Wednesday, February 18, 2009

California Education report

This state report recommends ways to improve student achievement by using data to drive decision-making, sharing best practices, encouraging innovation, and supporting improvement through professional development. It also details how to expand and enhance current data systems.

California Department of Education. (2008). Framework for a Comprehensive Education Data System in California: Unlocking the Power of Data to Continually Improve Public Education. Sacramento: Author.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Music (and reading) Study and Analysis

Stephen Krashen writes:
According to a recent column in Science Daily, "A new study in the journal Social Science Quarterly reveals that music participation, defined as music lessons taken in or out of school and parents attending concerts with their children, has a positive effect on reading and mathematic achievement in early childhood and adolescence."

This kind of announcement deserves a close look at the actual data. As usual, the cheerful announcement of the benefits of music was not quite accurate, and some very important results were not mentioned.

Fortunately, the analysis was multivariate, which means that important factors such as socio-economic status were controlled. Unfortunately, it is difficult to quantity the impact of all the predictors, as many were simply coded as "present" or "absent" (score of 1 or zero), so my statements about strong and weak effects are somewhat imprecise.

Music lessons outside of school, it turns out, had no impact on math scores, and was actually negatively correlated with children's reading scores. It had a small positive effect on adolescents' reading scores.

Music courses taken between grades eight and ten had a small positive effect on adolescents test scores.

Music participation in school (at least once a week) had a modest effect on both reading and math for children, and a much weaker effect for adolescents in reading and was not significant for adolescents in reading.

Parents attending concerts had no effect on reading at all, no effect on adolescent math scores and a weak positive effect for children and math. It is also not clear from the paper what this variable means, whether it means attending concerts with or without their children, or concerts in which children are performing.

In other words, not all these predictors counted. More important, those that counted were not very strong.

The most dramatic case is adolescent reading: Adolescents who do music both inside and outside of school are predicted to score 1.32 points higher in reading. In contrast, the study also reports that having more than 50 books in the home, and higher socioeconomic status predicts a score of nearly seven points higher (6.97). Higher socio-economic status, as has been pointed out, means, among other things, more books available in the community and at school, as well as at home. A reasonable interpretation is that access to books is a much stronger factor that music.

I wonder if some people will conclude from the Science Daily summary that music classes are all we need: Since we have music, we don't need to worry about school library quality. There are plenty of good reasons to include music in the school curriculum, but ironically the article provides more evidence for supporting libraries than for music when it comes to reading as well as math.

Southgate, D. and Roseigno, V. 2009. The Impact of Music on Childhood and Adolescent Achievement. Social Science Quarterly 90, 1:4-21.

Adolescents Involved With Music Do Better In School. (2009).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Comic book research

" … Krashen … and a colleague found that 7th grade boys who were avid comics readers also tended to read more books, regardless of whether they were middle-class, suburban students or low-income students from an inner-city school."
(Ed Week, Feb 11, 2008, "Scholars see comics as no laughing matter")

Credit where credit is due: The colleague is Joanne Ujiie, who was first author of this study. The paper mentioned in the article is: Ujiie, J. and Krashen, S. 1996. Comic book reading, reading enjoyment, and pleasure reading among middle class and chapter I middle school students. Reading Improvement 33,1: 51-54. (available at

Several other Ujiie papers deal with the issue of "light reading" and may be of interest.:
Ujiie, J. and Krashen, S. 2002. Home run books and reading enjoyment. Knowledge Quest 31(1): 36-37.
Ujiie, J. and Krashen, S. 2005. Is acclaimed children’s literature popular among children? A secondary analysis of Nilson, Peterson, and Seafoss. Knowledge Quest 34(1): 39-40.
Krashen, S, and Ujiie, J. 2005. Junk food is bad for you, but junk reading is good for you. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 1,3: 5-12. (
Ujiie, J. and Krashen, S. 2006. Are prize-winning books popular among children? An anlaysis of public library circulation. Knowledge Quest 34 (3): 33-35.


Teacher preparation study

Teacher's certification method doesn't affect student scores
Students of educators who attend college teacher-training programs and those instructed by teachers certified through other means score no differently on standard reading and math exams, according to a new study that tracked 2,600 students in six states. "When students are placed with teachers with alternative routes versus traditional routes [for certification], there's no harm in terms of student achievement," said Jill Constantine, who directed the study for Mathematica Policy Research.
Mathematica Policy Research. (2009). An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification. Washington, DC: US Dept. of Education

Thursday, February 5, 2009

AP report

15% of U.S. graduates in 2008 passed at least one AP exam
Overall participation in AP tests has increased over the past 10 years, and 2008 data shows that six states reported that at least one-fifth of their graduates passed at least one AP exam, including California. Participation in AP has exploded this decade. Educators have embraced it as a sort of national curriculum for high school students who are ready for college study.

AP report to the nation. (2009). New York: College Board.

Teacher training impact report

Poor professional development fails students
U.S. schools need to improve teacher training to raise the effectiveness of the entire educational system, according to a new report from researchers at Stanford University. "We're way behind other countries that are high-achieving in terms of the time and intensive opportunity for deep learning they provide," said co-author Linda Darling-Hammond.. "We still see teachers engage in really short one- and two-day workshops rather than ongoing, sustained support that we now have evidence changes practices and increases student achievement."

Wei, R., et al. (2009). Professional learning in the learning profession. Palo Alto, CA: School Redesign Network.

College costs survey

Two out of three Americans believe college is out of reach
Some 55% of Americans say college is necessary, but two out of three say most people who are qualified don't have the means to attend, according to a recent survey.

John Immerwahr and Jean Johnson. (2009). Squeeze Play 2009: The Public’s Views on College Costs Today. San Jose: National Center on Public Policy and Higher Education.

Information literacy study

Project Information Literacy (PIL) is a National Research Study that aims at furthering the study of Information Literacy. The PIL Progress Report shares "some of the perceptions that led to this conclusion and several of the trends in problem-solving strategies that have emerged." The Progress Report concludes, "Research seems to be far more difficult to conduct in the digital age than it did in previous times".

A. Head and M. Eisenberg. (2009). Finding Context: What Today's College Students Say about Conducting Research in the Digital Age. Seattle: University of Washington.