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Research Based

One the biggest problems I face in working with reading intervention students is the curriculum. Or rather that lack thereof…

As a part of the whole Response to Intervention (RTI) process, the only resources we are allowed to use are ones that are research based. Ones with lots of research behind them, showing that they worked on x number of students and raised their reading level by y points in z amount of time. Or that they monitor progress for x students, showing improvement based upon y test. I’d say it’s really boring, but if you’re in the business, it’s a little interesting.

It is, however, not like reading anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence is very interesting. It’s a story of how program x worked for teacher y and all the students became voracious readers. There’s a plot! Conflict! Possibly even movie rights! Not a lot of numbers, but a lot of touching and heartwarming sentiment.

For high schools students (NOT “secondary” – which in RTI land really means 7th graders), there aren’t very many research based programs. There are some which claim to have this, but again what they really means is middle school. Try to use it with your average 15 year old and consider yourself lucky not to be stabbed in the face. Ineffective is an understatement.

I’m left with trying to sift through various ideas/books/handouts from anecdotal evidence. Of course, the problem is that I’m not teacher y. And I’m not seeing all the nuances of teacher y or have the rapport with students that teacher y has… and all the other touchy-feely stuff that goes along with good teaching. It’s frustrating at times. And slightly illicit, because it’s not research based.

And this is what is going in our educational climate. Politicians, business people, billionaires and celebrities all running around telling a good story. Vilifying anyone who dares to ask for an actual number of anything.

I think we can agree on various things that make a teacher bad, but legal issues aside what makes a teacher ‘bad’? How many bad teachers are there? Where are they? Why do some areas seem be awash with ‘bad’ teachers, but other areas are not? What makes a teacher good? Can a ‘good’ teacher become ‘bad’?

John Q. Public is left trying to figure out if he should read through the only slightly interesting research or sit back and listen to a good story. If we’re demanding that our teachers use research based curriculum for our kids, then why aren’t we demanding that our policy makers make research based decisions to decide where to spend our tax dollars?

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