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Why Knowledge Matters

Florida Association of District School Superintendents
by

Robert Pondiscio

on 14 August 2015

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Transcript of Why Knowledge Matters

Education Reform
Charter schools
Teacher Quality
Accountability
Testing
Tenure
Test Scores...
"I read it. But I didn't get it..."
“History? Well, sure but first we have
to teach kids how to read....”
Reading is not a skill!
A-Rod Finally Leads Texas Rangers to World Series
Let's try our reading strategies.
Thus, as the final day dawned and a near capacity crowd lustily cheered every run Australia mustered, much depended on Ponting and the new wizard of Oz, Mike Hussey, the two overnight batsmen. But this duo perished either side of lunch – the latter a little unfortunate to be adjudged leg-before – and with Andrew Symonds, too, being shown the dreaded finger off an inside edge, the inevitable beckoned, bar the pyrotechnics of Michael Clarke and the ninth wicket."
"
Determine the authors purpose?

Make a connection??

Visualize???
Question the author!
WTF??!?!?

Thus, as the final day dawned and a near capacity crowd lustily cheered every run Australia mustered, much depended on Ponting and the new wizard of Oz, Mike Hussey, the two overnight batsmen. But this duo perished either side of lunch – the latter a little unfortunate to be adjudged leg-before – and with Andrew Symonds, too, being shown the dreaded finger off an inside edge, the inevitable beckoned, bar the pyrotechnics of Michael Clarke and the ninth wicket."
Carly heard the buzzer, which was the signal to begin her descent. The thoughts whirling around in her head quickly disappeared, and she dug her ski poles into the packed snow. She leaned forward and began speeding down the steep snow-covered mountain. Her heart was thumping. Her breathing came in quick gulps, and she knew that there was no turning back. No time for fear.
As she raced downhill, Carly saw that the first turn was coming faster than she had expected. A spray of snow filled the air as she skidded wildly around the flag. For one horrifying moment she thought she had leaned too far to the left and would crash. However, she managed to shift her weight and regain her balance. “Stupid!” she told herself angrily, but there was no time to think about what she had done wrong. She was already rushing toward the next flag.
Simple texts, like those on reading tests, are filled with gaps--presumed domain knowledge--that the writer assumes the reader knows.
Familiar words are confusing in unfamiliar contexts.
Reading tests assume that reading is a broad, transferable, "how-to" skill that is easily measured and assessed—and that background knowledge doesn’t matter.
Teaching Content Is Teaching Reading
Our big picture goals are ALL knowledge-dependent

Reading Comprehension
Problem Solving
Critical Thinking
Creativity
Middle School Experiment...
Half are "good" readers;
half are "poor" readers...
In each group, half know a lot about baseball;
half know only a little...
The students read about an inning of a baseball game,
stopping to show on a game board what is happening
in the reading passage....
“Good readers” who didn’t know baseball: 18.8 out of 40 correct.
“Poor readers” who knew baseball: 27.5 out of 40 correct
“Good readers ask questions.”
“Good readers create pictures in their minds.”
“Good readers make connections when they read.”
Cargo Cult Reading
“The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before.
But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. They follow all the
apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but
they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.”
-- Richard Feynman.
It is not enough to teach children what
good readers do. We must also teach them
what good readers know.
“When our students resist writing, it is usually because writing has been treated as little more than a place to expose all they do not know about spelling, penmanship and grammar.” -- Lucy Calkins
Where does content-free ELA instruction occur?
In district schools AND charter schools.
Among "good" teachers AND "bad" teachers
In union districts AND union-free districts
The achievement gap is a knowledge gap.
Race to the Top
Great Teachers and Leaders (138 total points)
Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance (58 points)
Ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals (25 points)
Providing high-quality pathways for aspiring teachers and principals (21 points)
Providing effective support to teachers and principals (20 points)
Improving the effectiveness of teacher and principal preparation programs (14 points)

State Success Factors (125 total points)
Articulating State's education reform agenda and LEAs' participation in it (65 points)
Building strong statewide capacity to implement, scale up, and sustain proposed plans (30 points)
Demonstrating significant progress in raising achievement and closing gaps (30 points)

Standards and Assessments (70 total points)
Developing and adopting common standards (from the Common Core State Standards Initiative) (40 points)
Supporting the transition to enhanced standards and high-quality assessments (20 points)
Developing and implementing common, high-quality assessments (10 points)

General Selection Criteria (55 total points)
Ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charters and other innovative schools (40 points)
Making education funding a priority (10 points)
Demonstrating other significant reform conditions (5 points)

Turning Around the Lowest-Achieving Schools (50 total points)
Turning around the lowest-achieving schools (40 points)
Intervening in the lowest-achieving schools and LEAs (10 points)

Data Systems to Support Instruction (47 total points)
Fully implementing a statewide longitudinal data system (24 points)
Using data to improve instruction (18 points)
Accessing and using State data (5 points)
Should Every Child Know...

The names of the continents and oceans?
Primary and secondary colors?
Basic geometric shapes?
Rhythm, melody and harmony?
Adding and subtracting single-digit numbers?
The parts of a plant?
A coherent, specific, sequenced core curriculum.
Standards are NOT curriculum.
"Students will be able to analyze and evaluate experiences, ideas, information, and issues from a variety of perspectives.”
“Building knowledge systematically in English language arts is like giving children various pieces of a puzzle in each grade that, over time, will form one big picture. At a curricular or instructional level, texts—within and across grade levels—need to be selected around topics or themes that systematically develop the knowledge base of students.”
"By reading texts in history/social studies, science, and other disciplines, students build a foundation of knowledge in these fields that will also give them the background to be better readers in all content areas. Students can only gain this foundation when the curriculum is intentionally and coherently structured to develop rich content knowledge within and across grades."
So...what did you learn in school today?
4% of 1st grade class time in U.S. elementary schools is spent on science.

2% is spent on social studies.

In 3rd grade, about 5% of class time goes to science and social studies.
Wait...what DID you do in school all day?
62% of class time in first grade and 47% in third grade is spent on language arts.
"The mistaken idea that reading is a skill -- learn to crack the code, practice comprehension strategies, and you can read anything -- may be the single biggest factor holding back reading achievement in the country. Students will not meet standards that way. The knowledge base problem must be solved."

Daniel T. Willingham, University of Virginia.
Exit Slip
Rank from greatest to least, the importance of each of the following factors in your own educational outcome:
a. testing and accountability
b. your teachers’ membership (or non membership) in a union.
c. data systems to support your instruction
d. the type of school you attended (public, private, charter, etc.)
e. your parents’ engagement in your schooling.
f. the content of your education (what you actually learned in school).
Please rank from greatest to least, the importance of each of the following factors in your own educational outcome:
a. testing and accountability
b. your teachers’ membership (or non membership) in a union.
c. data systems to support your instruction
d. the type of school you attended (public, private, charter, etc.)
e. your parents’ engagement in your schooling.
f. the content of your education (what you actually learned in school).
Reading Strategies....
1) rigfap
2) churbit
3) napsate
4) pagbo
5) plizzle
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
"A-Rod hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game."
Metacognition?
Broad general knowledge correlates with broad general language competence!

(Kids who do well on reading tests know a little about lots of different things)
Call or write anytime...

Robert Pondiscio
718-514-0764
rpondiscio@coreknowledge.org
School Choice
Performance Pay
Vouchers
Extended Learning Time
Common Standards
Decoding is the ability to apply your knowledge of letter-sound relationships, including knowledge of letter patterns, to correctly pronounce written words. Understanding these relationships gives children the ability to recognize familiar words quickly and to figure out words they haven't seen before.
de·code /dikōd/
Decoding is…
√ a skill you can learn and master
√ a transferable skill

Decoding is NOT comprehension!
Comprehension is…
NOT an all-purpose skill
NOT transferable

Comprehension requires background knowledge.

So why do we teach (and test) reading as if it's an all-purpose skill?
Knowing about the subject MAKES you a good reader.
Contact Info:
Robert Pondiscio
Core Knowledge Foundation
rpondiscio@coreknowledge.org
Why Knowledge Matters:
Literacy, Vocabulary, and Background Knowledge
August 14, 2015
READING STRATEGIES

Determine your purpose for reading

Find the main idea

Visualize

Make predictions

Make a text-to-self connection

Make a text-to-world connection
The procedure is actually quite simple. First you arrange things into different groups depending on their makeup. Of course, one pile may be sufficient depending on how much there is to do. If you have to go somewhere else due to lack of facilities that is the next step, otherwise you are pretty well set. It is important not to overdo any particular endeavor. That is, it is better to do too few things at once than too many. In the short run this may not seem important, but complications from doing too many can easily arise. A mistake can be expensive as well. The manipulation of the appropriate mechanisms should be self-explanatory, and we need not dwell on it here. At first the whole procedure will seem complicated. Soon, however, it will become just another facet of life. It is difficult to foresee any end to the necessity for this task in the immediate future, but then one never can tell.
"The procedure is actually quite simple. First you arrange things into different groups depending on their makeup. Of course, one pile may be sufficient depending on how much there is to do. If you have to go somewhere else due to lack of facilities that is the next step, otherwise you are pretty well set. It is important not to overdo any particular endeavor. That is, it is better to do too few things at once than too many. In the short run this may not seem important, but complications from doing too many can easily arise. A mistake can be expensive as well. The manipulation of the appropriate mechanisms should be self-explanatory, and we need not dwell on it here. At first the whole procedure will seem complicated. Soon, however, it will become just another facet of life. It is difficult to foresee any end to the necessity for this task in the immediate future, but then one never can tell."
Washing Clothes
Get a shot...
Take a shot...
It's shot...
Great shot!
I need a shot...
"The Matthew Effect"
"For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." -- Matthew 13:12
The rich get richer. The poor get poorer...
...in knowledge
...in vocabulary
...in verbal ability
Excrescence
"To calculate fuel efficiency, the aerospace engineers
needed an accurate estimation of excrescence drag
caused by the shape of the plane's cabin."
"Excrescences on the valve of the heart
have been known to cause strokes."
The wart, a small excrescence on his skin,
had made Jeremy self-conscious for years."
"At the far end of the meadow was what,
at first glance, I thought was a huge, domed
building, and then saw was an excrescence
from the cliff itself."
excrescence (noun) something that bulges out or is protuberant or projects from its surroundings; "the gun in his pocket made an obvious bulge"; "the hump of a camel"; "he stood on the rocky prominence"; "the occipital protuberance was well developed"; "the bony excrescence between its horns"
The Matthew Effect for Educators:

"To those who understand the gist shall be given
new word meanings, but to those who do not there
shall ensue boredom and frustration."
Why so scary??
Curriculum...
"Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside,
And they all look just the same..."
What happens in vagueness, stays in vagueness.
A middle school experiment with two groups of students...
If you’re not building knowledge,
you’re not teaching reading.
The Curse of Knowledge:

“Lots of research in economics and psychology shows that when we know something, it becomes hard for us to imagine not knowing it. As a result, we become lousy communicators.”
SPOILER ALERT!

1. Reading is not a "skill."
2. If we're not building knowledge, we're not teaching reading.
3. Adopting high standards is important, but insufficient: great standards need great curriculum.
Shift Happens: From a skills-based vision of literacy
to a content-based vision of literacy.
“Mere facts aren’t important. We should stress critical thinking.”


“The goal of education is to learn how to learn.”


“Teach students to think. You can always look up information”


“It doesn’t make sense to focus on knowledge in the era of Google.”
"Durable"
• “The Egyptians learned how to make durable sheets of parchment from the papyrus plant.”

• “With this lightweight and durable telescope, young scientists can explore the natural wonders of the earth or the craters of the moon and beyond.”

• “The Qing Empire/China is easily among the ranks of the most successful and durable empires of the modern period.”

• “Many durable ancient Roman concrete buildings are still in use after more than 2000 years.”

• “Instead of having to find caves or create makeshift shelters for protection from the weather, man started to look for more durable materials with which to build long-lasting dwellings.”

OK, let's sum up....

The "Matthew Effect" touches all we do in literacy.
Our big goal is to raise vocabulary and how students use language.
Verbal proficiency is a reflection of background knowledge.

Instructional Implications?
Instructional implications:

Less time on reading strategies.
"Teaching content IS teaching reading."
Shift from skills-based vision of literacy to a content- or curriculum-based vision.
1. Don't Narrow Curriculum!
(broaden and deepen it)

2. There's more to literacy than leveled reading
3. When in doubt, read.
4. You're never too old for read-aloud.
5. Stay on a topic.
6. If you're not building knowledge, you're not teaching reading.
There are no shortcuts.
Fewer mirrors, more windows...
Thank you!

Robert Pondiscio
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
rpondiscio@edexcellence.net
718-514-0764
Twitter: @rpondiscio
Full transcript