It is encouraging news, from Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute, that New York City's three-year-old pilot project testing the content rich Core Knowledge Language Arts curriculum in ten low-income schools has proved so far, as the Daily News headline has it, ?a brilliant experiment in reading.?
According to Stern,
On a battery of reading tests, the kindergartners in the Core Knowledge program had achieved gains five times greater than those of students in the control group. The second-year study showed that the Core Knowledge kids made reading gains twice as great as those of students in the control group.
This is no surprise to fans of E.D. Hirsch, whose research over the last 25 years (from Cultural Literacy (1987) to The Making of Americans (2010)), has shown that teaching children a wide-ranging but comprehensive content heavy curriculum actually improves reading more than teaching reading skills does.? As Robert Pondiscio of the Core Knowledge Foundation explains it,
Two large (and largely overlooked) problems remain at the root of the reading crisis:? a lack of a coherent elementary school curriculum, and a stubborn insistence on teaching and testing reading comprehension as a how-to ?skill.?? Comprehension is highly correlated with general knowledge?the more you know, the greater your ability to read, write, speak and listen with fluency and comprehension.? Thus an essential component of reading comprehension instruction must be a focused commitment to build broad background knowledge in a coherent manner from the earliest
Today's Times (unless you read it online yesterday or the day before), covers some fertile educational ground in three important arenas.
A Little Shakespeare in Welding Class, Please! The deep recession has exposed a few education ribs in the nation's torso the last couple of years. And Motoko Rich has an excellent report about the impact budget cutbacks are having on the technical and trade schools.
The administration has proposed a 20 percent reduction in its fiscal 2012 budgdet for career and technical education, to a little more than $1 billion, even as it seeks to increase overall education funding by 11 percent.
The silver lining ? and best part of the story -- is toward the end, when Rich addresses the problem, as she writes, that ?the skills that employers most frequently say are in shortest supply are critical thinking, the ability to work in teams and communication, not specialized training.? ??She cites a Pioneer Institute study pointing out that manuals for many of these trade jobs, like plumbing and auto mechanics, require Grade 14 reading level and that more technical schools are realizing that even kids destined for blue-collar and busted-knuckle jobs should know how to read and write.
On the Avenue Seeing Benno Schmidt with hard-hat in hand does not mean that the former president of Yale is opening a trade school ? especially when he's standing next to education entrepreneur Chris Whittle and media executive
This is getting to be an old story (see here and here), but it's an important one. Yesterday's release of a report on the three-year-old Atlanta schools test cheating scandal seems to confirm our worst fears:? it was widespread, which means it was systemic, involving 44 schools and 178 teachers. According to Kim Severson, writing in today's New York Times*, ?a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in the district, which led to a conspiracy of silence.?**? Said Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, who released the report, ?There will be consequences.?
Let's hope so. No doubt, the case will fan the flames of the high-stakes testing fires. Are we putting too much pressure on teachers to ?perform?? And their administrators? Apparently, even one-time National Superintendent of the Year Beverly Hall is implicated. (As Severson reports, she just retired and? ?left Tuesday for a Hawaiian vacation.?) How do you explain systemic cheating?
As I opined last February, ?the range and depth of the problem, especially given the improbability of a conspiracy, is troubling.? Lacking a conspiracy, we are left with an explanation of?moral and ethical breakdown of epidemic proportions. And the question: how is the virus spread??
I'm not sure if the? "conspiracy of silence" proves me wrong, but there are things that can be done?including putting people in jail?and I would hope that Governor Deal is serious about consequences.
By the same token, our policymakers need to take a close
It is hard to read the Declaration of Independence without being moved by the document's plainspoken audacity, especially recalling that it wasn't then a "document," but a rather blunt call to arms.? And while we tend to focus on the sublime words?"when in the course of human events" and "self-evident" truths?of its first and second sentences, the manifesto's list of the King's ?repeated injuries and usurpations? never ceases to amaze me.? Every year I choose a different favorite complaint. This time, in part because of the aggravations seen by some in the Common Core and the ESEA reauthorization,? it is this: "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance."
Those guys were brilliant?and brave.
The crisis now before us is that we are creating citizens who won't remember the revolutionaries and what they did, much less appreciate the reasons for the revolution. We know that only 17 percent of our eighth graders scored at or above proficient on the 2010 NAEP history test. (It is somewhat reassuring, perhaps, that 62 percent of them were able to identify the Declaration as the source of "we hold these truths to be self-evident.") But Fordham took us into the heart of darkness earlier this year with its report, The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011, documenting the sorry state of our schools' approach to the teaching
- Stretching the School Dollar
- Common Core Watch
- Ohio Gadfly Daily
- Board's Eye View
- Choice Words
About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
Sign Up for updates from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
- Daniel Willingham: Science and Education Blog
- National School Board Association’s School Board News Today
- National Governors Association Center for Best Practices
- Texas Association of School Boards
- New York State School Board Association
- Florida School Boards Association
- California School Boards Association
- Program on Education Policy and Governance
- The Center for Research on Education Outcomes