Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Krashen defends US schools

Sent to Time Magazine, Dec. 1, 2008
According to many polls, people think that American schools are of low quality, but think that their neighborhood school is ok. They have first-hand information about their neighborhood school, but their information about other schools comes from distortions in the media, such as statements included in the column on the right side of the first page of "Can She Save Our Schools," (Dec. 6).
In common with most teaching/school-bashing articles, it is claimed that a low percentage of our students reach the proficient level on standardized tests, our students do much worse than those in other countries and our high school graduation rates are low. None of these claims are true.
Scholars such as Richard Rothstein and Gerald Bracey have argued that test makers in the US set the criteria for levels such as "proficient" much too high. Bracey has pointed out that using our standards, no country in the world would come close to having a majority of proficient readers.
Comparisons with other countries ignore the poverty variable. Rothstein has documented that children of poverty have inferior health care, an inferior diet, and fewer educational opportunities outside of school, such as travel and trips to museums. They are also less likely to have their own study area, get less help with homework, and have far less access to books in the home and in their communities. These factors have a profound influence on academic achievement.
Bracey has pointed out that American schools with low poverty rates score higher than even the highest scoring countries on standardized tests; only American schools with high levels of poverty (75% or more) fall below the international average.
Studies tell us that one of the main reasons students drop out is that they have to work. Even so, according to the US Census, about 85% of adults 25 or older in the US are now high school graduates, the highest in our history. In 1910, only 13.5% of adults had graduated high school.
Time's researchers need to go back to school.
Stephen Krashen
Time article: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1862444,00.html


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