Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Otherwise Instructed: Issues in Education

Two articles by Nicky Hardenbergh of Massachusetts, stored on her site

Validity of high stakes standardized test requirements for homeschoolers: a psychometric analysis (.pdf copy of the 2008 paper)

From the paper:
In this paper, I demonstrate, through reference to the extensive psychometric literature, that the psychometric tool prescribed in current high stakes homeschool policies, a norm-referenced standardized test, is invalid for use in a high stakes testing policy. Norm-referenced test scores may not validly be used to determine if a student meets a given standard of performance.

I go on to examine another testing tool proposed by some policymakers: the state-specific high stakes criterion-referenced tests administered to public school students in every state. While theoretically valid for determining a standard of performance, such tests would be problematic for use in the homeschooling context. I end by reviewing the setting of cut points on high stakes tests, showing that, to a very large extent, the entire controversy of high stakes testing can be reduced to the question of the validity of the cut point.

After considering the psychometric evidence, I conclude that current and proposed high stakes standardized requirements for homeschoolers are baseless. Policies based on such requirements are a waste of taxpayer dollars and a needless imposition on homeschooling families.

Through the Lens of Homeschooling: A Response to Michael Apple and Rob Reich (.pdf copy of the September 2004 paper)

From the paper:
Michael Apple and Rob Reich speculate that the practice of homeschooling will have negative consequences for our society. Apple contends homeschooling contributes to the “withering” of our “very sense of public responsibility,” and Reich speaks of “the civic perils of homescholing.” Michael Apple is Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin, and Rob Reich is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Ethics in Society at Stanford University. Both men were scheduled as participants in a panel discussion held at the 2004 Annual Meeting of the American Education Research Association. The session was entitled, "Educational Choice versus Civic Responsibility: Are Home Schoolers Embracing Their Responsibilities or Fleeing from Them?” I wrote this article in anticipation of their participation on that panel. The other two panel members were Scott Somerville, an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), and Brian Ray, founder of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI).

A copy of this paper, with minor revisions, appeared in:

Homeschooling in full view -- a Reader
Edited by Bruce S. Cooper, Fordham University

Sunday, October 18, 2009

How Video Games are Good for the Brain

Steph, an unschooling mom, sent this and wrote, "It doesn't come right out and say they make you smarter, but scientists at MIT are finding some games do have a positive effect on brain development. It is nice that people have finally started to see that when a kid is playing a game, he might be 'in the zone,' but he is not 'zoned out'."

How Video Games are Good for the Brain, on the Boston Globe site
"Video games are hard,'' said Eric Klopfer, the director of MIT's Education Arcade, which studies and develops educational video games. "People don't like to play easy games, and games have figured out a way to encourage players to persist at solving challenging problems.''

The games aren't just hard - they're adaptively hard. They tend to challenge people right at the edge of their abilities; as players get better and score more points, they move up to more demanding levels of play. This adaptive challenge is "stunningly powerful'' for learning, said John Gabrieli, a neuroscientist at MIT.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Adult Illiteracy in the U.S.

CBS Sunday Morning (an American news magazine on CBS television) ran a piece on illiteracy.

I was out of the room without a pen, but there was a quote close to this (maybe just this): "They take on an enormous burden of guilt."

"They" (illiterate teens and adults) do not "take on guilt." They have it heaped and poured and shoveled onto them from the first time they fail to sound out a word to the time they're branded "slow" or "non-reading."

I was thinking that the article didn't say anything that unschoolers don't discuss regularly (at least in the discussions with which I'm familiar), but that's not so. What unschoolers don't know is the *very* high statistics on non-readers among those who have grown up and graduated from school.

One of their main examples was a man with grandchildren who has succeeded in life, had a house, raised kids, did well, but when they talked to him about memories of being ashamed and belittled, he said he still hears those voices, and he cried. He has learned to read, and can read books to his grandchildren.

Schools really need to stop ruining people's ability to read. If they could accept that happy kids can and do learn to read at later ages than six or seven or eight, they could improve their stats and countless lives.

The video isn't on the site yet; I'm not sure if it will be. If someone sees or finds it, please leave a link below, or links to the stats they cited. I didn't take notes, hoping it would be on their website.

I know of no unschoolers who failed to learn to read on their own, with help and encouragement. I was surprised by the statistics on the number of schooled kids who could not read as adults, and who get tears in their eyes just thinking about it.