Education Week - February 18, 2015 - (Page 26)
level -roughly 20 percent higher than those
in schools not using our curriculum.
We need to invest more in high-quality
research on the impact of arts education.
But let's not overlook the research that
Yes, the Arts Do Improve
Reading, Math Outcomes
To the Editor:
I couldn't agree more with the authors of
"Art Matters: We Know, We Measured It"
(Commentary, Dec. 3, 2014) that there is great
value in teaching arts and culture to children.
However, I respectfully disagree with the
authors' assertion that the value of the arts
does not include improving outcomes in reading
and math, and that there are no rigorous
studies of the arts' effects on these subjects.
In fact, there is a substantial research
base on the relationship of the arts to other
academic skills. Check out "Critical Links,"
a 2002 compilation from the National
Endowment for the Arts of hundreds of
studies showing links between learning in
the arts and student academic and social
The Commentary authors cite one 2004
meta-analysis by Lois Hetland and Ellen
Winner that "found little credible evidence
that the benefits of the arts transfer to other
academic subjects." Yet, the abstract of that
very study says: "Three analyses demonstrate
generalizable, causal relationships: classroom
drama and verbal achievement, music
listening and spatial reasoning, and music
learning and spatial reasoning." Verbal
achievement relates to reading development,
and spatial reasoning relates to math skills.
The nonprofit organization I lead, Reading
In Motion, has been raising the reading
scores of Chicago public school students for
31 years with our music- and drama-based
curriculum. And we have the research to
back it up. Ten outside studies prove our
work's effects on reading skills, many using
randomized control groups and pre- and
post- designs. (See readinginmotion.org.)
In the 2013-14 school year, our internal
measurements show that our program got 81
percent of students reading at or above grade
In a Jan. 28, 2015, Commentary, "Differentiation Does, in
Fact, Work," Carol Ann Tomlinson defends the instructional
practice, specifically in response to an essay by James R.
Delisle titled "Differentiation Doesn't Work" that was published
on Jan. 7.
Ms. Tomlinson argues that, while differentiation isn't a silver
bullet for academic success, students can flourish in diverse
classrooms if the instructional approach is properly
implemented. Many readers admitted that implementation is
not easy, while also agreeing with Ms. Tomlinson's assertion:
"When we teach as though students are smart, they become
smarter." Commenters' edited responses appear below.
To read the full Commentary and all reader responses, please visit
Based on the progress my son
made once I got him out of the
special education class, I can
confirm Dr. Tomlinson is 100
percent correct: Placing a kid
among high achievers and giving
him access to what those high
achievers get to access, as well as
the positive messaging that comes
with it, makes all the difference in
We have the hurdle of figuring out
how one adult can provide each of
20 or more students with learning
'Grit' Helps Everyone
Gain Real-World Success
To the Editor:
A recent blog post ("Is 'Grit' Racist?," Digital
Education blog, www.edweek.org, Jan. 24,
2015) presented a cynical perspective on an
important life skill. Believe it or not, some folks
think fostering grit is lowering expectations for
students or failing to appreciate the obstacles
they face. While there are some who may
misunderstand or misapply the teaching of grit,
it's wrong to assume that these misapplications
are representative of grit's true purpose: to help
all students learn to succeed in the real world.
As a school leader who has sought to
engender grit in my students-and even
written a book on the topic-I'm surprised
this logical and powerful idea has become
a lightning rod. I believe fully that each
student, regardless of background, must
develop grit and perseverance to grow into a
Few important goals in life are achieved
on the first try. Every student will need to
productively and creatively confront roadblocks.
In fact, the kids who go from success to success
need grit just as much as students who are
always challenged because students who are
typically successful are so unaccustomed to
responding to failure.
In his classic book Emotional Intelligence,
Daniel Goleman said, "One of psychology's
open secrets is the relative inability of grades,
IQ, or sat scores, despite their popular
mystique, to predict unerringly who will
succeed in life." He continues, "At best, IQ
contributes about 20 percent of the factors
that determine life success, which leaves 80
percent to other forces." Grit is an important
Missouri Pre-K Funding
Should Be Public Only
To the Editor:
So, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is
recommending an $11 million appropriation
for public and private pre-K schools (State of
the States, Jan. 28, 2015). Why not confine
that aid to just public school programs?
Doesn't Mr. Nixon remember that Missouri
voters rejected tax aid for private schools in a
1976 referendum by 60 percent to 40 percent?
And doesn't the Missouri Constitution
prohibit tax aid to sectarian schools under
Article I, Sections 6 and 7, and Article IX,
Missouri public schools can use all the help
they can get, with 45 percent of the state's
kids in low-income households, according to
an article in the same issue of Education Week
("Poverty Data Signal Urgency for Schools,"
Jan. 28, 2015).
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Md.
Can Competition Boost
Study Habits and Learning?
To the Editor:
Competition has always defined our schools
as well as our society.
But many school systems have decided to
eliminate letter grades, thus also eliminating
competition between students. Instead, these
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Reading in Motion
part of those other forces.
I believe grit is one necessary part of a
well-rounded education-one that supports
each child's physical and emotional well-being,
in addition to academics. I hope many other
educators like myself will continue to grow a
generation of resilient students who develop
into creative and successful adults.
Thomas R. Hoerr
Head of School
New City School
St. Louis, Mo.
schools say that they will focus on students'
comprehension of the subject matter in their
courses. It is commonly believed that this
differs from the traditional education model.
As an educator, I would disagree. Technical
schools have been focused on comprehension
of subject matter for years. Their students'
proof of success is judged after graduation.
I've read that the state of Maine passed
legislation in 2012 suggesting that proficiencybased
education should be a model toward
which all schools in the state strive. We've
been there before. The No Child Left Behind
Act promised to change our public education
system for the better. We all know how that
This new program in Maine has a bite to it
because it requires schools to offer "multiple
pathways" to learning for all students. Like
the nclb model, the proficiency-based system
sounds great, but offers little promise of
enhancing our children's prospects for success.
Schools that boast of leading the way with
the newest gimmicks in public education-the
elimination of grades being one-are moving
with the wind.
Many schools nationwide are fighting this
particular change, arguing that competition
brings out the best in students: Those who
want to comprehend the most study the
hardest, and get the best grades they can.
They know that their future success will be
brighter when they do. If children simply want
to satisfy the norm, become vanilla, why would
they bother trying to study and work harder?
The author has taught at Newmarket Jr./Sr. High
School in Newmarket, N.H. for 25 years.
Education Week takes no editorial
positions, but publishes opinion essays
and letters from outside contributors in its
For information about submitting an essay or
letter for review, visit
| READERS REACT ON EDWEEK.ORG |
experiences that best meet that
student's needs. If schools could be
configured as a learning community
with a variety of spaces for largegroup,
small-group, and individual
instruction, then a team of teachers
could differentiate for a team of
When differentiation works, it is
either smoke and mirrors or a truly
gifted teacher with deep concept
structure. If students were placed
in instructional groups based on
mastery of curriculum, we would
have an instructional system that
is responsive to the strengths and
weaknesses of individual students.
I'm not against the concept of
differentiation so much as how we
expect teachers to implement it in
today's classrooms. The impact that
adherence to the common core is
having on the classroom needs to be
The reason we are stuck on
differentiation is because we are
stuck on an age-grade structure
instead of mastery-based
Elementary and secondary teachers
are preparing students for the role
of living in the real world. And
that world is not made up of "one
size fits all" settings. I often found
the naysayers of differentiation
practices to be those who thought it
too much work and too difficult to
Ability tracking, either by
students or segregating highperforming
students, is a tool of
convenience for schools and nothing
more. The idea of moving forward is
huge. In my classroom, everybody
for Education Week
When we have had teachers
who have provided good to great
differentiation, it has been because
they are experienced. The first few
years, many teachers are just trying
to stay afloat and get one lesson
-COMPILED BY LUKE TOWLER
26 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 18, 2015 | www.edweek.org/go/commentary
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 18, 2015
Schools Weighing Access To Social Media Passwords
Education Week - February 18, 2015
Measles Outbreak Cues Action On Vaccine Rules
States Shedding Power To Adopt Class Materials
Those Opposing Restraint and Seclusion Gain New Traction With State Legislatures
New Venture to Evaluate Technology
News in Brief
Global Skills Study Finds U.S. Millennials Trailing
Broad Foundation Puts Urban Schools Prize On Hold Indefinitely
Blogs of the Week
FCC Plan for ‘Net Neutrality’ Addresses Schools’ Needs
Calif. Districts Seeking $1 Billion To Fund Testing Mandate
Obama, Congress Set to Clash On FY16 Budget
GOP in Driver’s Seat as Congress Tackles NCLB Rewrite
NCLB-Waiver Renewal Gears Up; Duncan Holds Weakened Hand
Blogs of the Week
State of the States
FRANK D. LoMONTE: Don’t Silence Young (Female) Journalists
KAREN HAWLEY MILES: Why Annual State Testing Makes Cents
JANE HIRSCHI: ‘Hands in the Dirt’ Learning
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
GILLIAN McGOLDRICK: When Morality and Law Trump School Tradition
Education Week - February 18, 2015