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03 March 2015 @ 09:45 am
Don't stop believing  
Recently, Donalyn Miller posted an incredible piece on her blog entitled, "I've got research, yes I do. I've got research, how about you?" You can read it here: http://bookwhisperer.com/2015/02/08/ive-got-research-yes-i-do-ive-got-research-how-about-you/. She asked this question: "Why must English teachers constantly defend the need for students to practice reading and writing in a class dedicated to reading and writing?"

Since that post (just 3 weeks), countless other teachers have been challenged about their practices. In one place, an educator argued with me that whole language is to blame for the sad state of reading in this country. I countered with NCLB and the statistics that indicate it did little or nothing to raise test scores or to narrow the achievement gap. I offered counter research about the effectiveness of some of the programs this educator believed helped. A teacher reached out for help because her administrator wanted to implement another popular program. I spent a few days listening to teachers talk about CCSS and the role it was playing in their classrooms especially in terms of more programmed approaches.

It has almost become a discussion that begins with this statement: "Do not confuse me with your research stuff. I have always done it this way. It works for me. I do not intend to change." And that calls to mind the old story about a family's habit of cutting the ends off a roast before cooking it. When someone asks why, great-grandmother says, "Well, I had a small roasting pan, so I always had to cut off the ends." I wonder how many traditions originate in a situation that no longer exists?

Or this statement: "This program says it will increase test scores." When I ask for the research, it is not there. Or if it is there, it does not exactly prove the effectiveness of the program. AR falls into this category. Give me tons of books, choice in reading, time at school to read. I will show results based on those elements of the program and not on the point system and the multiple-guess tests. Isolate choice, access, and time. Then show me your program works. You cannot do that.

I wonder if perhaps we have to go up against the lyrics of the Journey song referenced in my title? Maybe we have to let go of some things, embrace the new? I wonder if we have to stop believing things that masquerade as research? Is it not time to turn our attention to our classrooms, to the action research we conduct all the time?

M<y colleague Karin Perry and I have been conducting a short survey when we head out to do workshops. We ask teachers and librarians about their own reading, about their presence on social networks, about when and how they read. The results are interesting. We will eventually share them more widely. But, with more than 500 educators surveyed, Karin and I are beginning to see some patterns emerge. I suspect we would see those same patterns emerge if we were to survey the kids these educators work with day after day. This is research I can use, research I can believe in.
 
 
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