professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Where's the Beef?

Many of you probably did not have to live through the commercial from Wendy's with a gravelly-voiced older woman who shouted, "Where's the beef?" during the commercial. Like many commercials, it was funny ONCE. After that, it became irritating. But in the case of the education, the slogan is not "where's the beef?" but "where's the research?" Or at least that is how it SHOULD be. So, I do spend quite a bit of time not only doing research on my own, but reading research and summaries and reports of research from others. Research is one of the things I am still waiting to see for CCSS. I have not seen much of the research for the assertions of the standards that are anchors or for the requirement for close reading or so many other components of this new curriculum mandate.

But this morning, I was reading Larry Ferlazzo's reporting on a recent study in math, and this statement slapped me wide awake:

A quick summary is that, though extrinsic motivation and “surface learning” (such as memorization) might result in short-term gains in assessments, they actually hurt long-term (five-year) academic growth. The development of student intrinsic motivation, “deep learning strategies” (requiring “elaboration” and connections to other knowledge — I think that might correspond to the idea of “transfer”), and students feeling that they had more of a sense of control (though this last quality had a less consistent effect — it seemed to depend on grade level) of their learning were the main ingredients necessary for increased academic growth.

Though this research was about math class and learning, there are plenty of studies that exist in our field as well. And it is also, I think, part of what we have seen with NCLB and its rather desultory results over the long term. It is also what I suspect we will see with CCSS with one HUGE exception: the first year of assessments (read, test results) will be a precipitous drop in scores. We saw it here in Texas last year when the state initiated a NEW assessment. And we have seen it every 5-10 years for some time now. Kids get good at the test (and teachers get really good at teaching to the test), so it is time for a new assessment, so test scores will drop. Then politicians will be able to point and say, "Seee, we told you kids were not learning. Now we have proof." The crisis will be generated. New materials will be developed (by some of the same companies making the tests, mind you). More staff development (courtesy of the testing companies) will be offered to the poor, pitiful teachers. Scores will rise for a time. And then the cycle will begin again.

Add to this the things that are not known or understood by those outside the classroom: passing scores are set AFTER kids take the test, scores for districts are adjusted by factors such as attendance, SES, and other things so that scores are almost meaningless. The largest garment in this Emperor's New Clothing Testing is the test itself. We point to the kids who achieved "honors" on the test, make bumper stickers for their parents to affix on their cars, and give them certificates with shiny seals. As for the kids who do not perform well on benchmarks, they are subject to more and more practice sometimes even on a Saturday or before and after school or during lunch. The test scores are published in the papers and reported on TV and those outside of education think these scores are a reliable way of assessing the schools their kids attend.

So, if we want to engage kids in the UNprogram, what can we do? We cannot ignore the tests because now, in a value added system, teachers are being tied to the test scores of their students. Well, here is some research that might be heartening:

1. There is plenty of research that proves the value of reading aloud, giving kids time to read, and allowing kids to self-select books for pleasure reading.
2. There is research that shows positive correlation between libraries and librarians and test scores.
3. There is research that UNprograms (such as reading-writing workshop approaches) have positive effects on test scores.
4. There is research that shows kids' vocabulary grows with more reading. In turn, research shows that vocabulary gains translate to better performance on tests of reading comprehension.
5. There is research that shows the mentor texts (reading) has positive effect on writing, too.

So, there is research underpinning the UNprogram. As for getting kids college and career ready, seems to me that there have been a couple of generations of college and career folks who have achieved success without CCSS. Am I wrong?

Now back to regular programming.
Tags: research, unprogram
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