Tuesday, May 31, 2016

David Pollock responds to my concerns

State Senate Candidate David Pollock of Moorpark, CA has responded to my concerns, which I posted at http://skrashen.blogspot.com/2016/05/too-little-discussion-about-education.html (I sent copies of my statement to all the candidates who were listed on twitter.)

Mr. Pollock has generously given me permission to share his comments. It is good to know that at least one candidate is aware of the issues I brought up, and clearly understands their importance.

His response:

I appreciated seeing your article, and I think we are in violent agreement on most key issues in education.  Just as a matter of background, I started my career as a certified ground and flight instructor (just like teaching K-12, except your students try to kill you every day).  I took an active interest in my local (Moorpark) schools in 1992 when my two children started attending, and I chaired the district's Committee for Effective Schools.  We recommended, and the school board adopted, a series of reforms that included distinctive instructional programs at each school and voluntary enrollment from outside attendance boundaries.  I was elected to the school board in 1994, primarily to oversee implementation of the reforms.  I eventually became president of the California School Boards Association and have also served on WASC accreditation teams for high schools in California.

I agree that we have to be careful about preschool programs.  I alway refer to "quality" preschool programs, but I agree that they should also be developmental in nature.  It is no secret that kids learn through play.  In fact, I think we need to infuse higher grades with more time to play and explore.  I think quality preschool programs are particularly important for kids in poverty who have less exposure to cognitive stimulation including bright colors and articulate conversation.

I am aware of the push for STEM instruction and worry about that too.  In Moorpark, only one of our six elementary schools specializes in STEM instruction (it's called the Flory Academy for Science and Technology and is a NASA Explorer School).  Other schools specialize in cultural literacy (Core Knowledge), active learning, performing arts, etc.  The point is, there is no one "right" way to teach children and school districts should embrace variety.  And in case anyone doubts this is a good strategy, I point out that during my 15 years on the school board, Moorpark won the U.S. Academic Decathlon four times.

As for technology in schools, our emphasis was on technology for teachers.  We invested in Prometheus boards for every classroom as a multi-media presentation tool for instruction.  This was a big push of mine as a member if the Technology Strategic Planning Committee for the district.  As far as computers for instructional use, I see it as just one tool in good RTI methods.  Use the computers for kids that need access beyond the lesson plan and have the teacher focus on directed instruction for those students that are struggling.  I'm a big fan of the Kahn Academy for independent study.

Yes, I am a big believer in libraries.  It think we have some of the best school libraries in the area, and in my work on the city council, we are planning a brand new public library based on what has been successful in other communities.

I was on the school board when Prop. 227 was passed and, since we still believe bilingual programs were succeeding for many of our students, we utilized the "one month" rule to identify students that would benefit from bilingual programs and then secured parental permission to place them in that environment.  I haven't read the new proposed initiative, but to the extent that it frees school districts to do what is most successful for kids, I am in favor.

There is an old farmers adage that goes, "weighing the pig does not make it fatter."  I have railed against high-stakes testing from the beginning.  While I agree that there most be some norm-based testing for summative purposes, I think the primary purpose of any testing must be useful diagnostics as feedback to the teacher. And so long as teachers are routinely checking for understanding, I think the need for formal testing should be minimal.

Whether or not competency-based testing proves to be effective, I still believe that testing should be minimal and largely discretionary.  We only need to do enough formal testing necessary for summative purposes, but, again, testing should be a routine matter of checking for understanding and for genuine diagnostic purposes.

I appreciate you asking these questions and welcome your advice.  I intend to be on the Senate Education Committee to help restore California's schools as the gold standard of public education.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Too little discussion about education

Sent to the Malibu Times (California), May 28, 2016

I have dedicated my entire working life to education. As a result, it is particularly important to me, and, I am sure, to all citizens, that candidates for the state senate and assembly include strong and specific campaign statements regarding their views on education.  One of the primary responsibilities of state government is education, but other than pious pronouncements that education is "important," the candidates in my district rarely mention it.

A few candidates argue for increased investment in preschool. Although some preschool programs are very helpful, many other preschool programs these days are very academically oriented, in order to prepare children for kindergarten, now called "kindergrind" by some educators.  There is no evidence that this kind of tough love is effective. In fact, in an article last May, Psychology Today reviewed child development research and concluded that "early academic training produces long-term harm."

Very young children are being pushed into excessive amounts of science, technology, engineering and math ("STEM") regardless of their personal interests, just as university students are, because of the widespread belief that there is a shortage of American experts in these fields. Several studies have shown, however, that this is not so.

Are the candidates aware of this issue?:

Some candidates propose more funding for technology, another two-edged sword. A  recent major review of computer use in 70 countries done by the Organization for Economic Organization and Development concluded that providing schools with computer technology has no academic advantage. My suspicion is that this is because implementation is in the form of pre-packaged programs developed by publishers and is not under the control of the real experts, the teachers.

How do the candidates feel about the use of technology in schools?

And what are their thoughts about the following?

- California has consistently had the lowest reading scores in the nation, and studies relate this problem to a lack of investment in libraries and librarians. Are the candidates committed to more support for our libraries and librarians?

- Bilingual education was dismantled in California in 1998 by prop 227, despite strong evidence that properly organized bilingual programs help language minority children acquire good academic English. In the November elections, Californians will vote on a proposal that will reverse aspects of 227 and once again allow districts to set up bilingual programs that help minority students. Do the candidates have a position on bilingual education?

- Children in California and in the rest of the country undergo a massive amount of unnecessary and expensive testing that does not contribute to their learning. Arizona State University professor David Berliner, for example, has reported that increasing testing does not increase school achievement. Have the candidates carefully examined the impact of testing on our students?

- There is a strong movement from publishing and computer companies toward "competency-based education," which is a new form of online programmed learning that may result in daily testing. There is little evidence that it works. A recent report from the National Governor's Association, an organization enthusiastic about competency-based education (CBE), states that there have been "only a few rigorous evaluations" of CBE programs.  How do the candidates feel about competence-based education?

About 40% of the state general fund budget goes to K-12 education, and another 10% to higher education. It is arguably the most important function of our state government.  We need to know more about the candidates' positions on educational issues.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus, USC, Rossier School of Education

Friday, May 27, 2016

Was Hillary abducted by aliens in 1979?

Diane Ravitch informs us that she will not "join in the vicious quarrels between partisans of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. I refuse to give ammunition to Trump for the campaign."  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diane-ravitch/my-choice-for-president_b_10145992.html)
   I understand her point. But there is one event that needs to be discussed. Worldnewsbureau (May 11, 2016) reports that in 1979 Secretary Clinton was abducted by aliens. "In what may or may not be a coincidence," the article tells us, nine months after the abduction, her daughter Chelsea was born.  The article explains that her encounter may explain Sec. Clinton's interest in UFOs.
   I think all apparent coincidences need to be carefully investigated. Here's another one that needs looking into, a tweet posted by Bill Murray on April 23, 2015: "Chuck Norris was born May 6,1945. The Nazis surrendered May 7, 1945. Coincidence? I think not." (Chuck Norris claims he was born on March 10, 1940. Yeah, right.)
   By the way, I think the abduction story is in Sec. Clinton's favor.  Talk about multiculturalism!

More from Worldnewsbureau.com: 
School Board Bans Materials Casting Doubt On Climate Change
The Portland Public Schools Board of Portland, Oregon has unanimously passed a resolution to remove from classrooms any materials that "cast doubt" on whether manmade climate change is occurring.  
"We're shaping young minds here - the last thing we need is conflicting material from a bunch of scientists," said Ms. Wilma Boyington Mason Roberts, board president.
This is satire, by the way. Ms. Roberts doesn't exist. But the school board did ban materials doubting climate change.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

"I'll have a breve latte: Evidence for the Comprehension Hypothesis from Starbucks

I asked the barista at Starbucks this morning how long it took him to master the Starbucks vocabulary.  He told me it took about a month until he understood all the orders, then another month until he could fluently shout them out to those making the drinks.  "In other words," I said, "it's comprehension before production."  "Right!" he said, "like reading before writing."
I added: "And like listening before speaking."
He totally agreed. 

Hat-tip: Ethan Price

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sugiharto: Cho & Krashen (2016) "lacks explanatory power"? I respond (of course).

Comprehensible Input as Sociocognitive Alignment: A Response to Cho and Krashen (2016)   Setiono Sugiharto
A plethora of studies on how language is acquired through comprehensible inputs has generated valuable insights into language acquisition theory. Many of these studies have confirmed that humans acquire language in one way – through reading and listening. In particular, a recent study by Cho and Krashen (2016) published in this journal further confirms that the exposure to input (i.e. in the form of pleasure reading) is beneficial for attaining advanced level of language development both in a foreign and second language. While insightful, this study is highly descriptive and lacks explanatory power. In addition, it treats successful acquisition as a result of the sole contribution of mind; that is, acquisition is seen as internally driven and resides in intellectu. Thus, we need to go beyond this description. In this article, I will provide more explanation to their descriptive exposition by showing that the acquisition of both first and second language is a gradual result of “sociocognitive alignment’ (Atkinson, 2010). This is to say that multifaceted sociomaterial aspects, other than cognition, play a key role and immensely contributes to successful acquisition of language.  
Full paper available at: http://dergipark.ulakbim.gov.tr/tojelt/article/view/5000187443

Krashen, S. (2016). Response to Sugiharto, "Comprehensible input as social alignment." Turkish Online Journal of English Language Teaching (TOJELT), 1(2), 105. www.tojelt.com
It is true that my work and the work of my associates have focused mainly on the cognitive aspects of language acquisition. But it is not true that we have ignored non-cognitive variables. Our papers have discussed the role of poverty, the importance of access to reading material, the role of librarians, the role of parents, the function of interaction, club membership, personality, technology, etc. They have gone well beyond merely "mentioning ... sociomaterial components." Please do not generalize my interests from a single paper. Many of my papers and books are available for free at: sdkrashen.com.
My impression is that many of those who focus on social aspects of language acquisition ignore the cognitive aspects, not just in one or two papers but in all their work.
It is also not true that our studies are "highly descriptive in nature and lack explanatory power." The standard definition of explanatory power is "the ability of a hypothesis or theory to effectively explain the subject matter it pertains to." (e.g. Dekkers, 2015, p. 65). All of our studies are designed to test central hypotheses in language acquisition theory and the hypotheses have done a good job in explaining many phenomena in language acquisition. All description contributes to hypothesis testing.
Dekkers, R. (2015). Applied systems theory. Springer International Publishing: Switzerland.

Cho and Krashen paper: Cho, K.S. and Krashen, S. 2016. What does it take to develop a long-term pleasure reading habit? Turkish Online Journal of English Language Teaching.  1(1): 1-9.http://www.tojelt.com

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pushing Too Hard for STEM

Submitted to the Washington Post, May 19, 2016.

"Obama wants to hear what children have to say about science education,"(May 19) as part of a White House effort to expand STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education The assumption behind all this is the belief that there is a serious shortage of science and technology experts.
There isn't.  Rutgers University professor Hal Salzman has concluded that there are approximately three qualified graduates annually for each science or technology opening. Recent studies have also shown the United States is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb. 
Also, we don't know what our needs will be by the time today's elementary school children finish school.  As Yogi Berra put it, "It is hard to predict, especially about the future."
It is a mistake to shove young people into math and science careers when it isn't right for them. It makes more sense to help students develop their own talents and interests,to help them find what they like and are good at, and help them get better at it.
The world needs a wide variety of  talents: Distinguished psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his colleagues explain: "If we were all more or less alike, humans would grow into narrowly specialized organisms. It would be difficult for us to adapt to changing conditions ..."

Stephen Krashen

Original article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/obama-wants-to-hear-what-children-have-to-say-about-science-education/2016/05/18/6290f1ba-1d38-11e6-8c7b-6931e66333e7_story.html

Surplus: Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1034801
Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.
Salzman, H. 2012. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12) http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-foreign-stem-graduates-get-green-cards/no-shortage-of-qualified-american-stem-grads.
Teitelbaum, M. 2014. Falling Behind? Boom, Bust & the Race of Scientific Talent. Princeton.
Weismann, J. 2013. More Ph.D's than the market can absorb: The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts. The Atlantic, Feb 20, 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/the-phd-bust-americas-awful-market-for-young-scientists-in-7-charts/273339/

Diversity: Csikszentmihalyi, M. Rathunde, K. & Whalen, S. (1993). Talented teenagers: The roots of success and failure. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.  Quote on page 8.

Stephen Krashen was a student in the first AP calculus class taught in the United States, uses math in his work, and loves all aspects of science and math. But he believes that STEM isn't for everybody, and is grateful that President Obama decided to study law, rather than mechanical engineering or chemistry.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Competency-based education a mistake

Published in the Detroit News, May 30, 2016
(MAJOR HAT TIP to Emily Talmage. San Diego: If it sounds too good to be true. https://emilytalmage.com/2016/05/07/san-diego-if-it-sounds-to-good-to-be-true/

Re: Stephen Cook's May 18 Labor Voices column, “The end of standardized testing." This may give way to something much worse (Labor Voices, May 17). While Michigan is apparently cutting back on end-of-the-year tests, there are signs that it will institute what could be daily testing, known as competency-based education.

Competency-based education consists of module after module of programmed instruction that students work through online and be tested on, which will drastically diminish the role of teachers and increase profits of technology companies.  The new education law announced grants for the development of these teach and test machines (sections 1201 and 1204).

The Michigan Department of Education website reads like an advertisement, and cheerfully tells us that "Competency-Based Education can help all students through flexible systems that support student success and allow for reporting of student competency that reflects student learning." In addition, Matchbook Learning, a school "turnaround" organization that is very active in several "low achieving schools" in Michigan relies heavily on Competency-Based Education. 

Neither the Michigan DOE nor Matchbook seem to be aware that that there is no hard research support for this expensive investment. A document written for Michigan's superintendents notes that "… there is currently no academic research demonstrating the effectiveness of K-12 competency-based education."   We have wasted billions of dollars and huge amounts of time on useless tests. Competency-based education might be an even bigger mistake. 

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Original article: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2016/05/17/standardized-tests-change/84524666/
Michigan Dept of Education website: http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,4615,7-140-28753_65803-322532--,00.html
Competency-based Education: An overview for Michigan's superintendents.  The General Education Leadership Network of the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators
Matchbook Learning: matchbooklearning.com
More information about competency-based education:
McDermott, M. 2015a. Reading between The Lines: Obama’s “Testing Action Plan”  http://educationalchemy.com/2015/10/25/reading-between-the-lines-obamas-testing-action-plan/
McDermott, M. 2015b. Common core and corporate colonization: the big picture. http://educationalchemy.com/2015/10/30/common-core-and-corporate-colonization-the-big-picture/
Robertson, P. 2015a. U.S. Dept. of Ed. and Educational Warfare. http://www.pegwithpen.com/2015/10/us-dept-of-ed-and-educational-warfare.html
Robertson, P. 2015b. Opt out revolution: the next wave. http://www.pegwithpen.com/2015/10/opt-out-revolution-next-wave.html
Talmage, E. 2015a. Dear Mark. http://emilytalmage.com/2015/11/14/dear-mark/
Talmage, E. 2015b. What is proficiency-based learning? http://emilytalmage.com/2015/04/26/save-maine-schools/
Talmage, E. 2016.  San Diego: If it sounds too good to be true. https://emilytalmage.com/2016/05/07/san-diego-if-it-sounds-to-good-to-be-true/

Fox News writer blames schools for low wages. I respond.

Comment on P. Morici, ("Want to know why your wages are sinking, America? It starts with our schools," May 17, 2016) on fox news. com
Posted at: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/05/17/want-to-why-your-wages-are-sinking-america-it-starts-with-our-schools.html#

Peter Morici is badly misinformed when he says "fraud and wasted resources" in America's schools are the cause of low wages.
First, our schools are quite good. When researchers control for the impact of poverty, American students score near the top of the world on international test scores.  Our overall scores are unspectacular because child poverty is so high in the US, around 25%, the second highest of all industrialized countries. Poverty means, among other things, food deprivation, poor health care, and little access to books. The best teaching and most rigorous standards in the world will not mean anything if children are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read.  The problem is not fraud, waste, low standards, or teacher quality, or unions, or schools of education. The problem is poverty.
Despite the poverty problem, there is no shortage of scientifically-trained graduates. Rutgers University professor Hal Salzman has concluded that there are approximately three qualified graduates annually for each science or technology opening. Recent studies have also shown the United States is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb.  About 1/3 of college-bound high-school students take calculus, and only about 5% of jobs require this much math. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, we will need 500,000 graduates in computer science by 2024. About 50,000 computer science majors are completing their education each year.

Stephen Krashen


Control for poverty: Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report. Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/).
Negative effect of poverty on school achievement: Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential:  Out-of-School Factors and School Success.  Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved [date] from http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential,

Surplus: Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1034801
Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.
Salzman, H. 2012. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12) http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-foreign-stem-graduates-get-green-cards/no-shortage-of-qualified-american-stem-grads.
Teitelbaum, M. 2014. Falling Behind? Boom, Bust & the Race of Scientific Talent. Princeton.
Weismann, J. 2013. More Ph.D's than the market can absorb: The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts. The Atlantic, Feb 20, 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/the-phd-bust-americas-awful-market-for-young-scientists-in-7-charts/273339/
One third take calculus: Bressoud, D. 2011. Calculus in High School: Too Much of A Good Thing? www.macalester.edu/~bressoud/talks
Need for calculus: Handel, M. 2010. What do people do at work? Available at www.northeastern.edu/socant/wp-content/.../STAMP_OECD2a_edit2.doc‎

San Diego replacing end-of-year tests with something much worse?

Comment posted at: "San Diego schools to reduce standardized testing, focus on achievement," 

[http://sdnews.com/pages/full_story/push id=27184365&content_instance=27184365&need_to_add=true#cb_post_comment_27184365]

Not so fast. Emily Talmage has presented clear evidence that San Diego is replacing end-of-year tests with something much worse, much more expensive, and without demonstrated validity: Competency-based testing. This promises to result in even more testing than we had before.

Please see:
To read about competency-based testing, please see McDermott, M., Robertson. P., and Krashen, S. 2016. Language Magazine, January 16. http://languagemagazine.com/?page_id=125014
Posted at: http://skrashen.blogspot.com/2016/03/testing-all-time.html

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Learning to read: There is nothing magic about grade 3.

Comment posted in response to: New York City Aims to Place Reading Coaches in Every Elementary School (Education Week)

"Grade 3 is very predictive," Esther Klein Friedman, the executive director of literacy and academic intervention services for the New York City education department, said in an interview recently. "We figure if we've got [students] solidly locked down in reading by the end of grade 2, we've got a really good foundation to sit on."
There is nothing magic about grade 3.  Yes, reading at grade 3 does predict reading achievement later on, but reading at any grade correlates with reading achievement at any other grade.
Also, there is no reason to expect that poor reading ability at any age inevitably leads to poor reading forever. A great deal of research confirms that readers can improve dramatically in reading at any age, including adulthood, if they have access to interesting and comprehensible reading material. (Krashen and McQuillan, 2007; Sullivan and Brown, 2014).

Krashen, S. 2011. Need Children Read "Proficiently" by Grade 3? Some Possible Misinterpretations of the "Double Jeopardy" Study.  Language Magazine 11,2: 24-27.
Krashen, S. and McQuillan, J. 2007. Late intervention. Educational Leadership 65 (2): 68-73.
Sullivan, A. & Brown, M. (2014). Vocabulary from adolescence to middle age. London: Centre for Longitudinal Studies, University of London.

New York: forget reading coaches: support libraries and librarians

Comment posted in response to: New York City Aims to Place Reading Coaches in Every Elementary School (Education Week)

New York City reading coaches "will emphasize use of the five pillars of reading laid out in the 2000 National Reading Panel report—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension."
Has New York considered the many challenges to the conclusions of the National Reading Panel report? Many of these have appeared in Education Week, as well as in respected professional journals and books, Has New York considered the massive evidence showing the power of libraries to improve literacy? The evidence suggests that we don't need coaches in every elementary school, we need well supported school libraries and librarians.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The STEM crisis hoax continues

"... the impending shortage of scientists and engineers is one of the longest running hoaxes in the country" (Bracey, 2009).
Evidence Bracey continues to be right:
Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.
Salzman, H. 2013: “What Shortages? The Real Evidence About the STEM Workforce” Issues in Science and Technology (National Academy of Science policy magazine) Summer 2013 Hal Salzman
Salzman, H. 2009: “Will Science and Engineering Now Be a Good Career?” Commentary (2009) Education Week Lindsay Lowell & Hal Salzman
Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2011: “The Science and Technology Pipeline” (Commentary) Chronicle of Higher Education/
Hal Salzman, Daniel Kuehn, and B. Lindsay Lowell 2013: Guestworkers in the high-skill U.S. labor market: An analysis of supply, employment, and wage trends By | April 24, 2013 Briefing Paper #359 Economic Policy Institute http://www.epi.org/publication/bp359-guestworkers-high-skill-labor-market-analysis/
Teitelbaum, M. 2014. Falling Behind? Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent.  Princeton University Press.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Why are reports of alien abduction ignored by mainstream science?

Sent to Science News, May 2, 2016

The four articles in the April 30, 2016 edition of Science News dedicated to "the search for aliens" all assume that aliens have not succeeded in contacting us in any way.  Has Science News concluded that reports of abductees are not worthy of discussion?
Stephen Krashen

Note: I sent a very similar letter to Science News nearly 20 years ago, which they published, in reaction to an article in the Sept 7, 1996 edition.
The search goes on
Re: article about SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence ("The Big Question," SN: 9/7/96, p. 147).
Why haven't ETs shown up yet? Perhaps they have. Exclusion of this possibility suggests that the reports of abductees are not even worthy of discussion.
Stephen Krashen

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Phalse claims about phonics

Impact of "synthetic" phonics wears off.
Sent to the Guardian, April 25

The Centre for Economic Performance study did NOT show that "Phonics method helps close attainment gap,"  (April 24). It found just the opposite: By the time children were 11 years old, there was no difference between those who had "synthetic" phonics instruction and those who had different approaches. (in synthetic phonics, children are taught how letters are pronounced in isolation, before reading words.)
In addition, the synthetic phonics advantage began to disappear quite early: 5 year olds showed an obvious impact of phonics instruction, but the effect was clearly weaker by age 7.
The Guardian article also reported that synthetic phonics was "markedly successful" for groups from "deprived backgrounds" even at age 11. But the effect for this group was weak, clearly on its way to disappearing.
UK Children's Laureate Michael Rosen is quoted as saying that reading for pleasure is the most powerful way of building reading competence. Research consistently supports this statement, and explains why children of poverty don't do as well on reading tests: lack of access to reading material.

Stephen Krashen

Original article: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/apr/25/phonics-method-helps-close-attainment-gap-study-finds

Monday, May 2, 2016

Does an app do a better job than books and people?

Published in the Daily Bulletin, Pomona, CA April 27
The Early Learning Literacy App: Is it worth it?
Pomona Unified "is helping low-income preschoolers bridge ‘30-million word gap’" (April 24) with a commercial product from Footsteps2  Brilliance, The "Early Learning Literacy App". The app contains stories, songs and games and claims to develop literacy in young children.
Not mentioned is the consistent research finding that a print-rich environment with old-fashioned books, people who will read aloud to children, and free time for pleasure reading produces fantastic results in literacy development, including vocabulary development. 
On their website, Footsteps2 Brilliance describes a study in which literacy app students made better gains than untreated comparison subjects, but there is no evidence that the literacy app does a better job than real books and people.
Also not mentioned is the fact that the app costs between $250,00 to $350,000 per district. This information is also not included in the Footsteps website: I found it in an article in the Boston Globe.

Stephen Krashen

Original article: http://www.dailybulletin.com/social-affairs/20160424/how-pomona-unified-is-helping-low-income-preschoolers-bridge-30-million-word-gap

Letter: http://www.dailybulletin.com/opinion/20160511/inland-empire-needs-projects-like-empire-lakes-letters
Boston Globe article: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/north/2013/10/12/young-malden-students-get-into-reading-with-footsteps-brilliance-literacy-program/y8HYokGXsprKOO3OwbejcP/story.html

More on the so-called shortage of computer science grads: Hal Salzman

A petition to the US Congress, signed by Zuckerberg, Gates and others, for more computer science education is based on their claim of a huge shortage of computer science grads, which I have contested (http://skrashen.blogspot.com/2016/05/are-there-really-500000-computer-jobs.html)

Hal Salzman (Rutgers University) sent me his conclusion, from his statement  from his testimony submitted to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 25 February 2016  at the hearing on "The Impact of High-Skilled Immigration on U.S. Workers."

"Current graduation rates indicate that projected employment demand specifically for computer science (CS) graduates can be met by about half of the current supply of 65,000 to 70,000 CS graduates (with at least a bachelor’s degree) each year, and the balance of demand can be met by those graduating with a range of other degrees, as is the historical pattern. Even if current industry hiring is for a much greater level of computer scientists than historical hiring patterns, the current pool of graduates would provide sufficient numbers of computer scientists to meet industry demand."

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Want an "excellent proposal"? invest in libraries and librarians.

Sent to the Australian Financial Review May 1

The London School of Economics study, contrary to the description in  "Simon Birmingham's 'excellent proposal'," (May 1), did NOT show a strong effect for phonics.  The positive impact wore off quickly, and was largely gone by grade 5. This result is consistent with other research showing that intensive phonics instruction only helps children on tests in which they pronounce words out-loud presented to them in a list.  It does not help them on tests in which they have to understand what they read.  Research consistently shows that the cause of real reading ability is doing a lot of self-selected pleasure reading.
Australian schools don't need phonics checks. They need a greater investment in libraries and librarians.  For children of poverty, the library is often their only source of reading material.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

original article: http://www.afr.com/leadership/innovation/simon-birminghams-excellent-proposal-a-phonics-test-for-year-1-students-20160501-goj8ps#ixzz47Sc3lYes

Some sources:
Other research on phonics: Garan, E. (2001). Beyond the smoke and mirrors: A critique of the National Reading Panel report on phonics. Phi Delta Kappan 82, no. 7 (March), 500-506. Krashen, S. 2009. Does intensive decoding instruction contribute to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37 (4): 72-74.
Self-selected pleasure reading: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Second edition. Portsmouth: Heinemann and Westport: Libraries Unlimited; Lee, S. Y. 2007. Revelations from Three Consecutive Studies on Extensive Reading. Regional Language Center (RELC) Journal , 38 (2), 150-170.
Impact of libraries: Lance, Keith. The Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement. http://www.lrs.org/impact.php; Krashen, S, Lee, S.Y. and McQuillan, J. 2012. “Is the Library Important? Multivariate Studies at the National and International Level.” Journal of Language and Literacy Education 8 no. 1: 26-36.

Why the UK test boycott

Sent to the Guardian May 1

Barbara Ellen assumes that parents who opt their children out of tests are opposed to all assessment ("Time children learned a life lesson at school," April 30). Not true. The opt-out parents in the UK (and in the USA) are not against all testing. They are opposed to excessive and unnecessary testing based on inappropriate standards.

Stephen Krashen

original article: http://www.theguardian.com/profile/barbaraellen

Donald Trump and the bogus shortage of STEM workers.

S. Krashen, May 1, 2016

"... the impending shortage of scientists and engineers is one of the longest running hoaxes in the country" (Gerald Bracey, 2009).

"Over the years, (Bill) Gates has been a leading advocate for increasing the H-1B visa and green cards in the belief that the U.S. isn't producing enough high-skilled workers."  http://www.computerworld.com/article/2490207/technology-law-regulation/u-s--senator-blasts-microsoft-s-h-1b-push-as-it-lays-off-18-000-workers.html

It is clear that despite the outcry from the business world, there is no shortage of STEM workers (eg Is the U.S. losing the tech race? By Michael S. Teitelbaum, April 20, 2014, Los Angeles Times op-ed.) and in particular no shortage of computer science trained workers (No shortage of computer science graduates. http://tinyurl.com/jdht2mn).

Many people have concluded that the reason companies say there is a shortage in these areas is so they can bring in STEM workers from other countries and pay them less.  Several candidates for president have made reasonable proposals about this situation. One of them is (gasp) Donald Trump, who comments on the H-1B visa, which allows foreign workers to be employed temporarily in the US in certain special areas.

"(Trump's) proposal has two basic components. First is to increase the H-1B "prevailing wage" so the programme can no longer be used for cheap labour. The prevailing wage is the minimum wage that an employer must pay an H-1B worker. Right now that wage is set far below the actual wages paid to American workers. As a result, employers have a profit motive to replace Americans with H-1Bs. The second component of the proposal is to require employers to actively recruit American workers before turning to the H-1B programme. Both of these proposals would fix the H-1B so that it works as it is intended: to fill skills gaps in the American labour market. These proposals are consistent with those introduced by policymakers that span the ideological spectrum, from liberal Democratic Senators Richard Durbin and Bernie Sanders to conservative Republican Senators Charles Grassley, Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions. "

Are there really 500,000 computer jobs open in the US?

No shortage of computer science graduates.
Stephen Krashen

There is now a petition to congress to provide more support for computer science in schools, because “There are currently over 500,000 open computing jobs, in every sector, from manufacturing to banking, from agriculture to healthcare, but only 50,000 computer science graduates a year.” (“Offer computer science in our public schools,”; change.org/computerscience#CSforALL)

The petition is signed by a number of “business leaders,” including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, state governors, and various heads of education organizations, including David Coleman of the College Board.

A footnote to the text of the petition notes that this data comes from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not noted in the text is that the gap is a projection FOR THE NEXT TEN YEARS (from 2014 to 2024).  We will need 500,000 more computer science grads in 2024. NOT RIGHT NOW.

If we are producing about 50,000 computer graduates each year, this appears to be enough.

Additional note,
I discovered today (May 5) that the crucial footnote is no longer present in the petition. But the figure agrees with my own estimate, also based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Combining estimates for programmers, systems analysts, software developers, computer research scientists, web developers and database administrators, the total needed in 2024 is about 425,000.