professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Facts and Figures

I have written several times about how statistics are sometimes bandied about when being used to build a case for or against a particular project, product, etc. Last week, one headline proclaimed that more teachers think the time they are spending in test prep is "just right." Turns out that is somewhat true, but not really accurate. I spent the end of last week at the IRA conference in New Orleans where I witnessed something similar.

Well-intentioned people attending sessions were tweeting out factoids from the speakers. They had the appearance of a fact, but, in truth, there were some whoppers being tweeted. In all fairness to the presenters, there is no guarantee that what someone tweeted was actually something stated by the presenters. However, I began to grow concerned as I saw tweets that were so inaccurate and some downright false. You want examples:

"Close reading is the best way for kids to become better writers." I think CRITICAL reading and LOTS AND LOTS of reading will also result in better writing. Close reading is, of course, one of the buzz words in CCSS. However, asking kids to read and read and read the same text multiple times might not be the best way to motivate them to read more. If they do not read more than we offer in a classroom, I would argue that they are not (and will not become) lifelong readers, what Donalyn Miller calls "wild readers." Reading widely, reading daily, reading books of students' own choice, reading deeply sometimes and sometimes reading not, but reading a ton of materials will build writing skills.

Another tweet indicated that whether or not kids can perform a task is all about teacher and student perception. All kids can learn how to...fill in the blank. This ALL STUDENTS WILL business reminds me of Garrison Keillor's PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION ending tag where "all the children are above average." This is the same falsity we see in NCLB, AYP, RttT, CCSS, and other programmatic approaches to education. If all kids need to be above average, what is average? My head is starting to hurt.

What struck me hardest about IRA was that there were not as many author sessions. There were not as many books on display. Some of the largest exhibitors included Pearson (whose company name glowed from our badge holders). Most exhibits had some mention of CCSS. I saw a collection of trade books under a sign that read simply Common Core. I saw slick brochures from trade book publishers that listed the various CCSS standards that could be met with each new title of a forthcoming book. I know why I saw these, but it still makes me want to weep. You see, I can recall when IRA was about books and reading and not product and measurement. I remember when it started sliding away from books and authors. I remember the first reading war. I am witnessing the second one now.

To be sure, there were some fabulous sessions. I pulled some of the tweets from those sessions into a Storify: These are tweets from sessions with the research to back up the statements.

Speaking of research, Donalyn Miller and I are hosting a monthly chat called #bproots for Best Practices Roots. We have selected an article to read and discuss on Twitter in hopes that we can all have that important research the research that underpins our pedagogy, at hand. So, join Donalyn Miller and me for a chat about Lindsa Gambrell's article found here: on May 17 at 8 pm Central.
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