Sunday, February 10, 2008

Teaching Needy Kids
in Our Backward System

Teaching Needy Kids in Our Backward System

by Siegfried (Zig) Engelmann
Price: $25.00

Teaching Needy Kids in Our Backward System documents the often-outrageous experiences of a man some consider the most important educator ever, Siegfried (Zig) Engelmann. Through a tapestry of vignettes that start in the 60s and continue through 06, Professor Engelmann describes the battles he has fought to provide effective instruction for at-risk kids, particularly children of poverty. The most incredible of Engelmann's battles occurred in Project Follow Through, the largest and most definitive educational experiment ever conducted, involving 180 communities and over 200,000 at-risk children in grades kindergarten through 3. To discover which approach was most effective, Follow Through installed and tested 22 models of teaching disadvantaged children, from 1968 to 1977. The models covered the spectrum of approaches that are in schools today form the discovery-oriented approaches to those based on behavioral principals of reinforcement. The evaluation measured the children's achievements in reading, math, language, and spelling. The study was also designed to discover which models were superior in teaching basic skills and which excelled in teaching higher order thinking skills, also which models had kids with the strongest sense of personal responsibility and which kids had the highest self images. The results astounded educators and made a mockery of their predictions. There were not various winners, but only one winner, and that one excelled in every category measured. The winning model was designed by Zig Engelmann and his colleagues Direct Instruction. Why haven't you heard about Follow Through, Direct Instruction, or Zig Engelmann? Because Follow Through outcomes were never disseminated, never made public, and never used to influence educational decision making. Why would the Feds spend half a billion to fund Follow Through and never disseminate the results? Read the book and discover the astonishing truths.


I am continually amazed at how education decisions are made without any regard for relevant statistically valid results. Politics continually trumps reason. Teachers need to be allowed to teach.

The last decade of mathematics in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue, Washington have been a disaster for children of poverty. Tacoma School District switched to Saxon math last school year and is beginning to have the results that Project Follow Through indicated can occur. Saxon math is in use in Tacoma in grades k-8 in 2007-2008.

The Clover Park School District carefully followed the OSPI math recommendations and adopted TERC/Investigations K-5, Connected Math Project k-8.
Here are 10th grade Clover Park SD 10th grade WASL pass rates for:

Low Income Children:
10th Grade Math
Year .... District .. State
2003-04 ... 15.5% ... 24.6%
2004-05 ... 24.7% ... 28.1%
2005-06 ... 18.2% ... 30.4%
2006-07 ... 19.6% ... 30.5%

Black Children:
10th Grade Math
Year District State
1998-99 8.3% 9.5%
1999-00 11.7% 11.7%
2000-01 7.7% 11.9%
2001-02 10.4% 13.0%
2002-03 12.1% 14.2%
2003-04 9.2% 16.1%
2004-05 17.9% 20.4%
2005-06 19.6% 23.2%
2006-07 18.8% 22.5%

Hispanic Children:
10th Grade Math
Year District State
1998-99 10.9% 11.6%
1999-00 12.7% 12.6%
2000-01 11.9% 14.6%
2001-02 8.6% 14.3%
2002-03 13.4% 16.2%
2003-04 16.4% 19.7%
2004-05 22.5% 23.9%
2005-06 19.4% 25.4%
2006-07 21.1% 25.6%

Contrast the above with the State Pass rates for White Children:
(as reported by OSPI)
10th Grade Math
Year State
1998-99 38.1%
1999-00 40.1%
2000-01 43.7%
2001-02 41.9%
2002-03 44.0%
2003-04 49.2%
2004-05 52.4%
2005-06 56.5%
2006-07 56.3%


Anonymous said...

The assumption widely read into these WASL pass rates, as low as they are, is that all of the children are enrolled in public school. Although state laws sanction parents, kids will do what they feel is best for themselves, and that includes choosing whether to attend.

I interviewed a 16 yo runaway - who left school for a year and could not have his student record sent to a school on account of unpaid library fines. The kid was a social autistic and could not get special services because there was no permanent record. This state may choose not educate such children, but they will remain here. If you are poor, the last thing you do is move away. They would rather starve. This includes the many young adolescents who are turning to meth and ectasy and self-medicating themselves for depression.

In addition, when schools need to show improvement, augmented programs are created encouraging disadvantaged children not to attend regular classerooms. Those kids don't get counted when WASL scores are reported.

The irony is that disadvantaged students who pass the WASL in 4th and 7th grade are no longer eligible for support services. High schools do everything possible to make students ineligible for support services and the only evidence they have to determine ineligibility is the student's WASL test score. It is an absolutely corruptible number, much the same as an IQ.

It is not known how many children were not tested, and therefore you cannot say for certain what causes WASL scores to improve or decline. The WASL only measures students who stay in school long enough to get tested.

The scant, but profound, evidence of high turnover rates in schools and high dropout rates show whatever gains made in WASL scores could be attributed to declining enrollments or new alternative programs.

The cost to Washington taxpayers will be even greater as unschooled children attempt enter the workforce and raise families.

Anonymous said...

Clealy Dan has never himself been subjected to Engleman's curriculum. My children have been, and it's really NOT the rosey picture painted here. The math is ridiculous, and as error prone as anything else. "Let's all draw a million sticks, and add them up". Definitely not great. The reading is better (and is better known)... but, it too has flaws. Namely, no (and I mean 0, nada) emphasis on comprehension. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you can decode, if you can't understand anything. Sure, Engleman might win SOME test results. The point is, any educator can always find some study to promote his point of view.