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December 29, 2006


Vicki Phillips isn't going to listen to anyone. What she needs to do is leave. Her tenure has been about Vicki Phillips making a name for herself to move on to the next, bigger job. Let's pray she gets that job before she does too much more damage to our public schools.

Terry, What is insulting is your constant mischaracterization of Direct Instruction.

Your ignorance of the program is revealed by your statement that it is an attempt to "teacher proof" instruction.

The fact is, DI is far more demanding on the teacher than the methods favored by "progressives." It requires far more attention to detail, more intuition, and better class management skills.

To say that DI teaches decoding without comprehension is laughable. I know that is the college of education official line, but it is a statement uttered in complete ignorance. I'm sad to see you repeat it on your blog.

Of course, I once offered to give you a tour of one of our Arthur Academy schools so you could see first hand how DI works, but you didn't take me up on it. So at least in your case, the ignorance appears intentional.

My assumption is that overall teacher quality in lower income schools is lower than in higher income schools--probably significantly so at the extremes. (If you doubt the relationship between client income and service quality, I dare you to go to a low income hospital for a tonsillectomy; you'll be lucky to come out alive). No doubt, there are notable exceptions to this generality (hey, I saw To Sir with Love). So, if DI "teacher proofs" schools, wouldn't it make sense to adopt this approach in lower income schools where there are more bad teachers? Perhaps the students at Lincoln, etc, don't need teacher proofing because they have better teachers? This is less fun when I can't actually watch Terry turn purple.

There are a lot of good teachers at low income schools --Jeff, for example-- and many poor teachers at upper income schools, blueteeth. It's the students, not the teachers, who make a school look good by posting high test scores. And I don't turn purple --maybe my skin is too thick.

I have no problem, Rob, with visiting an Arthur Academy. But remember, I was a reading teacher, so I am familiar with scripted reading curricula. Also it was Gregory Smith who brought up the issue of "eliminating the differences in teacher performance" with such programs. I think that even Siegfried Engelmann, the godfather of DI, would agree that following a script is pretty much "teacher-proofing" reading instruction.

Tell you what, Rob. Why don't you see if Smith would be interested in touring an Arthur facility? I'd like to meet him.

Here's a link to a more in-depth discussion by Todd Murphy of Portland Tribune agreeing with your assumption as to where and why the best teachers wind up, blueteeth.

My personal theory is that around 80% of students thrive in DI classrooms. Schools of education, however, prefer enmeshing all prospective K-12 teachers in more numerous and more time consuming courses of instruction to maintain more jobs for school of education employees at all levels. Many veteran unionized K-12 teachers also prefer more college certification for teachers as a means of justifying higher pay. It is called "certification inflation".

Terry, I didn't mean the "purple" comment in a mean-spirited way. I enjoy your blog and think it provides a forum for intelligent discussion, or I wouldn't participate. On the topic at hand, I have absolutely no doubt that there are terrific teachers at low income schools and awful teachers at high end schools. However, I expect that, on average, the quality of teacher correlates directly with the socioeconomic bracket of the families feeding into the school. The correlation is likely fairly strong at the extremes and much weaker when the lowest income schools are excluded from consideration. However, it sounds as if this may provide a rationale for DI at the lowest income bracket schools where there presumably are more bad, underqualified, undermotivated teachers.

No way I interpreted your "purple" comment as "mean-spirited", blueteeth. Actually I found it rather humorous. And I'm glad you consider this site a forum for intelligent discussion. Most of the comments I get are thoughtful --and civil. That's a good thing.

Speaking of which, Howard, there is some truth in your characterization of ed schools (not to mention the certification requirements of most states.) On the other hand, I don't think many teachers go back to school just to pile up credits to make more money. The financial rewards are too minimal to justify the time and expense involved in earning those credits.

And in some of those ed classes, believe it or not, you can actually learn some pretty important stuff.

Oh, and Rob, I hope you read my post "Lessons from KIPP". I actually said some complimentary things about the KIPP model and its founders. However, the point of the post was the latitude KIPP gives its teachers to teach the way they want to teach, even if it means rejecting prepared "off the shelf" instructional approaches that KIPP has found to be successful.

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