Monday, March 22, 2010

Krashen on "college for everyone"

"College for everyone" policy is bad for everyone.

Sent to USA Today, March 18

Insisting that all high school grads be ready for college and work means that a high school diploma will certify the completion of a college prep program ("What if a college education just isn't for everyone?" March 16).

This will have the effect of making a high school diploma irrelevant for all those who are not interested in college, who have different interests, talents, and career paths, It will also mean a continuation of the decline of vocational classes of all kinds, which is not only bad for vocational ed and for the trades, it is bad for everybody.

My dad had a law degree and a CPA, and was highly educated and well-read. He went to a technical high school and took every shop class he could. He loved them. This practical background was extremely valuable to him in his business career. He knew what was happening not only in the offices but also in the factories, fields, construction sites, and warehouses, and had a deep respect for skilled work of all kinds.

Stephen Krashen

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Krashen in Time Magazine on teachers' views and algebra

Inaccurate Reporting of Teachers' Opinions

According to "Teachers Find Students Unprepared for Success" (Briefing, March 15), a Gates Foundation report found that teachers think that "too many" students are "ill-equipped" for college.

But the report found that teachers are fairly confident about their students' preparation: Nearly half (46%) felt that 76% or more of their students would be prepared for college, and 72% said that half or more would be prepared. (Q720)

The report had interesting findings on why teachers thought some students were not prepared for college. Only about a third (35%) said it was due to lack of academic preparation. Half (49%) said it was lack of encouragement from family and friends. (Q 730)

Time also claimed that teachers supported "clear standards, student performance evaluations, and teacher assessments." Not included was the fact that few teachers thought standardized tests were effective measures. (Q810) (Note that "teacher assessments" does not mean "assessments of teachers." It means assessments done by teachers as they are teaching.)

Time's sweeping headline and sloppy prose creates the impression that a high percentage of students are doing poorly and that the answer is standards and tests. Neither is correct.

Also of interest is the fact that most teachers did not go along with the current obsession of college for everybody. Only 11% thought that college preparation was the most important goal of school. In contrast, 71% said that the most important goal was to be ready for careers in the 21st century. (Q701)

Algebra Equations: Not At All Dull

The opening sentence of "The World According to Tom," (March 15), "To the young Tom Hanks, history was as dull as an algebra equation," is a profound blow to math and science education.

To be sure, some equations are more interesting than others, but there are some fantastic ones, equations that any good math or physics teacher can show represent profound insights.

The Pythagorean theorem, a2 + b2 = c2 is one of the great breakthroughs of all time. eiπ = -1 shows that the mysterious numbers pi, e, and the square root of minus 1 are directly related to each other. Possibly the most famous equation of all time, e = mc2, which relates matter and energy and the speed of light, is the foundation of modern physics.

I am not a mathematician, but I find these and many other algebra equations to be anything but dull.

Stephen Krashen

Monday, March 15, 2010

Krashen on the impact of school libraries

I just finished reading "Primary Sources: America's Teachers on America's Schools" which was published by Scholastic and the Gates Foundation. This report has been discussed in newspapers all over the country. Not mentioned in any of the media reports, and not mentioned in the summary section of the report is an interesting result about where students get their books for their own independent reading. This result was not discussed in the text but is buried deep in the appendix.

Q1505 Where do your students get books for their independent reading most often? Select all that apply.

school library: all levels: 83%. high school 80%
my classroom library: all levels: 68%, high school: 31%; elementary school 87% public library: all levels: 38% high school: 46%
retailers: all levels: 20%, high school: 35%

This is similar to what has been reported before in the professional literature, as I reported in The Power of Reading, but shows the impact of the school library far more clearly than ever before. If independent reading is a major source of our competence in literacy, this confirms that school and classroom libraries are very very important.

Unfortunately, the study did not look at differences in level of poverty.

Primary Sources: America's Teachers On America's Schools

Scholastic, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Krashen on math and poverty

Raise standards or deal with the problems?

Sent to the LA Times, 2/22/10

**Does the US lag a full year behind on math compared to other "top-performing countries," as claimed by an "administration official"? ("Obama to announce new effort to improve No Child Left Behind," Feb. 22). **

**Yes and no. If we consider only students from higher-income families who attend well-funded schools, our students do very well, scoring at or near the top. **

This suggests that the problem is not bad teaching, nor is the solution "raising standards." The problem is poverty and the solution is dealing with the factors associated with poverty. These include hunger, nutrition, environmental toxins, and the availability of books, all of which have been shown to powerfully impact academic performance.

Stephen Krashen


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.

Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics

achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.,0,954399.story

**Obama to announce new effort to improve No Child Left Behind**

Los Angeles Times

**The president is expected to encourage states to adopt a common set of college and career-ready standards. A main goal is to improve U.S. students' global competitiveness.**

By Christi Parsons Feb. 22, 2010

President Obama will announce an effort to raise public school standards Monday as part of a plan to upgrade goals of the No Child Left Behind law, an administration official said Sunday.

In a speech to the annual meeting of the National Governors Assn., Obama is expected to unveil a new requirement for states to develop standards to win a significant portion of No Child Left Behind funds.

A key feature of the 2002 law was the use of yearly standardized tests to gauge school progress. Though the law got credit for improving accountability for educators and raising the standards for schoolchildren, it was widely criticized for setting unrealistic goals but not giving schools the money to meet them.

The law was also criticized for letting the 50 states set 50 different standards. The president's move Monday will encourage states to adopt a common set of college and career-ready standards -- most of them higher than what most states currently have.

Obama was one of the chief critics during the presidential campaign, often noting that the problem with No Child Left Behind was that it "left the money behind."

Shortly after taking office, Obama challenged states to come up with standards and measurements that would better prepare public school children for college and careers.

On Monday, officials said, the president will applaud the governors for joining in a consortium to come up with new reading and math standards that better prepare students for life after graduation.

A 1994 federal law required that each state set standards for what students should know and be able to do in critical subjects, but the law did not require states to consider whether the standards might help prepare students for college and the workplace. Many complain that the standards are too low.

"Over time, this race to the bottom threatens to place American students on a decline in relation to international peers," an administration official said Sunday. "Results on international assessments reveal that, in math, American students lag almost a full year behind students from the top-performing countries. In response to their international comparison results, other countries have raised their standards while we have lowered ours."