought, and now are trying to implement without much real financial support.  That may be a good way to drive teachers crazy, but it won’t likely be sufficient to help kids learn.

Most of Governor Pence’s concerns seem to be about states rights. He doesn’t like the federal government poking is nose into Indiana business. This is the same reason Virginia and Nebraska stayed out in the first place; the idea that these standards somehow emanated from President Obama rather than from the states that combined to develop and implement them. I admit that I don’t have real expertise on states rights, but I do know – Indiana politics aside — that Obama was not the source of these standards. That makes that more a political wedge issue than an education one. 

Also, I remember the state fights against the No Child Left Behind law during the last administration. The Supreme Court, a conservative court, was quite clear that states could be exempt from federal education mandates as long as they refused to accept the federal education money—which in Indiana’s case is more than $300 million per year that Governor Pence would need to send back. (I might not understand the ins and outs of political power, but I’ll bet you a quarter that Governor Pence for all of his enthusiastic rhetorical independence from Washington would outlaw basketball in Indiana before he’d send any of that money back to DC any time soon).

When Virginia’s Republican governor rejected the CCSS originally, he made the same state’s rights claims. He had wanted the standards until he found out the Obama administration wanted them to, so for him it had become an issue of states rights. But the Virginia governor also indicated that the CCSS standards had been reviewed carefully and rejected because they were no higher than Virginia’s standards. I’ve written about that before, too. It is a silly claim that doesn’t bear scrutiny.

Now Indiana is going to review the standards to see whether CCSS are better than what Indiana has aimed for in the past. I wonder if they’ll pay attention to the text complexity requirements that make almost all of the reading standards markedly harder than any previous standards. I wonder if they’ll pay attention to the disciplinary literacy standards for secondary students that require students to read science differently than they read history and literature.


Virginia ignored these differences and then concluded that they didn’t exist. I wonder if the upcoming Indiana review will ignore these stubborn facts, as well. Reject the standards, Governor, if you see some political advantage, you have the power to do so. Just don't mislead Indiana parents with claims that past Indiana standards are as high as the standards you are taking a pause on. They're not. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Recent Presentations

Here are the presentations that I made last week at the Colorado Council--IRA and the one I made at the Chicago Principals & Adminstrators Association meeting.

https://sites.google.com/site/tscommoncore/february-2013


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Challenges of Common Core Talk

One of my most frequently requested presentations, my short talks on the challenges of the common core, has not been posted in a while, so to help folks find it, here is the most recent version. It is always getting updated, usually in small ways in response to audience queries or accumulating evidence about confusions.

https://sites.google.com/site/tscommoncore/challenges