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15 May 2014 @ 11:17 am
Give me a cause!  
With all of the emphasis on data these days, numbers are being bandied about, enough numbers to make one's head spin. One of the best things that happened to me as I was working on my doctoral degree is that I took quite a few classes in statistics and research. Numbers do not frighten me. I love algebra (or what I can recall of it now) and I loved trig and other courses I took many years ago. Knowing how to conduct research meant first knowing how to READ the research and understand what actually was being measured, reported, etc. I often mutter a phrase when I see some folks report out research, "Correlation is not causation!" Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post concurs with this fabulous piece: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/05/12/7-charts-why-you-shouldnt-confuse-correlation-with-causation/. The charts are hysterical. My favorite one is the correlation of cheese consumption with the number of people who die as a result of being strangled by their bedsheets. So, the next time you see research being cited, ask yourself whether it is something akin to what Strauss is discussing or if the conclusions can be drawn from the data.

To that end, here is another of thoise "news" stories about what kids are reading: http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/2014/0508/What-are-kids-reading-Books-like-Hunger-Games-but-classics-too. The origin of the "facts" come from the Reading Renaissance folks, the parents of Accelerated Reader. Here are the book smost popular with 9.8 million kids who read 312 million books. OK, impressive numbers, right? But how much reliance should we give reports that are coming from a COMPANY that makes profits by giving kids tests over what they read? I would suggest extreme caution. Here are some tidbits offered:

The number of books that students read peaks in second grade, at an average of 55.

But the number of words students read in books peaks in sixth grade, when they average 16.2 books containing a total of 419,121 words.

In 12th grade, students are averaging 5.2 books a year, containing 304,252 words.

The gender gap in the average number of words students read peaks in eighth grade – with boys reading 340,515 words and girls reading 446,771.

The Common Core State Standards, adopted by the majority of states in recent years, are encouraging more reading of informational texts. But the balance of books kids read is still heavily in favor of fiction. Fifteen percent of books read by 12th-graders are nonfiction.

Now, consider that this reports only on books kids read for points in school. In some instances, the reading for points is REQUIRED; some titles are REQUIRED. So, if a class reads one book, that data is lumped in with the rest. Imagine a school or district that adopts one title as its school-wide read. Kids read, they are forced to take the test for the points. Presto! We have books slide up to the top of the lists the company keeps.

The next time RESEARCH is cited, examine it dcarefully. What exactly is being reported? How are the conclusions drawn? What was the sample size? Who is doing the study? Do not accept things at face value.
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