Thursday, January 29, 2015

Weighting game HoLa charter school school board bicker over low income lottery - Hoboken Reporter

Lamport & Holt Line, S.S. "Vauban"
Pier 14 Hoboken, Smoking Room. 1925
A new front has opened in the simmering legal battle between the Hoboken Board of Education and the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School (HoLa) over HoLa’s state-approved expansion to seventh and eighth grades.

After the New Jersey Department of Education granted HoLa’s expansion last year, the Hoboken school board filed a challenge before the state education commissioner and in appellate court. One of the key issues raised by board members in public comments is that HoLa has a much whiter and more affluent student body than the city’s traditional public schools.

This past December, HoLa found a possible resolution to this aspect of the controversy: they sought state permission to include a low-income preference in their admissions lottery for the 2015-16 school year. 

HoLa’s proposed changes are known as a weighted lottery. But in a Jan. 7 letter provided to The Hoboken Reporter, Eric Harrison, the school board’s special counsel, advised against granting HoLa’s request for the 2015-16 cycle, citing state laws he said the charter’s application violates.

HoLa board president Barbara Martinez sharply criticized the school board, arguing that a weighted lottery would have been approved if it had come out in support.

The state did not approve a weighted lottery in time, and the HoLa’s lottery for next school year took place on Jan. 9.

A strongly-worded Jan. 11 editorial in The Star-Ledger called the school board’s opposition to HoLa’s proposal “preposterous” and hypocritical.

HoLa blames board

HoLa, which teaches students in both Spanish and English, has been seeking to install a weighted lottery for at least a year. The school nevertheless maintains that its student population already adequately reflects the diversity of Hoboken’s general school age population, as is required of charter schools by state law.

Reliable data on Hoboken’s school-age demographics does not currently exist, but HoLa’s population roughly matched the racial makeup of the city in the 2010 U.S. Census. That said, the school district as a whole has a higher percentage of minorities than the general population of Hoboken.
“I personally am glad that HoLa has recognized that the current system does not create acceptable results.”—Ruth Tyroler
According to Martinez, HoLa has pursued a number of strategies aimed at increasing its minority and low-income enrollment, including knocking on doors in public and subsidized housing, putting up posters in western Hoboken, and speaking to parents outside of Hoboken preschool programs.

A weighted lottery would make HoLa’s low-income preference explicit by giving children who reside in the public housing, qualify for welfare, or qualify for free or reduced price lunch double the chances in its random lottery.

In November, Martinez told The Hoboken Reporter that HoLa’s Board of Trustees wanted to institute a weighted lottery but could not because of the Hoboken school board’s ongoing lawsuit.

Another issue, it seems, was a lack of legal guidance from the state DOE. But according to Martinez, the agency finally issued guidelines for weighted lottery requests by charter schools in early December. A spokesman for the DOE said that specific guidelines for HoLa had been issued at the school’s request.

On Dec. 10, the HoLa board unanimously authorized Martinez to apply for a weighted lottery for 2015-16. She submitted her application to the state on Dec. 23, requesting a determination by Dec. 31.

After receiving notice of this application on Jan. 5, the school board’s lawyer Eric Harrison advised in a letter to Commissioner Hespe that “the Department of Education should not consider HoLa’s amendment request at this time.”

District school boards are statutorily guaranteed 60 days to comment on proposed changes by local charters. But Martinez says Hoboken could have cancelled out that delay by supporting HoLa’s charter amendment.

She believes the weighted lottery would have been approved but for Hoboken’s opposition.

“If this conflict with the district is really about access to charter schools for low income students,” Martinez said, “we are dumbfounded as to why the Hoboken Board of Ed would stand in the way of a lottery preference that would give low income students greater access to a popular charter school.”

Will HoLa expand next year?

At its first regular meeting of the year this past Tuesday, and in communications before and after, the school board said they were not opposed to the idea of a weighted lottery, only to its introduction on such short notice and prior to the resolution of its legal challenge of HoLa’s expansion.

In November, New Jersey Commissioner of Education David Hespe requested the chance to take another look at the state’s March 2014 approval of two additional grades for HoLa, which was decided just before he took over as acting commissioner.

In a motion before an appellate judge, the state Department of Education said “it would be beneficial for the commissioner to more closely inspect the demographic statistics surrounding the relevant community in this matter and how HoLa’s admissions policy may involve that community.”

Ever since the DOE’s motion was granted, the school board’s lawyer Eric Harrison said he has heard nary a peep from the agency about its how its review process will unfold or when it might be complete.

This includes no response to Harrison’s request that the DOE stay HoLa’s expansion to seventh and eighth grade until it had made its decision (Martinez said the DOE has denied the stay for seventh grade).

Filed too late?

While in this state of legal limbo, Harrison said he could not support any action by HoLa that implicitly or explicitly advances its expansion. Since the HoLa’s proposed weighted lottery would apply to the 2015-16 school year, the first to potentially include a seventh grade, Harrison said writing a letter endorsing a weighted lottery could later be used to argue that he had assented to HoLa’s expansion, crippling the school board’s case.

Harrison also questioned the timing of HoLa’s application for a weighted lottery. The document was sent to the DOE on Dec. 23 and requested a ruling by Dec. 31. 

According to the New Jersey Administrative Code, charter amendment requests that increase enrollment in a given school year must be made by Dec. 1 of the previous school year.

The school board is also guaranteed 60 days to comment on proposed changes to district charter schools. According to Harrison, it only learned of HoLa’s application on Jan. 5, the day HoLa’s 2015-16 lottery application period closed.

“This is about rule of law and respect for the rule of law and allowing the legal process to play out fairly for all sides,” said Harrison.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Trustee Jennifer Evans called submitting an application two days before Christmas and expecting a determination by New Year’s Eve “optimistic, to say the least.”

Bad press

Members of the Hoboken Board of Education rejected the strong language contained in The Star-Ledger’s editorial on HoLa’s weighted lottery. The essay accused Hoboken public schools, among other things, of “[refusing] to allow what is right.”

“As an educator for the past 44 years…I am astonished at the way in which articles and editorials in the press, particularly The Star-Ledger, misstate and misrepresent the facts,” said Hoboken school superintendent Dr. Richard Brockel in a prepared statement delivered by his deputy. “We are all in the business of educating children, so to suggest anything that would appear as though the Board of Education is not acting in that interest is wrong.”

“I do feel that this editorial is beyond the pale,” said Evans. “I also think that it does a great disservice to our community.”

The board voted 7-1 to authorize its president Ruth Tyroler to send a letter to the editor of The Star-Ledger defending its actions. Trustee Peter Biancamano voted in opposition, and Trustee Leon Gold was absent.

Rhetoric aside, several board members said they were open to the use of a weighted lottery both at HoLa and in the district schools. According to Trustee Irene Sobolov, former Hoboken Public Schools Superintendent Mark Toback spoke in favor of a pursuing a weighted lottery system for all of Hoboken’s schools last year. 

As pointed out by HoLa members and in a Hoboken Reporter story last year, de facto segregation appears to exist in the traditional public schools as well. One of its schools in southwest Hoboken has a disproportionate concentration of economically disadvantaged and minority students.

Tyroler and Sobolov expressed interest in a universal enrollment system, in which students can apply for all district public schools including charters in one application. Such a system was implemented in Newark in 2013.

Despite all the vitriol surrounding HoLa’s expansion, Tyroler said she considered HoLa’s support of a weighted lottery a potential point of agreement.

“I personally am glad that HoLa has recognized that the current system does not create acceptable results,” she said.

Carlo Davis may be reached at

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Designs on the Future of High-school Engineering: UTeachEngineering

The following is an article about one of my NSF funded projects known as "UTeach Engineering" -Dr. Petrosino 

What started as a teacher training program morphed into a year-long, high school engineering course and multiple professional development opportunities
President Obama tours a classroom at Manor New Technology High School in Manor, Texas
President Obama tours a classroom at Manor New Technology High School in Manor, Texas.
Credit and Larger Version

In May of 2013, President Barack Obama kicked off his Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour with a visit to Austin, Texas. First on the agenda--a visit to Manor New Technology High School, a school committed to preparing students for the high-tech, digital world. One of the highlights of the visit was a demonstration by TEXplosion, the school's award-winning robotics team. Although their competition robot was in transit from the world championships, they delivered with their practice bot, "Yolotron." 
During the demonstration, President Obama spoke with Bobby Garcia, lead mentor for the robotics team and an engineering teacher at Manor New Tech. Since its start five years ago, the team has gone from a somewhat disorganized after-school program to an integral part of the curriculum. This year for the first time, the team won two regional competitions in Texas and earned a spot at the world robotics championships held in St. Louis, Mo., in April. 
Garcia credits the team's turnaround, in part, with his participation in the University of Texas at Austin's (UT Austin) Master of Arts in STEM Education-Engineering (MASEE) program, a 2.5-year mix of residential and online coursework that includes hands-on projects in engineering design methods. The program is part of a larger National Science Foundation- (NSF) funded effort--UTeachEngineering--developed at UT Austin to address both teacher professional development and curriculum creation in engineering at the secondary school level. 
Meeting a need
Five years ago, some high schools in Texas began offering a year-long course in engineering to meet a state requirement of a fourth year of science for secondary school students. However, between 1995 and 2010 only 44 Texas high-school teachers became certified in engineering. With the potential for 10,000 to 20,000 students enrolling in engineering each year to satisfy graduation requirements, UT Austin projected that the state could need as many as 500 engineering teachers.
Aware of the great need, UT Austin's David Allen, a chemical engineering professor, teamed with colleague Richard Crawford, a mechanical engineering professor, and Cheryl Farmer, a program manager. Together with colleagues from UT Austin's Colleges of Natural Sciences and Education and the Austin Independent School District, they applied for an NSF grant to fund the creation of a professional development program for teachers of high-school engineering. "We wanted to be engaged in defining what the high-school course would be like and we wanted the teachers to be authentic in providing that course," Allen says. 
However, a few months into the grant, input from NSF staff and a request from a school district partner for course materials caused the trio to completely revise their approach. "NSF suggested we develop the requested materials with the ideal high school course in mind," explains Farmer, who now serves as UTeachEngineering project director. "The goal was a year-long, high-quality, low-cost curriculum that could be implemented in a variety of settings." 
Creating a course
Rather than create a professional development program, the trio enlisted engineering natural sciences and education faculty, research fellows, practicing engineers--including a NASA engineer--education specialists, and high school teachers, and produced the high-school course, "Engineer Your World." The algebra-based curriculum covers five units--discovering the design process, data acquisition and analysis, reverse engineering of everyday products, systems engineering, and automation and control. 
Enriching these five extended design challenges in mechanical, aerospace and civil engineering are week-long explorations that introduce other disciplines such as chemical and biomedical engineering. "In each unit, students build, create, test, refine and analyze," says Farmer. "The course introduces the practice and process of engineering as well as authentic engineering skills and habits of mind." All of these areas are tied to engaging engineering activities and challenges such as building a pinhole camera for disabled artists. 
In 2011-12, "Engineer Your World" was piloted in seven schools in Texas. That number jumped to 23 schools in eight states for 2012-2013. The plan is to introduce the course in 100 schools in 2013-2014 and double that number in 2014-2015.
While the course includes many challenging opportunities to learn about how engineers think and what they do, the goal of the course is not to turn every student into an engineer, says Farmer. "We are thrilled if our course helps students make an informed decision about what path they choose to follow. We are helping students be more literate about engineering." 
Preparing teachers
Using "Engineer Your World" as a centerpiece, the team returned to their original plan and created several professional development components to complement the course and strengthen the ranks of high-school engineering teachers. UTeachEngineering now includes:
  • the MASEE program aimed at teachers who want to become leaders in secondary engineering education,
  • an undergraduate certificate program for students in engineering and the natural sciences (students simultaneously obtain their bachelor of science degrees and teaching certificates),
  • a certification program for those who hold bachelor's degrees in engineering or science and would like to teach, and
  • a two-week summer session and ongoing support for teachers who teach the "Engineer Your World" course. 
Over the next year, UTeachEngineering will add an online learning management system to foster collaboration among current and past participants as well as external resources such as industry mentors. 
Rethinking the future 
With more students taking high-school level engineering courses than ever before, Allen says programs like UTeachEngineeringcan help prepare students who may eventually teach those engineering courses, along with mainstream engineers who go on to careers through colleges of engineering. Although the number of students taking engineering in high school are rising, the attrition rate in major engineering undergraduate programs is about 50 percent. "We can lure them in but they don't stay," says Lisa Guerra, the NASA engineer who worked on the systems engineering unit of "Engineer Your World." Allen points out that "it's critical for the engineering profession in the U.S. to utilize what's going on in high schools and to consider how we deal with the transition between high school and college." 
For Garcia, his experience with the MASEE program and UTeachEngineering was eye-opening and energizing. Since graduating, he has helped develop two robotics classes for Manor New Tech students and repurposed thousands of dollars worth of equipment and space for the robotics team. "I took the plunge and applied...I was inspired and re-invigorated in teaching engineering. One of the things going right with education is exploring science and math in creative ways." 
-- Susan Reiss, (703) 536-4529
InvestigatorsDavid Allen
Cheryl Farmer
Michael Houser
Michael Marder
Richard Crawford
Anthony Petrosino 
Related Institutions/OrganizationsUniversity of Texas at Austin
Related ProgramsMath and Science Partnership
Engineering Education 
Years Research Conducted2008 - 2014 
Total Grants$12,478,158

Friday, January 16, 2015

"To Whom It May Concern": A Case Study of Advocacy, Hyperbole, and Factual Inaccuracy

Picture from the last tour of the Macy's Thanksgiving
Parade Facility--Hoboken, NJ 
First, I would like to thank the people who contacted me about this issue. It has been brought to a number of people's attention that there is a letter/email circulating on social media and blogs which concerns some issues facing various educational institutions in the town of Hoboken, NJ. Certainly the letter appears to be passionate, advocates for our traditional pubic schools, and seems to come from a concerned parent of a child in the Hoboken public school system. We can not lose sight of the fact that some issues are causing fractures and division in our communities around the issue of public schools, quality, and funding. 

From the Hoboken Board of Education lawsuit

The following is presented simply to help better inform those who may have questions concerning (mis)information included in the letter and surrounding this issue. 

There are two versions. One is a hyperlinked text document and the other is an annotated attachment. 


It is my understanding that you will be reviewing your decision to allow for the expansion of the HoLa Charter School by two grades (7th & 8th). I ask that in your review you take into consideration the financial and segregative impacts such an expansion will have on the local public school district.

I am a Hoboken district parent that loves my child's public school and all that it has to offer.  My family values our warm, diverse learning community and we are concerned about the impact the charter expansion will have on the ongoing success of the Public School District (note; see also HERE and HERE).

The charter expansion will place extreme financial burdens on our budget and will jeopardize the district student's program. Our Public School District educates such a wide variety of students, including the neediest students in our community, 73% who receive free and reduced priced lunches while HoLa Charter school only educates 11% of students impacted by poverty.  The district cannot be expected to continue the progress in achieving higher state test scores while seeing a significant drain on funding.  Under the current formula, charter funding is always guaranteed while the public school children always suffer the cuts.

It is also the State's charter regulations that impede tools a community might use to reduce the segregative impacts, such as weighted lotteries or a universal application

I ask that HoLa forgo their expansion until the funding issues are resolved so that no child has to suffer for the success of another.  I understand HoLa's interest in continued exposure to Spanish; however, their middle school model is a 10% Spanish / 90% English model (note: 90% taught in Spanish for K-2; 50+% Spanish in middle grades).  I don't believe this is a compelling difference to reduce the educational resources of my child and her classmates.

Thank you in advance for taking these important financial and segregative issues into consideration during your review.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What is the Capacity of the Building Known as "Hoboken High School"?

From 1962 HHS Dedication Program 
What is the Capacity of the Building Known as "Hoboken High School"? A fairly simple question. But what is the answer? Read on. But it is fair to say that the building now has 3 extra grades and is at less that 42% of its initial capacity as a state of the art comprehensive high school.  -Dr. Petrosino 

At the December 2014 Hoboken Board of Education Meeting, Board Trustee Ruth McAllister (Tyroler) went on and on about the capacity of Hoboken High School. Seems as if she was responding to some discussions and critiques that when Hoboken High School first opened in 1962 it had a capacity of 1502 students and that now it is "half empty." (see the 52:00 mark of the video of the December HBOE meeting for the specific monologue; or transcription below)

Furthermore, during that time, since it was during the "baby boom"-- classes consisted of "30-35 students with students sitting on the window sills." Trustee McAllister (Tyroler) went on for a few more minutes about he fact that there are now media rooms and multimedia studios in Hoboken High School-- but failing to mention that back in 1962 there was an extensive Wood Shop, an Auto Shop, a Photography Studio, and a large Audio Visual Studio (see the 1962 HHS Dedication Program for more details as well as the building diagram below). 

1962 HHS Floor Diagram
To make a long story short-- We know that in 1962 the stated capacity of Hoboken High School was 1502 (see top photo). We also know by looking at the HHS Floor Diagram that there were almost 65 classrooms. Even if the building was at capacity, that would mean less than 24 students per class (65x24=1560). Significantly less than the "35 and sitting on the window sills" as mentioned in Ms. McAllister (Tyroler)'s monologue. 

In the 2009 Audit Report of the Hoboken School District, we learn that the stated capacity of Hoboken High School in 2000 (after the "baby boom") is officially listed as 1484 or a reduction of 18 students (-1.2%) from 1962. 

In the same 2009 Audit Report of the Hoboken School District, we learn that  in 2001 (again, well after the "baby boom"), the stated capacity of Hoboken High School was officially listed as 829 or a reduction of 673 seats from the 1962 capacity and a reduction of 655 seats from the previous year. This corresponds to a stated reduction in capacity of 55.19% from the 1962 levels and 55.9% reduction from the previous year. 

In fact, from 2000 to 2001 the seating capacity of the entire Hoboken School District went from 5214 students to 2763 students or a reduction of about -88.7%

When Hoboken High School opened in 1962 it was a "full three-year senior high school" meaning grades 10, 11, and 12. According to the 2014 ASSA Report (see below), Hoboken had approximately 294 students in grades 10, 11, and 12 or about 19.6% of the 1962 capacity. But, Hoboken High School has undergone 3 different configurations in the past 5 years under the current Board Majority: (9-12; 8-12) and finally as the Hoboken Junior-Senior High School (7-12). According to the 2014 ASAA Report, Hoboken has approximately 629 students in grades 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 or 41.9% of its 1962 capacity, 42.4% of its 2000 capacity and 75.9% of its 2001- 2014 "diminished" capacity. 

In short, the building commonly known as "Hoboken High School" now has 3 full additional grades from its original configuration and the building is at 41.9% of its 1962 opening capacity, 42.5% of its 2000 capacity, and 75.9% of its 2001 "diminished" capacity. 

2014 ASSA Report- NJDOE 

Board Trustee Ruth McAllister (Tyroler) said at the December 6, 2014 meeting, "we certainly have room for a few students in each grade" but really wanted to get across the point that Hoboken High School is no where near empty. Seems that an objective and data driven discussion on capacity in the building known as Hoboken High School would indicate that the statement made by the Board member  did not mention the 1962, 2000, and 2001 changes to seating capacity, the "special" rooms that existed in 1962-2000, the additional grades added to the building, and the current student enrollment by grade. Add to this that well over 120 of the current 629 students currently in the Hoboken High School building are not from Hoboken ("choice" students), and we need to be somewhat skeptical of Ms. McAllister's (Tyroler) assurances that the building is close to capacity.  

Board Trustee McAllister's (Tyroler) explanation of
Hoboken High School seating capacity
In an unrelated item, Hoboken Charter School and Elysian Charter School received their charter in January of 1997 and opened their doors the following September. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hoboken Board of Education- Tuesday, January 13, 2015 FULL AGENDA

7:00 P.M.

Where the hypocrisy is staggering when it comes to charter schools: Editorial by the Star-Ledger

"Fire in Hoboken Facing Manhattan"
- Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1947
An editorial is an opinion piece written by the senior editorial staff or publisher of a newspapermagazine, or any other written document. Editorials reflect the opinion of the periodical. In Australian and major United States newspapers, such as The New York TimesThe Boston Globe, and the Newark Star Ledger, editorials are often classified under their own section of the paper. Typically, a newspaper's editorial board evaluates which issues are important for their readership to know the newspaper's opinion.
With this as a preamble, the newspaper of record for the State of New Jersey, the Star-Ledger, released an editorial on the hypocrisy currently occurring in Hoboken, NJ with the Hoboken Board of Education, the NJ Department of Education and the Hola Dual Language charter school and an ongoing lawsuit initiated by the school district. -Dr. Petrosino 
The biggest knock on charter schools has always been that they fail to take their fair share of at-risk kids. 
This isn’t necessarily nefarious: Factors like more proactive parents also mean that better off kids are more likely to enter the lottery. Some charters, like Hola, a dual-language school in Hoboken, are truly mission-driven, and do everything they can to recruit the neediest kids. 
They go door-to-door and pass out fliers. But until recently, the state had considered another solution off-limits: A weighted lottery, in which charters put a finger on the scale to give an advantage to poor kids, who are disproportionately black and Latino. 
Thankfully, this seems to have changed. When Superintendent Cami Anderson set up a universal enrollment system to ensure charters in Newark take their fair share of at-risk kids, it set a precedent. David Hespe, the acting commissioner of education, said all charters can use weighted lotteries. 
So Hola is now seeking to set up a lottery to enroll more at-risk kids. The surprise, and the outrage, is that the district is trying to block the school from doing so. 
The hypocrisy here is staggering. The district has complained that Hola doesn’t take its fair share of at-risk kids, but now it is seeking to block a reasonable remedy. And the district itself is exacerbating the problem by allowing white families to move their children from the most segregated school in the city, Connors Elementary, to other area schools. 
To understand how preposterous this all is, you need some background on the ongoing battle over Hola. It’s a popular charter that immerses kids in Spanish and English starting at a young age. The program is terrific, and its test scores are excellent. So what’s the problem? In a word, race. 
The district has been trying to stop Hola's expansion on the grounds that it has been drawing too many white students away from district schools. The district isn’t trying to claim that Hola is doing this on purpose, given the charter's active efforts to recruit at-risk students. But while Hola has so far managed to get twice the portion of minority kids as the city’s population, it still has a smaller portion than the district schools. 
In its $50,000 lawsuit, the district blames this on Hola. Instead of trying improve its own offerings, the district is using its resources to go after the charter -- even trying to block Hola from giving low income kids an extra shot in its lottery this year. 
There’s a waiting period for the district to give its opinion on a weighted lottery, and because the district has sought to delay this process, Hola will likely be unable to do one until January of 2016. This means the extra shot for low income kids this year has been squandered. They will have to wait for Hoboken politics, because the district refuses to allow what is right.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

All You Need to Know About the ‘Learning Styles’ Myth, in Two Minutes -BY CHRISTIAN JARRETT

Hoboken Waterfront- Circa 1910
This article recently appeared in full on WIRED. On a sunny hike along a Madeiran levada a couple of years ago, I got chatting to a retired school teacher and I told him about the brain myths book I was writing. An affable chap, he listened with interest about the 10 percent myth and other classic misconceptions, but his mood changed when I mentioned learning styles. This is the mistaken idea that we learn better when the instruction we receive is tailored to our preferred way of learning. The friendly teacher was passionate about the concept’s merit – his own preferred style, he said, was to learn “by doing” and no-one would ever convince him otherwise.
How widely believed is the myth?
The teacher I met in Madeira is far from alone in endorsing the myth. It is propagated not only in hundreds of popular books, but also through international conferences and associations, by commercial companies who sell ways of measuring learning styles, and in teacher training programs. The TeachingEnglish website published by the British Council and the BBC states boldly “Your students will be more successful if you match your teaching style to their learning styles” – this includes, they claim, being: right- or left-brained, analytic vs. dynamic, and visual vs. auditory. A recent international survey of teachers from the UK, China and elsewhere found that 96 percent believed in the idea of preferred learning styles.
Why is the idea so popular?
Parents, understandably, like to think that their children are receiving a tailored education. Teachers, also understandably, like to think that they are sensitive to each child’s needs and many are clearly motivated to find out more about how to fulfill this ideal. Also, no-one likes to think of themselves as low in ability. It’s more comforting to my ego to think that a class was difficult because of a teaching style I didn’t like than because I wasn’t concentrating or because I’m simply not clever or motivated enough.
Is there any evidence to support the learning styles concept?
Yes there is a little, but experts on the topic like Harold Pashler and Doug Rohrer point out that most of this evidence is weak. Convincing evidence for learning styles would show that people of one preferred learning style learned better when taught material in their favored way, whereas a different group with a different preference learned the same material better when taught in their favored fashion. Yet surprisingly few studies of this format have produced supporting evidence for learning styles; far more evidence (such as this study) runs counter to the myth. What often happens is that both groups perform better when taught by one particular style. This makes sense because although each of us is unique, usually the most effective way for us to learn is based not on our individual preferences but on the nature of the material we’re being taught – just try learning French grammar pictorially, or learning geometry purely verbally.
Are there any other problems with the myth?
Oh yes! Another major problem is that there are so many different possible ways to describe people’s preferred learning styles. Indeed, a review published in 2004identified over 71 different styles mooted in the literature. As Paul Kirschner and Jeroen Merrienboer explained in their recent article on “urban legends” in education, if we view each learning style as dichotomous (e.g. visual vs. verbal) that means there are 2 to the power of 71 combinations of identified learning styles – more than the number of people alive on earth! What’s more, even if we accept a particular scheme for measuring learning styles, evidence shows that learning style questionnaires are unreliable and people’s self-reported preferences are poorly correlated with their actual performance. In other words, a person might think they learn better, say, visually rather than verbally, but their performance says otherwise! The fact is, the more accurate predictor for how well a person will fare in a math learning task, is most likely not the degree of match between their preferred learning style and the teaching style, but their past performance on math tests.
So, should we completely give up on tailoring our teaching styles?
No. While people are often poor at judging which teaching methods are most effective for them, and while there is little strong evidence for the benefits of matching teaching style to preferred learning style, this does not mean there is no scope for tailoring teaching style to improve learning. For example, as Kirschner and Merrienboer point out, there is evidence that novices learn better from studying examples, whereas those with more expertise learn better by solving problems themselves. Other research shows how learning is improved (for most everyone) by combining different activities – such as drawing alongside more passive study.
Let’s bury this harmful myth
Many leading experts believe the myth of preferred learning styles is not just a benign misconception, but is likely causing harm. As Scott Lilienfeld and colleagues write in 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology, the approach “encourages teachers to teach to students’ intellectual strengths rather than their weaknesses.” Yet, they add: “students need to correct and compensate for their shortcomings, not avoid them.” There’s also an economic case. Many learning style questionnaires and training programs are expensive. “Given the costs of assessing students’ supposed learning styles and offering differentiated instruction,” write Rohrer and Pashler, the news of the lack of scientific evidence for learning styles “should come as good news to educators at all levels.”

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Hoboken Board of Education Meeting- January 6, 2015 (Full Agenda)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Publication Bias May Boost Findings for Certain Popular Benefits of Bilingualism- Scientific American

Hoboken Shipyards- Circa 1970's 
This certainly does NOT dismiss all the research and findings that have been made to date about dual language/bilingualism (Click here, click here, click here) Rather, I think this is simply an example that, in general, null results (no results) are never really published on ANY topic in the sciences. And, to my knowledge, there is little/no peer reviewed studies indicating a negative effect. Regular readers of my blog will remember I am involved in a number of projects related to dual language instruction. -Dr. Petrosino 

Over the past 10 years, many scientific papers have shown that speaking more than one language can convey some cognitive rewards. For example, bilingualism seems to boost the brain’s ability to focus, plan, and perform certain mentally taxing tasks. But a few papers show no such advantages.


Now a study finds that research that challenges a bilingual benefit is less likely to be published than studies that find one. This party pooping, or fiesta-foiling, finding is in the journal Psychological Science. [Angela de Bruin, Barbara Treccani and Sergio Della Sala, Cognitive Advantage in Bilingualism: An Example of Publication Bias?]

Researchers compared studies presented at conferences to those actually accepted for publication. Of the 104 meeting abstracts they examined, about half supported a bilingual advantage and half challenged or failed to find one.

But when it came to publication, 63 percent of the bilingual boosting studies made it into a scientific journal, as opposed to 36 percent of the studies with null findings.

The data do not address whether the bias toward affirmative results comes from the journal editors and reviewers or from the scientists themselves. And they don’t suggest that bilingualism offers no advantages. Regardless of brain function, there exist undeniable social benefits to having two tongues versus just one.

Karen Hopkin