Daily Archives: August 31, 2007

Some Thoughts About Our Tenure and Education’s Future

The Sunday New York Times for 6 May 2007 has a farewell column from its public editor, Byran Calame, about his tenure, Final Thoughts About My Tenure and The Times’s Future, that is interesting in its own right. I also find it interesting to apply some of his observations about the state of journalism today to the state of education. For example:

How The Times deals with two major strategic challenges will determine the quality of the news readers get in the years ahead. The challenges, which also face most other newspapers, are lagging advertising revenue and the transition to the Web.

which can be recast as

How public education deals with two major strategic challenges will determine the quality of the education students get in the years ahead. The challenges, which also face other educational institutions, are lagging revenue and the transition to the Web.

For the Times the transition to the web is a business issue: how to adapt the base mode of print journalism to survive and thrive with the increasing reliance on the Web to deliver news in a more timely fashion. For education the transition to the Web is two-fold. Most important is how to educate today’s students to be able to compete more effectively in an economy that is growing ever more dependent on knowledge-based jobs. But to do that we need to make the appropriate transition to the effective use of the Web and its associated technologies in our classrooms.

The article continues:

Generating the revenue to pay for the news staff needed to maintain The Times’s high quality is the most serious challenge. With advertising revenue from the print paper weakening in recent years, the hope was that growing revenue from advertising on the Web site would pick up the slack. Unfortunately, as The Times reported April 20, the paper has “decided to reduce its 2007 guidance for Internet revenue growth, suggesting that the transition from a print advertising model may be a long time coming.”

which can be recast as:

Generating the revenue needed to attract and maintain high quality teachers is the most serious challenge. With revenue weakening in recent years, one hope was that growing reliance n Web-based technologies would help pick up the slack. Unfortunately, experience to date suggests that the transition from the current model of delivering education to one much more strongly based on web technologies may be a long time coming.

For an example on some of the problems of technology based innovation in education see the recent Times article, Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops. The lesson to be drawn here is not that the technology holds no promise but that we must be deliberate in deploying it and try to avoid making claims that are too bold, as it is to easy to for those familar with a new technology to underestimate how difficult it can be to deploy it.


The transition of the newsroom’s center of gravity to the Web, crucial to the future of The Times, is making notable progress. But the steady push to completely integrate its print and online news operations to support the rapidly expanding Web site raises questions about what will constitute top-quality journalism in the online world of deadlines every minute. A pilot project under way in the business section seeks to truly integrate the print and online operations on a 24/7 basis. In a vital step forward and a distinct plus for Web readers, the pilot tests the idea of making the editor of a core news department of the print paper responsible for the coverage online as well.

This is a reminder that to adapt your business, whether it be journalism of education or something else, to a technology as different and difficult as the web will involve more than adaptation. It will require cultural change and innovation, all of which must be done while delivering the core product each and every day during that transition.

Flatline: Problems teaching reading in a flat world

I recently came across National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). It’s about reading, and the challenges we face in teaching our students how to read. In brief, progress teaching reading is Flatline.

The NAEP Long-Term Reading Assessment defines reading “levels” as follows:

Level 150 – readers can follow brief written directions, select words, phrases, or sentences to describe a simple picture, and interpret simple written clues to identify a common object.

Level 200 – readers can locate and identify facts from simple informational paragraphs, stories, and news articles.

Level 250 – readers can search for, locate, and organize the information they find in relatively lengthy passages and recognize paraphrases of what they have read.

Level 300 – readers can understand complicated literary and informational passages, including material about topics they study at school.

Level 350 – readers can extend and restructure the ideas presented in specialized and complex texts.

The average reading score of 9 year olds was:

* 212 in 1999,
* 212 in 1996,
* 211 in 1994, and
* 211 in 1992.

The 1999 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term reading assessment found that:

* 93% of 9 year olds were at or above performance reading level 150,
* 64% were at or above reading level 200, and
* 16% were at or above reading level 250.

In 1999, the average reading score of:

* White students age 9 was 221,
* Black students age 9 was 186, and
* Hispanic students age 9 was 193.

The ability to read and understand complicated information is important to success in college and, increasingly in the workplace. An analysis of the NAEP long-term trend reading assessments reveals that only half of all White 17 year olds, less than one-quarter of Latino 17 year olds, and less than one-fifth of African American 17 year olds can read at this level.

By age 17, only about 1 in seventeen 17 year olds can read and gain information from specialized text, for example the science section in the local newspaper. This includes:

* 1 in 12 White 17 year olds,
* 1 in 50 Latino 17 year olds, and
* 1 in 100 African American 17 year olds.

* (Campbell, p46, Figure 2.10)

NAEP National Assessment Reading Achievement Levels

When reading text appropriate for fourth-graders at the:
Basic level (up to 208) – readers should demonstrate an understanding of the overall meaning of what they read.

Proficient level (209-238) – readers should demonstrate an overall understanding of the text, providing inferential as well as literal information.

Advanced level (239-268) – readers should be able to generalize about topics in the reading selection and demonstrate an awareness of how authors compose and use literary devices.

Reading Scores

In the National Assessment of Educational Programs (NAEP) 2000 national assessment of fourth-graders’ reading ability:

* 37% were below the reading achievement Basic level,
* 31% were within the Basic level,
* 24% were within the Proficient level, and
* 8% were within the Advanced level

It’s clear we are not doing a good job teaching our youngsters how to read — progress is in the “flat line” state. In not doing so we are making it harder for them to survive in the “flat world” in which they will have to compete.

Live documents

Why are living Web documents such as wiki’s, blog entries, blog comments, and such **so** much more interesting than PDF’s, Microsoft Word, etc.

The former are dynamic, the latter static. Document formats are evolving.

Documents are more interesting if you can interact with them. The more you can, the more compelling they become.

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