Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

February 2, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

New PBS News Hour Video On Oklahoma Universal Preschool Program


I had previously read about Oklahoma’s universal preschool program (see Oklahomans have embraced free, universal early education — and it’s working).

I was even more impressed by it after viewing tonight’s segment on the PBS News Hour, Seeing success, conservative Oklahoma banks on universal preschool. You can read the transcript at the link, and here’s the video:

February 1, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Sacramento Bee Story On Teacher Shortage Features Our School’s Student Teacher Support Program


Help wanted: California school districts scramble to hire teachers is a nice article by reporter Diana Lambert appearing in The Sacramento Bee today.

It features how our school supports student teachers (created by Jim Peterson and Ted Appel), and you can read more about it at the three-part series at my Education Week Teacher column on…how to support student teachers.

If you go to the article’s link, you’ll also see a two-minute video the Bee asked me to do offering tips to new teachers, as well as seeing two photos of me, one of which was ridiculously outsized above the fold in today’s front page. It must have been a very slow news day…

I’m adding the article to The Best Articles & Posts About The “Teacher Shortage.”

February 1, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Ted Cruz Provides Example Of Applying Good Research In Destructive Way – Maybe He Learned It From Ed Policy?


The Iowa Caucuses are happening as I write this post, and the Ted Cruz campaign may have blown it by – at the last minute – interpreting and applying good research in a destructive way. This kind of story, of course, is not unknown to those of us in education (see The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research).

Simply put, he applied research that has shown something akin to peer pressure will increase voter turn-out – just letting people know how their past voter participating rates compared with those of their neighbors has been shown to generate a higher voter participation rate.

However, the Cruz campaign sent out mailers explicitly grading people on their voter participation rates compared with their neighbors and accusing them of “voter violations” through a mailer that looked like an official state form.  On top of that, it appears like they just made-up the past voter turn-out rates.

You can read all the details of this fiasco at The New Yorker (Ted Cruz’s Iowa Mailers Are More Fraudulent Than Everyone Thinks) and at Vox (How Ted Cruz used good political science to design a disastrous mailer).

Why, you might wonder, would I be writing about this story in my blog – apart from getting an opportunity to mouth-off against ed policy wonks and Ted Cruz?

The reason is because all the stories on this fiasco so far have limited themselves to the research on voting, and has ignored its much bigger background. And that much bigger background has a direct application to classroom practice.

The original research calls the idea “descriptive norms.”

Here’s a portion of what I wrote in my book, Self-Driven Learning and in a prior post, “Descriptive Norms” In The New York Times & In The Classroom:

“Descriptive norms” are what people think are the common forms of behavior in a particular situation. A study on this concept found that in a hotel, people were far more likely to keep their towels for an extra day if a sign said “75 percent of the guests who stayed in this room (room 313)” then if it contained a general appeal to save the environment.

Using this idea occasionally in the classroom (in a truthful and not deceiving way) may help students want to try new things. For example, a teacher could introduce a book to a student by explaining that it was one of the more popular ones in your class during the previous year.

I go on to mention how I use it in discussing goal-setting and visualization in the context of sharing with “new” students the specific positive impact some of the things we’re going to do had on previous students.


The New York Times wrote a more expansive explanation in The Destructive Influence of Imaginary Peers though, instead of calling it “descriptive norms,” they called it “social norming.”  That piece also shares some of the potential negative consequences of using this concept incorrectly, so it’s a piece that Cruz campaign staffers apparently did not read.

As the saying goes, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

January 30, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Week’s “Round-Up” Of Useful Posts & Articles On Ed Policy Issues

Here are some recent useful posts and articles on educational policy issues (You might also be interested in The Best Articles & Posts On Education Policy In 2015 – Part Two):

Ranking Is Not Measuring is by Peter Greene. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments.

Lowering The Bar For The New GED Test is from NPR. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The Dangers Of The New GED Exam.

“A National Disgrace”: Explaining the Past, Present, and Future of Detroit Public Schools is from The 74.

Detroit teachers’ union sues over poor school conditions is from The Washington Post.

Nearly all of our medical research is wrong is from Quartz, and can be related to education research. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.

Ed Funders Need to Think Bigger About Systemic Change. Here Are Some Ideas is from Inside Philanthropy. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The Role Of Private Foundations In Education Policy.

MISSING ELEMENTS IN THE DISCUSSION OF TEACHER SHORTAGES is from CALDER. I’m adding it to The Best Articles & Posts About The “Teacher Shortage”

January 29, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

PBS News Hour Video & Announcement: New Education Segment Every Tuesday Night

This should be interesting – this week the PBS News Hour announced an open-ended commitment to have a segment on education every Tuesday night.

They’re calling it “Making The Grade.”

Alexander Russo has a nice post about it that’s worth reading.

Here’s their first segment – on “Should more kids skip college for workforce training?” (you can find a transcript here):

January 27, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Second Statistic Of The Day: “Spending in nation’s schools falls again…”

Spending in nation’s schools falls again, with wide variation across states is the headline of an article in today’s Washington Post.

Here’s an excerpt:


The report is from the National Center for Education Statistics.

It seems a bit odd to me that 2013 is the most up-to-date time period they can report on, but I’m no expert on budget complexities. California has certainly increased its education funding since then, but I don’t know about other states.

I’m adding this post to The Best Sites For Learning That Money Does Matter For Schools.

January 24, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

New Study Suggests That Teacher Observations Should Focus More On Teacher Inputs, Less On Student Outcomes

There has been substantial evidence that – among many problems with the use of Value-Added Measurement – teachers of students who face many challenges are penalized (see The fundamental flaws of ‘value added’ teacher evaluation and The Best Resources For Learning About The “Value-Added” Approach Towards Teacher Evaluation).

Now, a new study find that the same problem occurs in teacher observations (see Study finds flaws in teacher performance observations; Class Composition Can Bias English Teachers’ Observation Scores, Study Finds; and Classroom observations may hurt teachers more than they help, study says).

Since I’ve always had good experiences with being observed by my administrators (see The best kind of teacher evaluation), and have often heard from other educators with similar experiences, when I first heard about this study I figured it would be based on outside observers coming into classrooms who were unfamiliar with the students and the teacher. However, the data comes from the Gates MET project and it appears that they say “home” administrators and outside experts evaluated the teachers in the study and generally had similar assessments of teachers (see page 21 of the MET study).

Most teacher know that classes composed of students with high-needs are not going to look “as pretty” as classes with a different composition, and, based on this study, I guess I’ve just been naive to think that most administrators would know the same thing and would be able to account for that when doing their evaluations.

Another intriguing point in the study that doesn’t appear to be receiving the attention that I think it should is the authors’ recommendation about what to do about this problem. They seem to be suggesting that observers switch their focus to evaluating teacher inputs – the instructional actions that the teacher can control – instead of the student outputs and outcomes.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the articles about the report:


Ben Spielberg, along with Ted Appel (my former principal) have written and spoken a lot about this idea of focusing on teacher inputs instead of student outcomes for teacher evaluation purposes. You can find links to my posts and radio shows about them here.

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments.