Sunday, 15 July 2012

Professor Stephen Krashen's letters to the US press

Letter 1

How to improve reading: What the research really says.
Sent to the Christian Science Monitor, July 13

If students succeed in suing their school district for failure to help them learn to read well, what kind of intervention will follow? (“Michigan students sue school district for violating their 'right to read',” June 13).
According to the Monitor, the district must use “research-based approaches.”  Many of us in the language education field understand that “research-based” is code for “systematic, intensive phonics,” a method goes well beyond teaching the basics of phonics. Studies show that intensive phonics only helps children do better on tests in which they pronounce words presented in a list. It does not help on tests in which children have to understand what they read. Many studies consistently show that students improve their performance on reading comprehension tests in one basic way: By doing a great deal of self-selected, independent reading.
S.D, mentioned in the article, is in grade 8 but reads at the third grade level. S.D. can improve several grade levels each summer just by reading books that are comprehensible and interesting. (Goosebumps begins at the third grade level, and many comics are written at the second grade level.)
The Monitor briefly mentions what these students really need: Improved access to books. The simplest way for this to happen is a greater investment in school and classroom libraries and more support for the experts in recreational reading: School librarians.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

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Letter 2

Where your tax dollars are going: More testing
Sent to the Los Angeles Times, July 15

Where your tax dollars are going: More testing
Sent to the Los Angeles Times, July 15

“… the relentless emphasis on covering tested material” with the resulting de-emphasis on creative and critical thinking, so necessary in today’s world (“Education's pendulum: Thinkers or test takers?, July 15), is going to get worse.

The reaction of the US Department of Education to the excessive testing demanded by No Child Left Behind is to do it harder: Test more grade levels, more subjects, and add interim tests. There may even be pre-tests in the fall. 

Stephen Krashen
More grade levels to be tested:
Interim tests: Duncan, A. September 9, 2010. Beyond the Bubble Tests: The Next Generation of Assessments -- Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks to State Leaders at Achieve's American Diploma Project Leadership Team Meeting: The Blueprint, (op. cit.) p. 11. “U.S. Asks Educators to Reinvent Student Tests, and How They Are Given,”
Testing in the fall (value-added measures: (August 25, 2010). The Blueprint (op.cit.), p. 9.
Testing in more subjects: The Blueprint A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. United States Department of Education March 2010;  Education and the Language Gap: Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks at the Foreign Language Summit,":
Zero evidence it will work: Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). Additional evidence in Krashen, S. NUT: No Unnecessary Testing.