Stephen Krashen delivers major address to United Opt Out... America is doing fine on international tests... our 'low' scores are due to poverty

The world renowned researcher Stephen Krashen delivered a major address to the recent United Opt Out conference. In his remarks, Krashen continues his campaign to provide all children with the "print rich" environment that all need to become facile readers by an early age. He added to that information in his remarks to the United Opt Out conference in Fort Lauderdale Florida on January 16, 2015.

Here are his remarks along with our report, as provided to Substance...

Stephen Krashen. Substance photo by Kati Gilson.Stephan Krashan. United Opt Out Conference, Ft. Lauderdale, FL. 1-16-15

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the room." Henry David Thoreau

Stephan opened his talk with the dangers, accusations and false claims against education.

"We've got to go for the roots and keep our eye on the big picture. If we win and OPT OUT is successful, we will get small concessions". This is our chance to set the record straight to tell people what is going on". Myth #1: Schools are broken. "Schools are not broken when we consider the effects of poverty and look at affluent neighborhood with well funded schools. We're way up there. We're ahead of Hon Kong, behind Shang Hai and ahead of Singapore. We do fantastic once you control poverty.

If you believe in the validity of tests,, we're in good shape because low scores are due to poverty. There is 25% poverty in America and 80% in inner cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles. "My suspicions is that they made the common core ridiculous on purpose with standards being crazy for math and english. They put in too much testing on purpose to make us cut back in other areas". There's been a strong media reaction. The message they portray is parents are opting kids out to protect their babies. Are we doing a vast disservice to children? We are destroying education because OPT OUT ends common core and doesn't fix the schools. If schools go the economy suffers. Every time a child is opted out of a test a worker loses a job and the terrorists wind. This is the agenda being pushed by corporate media to intimidate parents into not Opting out their children.

The US is the second highest level of of all industrialized countries and going up. The problem is not teachers, unions or education. Arne Duncan said "Pump up education and you'll solve the problems". This only works if there are jobs. Labor statistics show there is no shortages in engineering or computer programming. Where there are shortages are plumbing, elementary school teachers, nursing, electronics and construction. There areas of shortages are not what Common Core is preparing student for. There aren't jobs in the area Common Core is supposedly preparing students for.

Martin Luther King said, in 1967, "If we solve the problems of poverty this will take care of education and housing". Poverty has devastating affects on education. Food deprivation, the quality of food, health care, vision and dental are all factors in poverty. There are more school nurses per child in wealthy schools than in schools of poverty. Education improves when you fix the problems of food deprivation, lack of health care and lack of books. Not by investing in common core.

Poverty children have few access to books, limited libraries and books at home, most importantly, the number of books, at home, that the children can read. In Beverly Hills the average household has 200 books at home while the students in watts have .4. Classroom libraries in wealthy schools have significantly more books than classroom libraries in poverty areas. Many schools in poverty areas don't have a library or librarian. "School is not leveling the playing field it's making things worse". More education is only helpful if jobs are available. The public is being fed the science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) hoax. There is no shortage of jobs in these areas. There is a gluten in all areas of PhD science and only 1/2 of PhD graduates get jobs. The solution to this problem is eliminate poverty with full employment and a living wage. At the minimum we myst protect children from the affects of poverty by providing proper nutrition, school nurses, better health care and invest in libraries and librarians. The better the school libraries the better the reading scores. Every study shows poverty is overwhelming students in school. Independent reading has positive but modest affects. Access to a school library of at least 500 books is nearly as positive as poverty is negative. You become a better reader by reading a lot. Looking at the affects of instruction, the more phonics is taught the worst things get. Reading does count. It protects kids from poverty and things do get better. There is zero evidence that rigorous National standards and tests support reading improvement. There's been no attempt to see if standards work. The same for massive testing. There is no evidence supporting its effectiveness. The Bill Gates Foundation is giving billions of dollars on implementation, not research. Billions of dollars are being spent on Common Core State Standards and high stakes, online testing. If you have standards you're going to have tests. Formative assessments, active teaching and teacher made assessments are what's effective. "Arne says teachers yearn for in-term tests". Arne obviously doesn't know teachers very well. Pre-testing started with Value Added Measurement (VAM). The VAM movement brought about a discussion of the need to measure improvement by comparing one test to another. You can't do this from spring to spring because of summer. Tests in the fall nearly doubles the amount of testing. A 20 fold increase over No Child Left Behind (NCLB). There is more testing now than we've ever seen on this planet. "There is no evidence for effectiveness of standards or tests and no plans to seek any evidence". Stephen referred to one of his papers, "NUT = NO UNNECESSARY TESTING" in which he talks about keeping on the tests that help teachers and students. Evidence suggests that each evaluation of students is a better predictor of success and the SAT and adding more tests does not improve achievement. This paper concludes the best strategy is to dump all except for the National Association of Education Progress (NAEP) tests. It costs millions of dollars for online testing. There must be an infrastructure, phone lines and bills. Every child must have access tow up to date computers. New tests don't work on older microsoft computers so every child needs anew computer every three years. New innovations require new equipment. The corporate media has portrayed the situation in America as so dire we can't wait. Sell what we have and repair as needed. The first wave of a product works out problems, the second wave becomes the innovator. When you continue to only use "first wave computers you are set up to spend trillions of dollars. "If the tests don't work we must need better ones". The teachers get blamed for the failure resulting in more Common Core, test driven professional development and more technology, Teachers evaluate and grade students by multiple resources including improvement, enthusiasm, subject knowledge and trained professors who know and understand the children. The best predictors of college success are high school grades not SAT scores. Students know how to do well on tests. First, and easiest, is cheating which, includes test preparation. This is like lighting a match under a thermometer and saying you increased the temperature in the room. Second, is studying which the brain does not do well. This works when students get lucky. This is temporary, fragmented information which doesn't last very long. Third, is problem-solving and self selected reading which the brain does very well and results in school "success" if the students' interest coincides with the school and "failure" if it does not. Success comes form using information that you already have and integrating into information that coincides with school teaching. It's important to develop literacy skills in students. One approach is the comprehension hypothesis which is developing literacy skills when we understand what we read which is what interests us. Learning content / facts and concepts through skill building is another approach. Skill building requires learning aspects of literacy through phonics, grammar, text structure and practice and hopefully some day you can read and write. This is also described as the "delayed gratification" hypothesis and does not work. Skills are acquired as a by-product, through reading.

Through comprehension, first you get the information you like from pleasure reading. Then you find an area you think is important and read deeply in this area. Pleasure reading includes comic books, science fiction, sports and stories. Anything that is interesting to the reader. Self selected compelling reading, in an area of interest, develops academic knowledge. We are the results of the problems we try to solve. They "education reformers" are breaking intentional learning barrier. For example, people have encyclopedic knowledge of shopping malls which, they acquired through problem solving. One trial is enough if it solves a problem. There is no time set aside for free reading in Common Core. All publishers curriculum must be Common Core.

The new status quo is if kids read on their own they must read at their grade level or above. Fortunately for our children, parents can counter this by taking their children to the library and letting them choose the books they want to read. Also, letting children choose which books they want from school book clubs is another way to build their reading interests, skills and confidence. Reading that works is reading that's self selected. When you do enough you improve. Sadly, studies and skill building are now part of the law. The best way to prepare for an unknown future is the ability to adapt, be creative and pursue strengths. "When we OPT OUT out our children we are liberating them so they can pursue their education. This creates new jobs and the terrorists lose". He talked about the Walmartization" of education by eliminating experienced teachers thus reducing salary, retirement and benefits costs. "Teachers are exhausted and disheartened by the media attacks. Teachers have the lowest percent of sexual misconduct, lower than priests and police officers, yet the media places the most emphasis on teacher misconduct. One of the underminers of education is Teach for America (TFA) which provides young people with five weeks of training and sends them to the high poverty, inner city schools where students need the most experienced, qualified teachers to succeed. Because of their low cost, these teachers get preferred treatment and are hired more frequently than full time teachers. There is this "flipped classroom" idea where 40 - 50% of teaching is done online with the rest of teaching done by teachers like TFA. If decisions were left to teachers we would integrate computers as needed. Students would be offered a variety of videos from which to choose. This is blended vis. flip learning. Eliminating due process removes tenure and seniority pay resulting in teachers retiring early leaving more room for computers vs. educators. "The public has learned to respect computers and abhor teachers".

What schools need to do is develop real-problem solving (enterprises) of great interest to students. Help them discover their genius (Cody). The best way to prepare for an unknown future: "... it is... difficult to predict what new businesses will emerge and what will become obsolete. Thus, what becomes highly valuable are unique talents, knowledge, and skills, the ability to adapt to changes, and creativity, all of which calls for a school culture that respects and cultivates expertise in a diversity of talents and skills and a curriculum that respects and cultivates expertise in a diversity of talents and skills and a curriculum that enables individuals to pursue their strengths" (Zhao, 2009, p. 156)

You stimulate student interest by knowing who they are and what they want to do. Each child has a unique contribution to make tow the human race. They are already testing children in preschool. Chicago Public Schools requires four test of their preschoolers. One of the most grievous of these being the "Teachers Strategies Gold" by Teaching Strategies LLC. Obama is talking about "free" community college which, sounds good in theory but the reality would be a standardized, scripted curriculum, with no room for critical thinking and problem solving skills assess with hi-stakes standardized testing. The only ones who benefit from these standards and testing are the publishers and the billionaires who invest in them.

"If this goes on we will see the end of the teaching profession. The budget for K-12 education is about 800 billion dollars a year. I suspect Bill Gates wants all of it because it's (the money) is never enough. Most of the money goes for teacher salary, retirement and benefits". These are ecessary components for retaining the best teachers which is what our students deserve.

During the question and answer period the issues of trauma, constant and lead poisoning add to the negative affects of poverty. Another concern is the "intentional inflection of emotional distress" on students, families and teachers. Accelerated Reading, an online reading program for children, has a computer quiz on each books. The good part of this program is lots of books are provided and the children are allowed time to read. Altruistic kids are sharing questions with their friends on and off the internet. The bad part of this program is the testing and prizes provided. It's bad because rewarding pleasant behavior makes it less pleasant. Children are trained to be rewarded for doing things they don't want to do. Alfie Kohn talks about this in his book "Punished by Rewards".


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