Cal State

1999 Conference on Standards-Based K-12 Education

California State University Northridge

Transcript of Jimmy Kilpatrick
biography of speaker


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 Go back to transcript of Gayle Cloud

Ms. Jennings: Thank you, Gayle, our final speaker on the panel and then we will open up for questions from you because I know we have said nothing controversial (Laughter) -- Mr. Jimmy Kilpatrick, Editor of Education News.

Mr. Kilpatrick: Hi. Well, I didn't come out to California to shame and blame, and to ridicule anything that's going on out here, because in Texas, I can, with shame, report that we were on track and we got off track -- thanks to our Governor, George W. Bush, and his agenda to become President -- and compromised our standards and our teaching colleges. We had everything going in the right direction, we've lost it. And this will be seen in the years coming. So don't forget when you go to the polls and he comes out here bragging on how good Texas is doing. We are pretty much in bad shape. Even teacher training for reading has gotten to the point of embracing all philosophies. And to me, a balance is no balance because reading has never been out of balance. It's where a child needs to become a good reader.

My fight began four years ago with my own son who is now in 5th grade, 11 years old, and the realization he could not learn to read in second grade to any type of level.

The fear and the concern of a father and a mother who, both my wife and myself are the primary -- are primarily responsible for my children's education. Even though they go to school.

Going to a school and having somebody say that we can screen your child and test them to see if there's a problem and then fix that problem is very comforting and very soothing. When you go to the meetings, in Texas we call them "ard" meetings, and the Vice Principal says we are really concerned about your -- keeping your child's self-esteem. And as a parent, with no prior experience or background in this area, that sounded comforting. It took me two months to realize that they did the wrong testing and they had nothing to intervene with. And that's what started the trek on for me, and I'm very proud of what I did as a parent and where I've come in the last four years.

The bottom line is that, as we look at the reading research, the empirical replicated research being done by the National Institutes of Health, there's currently an on-going 13 year-long Connecticut Longitudinal Study that has found that 17.4% of the general population will have a learning disability so severe that they can qualify under federal guidelines for special education.

Now, I not necessarily dare, but no one seems to want to look at this issue. I and Dr. Burton of the Texas Reading Institute were instrumental in starting a pure committee of reading in HISD. We had Marilyn Adams as one of the speakers that came in. This was several years ago in 1996. As Marilyn said, "Yes, phonics has shown to be better than whole language, but not that much better."

Now, to clarify that is, that my son was in a private Christian school -- I'm Christian Right, so we balance the liberals and what-not (Laughter). The difficulty is, he was at this -- my wife's a Special Ed. teacher. She's from Guatemala and she's in mathematics -- she would love to come here because she loves math and she can do all that, and I can't. The point is that he started out in systematic direct phonics, and my assumption was, "give him more phonics." Well, the point was, it was not the phonics, it was the processing, the phonemic awareness. This is a key culprit. Without good phonemic awareness, and I have yet to see it, there is no classroom program that is going to teach it in the classroom for the kids like my son. It just won't happen. Joe Torgeson of Florida State is basically saying it's going to take in first grade, for an identified child, a hundred hours of one on one intervention. He is not saying, it could be implicit or explicit or whatnot, but these are specific kids. In fact, if we have almost 20% of our population, let's don't get the rosy idea that systematic phonics is the answer to the reading issues in this country. It is for a majority of kids. But we still have about 30% of the kids that couldn't read with it, and with whole language we had 50 or 60% of the kids that can't read with it. This is all open for debate. The problem is no debate because no one really wants to dialogue about this. I hear programs, publishers, I don't care if it is Open Court -- you name the program, Reading Mastery, any of them. The data is going to show in the Houston study, which is the continuation of the alee study that, yes, these programs do work better and they will do better, but it's not going to take care of the bottom 20%. Barbara Foreman is the Principal Investigator for the NICH in the Houston study along with Dr. Jack Fletcher and Torgeson is doing a sister study at Florida State. Initially product conversations through administrators related to me was good, solid instruction, early on, pre-K, K, will basically reduce reading failures down to about 10%. Just recently in the past few weeks, I'm hearing 15%, and before it is over, mark my word, it's going to be at the 20% level.

Now, the other big issue is -- and it is not the point that I'm right, but I'm persistent. I'm a parent, because if it weren't for me, my son wouldn't be back in a private school -- the public school did the intervention too. The pressure was unbelievable and pain on my family, from my district which is an upper middle class district, Sugarland outside of Houston is beyond anything anybody can comprehend unless you have been in that situation. And I know the educators in this room have been to those meetings and hearing parents pleading and arguing and nothing can happen. In 6 weeks, he made 3 years gain in decoding. My son will never read fluently and I beg to anybody to show me data that shows that children that have disabilities or are not reading well early on are going to have reading fluency. Just the studies aren't there.

We are hearing a lot of illusionary, "Oh, we can teach every child to read" and this and that -- my son was in second grade and was having a hard time with cat, bat, sat and things of that nature. We want to look at the California Standards which are excellent in K-3. I have no problems with that. But to give a sense of false hope to our teachers that x number of any program we bring in, or programs that are replicated, empirically based and there are 5 programs are being studied in Houston ISD, let's watch the long term data. If a child scores 85 to 95% tile in first grade yet by 5th grade, 30 to 35th percentile, there's a gap there. Where is this gap? Is it vocabulary, socioeconomics, at risk behavior? Who knows? But these things need to be talked about. I don't want to see more K 1 data. What I want to see is "where is this child in 4th and 5th grade?"

My son right now on the Stanford 9 last fall, tested at the 4th grade level. He is in 5th grade in a private school and my wife and he spend hour and a half or two hours a night on the homework. This guy's in the hunt. He is doing what they spoke of yesterday. He is challenged by the school, the accountability and my wife and I and it is no fun at home. We have two other little ones too, we have three in elementary. But because of the district instruction and intervention and just the determination, my little Jimmy wants to stay in the hunt. There's kids that outperform him but he is in the hunt, he is with peers, no behavioral problems. So I guess what we are saying, and what I want to pass on, is that anything you hear about Texas don't believe it because it is not true (Laughter). It's not what you think it is. It is the greatest fraud being perpetrated on this country, and we have got stuff in Education News, and we're going to expose some things coming up later on this summer.

For the educators in this room, ask the program "What do you do for the bottom 20%?" You ask the questions. Most parent won't be informed or if they do become informed, they won't take the system on. So the parents, the educators, if we can come together somehow, that's great. But in the meantime don't count on a shelf program to take care of your 4 to 6 kids in every single classroom in the State of California that will have problems on reading. And if anybody can show me data that it doesn't, I'll be happy to read it. I'll post it in my newspapers. I'm not attacking programs per se, but you know and I know that 4 to 6 kids are going to have that problem, and the NICH study shows it, and let's start talking about it. I challenge NICH to bring the data up with Barbara Foreman. Barbara is going out now and she's developing training centers.

The question is now, "What do you want to be trained in?" I'm not talking about what they want to be in, what's the research say we need to be trained in? If we are not training our teachers to do adequate testing and proper intervention in smaller groups or one on one, we are doing a disservice. We are always going to be in this mess because you're going to have 6 to 8 kids, 10 kids in every class that are going to drag the other kids down. My son does not drag his private school classroom. It is 22 to 1. He is in the hunt. He is holding his own. The teacher doesn't slow down. I have to do some repeating work at home or my wife does. This is what education should be like, and it's not, because of policies, beliefs, you name it. There's a million excuses.

All I can share is what I have learned and what I've done for my part in this whole revolution that we are seeing. As Doug Carnine said at the University of Oregon two summers ago when he came to Houston, this is like a spiritual revolution. As a Christian, I would go along with that because we are seeing people that never would talk about any subject, and all of a sudden we're talking about them.

One other thing and I'll close, is that UCLA mental health has the National Mental Health Studies for Public Education, and I talked to the Director. The point is spirituality is lacking in education. And I'm not talking about school and prayer. But if we don't look at the spiritual sense of this whole equation, we can do academics and we can do curriculum curriculum. But people don't blow their brains out -- other kids when they are feeling good about themselves and they have nothing but a sense of television and every else, we have to start addressing the child's spiritual welfare, emotional welfare and the parents, and support each other in this societal battle we are all going through throughout the country. Thank you.


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Contact the organizers

Postal and telephone information:

1999 Conference on Standards-Based K12 Education

College of Science and Mathematics

California State University Northridge

18111 Nordhoff St.

Northridge CA 91330-8235

Telephone: (Dr. Klein: 818-677-7792)

FAX: 818-677-3634 (Attn: David Klein)