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Marcus A. Winters
The Life-Changing Lottery « Back to Story

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must check for less for less
wonderfulforhisage October 05, 2010 at 3:29 AM
It would seem that parents have to apply to have a chance of their children being selected 'randomly'. Thus the selection is skewed towards parents who care about education.

The children whose parents don't seem to 'care' which school their children attend end up in the standard state schools.

Teachers get most of the critism for the woeful performance of the traditional state schools but it only takes a few pupils whose motivation is disruption (usually the offspring of the parents that don't 'care') to bring standards tumbling down.

The performance of a school is in no small part a function of the pupils - not just the teachers.
Everyone still doesn't get it. It doesn't matter if you go to a regular public school or charter school or private school. EDUCATION STARTS AT HOME!!!!!!!!! The REAL reason why public education fell into a cesspool is that parents stopped doing THEIR job. If you have kids coming to school misbehaving, dressing disheveled, unprepared to learn, assignments not complete then that's the PARENT'S FAULT! Even the fact we have children entering the school system as old as 5 not being able to read is the PARENT'S FAULT! This sudden onus on teachers is absolutely unfair and absurd. I had good teachers and bad teachers, but I still graduated on time.

Suppose that Democracy Prep did nothing more than meet the average of New York City public schools. That would still be an accomplishment considering it is in Harlem. I did not see Mr. Hoffman comparing it to other Harlem schools. But suppose further that it achieved the same pathetic rate of college-bound students that I can only presume Harlem public high schools produce year in and year out. It would still be preferrable, if only for the fact that at least those kids, for however long the school day lasts, are far less likely to be shot, stabbed, raped, robbed, beat, or otherwise be subject to serious crimes, or to witness it happen to others. That and teachers made 10% more (without getting the golden parachute for doing nothing more than getting older). If that were the only success that could be laid at the feet of Democracy Prep then I say take every dollar spent on Harlem's public schools and let Democracy Prep make enough copies to serve everyone of those children.

Every school board member, every education bureaucrat, every public school administrator and teacher, and every elected politician ought to be required to sit through one or more of these lotteries. If they are still hell-bent on trapping kids in the lousy public school system, then they should have to get up in front of those who lost, look them in their red, teary eyes, and explain how they are really better off not having gotten into a charter school. I'll bring the tissues. You bring the riot gear.
In the latest NY state tests, Democracy Prep students did not exceed the NYC average in reading in 6th, 7th or 8th grade

There has never been a published study to see if fluency at writing the alphabet in K-1 facilitates the acquisition of literacy and prevents reading problems. Neither has there been a published study to see if fluency in delivering correct answers to simple addition facts in second-grade leads to subsequent mastery of arithmetic and science. I personally have ample evidence that both of these possibilities are true.

The "establishment" doesn't want to see such studies, because they believe the brains of problem students are "different". Journalists don't want to upset education professors, school psychologists, or teachers' unions because of circulation. Politicians don't want to "go there" because of votes. However, such studies are simple, cheap and easy. The problems with our schools are immense and of over-riding importance. It is time to think of our country, and not of personal gain.

Please read the following carefully, and act responsibly!


Bob Rose
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12/05/2010 00:27:00
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Maria Montessori
5.12.10 - Bob Rose, MD - I started a yahoogroups listserv and recruiting a number of "whole language" teachers to help test Maria Montessori's 1912 postulate that making young children "expert" at writing the alphabet would make them "spontaneous" readers


During the school year of 2002-2003 I started a yahoogroups listserv and recruiting a number of "whole language" teachers to help test Maria Montessori's 1912 postulate that making young children "expert" at writing the alphabet would make them "spontaneous" readers.

To my delight, there turned out to be a very strong correlation between how many letters of the alphabet first-graders could write in a timed, 20-second period of time and how good their reading skills were. To my delight, there was a very strong correlation. However, the Whole Language Teachers did not believe in "setting specific achievement goals", and I was asked to unsubscribe from the list.

During the following school year (2003-2004) I created my own yahoogroups listserv and recruited another group of five kindergarten teachers willing to submit correlation data between alphabet-letter writing fluency and reading skills. Children were identified by ID numbers, rather than by names, to keep the study ethical.

There had been 94 students in the Whole Language "control" group, and I got a total of 106 student correlations from the five "experimental" kindergarten teachers, all of whom had also gotten very strong correlations between writing fluency and reading skill.

I immediately emailed the editorial offices of over a dozen well-known education journals, asking if they would be interested in me submitting a write-up of our study for possible publication. I got only two responses: one said, "That couldn't possibly be true", but the editor of the Harvard Educational Review enthusiastically invited my submission. I wrote up our study and had it sent in three days later. (In March, 2004). A few months later I received a standard letter of rejection from them.

Since then I have emailed copies of "my manuscript" to HUNDREDS of educational psychologists, journalists, education professors, politicians and school superintendents. Though I received a few informal polite replies, no one seemed to take my idea seriously.

During the second half of the 2008-2009 school year I recruited a number of different kindergarten and first-grade teachers to my listserv. All who participated again saw positive correlations, but it was decided to wait until this present (2009-2010) school year to repeat the study and see if we could get enough data to publish a meaningful meta-analysis onto the internet.

So far (5/5/10) we have data from three first-grade teachers at a Catholic private school in an upper middle-class Midwestern city. The data from these three teachers involve a total of 60 first-graders. Not only is there a correlation between alphabet-writing fluency and literacy, BUT EVERY ONE OF THESE CHILDREN IS NOW ABLE TO READ. (We got baseline data last year from a first-grade in one of the most affluent and academically successful elementary schools in the state of Pennsylvania. NOT ALL of their first graders were readers, though there was indeed a correlation between writing fluency and reading skill).

At this Catholic school teacher # 1 wrote she had the children practice writing the alphabet three days a week. (We had recommended five minutes each school day). Her class's writing fluency rates ranged between 63 and 123 letters-per-minute (LPM), and her median student wrote at a rate of 72 LPM. Teacher # 2's median rate was 75 LPM, and the median rate for teacher # 3 was 84 LPM.

A kindergarten teacher in our study wishes to be identified as "Mary Jane from rural South Carolina". She tells us that 93% of the children in her school receive subsidized lunches, and as of early May, 2010, only two of the children in her kindergarten are not yet readers. The principal of a highly successful elementary school in Atlanta had once told me on the telephone that children should learn to read in kindergarten, not in the first-grade.

Some years ago the retired archivist of the Calvert School (a private elementary school in Baltimore, Maryland), sent me a copy of a privately published booklet published in 1996, the centennial of the founding of the school. The original headmaster, G. Vernon Hillyer, wrote that, "If you teach children to write, you needn't bother teaching them to read". In his first-grade (the school had no kindergarten), children simply learned to write the sentence, "I see a tree". Thereafter they learned to write, "The tree is green". After about three months, all the children were literate, and then began to study a formal curriculum and to write meaningful essays. Twenty years later, he wrote that the school had never failed to teach a normal child to read and write.

In traditional Russia, children were taught literacy at home, before they began school. In Russian, as in English, various letters are pronounced differently in normal colloquial speech than they are written. As a matter of fact, there is not word for "to spell" in Russian. Instead, if one wishes to ask how a word is written, one just asks, "How is that written by syllables". For example, the word "govorit" (he speaks) is colloquially pronounced "guvareet". When asked how it is written, one answers: "Goh-Voh-REET".

In other words, one basically doesn't learn to read in Russian, one learns simply to write. And anyone can read anything anyone can successfully write! (I studied Russian for three years in college, and this way of learning to write in Russia is confirmed by several people educated in Russia whom I have known in the past.

We appreciate this May 1st, 20101data from Ardis, which we'll consider "end-of-the-year" data, even though a nice lady at the Michigan Board of Education just told me on the telephone that the children in Macomb Count, Michigan, adjacent to Detroit, will actually probably be attending school into sometime in June.

In the past Ardis, a kindergarten teacher, has told us her school has a high number of the children of immigrants in her class. I'm waiting to hear by direct email from Ardis whether she wants any particular restrictions placed on her identify and location, and/or can she give us any more graphics about her class.

Ardis included two interesting remarks in her report. One is "I have to admit I haven't kept up with the fluency training during this second semester as much as I did last year." The other important comment is "Every single person [i.e., kindergartner} is a reader - there are no struggling or non-readers this year".

At any rate, Ardis' data of May first indicate there were 26 kids in her kindergarten. One has moved away, and of the remaining:

Four students wrote the alphabet more rapidly than 40 LPM. There reading levels were, respectively, high, average, high and high.

Eight students wrote at between 30 and 39 LPM. In descending LPM order, their reading levels were high, high, high, high, very high (3rd grade level), low average, low average and average.

Eleven students scored between 21 and 27 LPM. Again, in decreasing order of LPM, their reading levels were: medium, high, high, low average, low average, medium, average, low average, high, very very high [3rd grade level; autistic], (this student's LPM was 21) and average.

Two students scored only 18 LPM. Their reading levels were high and low average.

Nancy, an Ed.D kindergarten teacher, also from Macomb county (part of metropolitan Detroit), just provided us with the following data:

Two of our 26 students scored better than 40 LPM and both rated as "above grade level" in reading skill.

Two students scored 39 LPM, and that are also "above grade level".

Five students scored between 30 and 36 LPM. In decreasing order of LPM rates, they were rated

"above grade level", "below grade level", "above grade level", "above grade level" and "at grade level" respectively.

Eight students wrote at between 21 and 27 LPM. Each of these eight were rated as "at grade level", in my opinion of their reading ability.

Five students wrote at 15 LPM. Of these, one was "at grade level" and the other four were "below grade level".

In the fall of 2009 the average LPM rate in my class was 7 LPM. At present it is 28 LPM.

Historically, many authorities on the subject of literacy instruction have stressed the importance of adequate practice in printing alphabet letters. The first-century Roman writer and rhetorician, Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (ca A.D. 35-98?) wrote that with regard to becoming literate, “Too slow a hand impedes the mind".

In 1912, Maria Montessori wrote, in effect, that teaching young children to print letters is easy, that it is easy to teach children to read after they have practiced printing alphabet letters, but that it is difficult to teach children to read if they have not practiced writing them.

Marilyn Jager Adams noted that prior to the onset of the twentieth century the “spelling drill” was the principal means of inducing literacy for several millennia.

I believe that the cumulative suggestion of our repeated on-line meta-analyses supports the idea that making children fluent at writing the alphabet during the first two years of school will be an important advance in the teaching of literacy throughout the world. We hope this summary will be relayed to K-1 teachers everywhere via the internet.

I think the importance of our findings is not in the strength of this on-line research. To be scientifically valid, studies must not only be reproducible, but reproducible by different experimenters.

The most outstanding result of our research is having learned that no one, in spite of vast sums being spent on "literacy research", has ever done and published a study to see if Maria Montessori's postulate holds true for Anglophone children, or whether it does not!

Bob Rose, MD (retired)

Jasper, Georgia


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Comments (1 posted):
Patrick Groff on 14/05/2010 07:52:10

Dear Dr. Rose:

I was pleased to see your revelation of the fact that most young children in the U.S. are denied an effective manner in which to develop their reading abilities. This practice is so notorious that I call it a form of academic child abuse.

Your comments also lead me to the conclusion that the public needs to be informed that professors of reading education are the major cause of the failure of American children to read commpetently. I hope in the future that you will add that truism to your other pertinent remarks.

Patrick Groff, Professor of Education Emeritus, San Diego State University.

[For commentary on this essay on the Houston Examiner, please go to

Yesterday I got an enquiry from a PhD educator in Scarsdale, NY. I think this is going to turn out to be very newsworthy!

Bob (
And they said slavery ended years ago. The Master doled out a decent education for a rare few children. The rest remain stuck in the monopoly of public education that does not allow for true success to happen. One thing is for sure, the rich enjoy the fruit of school choice because they can afford paying high property taxes AND tuition. Until the minorities in this country stand up and tell the Masters who run this game...ENOUGH, we'll see only a handful "make it". Keep voting for the progressives who keep you in bondage and this is what you can continue to expect.
In addition to those who do not win the lottery for admission to charter school are the children whose families are so bereft of social capital that they are not aware of the charter school option nor how to apply. This is not a fault of the charter schools, but a sign of the magnitude of the problem
More to the point --- and worthy of a response from schools chancellor Joel Klein: Why can't the features that make Democracy Prep so attractive --- "efficient use of funds, a culture of high expectations, and a 'no excuses' approach to school discipline" --- be implemented at ACE?
I think that the charter schools is a very interesting initiative in the face of a failing public school system, but this article is a little misleading. The lotteries (and isn't there something grotesque about a public one) are not random. They are drawn from a set of applicants whose parent(s) want their children to be a student at the school. So they are already more likely to be caring, aspirant and supportive. Research consistently demonstrates that the home environment is really important in helping children to achieve. Middle class children are not cleverer than poor children, they are just more likely to have parents who read to them, check their homework and so on. The real challenge for charter schools would be if they had genuinely random lotteries for the whole community and then had to motivate every student who walked in through their door.
My family is full of public school educators. My older sister went to the public schools after ten years as a private tutor.

Her class is reputedly the most-requested in the school, with some wealthy parents of 4th graders offering "inducements" to the administration to get their little urchins in her math program. She's good at all of it, but her kids just smoke the rest in math.

The school she teaches in is safe and has good teachers and very involved parents. It is this kind of school, even in extraordinarily low-budget Utah, that gives public school parents more bang for their tax buck than in any other state.

Utah last year defeated a school choice initiative on the strength of these good schools, and some fatal weaknesses in the proposal.

If parents in Utah were faced with the kind of dangerous schools that dot the country's inner cities, they would not tolerate them. There would long since have been a choice initiative passed to get kids out of those punk factories and into a healthy learning environment.

Of course, the problem with inner-city public schools is you can't enforce discipline. You may have teachers that would be great in an awesome school like my sister's, but who really suck when their hands are tied and discipine is in total breakdown.

In neighborhoods like that, a voucher system is urgently needed, so that schools with discipline problems can hold expulsion over the heads of the students. That's why Democracy Prep is as peaceful as Mother Teresa's library. Because every parent drills into their kid: don't you dare get expelled, or I will administer punishments you know not how severe.

The attitude at ACE is, What are you gonna do, "expel me?" Didn't you get the memo? Garbage never leaves the dump! We're already at the bottom of the food chain. You put the parents of these kids in an uncomfortable position with a voucher in hand and say, "Your child has been expelled. You may choose from any school you can afford, that has room for your child."

Now, if you're a Marine drill sergeant taking advantage of the GI bill to get your teaching certificate, how cool would it be to start a school with a standard academic curriculum but a military system of discipline and incentive? If my kid were getting out of line, I'd give him a semester at a school like that, just so he can get straightened out.

With vouchers, our drill sergeant teacher has access to school funding he would not otherwise have.

I'm a music teacher. What I wouldn't give to start a conservatory that admits students by audition as well as by test. No lottery here: you gotta be a good enough player or singer to get in.

Right now you can only cater to the wealthy, plus offer a scholarship or two.

What if vouchers were available, enabling poorer parents of extraordinarily gifted kids to send them to a school that develops their special talent?

You could organize schools around English as a Second Language, Special Needs Education, or even Athletics. And as a parent, you wouldn't need to be rich to get your kid the education you want for him/her.

I don't much care about "what would happen to the public schools?" much less what would happen to the union teachers under such a system. When the market rules, bad schools quickly will empty out, while new schools will arise to take their place. The same number of teachers will have to be employed, perhaps even more, because the demand for teachers will not go down.

The only thing that goes down is the union's stranglehold on your kid's future.

As long as any voucher system makes ABSOLUTELY SURE that for every child that takes a voucher, a fifth of that child's allocation stays with the district he would have been enrolled in, while he gets 70 percent of his allocation in the form of a voucher.

That leaves a ten percent savings to the taxpayers for every student that takes the deal. It also ELIMINATES the problem of public school overcrowding and funding for new school construction by easing the burden of growth on each district. If your district is teaching in temporary classrooms because of growth that outstripped building capacity or new-construction budgets, welcome to the solution.

By putting together a rational retirement package on a par with the private sector and eliminating superfluous administration bloat, these private schools can give way more education to their kids, pay their teachers more and give them smaller class sizes, even on 70 percent of what the public schools budget per student.

The lottery is unfair. Every student, every parent should have a choice, not just of a couple charters, but of a wide array of schools, featuring a wide array of approaches to discipline and learning.

Without having to get their kids' names drawn out of a hat.