Are BCPS Students iReady for English-Language Computer Learning?

A retired teacher, Anne Groth, recently took a look at iReady, which is reportedly up for consideration for roll-out in elementary and middle schools next year, pending approval by the Board of Education.  https://teachingafter60.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/are-you-ready-for-iready/#comment-26

She notes that the website claims:  “Research proves that i-Ready can deliver transformational results for all students.”      Read about it here.

WOW.  That’s quite a claim. 

Here’s the “independent” evaluation of this program found on the iReady website by a for-profit company.  The report did not have peer review.  http://www.casamples.com/downloads/ReadyNYEfficacyStudy512.pdf

The problems with this “research” study are many.  First, any research study worth reading includes a limitations section – that is where independent researchers make clear to the reader that they recognize the limitations of their research, and what the limitations mean for the conclusions and implications of the research, and ways of combating these limitations in future research.

In this report, there is no limitations section anywhere.   Instead, these researchers claim “In summary, the study demonstrated unequivocally (emphasis ours) that the use of the Ready program resulted in statistically higher performance on the New York State Tests.”

These researchers don’t understand confounding, or causality.  You cannot compare schools who chose to use a new program to schools who did not, and claim anything about causality “unequivocally.” These folks would be sent back to Biostatistics and Epidemiology 101.

Link to http://www.psychologyinaction.org/2011/10/30/what-is-a-confounding-variable/

This is more marketing than research.

Here’s what another blogger explained about educational research (Recent Dreambox post).

“An interesting US Department of Education resource is the What Works Clearinghouse website (http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/) established in the early 2000s as a repository for valid research studies on effective educational practices. The site is intended as a “resource for informed decision making” and “identifies studies that provide credible and reliable evidence of the effectiveness of a given practice, program, or policy.” In a time when the word rigor is thrown around by school administrators and edtech companies alike, it is safe to say that the WWC’s standards for vetting research studies are indeed rigorous. There is a “fact check” section to counter the idea that “the WWC never finds evidence of positive effects” in their research reviews. They do…they just only consider research that involves “high-quality evidence” as determined by their very high standards for research design; once a research study is accepted, they find about 70% of them demonstrate some positive effect. The WWC looks at three dimensions of a study to determine validity: methodology employed, data collected, and statistics used. Many studies are deemed ‘not valid’ due to research design issues, narrow interpretations of data, or other flaws.”

There’s nothing in the WWC on iReady, or Curriculum Associates. 

These reviews of iReady are worth a look – written by largely digitally savvy students, who don’t seem too enthusiastic.  http://curriculum-associates.pissedconsumer.com/i-ready-not-20150930708513.html

One more thing – this program is another one that children will do on computers, with headphones, as a solitary activity. While you are actually doing this program, there’s no interaction with your teacher or other students. There’s nothing collaborative about this.  This isn’t building a mechanical flower for earth day.

iReady means time spent on a computer, by yourself, with headphones on, learning, and being tested, via animated characters. As Anne Groth points out, learning to write is inherently collaborative: “The communication between teacher and student, among students, and at home when writing is shared with parents is just something a computer program cannot offer.”  

How much time will students be asked to spend on iReady per week in first grade?  In fourth?  In sixth?

If it is a lot of time, that’s worrisome, as I wonder, what educational practice is being decreased to find the time?

If it isn’t much time, is it worth the cost per student?  We would like to know, what do our teachers really want in the classroom?

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