Archive for the 'Assessment' Category

Brit neuroscientists ding learning styles

In a March 2017 letter to the Guardian, a group of prominent neuroscientists from Great Britain argued expressly against basing instruction on learning styles. They contended that not only are there too many so-called styles to form a coherent framework for guiding instruction and not only is there little evidence supporting benefits from teaching according to learning styles, but also, using resources to follow learning-styles approaches wastes valuable instruction time. Here’s a link to the original letter and another link to an accompanying article by Sally Weale. Continue reading ‘Brit neuroscientists ding learning styles’

Accommodations that don’t?

Many of us have probably heard anecdotes about accommodations that failed or even backfired. A summary of a state NEA survey of Washington state teachers indicated those teachers’ concern about students losing mandated IEP services because of administration of a Smarter Balanced Assessment, that state’s version of the Common Core.

A pair of two articles in the LA Times covers this topic, too. The lead one, “How new tools meant to help special education students take standardized tests actually made it harder” discussed one teacher’s experiences and some larger issues with references to Washington and Oregon. The second one summarized anecdotes from teachers about problems they encountered in administering California’s Common Core: “These are the problems some California teachers had when they tested students with disabilities.”

I encourage readers to be cautious about presuming that these stories and others like them indict the Common Core State Standards. There are many other players in the mix in these stories, too. Note how poorly designed or executed Universal Design for Learning might be at play in the representations of assessment materials, how the technologies themselves may be contributing to the difficulties, and of course, how these reports are only anecdotal. We have no idea how many other stories there are and how representative these may be of all the stories that could be told.

That does not mean educators should not try to address them, to fix them. Indeed, it’s important to examine problems carefully. Perhaps the National Center on Educational Outcomes, a respected US research and development group that provides technical assistance about the participation of students with disabilities and English language learners (and a collaborator with the Smarter Balanaced Assessment folks), is studying these issues.

One interesting way to study the problems might be to collect the anecdotes about problems in a systematic way…sort of crowd-source them into a data base: State test; student disability category; student age; testing area; accommodation…etc., problem encountered.

If there were a few 1000 examples, maybe some consistent patterns would be clear.

Does monitoring progress help?

Does it actually help to monitor students’ progress and adjust instruction on the basis of how they are doing? Deborah Simmons and her colleagues provided compelling evidence that, within a tier-2 implementation of the Early Reading Intervention (ERI) program at the Kindergarten level, it surely does.

Although it was published online earlier, in the May 2015 issue of Journal of Learning Disabilities, Professor Simmons and her team described a study in which they compared the reading performace of children for whom teachers had made adjustments in the pacing of instruction, either providing additional practice on lessons or skipping lessons, to the reading performance of children who had not received the adjustments. The adjustments were based on frequent assessments of students’ progress through the ERI program.

Simmons Figure 2

Among the children who received the adjustment, they identified four different groups. The graphic at the right, taken from Simmons et al. (2015) Figure 2, depicts the four groups, as described in the following list.

Continue reading ‘Does monitoring progress help?’

Who’s keeping the longitudinal data on schools’ outcomes?

I’m sorry to admit that a post on TE from just about 10 years ago has almost exclusively dead links. Now, link rot (as it’s called) is common on the Internet, but one still feels some responsibility for it.

Tonight I wanted to find data about how individual schools were doing historically and compare those data to how the schools are doing today. I remembered—good that I can still remember this—that I’d posted a note about sources for examining scores some time ago (actually 2005). So, I go and check it…all those organizations that were then so hot on the trail of tracking schools’ outcomes have fallen by the wayside. Bummer.

The good news is that Pal of TE Dave Malouf added a comment pointing us to the National Longitudinal School-Level State Assessment Score Database (NLSLSASD) and that source appears to be functional (at least for some years). Time to go mining!

Do you know of other sources? Please log them in the comments.

Is my teaching effective?

How does one know whether one’s teaching is working? That’s a dang important question. Over on myIGDIs, Scott McConnell provides a quick and clear introduction to the answer. In How Do I Know if My Classroom Practices Are Working?, Professor McConnell explains that one needs (a) goals or standards, (b) points of comparison against which to assess change or difference, and (c) trustworthy ways of measuring students’ performance, if one is to assess the effects of one’s teaching.

Although Professor McConnell’s analysis is aimed primarily at early childhood education, it’s base is general enough to be applicable across age groups. He’s talking about Individual Growth and Development Indicators, or IGDIs. Those are important tools in an effective educator’s apron. I’m thinking myIGDIs, which provides research-based, preschool language and literacy measures, looks like a valuable site. These link nicely to RtI, CBM, and other models that align with monitoring progress systematically.

Free gift from Education Consumers Foundation!

partial image of cover of Clear Teaching

Isn’t it unusual to get something for free that is actually worth a lot? The good folks over at Education Consumers Foundation (ECF) are giving away a small book that is quite valuable, and I encourage readers to download it, read it, and tell their friends to get it, too.

What are they giving away? It’s a book called Clear Teaching: With Direct Instruction, Siegfried Engelmann Discovered a Better Way of Teaching by Shep Barbash. As one can tell from the subtitle, it’s about Zig Engelmann’s work on education. I talked with Mr. Barbash as he worked on the manuscript for the book, read an earlier version of it, and am very impressed with this finished product. It’s even more impressive that the book is now out in the wild for free. Kudos to Mr. Barbash, John Stone, and all the others at ECF who made this happen.

Clear Teaching – The Book
Written by veteran journalist Shepard Barbash over a period of 10 years, Clear Teaching is a well-researched, highly readable introduction to Direct Instruction (DI), a systematic teaching approach which for more than 40 years has dramatically improved learning outcomes for students of all abilities and from all walks of life. The book looks at the development of DI through the early experiences of its creator, Zig Engelmann; explains the principles that underpin this approach; and looks at DI’s reception in the world of teaching, where it has been effectively shunned despite a formidable research base and example after example of transformative success.

The image at the top of the post is hot, but readers can also click here to go to the ECF page where they can download the PDF.

Teaching effectively and LD

Folks who are interested in effective teaching for students with Learning Disabilities (and other students as well) can learn a lot at the up-coming conference of the Division for Learning Disabilities in Baltimore (MD, US) later this month. Michael Gerber assembled a fine group of sessions, as shown at the end of this post.

Check out the all-star cast. Note the coverage of relevant topics ranging from RTI to math, primary to adolescent ages (with some adult interests included!), and skills to cognition. On top of the fine content, there will be excellent opportunities to mix and mingle with other people attending the conference as well as presenters and members of DLD’s executive board during social events that include breakfasts, a luncheon, and a reception. Lots of materials are included.

Learn more about the TeachingLD Conference 2010, including how to register on line.

  • Using Evidence-Based Interventions to Teach Primary Level Students Early Numeracy Concepts and Skills
    —Diane P. Bryant (University of Texas at Austin) & Brian R. Bryant (University of Texas at Austin)
  • The Math Learning Companion: An Individualized Intervention for Students with Math Learning Disabilities
    —Lindy Crawford (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs) & Barbara Freeman (Digital Directions International)
  • Responsive, Comprehensive, and Intensive Intervention for Older Struggling Readers
    —Lynn M. Gelzheiser (University at Albany) & Laura Hallgren Flynn (University at Albany)
  • Adults with Learning Disabilities: Current Research, Evidence-based Conclusions, and Emerging Directions
    —Paul J. Gerber (Virginia Commonwealth University)
  • Effective Rime-Based Instruction to Improve the Decoding Skills of Students with Learning Disabilities
    —Sara J. Hines (Hunter College), Jennifer T. Klein (Hunter College), & Kathleen M. Ryan (The Churchill School)
  • The Essay Writing Strategy: Helping Students Write More Organized and Complete Responses to Essay Questions and Prompts
    —Charles A. Hughes (Penn State University) & Bill Therrien (University of Iowa)
  • Strategy Training, Problem Solving, and Working Memory in Children with Math Disabilities
    —Olga Jerman (Frostig Center), Amber Moran (University of California at Santa Barbara), Cathy Lussier (University of California at Riverside), Michael Orosco (University of California at Riverside), Lee Swanson (University of California at Riverside), & Michael Gerber (University of California at Santa Barbara)
  • The Technology and Pedagogy of Universal Design for Learning
    —Peggy King-Sears (George Mason University)
  • Early Reading Intervention for Struggling Readers
    —Jill Marie Leafstedt (CSU Channel Islands) & Catherine Richards-Tutor (CSU Long Beach)
  • Response to Intervention Screening and Progress-Monitoring Practices in 41 Local Schools
    —Daryl F. Mellard (University of Kansas)
  • Strategic Instruction for Building Vocabulary
    —J. Ron Nelson (University of Nebraska, Lincoln)
  • Beyond Reading Words: Improving Reading Rate, Fluency, and Comprehension
    —Rollanda E. O’Connor (University of California at Riverside)
  • Growth in Literacy, Language, and Cognition in Children with Reading Disabilities who are English Language Learners
    —Michael J. Orosco (University of California at Riverside), Lee Swanson (University of California at Riverside), Michael Gerber (University of California at Santa Barbara), & Danielle Guzman (University of California at Santa Barbara)
  • Response to Intervention in Math: An Instructional Focus
    —Paul J. Riccomini (The Pennsylvania State University)
  • Developing Text Level Literacy Skills in Beginning Readers
    —Emily J. Solari (University of Texas Health Science Center Houston) & Alexis L. Filippini (San Francisco State University)
  • Reading Progress Monitoring for Secondary School Students: Reading-Aloud and Maze-Selection Measures
    —Renata Ticha (University of Minnesota) & Miya Miura Wayman (University of Minnesota)

Please note that I am compensated by DLD as its executive director so this is, indeed, a shameless promotion!

Schools scorecard

Thanks to GreatSchools and its partners, there is a way for parents to examine the relative outcomes of different schools. Although I’m not among them, this is likely to make advocates of charter schools crow. For me, though, it’s a good time to celebrate the nose of the camel getting into the tent.

To be sure, many of these data have been available on the Web previously, but this version is especially accessible and has a very high profile. Now that these data are aggregated here, I long even more for the day when schools will routinely publish the results of regular measurements of students’
Continue reading ‘Schools scorecard’




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