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Marc Epstein
Fix the Regents Exams, Too « Back to Story

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The single secret of all highly successful K-1 teachers is that they all stress handwriting practice!
i neet to know
i neet to know
Excellent article. As a fellow teacher, I can also point out that these exams have been very dumbed down to the point that they are merely literacy exams, or I should say, a test of being somewhat literate. This is exactly how the Bloomberg/Klein reports are fudged and exaggerated. If anything, the opposite of what they say has occurred. Due to concentrating on testing scores (and exaggerating the data), the Bloomberg/Klein team has created a generation of students who are not prepared for college or the real world. Marc Epstein is one of the few people who have pointed out the inaccuracy of their data. The large foundation groups, who are composed of a billionaire club, have dictated what has occurred in our schools... yet no little if nothing about education. Great tax break for them, and a tough break for thousands of students. Epstein for chancellor!!
According to the latest city report card, Jamaica HS has a passing percentage in the 70's for both Global and US. How does that suggest they are getting a better education? 30 % of the pop fail these tests even though they are a joke. And you can be assuredd that Jamaica HS scrubs as hard as any other school in the system so that # is inflated as well. The notion that these students are somehow better prepared than the rest of the unteachable city student population is laughable.
I'm over 60 and took the NY State Regents exams in high school. I remember studying throughout the year in order to get a good grade on every test. I am just beginning to understand that the Regents are no longer a real test and have become meaningless. I was shocked to see that the previous Regents exams were posted on the New York State Education site to help students 'pass'.

What I wouldn't have given to have 'old' tests to use to study; but in the end, I believe students then were challenged to learn and not given insider info.

What a tragedy New York State education has become. Fewer students, increased levels and funding, more 'tenured' teachers and the results are devastating to our state, and nation. When in heaven's name will we wake up?
teach ny,

jamaica high school kids are not failing the regents and only have a 58- 60 % grad rate( not the false 48% that the DOE claims and which is at city average) because we test at higher standard and not just to the state test. We also have a high population of esl, ell, and special education population that the so called better small schools do not even let in, or remove them shortly after because they can not handle them. So when kids graduate from jamaica they actually have a better education then in other schools that simply teach to the test or just falsify info to make themselves look better than they actually are....just like j klien gives false stats to make himself look good..... but its all coming clear the load of crap he tells....
Philip Abramowitz August 08, 2010 at 11:22 AM
A great article. We've wasted billions on alleged school "reform" shose "progress" can be "verified". Those who run the schools define "success" as the want and "failure" as they want. We need more Marc Epsteins to shine the light of truth.
Bob Rose, MD (retired) August 07, 2010 at 5:58 PM
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 (
In addition to the all too elementary-level Social Studies Regents, don't forget
the massive "scrubbing" that boosts almost every 60 into a passing grade of 65. Teachers and administrators cheat like bandits. I know. Saw it with my own eyes at the Cobble Hill School of American Studies in Brooklyn. After I blew the whistle our pass rate fell almost 50 points--from the 60s to the teens. And the Special Commissioner of Investigation covered the whole thing up.
Wasn't Richard Mills, former Regents Chancellor, also complicit in these unreliable state test scores that lead to the grade inflation? Didn’t he retire because he knew that the test bubble was about to burst? Why shouldn't the community at large hold him accountable as well for the test shame? Retirement from his position should not mean exemption from blame.
Mr. Epstein,
I ask you, why is it that Jamaica High School is failing it's students, since the regents exams are so easy?
What about the Chemistry (they utilize a reverse curve), Physics, and all the math regents? These are ridiculously complicated and too many kids fail them. The Regents have been a waste of time for a very, very long time.
This really saddens me. As an alumni of Stuyvesant H.S. with its rigorous but really stimulating academic environment, we all worked hard and tried to do the best that we could. Even for those of us who were not obsessed with high grades, doing well on the Regents exams was a definite challenge and as it turned out, one of the high points of my own teens. To this day I still crack a smile when I think that I got a 99 on the Physics Regents and a 97 on the Chemistry one - and I'm a theater director. The fact is, I worked hard and did well. I "merited" those grades. To have devalued that kind of effort is appalling and boggles the mind. What are educators thinking???