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Topic: Education Research
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Wayne Bishop

Posts: 5,465
Registered: 12/6/04
Education Research
Posted: Sep 3, 2000 2:49 AM
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The new millennium is certainly a different place to be. These are the
three major culprits in California, Whole Language learning, monolingual
Spanish under a different name, and Fuzzy math*. Now it only those who got
us here and who are still avoiding two major responsibilities - teacher
responsibility to teach and student responsibility to learn - who are
clinging to their failed ideas of educational improvement. If elimination
of schools of education is the only way to remove them from mis-educating
another generation of teachers, so be it.


* Ironically, the press still misses a critical point. Process *is*
more important in mathematics learning than the right
answer. Mathematically Correct is even more the right *process* than it is
the right answers.


"Bilingual education fails test, exposing deeper problem"
Editorial, USA Today, Monday, August 28, 2000.

Educators who warned of disastrous consequences
from California's ban on bilingual education today
find themselves off balance: Children shifted
rapidly into regular classes taught in English
scored far higher on standardized tests than those
allowed to spend more time learning in their native

If the trend continues, as appears likely, it would
suggest hundreds of thousands of children in
California and elsewhere were hobbled by flawed
bilingual programs.

Even more worrisome, however, is the underlying
cause, one that affects far more of today's school
kids: Teachers and principals lack high-quality
research telling them what works and doesn't work
in classrooms. As a result, millions of children
are subjected to education guesswork instead of
benefiting from proven programs.

When medical researchers want to know whether a
drug works, they compare outcomes of a group taking
the drug to those not taking it. But that type of
experiment is rarely done in education.

Bilingual education could have been tested this
way. One cluster of schools could have used
traditional bilingual education techniques -- which
have kids straddling the two languages for several
years, as California once did.

Another could have used English immersion, in which
kids are taught English and quickly shifted into
regular classrooms, as California does now.

That test was never done. Two years ago the
National Academy of Sciences found that just one of
the 33 significant studies of bilingual education
was a true experiment -- and it didn't involve
Spanish-speaking children. Yet California was just
one of many states that plunged into bilingual

California was also the leader of the poorly
researched "whole language" reading movement,
abandoning phonics in 1987. The result: a downward
spiral that leaves California vying with
Mississippi for last place in national reading

Sadly, this is typical of education research.
Earlier this year the National Reading Panel culled
100,000 studies on reading instruction, only to
discover a mere handful met the minimum quality
requirements routine in other disciplines.

And when top education experts were asked which
education programs are most in need of medical-
style research, the short list included many of the
nation's most common "reforms." "Fuzzy" math, in
which process counts as much as right answers;
mainstreaming special education children into
regular classes; eliminating the grouping of
children by ability; reducing class sizes if it
means hiring less competent teachers; and basing
teacher rewards on credentials rather than
performance. Yet schools adopted each.

Why the mess?

Education colleges employ professors lacking
research backgrounds, so the educators they train
can't sort the solid from the slippery. Congress
and the U.S. Department of Education don't help.
Only a fraction of the research money they hand out
demands medical-style research.

Even solutions go awry. Three years ago Congress
began setting aside several hundred million dollars
in grants to encourage schools to adopt highly
researched reform models, which number about a

Yet thanks to loose guidelines, schools so far have
picked about 300 different models.

Until all this changes, parents, teachers and
principals will continue to bump around the dark
and children will continue to suffer the


"The Lesson Of Tough Love"
It's the same from welfare reform to ending bilingual
education: people do best when asked to do more
Robert J. Samuelson, Newsweek, Tuesday, September 4, 2000.

We now have the results of a huge experiment in
human nature that teaches a critical lesson about
social progress. The lesson emerges from the 1996
welfare reform, the mandated end to bilingual
education in California and seven years of school
reform in Texas. It is this: if you demand more of
people--if you make them more responsible for their
own behavior--you will get more from them. Their
lives will improve.

What people do for themselves is more lasting and
important than what others do for them. This is
merely common sense, but it runs counter to the
reigning liberal thinking that continues to
underpin many social programs. The prevailing
assumption has been that the poor are victims who
need to be helped. The trouble with this high-
profile compassion is that it often ends up
advertising the moral superiority of the
compassion-givers more than aiding the intended

Given this thinking, it was hardly surprising that
congressional passage of "welfare reform" four
years ago prompted loud predictions of social
calamity. Families would be thrown out onto the
street. Hunger and malnutrition would increase.
Child abuse would rise. (The new welfare law
encouraged states to move recipients into jobs and
set limits--generally no more than five years--on
how long most families could remain on welfare.)

The calamity didn't happen. As is now well known,
welfare rolls have dropped by more than half from
their historical peak of more than 5 million
families in early 1994. Of course, there are
qualifications. The booming economy explains part
of the decline. Many former welfare recipients
still depend on government benefits (food stamps,
Medicaid) to get by. And many of those who have
left welfare remain poor and struggle with personal
problems--drugs, broken relationships--that keep
them down.

But on balance, lives have improved. Perhaps 50 to
60 percent of former welfare recipients have jobs,
report Douglas Besharov and Peter Germanis of the
Welfare Reform Academy at the University of
Maryland. "There is no evidence [of] substantial
increases in homelessness [or of] child abuse and
neglect," they write in Public Interest magazine.
People without jobs often rely on family and
friends for support and shelter. People with jobs
often surprise themselves, acquiring skills and
self-esteem. In some state surveys, 60 to 80
percent of former welfare recipients report that
life has gotten better or is no worse than under

Next, examine California's Proposition 227. Passed
in June 1998 by a 61 to 39 percent margin, it
banned bilingual education in the state's schools.
Educators widely opposed it; so did President
Clinton. Prophecies of doom were widespread.
Clinton said it would condemn immigrant children to
"intellectual purgatory." The head of the San
Francisco School Board said that "this would set
our students back 30 years."

What happened? Test scores of children from
Spanish-speaking families didn't drop. They rose.
In second grade, average reading scores of students
with limited English ability have jumped in the
past two years from the 19th percentile nationally
to the 28th percentile. In math, the same students
went from the 27th to the 41st percentile,
according to The New York Times.

"I thought it would hurt kids," Ken Noonan,
superintendent of schools in Oceanside, a city
north of San Diego, told the Times. Thirty years
ago he helped found the California Association of
Bilingual Educators. "The exact reverse occurred,
totally unexpected by me," he said. "The kids began
to learn--not pick up, but learn--formal English,
oral and written, far more quickly than I ever
thought they would."

Finally, there's Texas. School reform began in 1993
under Democratic Gov. Ann Richards and continued
after George W. Bush's election in 1994. It
requires students to pass an exam--called the Texas
Assessment of Academic Skills--before graduating.
From 1994 to 1998, the proportion of students
passing the exam rose from 53 to 78 percent. Among
blacks, the passage rate increased from 31 to 63
percent; among Hispanics, from 39 to 70 percent.

Some scholars and newspaper reports have tried to
discredit the gains--probably because they reflect
well on Bush. The attacks don't wash. In the
magazine City Journal, Jay Greene of the Manhattan
Institute shows that the two main criticisms are
unfounded: that cheating and a progressive easing
of the tests account for the gains (other
standardized tests show similar, though smaller,
increases), and that higher dropout rates raised
the scores because the worst students left (by
Greene's estimates, dropout rates--though still
high--have declined). A recent Rand Corporation
study of standardized test scores--adjusted
bystudents' economic and social background--found
that Texas students had the largest gains of any
state. Students are more focused, and teachers are
held "accountable," argues Greene.

Which brings us back to the lesson.

All advanced societies, including ours, strive to
protect the vulnerable and uplift the downtrodden.
The problem is to discriminate between those who
truly require help and those who can, with some
prodding and perhaps assistance, do for themselves.
This is rarely an easy or obvious call. But it is
often made more difficult by the needs--
psychological, political and even economic--of the
people who purport to speak on behalf of the poor
and disadvantaged. The impulse is not to make too
many demands, because that would seem insensitive
and cruel. Worse, if victims stop being victims,
what would there be left to do?

The effect is to subvert personal responsibility.
We encourage this when we assign the moral high
ground to those who simply shout the loudest for
the downtrodden. We give more moral points for
rhetoric than results. Never mind that the
rhetoric--by emphasizing how much people need help
and minimizing their capacity for self-help--often
perpetuates the problems that are supposedly under

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