Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More on Leonhardt Piece and No More Social Promotion from the Womb

We met long time friends for a movie and dinner Sunday night - both retired teachers. We talked about the Dave Leonhardt NY Times business section piece the other day on paying certain kindergarten teachers $320,000 the other day? Our friends thought it was a positive piece, though there were things that made them a bit quesy.

Most people - even s lot of teachers - viewed that as a positive article. But I saw it as an ed deform piece that endorsed the Rhee firings and totally downplayed the real import of the Tennessee study - that class size was a major determining factor in making teachers better. Leonhardt mentionned class size in passing. Note that a major mantra if ed deform is that class size is irrelevant. I wrote about it in this piece:

Does NY Times' Leonhardt Distort Tennessee Class Size Study?

Today's Times had a gaggle of letters, all it seems critical of Leonhardt. How nice to be right.

The venerable Richard Rothstein, whose work forms the basis of the anti-ed deform movement, was the lead letter. Rothstein closes with:
Policies based on exaggerating school reform’s ability to ameliorate inequality leave most working families and their children unprotected. We need educational improvement, including better kindergarten, but also economic reforms — more job creation, greater protection of union organizing rights, higher minimum wages and more generous earned income tax credits — if we want disadvantaged children to have a fighting chance.
Edward Miller wrote:
But what makes for highly effective teachers?
Another important study may hold the answer. The HighScope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study followed children randomly assigned to different preschool programs through young adulthood, with striking results. The children who learned mainly through playful activities fared much better at their work and social responsibilities than those in an academic instruction-oriented class.
Social and dramatic play in kindergarten develops patience, self-regulation, empathy and perseverance — the critical “skills that last a lifetime,” as Mr. Leonhardt puts it, but aren’t measured by multiple-choice tests. Yet teachers in thousands of schools are being told not to let children play in the classroom. That’s a recipe for long-term failure. 
Gail Rosenberg, one of our old colleagues wrote:
Our future adults should be expected to communicate with creativity and humor, as generous, thoughtful, caring learners and human beings. The development of these attributes must take precedence in early childhood. Test prepping and academic focus in the early stages of learning will never create the kind of citizens we want to embrace our future world. 
Anne Mackin says
Many thanks for this article, although I wish it had not played down other contributing factors, like class size. After all, we have more control over class size than the elusive “teacher quality.”
 Ashlee Tran said:
You grazed over the fact that early interventions for long-term benefits start even earlier than kindergarten — they begin in preschool. Notable longitudinal research has been done (like the Perry Preschool Project and the Chicago Child-Parent Center Program) on the effects of high-quality preschool programs. 

 Sorry Ashlee, they haven't figured out how to give a multiple choice test in the womb.

 No social promotion for your future child
Answer the questions correctly or you will be left back – in the womb.

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