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04 March 2015 @ 09:49 am
Research Redux  
I wanted to follow up on yesterday's blog by pointing you all to this post from Paul Thomas: https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/beware-the-technocrats-more-on-the-reading-wars/. Thomas makes two very important points about "technocrats," quantitative researchers who are tied to products and processes (selling something, endorsing a program, etc.). I am wary of research until I see the WHO and the WHAT and the HOW. When I see the folks behind AR write articles about what books kids read, I stop and do the gut check. Did they survey kids beyond their own program? The answer is that they did NOT. So, the books they report being read the most are actually the books tons of kids have tested over to score points. These points, often tied to grades (yikes!), are used to purchase trinkets. This is not reading. This is bribery. No adult I know reads for pizza, brownies, pig kissing, limo rides, etc. But I digress (which I often do). Here are the points Thomas makes about this research.

1. "Beware the seductive allure of statistics, numbers, and “scientific” research."

For a long time, the buzz words in research were scientific and replicable. No other research need apply. Forget actin research, forget educator observations. And please do dismiss any qualitative research. We need data. A recent headline touted that 67% of educators use data to inform their instruction. I think that is misleading. Every caring educator use=s "data." But "data" is not just numbers. Data is about knowing kids, especially the kids you are teaching. Check out Brian Wyzlic's post for the Slice of Life blog: https://wyzreads.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/slice-of-life-on-relationships/. When I write MAKING THE MATCH more than a decade ago, the first key component was Knowing the Kids. Stats and numbers do not help me to know kids.

2. "Beware the momentum of cottage industry gurus." Some researchers make a fine living hawking programs. There is a fine line between professional books that make observations and suggestions for practice and those that basically lay out the "program" step by step, day by day. Some ideas begin simply and then become entrenched as programmatic. AR began as a way to track what kids are reading. Now it is touted as the answer to sluggish reading scores and even discipline problems (from one of their promotional videos a few years ago, the claim was that kids would be so enamored with AR that they would be sweet, compliant kids).

I would add some other points:

3. Beware top-down models that are imposed on teachers (and therefore students).
4. Beware of the hidden costs of "fixes." Pearson has made a fortune here in Texas (and the exact figure is still a mystery due to some bookkeeping irregularities) and elsewhere. I wonder how loudly those numbers need to be shouted for fiscally responsible folks to question what we get for our $$$?
5. Beware "fixes" in general. Things are not broken.

Thomas concludes with a quote from Joanne Yatvin, one of the members of the National Reading Panel:


"In the end, the work of the NRP is not of poor quality; it is just unbalanced and, to some extent, irrelevant. But because of these deficiencies, bad things will happen. Summaries of, and sound bites about, the Panel’s findings will be used to make policy decisions at the national, state, and local levels. Topics that were never investigated will be misconstrued as failed practices. Unanswered questions will be assumed to have been answered negatively. Unfortunately, most policymakers and ordinary citizens will not read the full reviews. They will not see the Panel’s explanations about why so few topics were investigated or its judgments that the results of research on some of the topics are inconclusive. They will not hear the Panel’s calls for more and more fine-tuned research. Ironically, the report that Congress intended to be a boon to the teaching of reading will turn out to be a further detriment."

Now go back and read Donalyn Miller's perspicacious post about this same issue: http://bookwhisperer.com/2015/02/08/ive-got-research-yes-i-do-ive-got-research-how-about-you/

Happy Hump Day, everyone.
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