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The Academic Achievement Challenge: What Really Works in the Classroom?

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This volume addresses one of the central issues in education: how best to instruct our students. From the late Jeanne S. Chall, Professor of Education at Harvard University and a leading figure in American education, the book reviews and evaluates the many educational reforms and innovations that have been proposed and employed over the past century. Systematically analyzing a vast body of qualitative and quantitative research, Chall compares achievement rates that result from traditional, teacher-centered ...
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Overview

This volume addresses one of the central issues in education: how best to instruct our students. From the late Jeanne S. Chall, Professor of Education at Harvard University and a leading figure in American education, the book reviews and evaluates the many educational reforms and innovations that have been proposed and employed over the past century. Systematically analyzing a vast body of qualitative and quantitative research, Chall compares achievement rates that result from traditional, teacher-centered approaches with those resulting from progressive, student-centered methods. Her findings are striking and clear: that teacher-centered approaches result in higher achievement overall, with particular benefits for children of lower socioeconomic status and those with learning difficulties. Offering cogent recommendations for practice, the book makes a strong case for basing future education reforms and innovations on a solid empirical foundation. In a new foreword to the paperback edition, Marilyn Jager Adams reflects on Chall's deep-rooted commitment to and enduring legacy in educating America's children.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"For school psychologists, this book provides: (a) a useful overview of the history of key ideas which continue to affect what we do in schools today, and (b) and overview of the empirical research on the comparative effectiveness of student-centered and teacher-centered approaches to education. For teachers who are less exposed to the current empirical literature in education, this book is perhaps an even more valuable resource. The teacher training curriculum in most schools of education do not teach how to conduct, evaluate, or employ research findings to improve classroom instruction....Chall provides a clear presentation of the relevant research that relates to improving achievement and the historical context in which certain beliefs, independent of supporting research, gained ascendancy over empirically supported practices....Chall has made a strong case for the effectiveness of teacher centered approaches to educational practice as compared to student centered approaches....For school psychologists, teachers, administrators, and parents this book can provide a clear answer to the question, 'What works in the classroom?'. The next step is to do it."--School Psychology Quarterly

"Offering cogent recommendations for practice, the book makes a strong case for basing future education reforms and innovations on a solid empirical foundation....The value of a more formal, teacher-centered education is thoroughly demonstrated, with particular attention given to the benefits derived by children of lower socioeconomic status and those with learning difficulties....The book points us towards solutions based on knowledge and past experience, rather than fads and expediency." --ZDM - Zentralblatt Für Didaktik Der Mathematik

"A notable education book of 2000....If a school district could choose one person over the past generation to offer advice on educational strategies, the smart money would be on the late Jeanne Chall....this book is a must for people who work in--and run--schools."--American School Board Journal

"Chall wants teachers to tap the entire spectrum of education ideas--to draw on a wide range of classroom practices regardless of their ideological points of origin. In the end, this call for open-mindedness may be her most important legacy."--Teacher Magazine

"How best to instruct students is the central theme of the late Jeanne S. Chall's last book....The ten chapters focus on all aspects of the issue including thorough discussions of traditional, teacher-centered education versus progressive, student-centered education trends in reading, mathematics, science, and social studies, and conclusions and recommendations. An appendix shows the key differences between the two strategies in a clear, concise manner. Highly recommended at all levels." --Choice

"In this remarkable volume...Jeanne Chall made a tremendous contribution to American education, a contribution that could revolutionize the way we approach teaching and learning....Any school board really concerned about how to improve student learning should consider buying this book in volume...to make certain it reaches all who direct instruction....It is a highly readable book, numbering under 200 pages, but each page is chock-full of information, provocative questions, and ideas that should stir the heart of anyone from a policy wonk to a classroom teacher in P.S. 100 trying to do his or her best to teach children. Chall's mastery of the past century and more of research on the issue of what works is truly remarkable....Public education is under almost constant attack from one quarter or another. The 2000 presidential campaign promises to elevate the issue to epic proportions. Rather than resort to a score of new programs, a thousand new ideas, perhaps we should simply require that every candidate, local, state or national, read this treasure of a book before they engage in debate. Then we might actually focus our energy and resources where it belongs--on improving teaching and learning."--American School Board Journal

"It would create a revolution in American education if every teacher, parent, and school board member were to read this book. What a wonderful, informative, readable, commonsense discussion of what works in classrooms and what usually doesn't work." --Diane Ravitch, author of The Troubled Crusade; Research Professor, New York University; Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Research and Improvement

"The capstone work of a great scholar, this book synthesizes all the relevant research to show that student-centered teaching does not live up to its education-school billing. Rather, it is teacher-centered education which leads to greater excellence and fairness. For the sake of our children, we must not wait decades, as we did with reading, before heeding the truths uncovered by the matchless scholarship of Jeanne Chall." --E.D. Hirsch, Jr, Ph.D., University Professor of Education and Humanities, University of Virginia

"In her last book, Jeanne Chall brings her vast experience with the field of education and her rigorous scholarship to bear on what has become the hottest topic of the day. Expanding her focus from literacy to the full range of curriculum, Chall concludes that the preponderance of evidence supports a strong teacher-centered approach to education over methods that transfer primary responsibility for learning to students. This book may well define the educational debates of the next decade. It provides both a needed historical perspective on educational fads and facts, and an incisive analysis of the forces affecting educational change. As such, The Academic Achievement Challenge ought to be required reading for anyone entering the profession of education today." --Andrew Biemiller, PhD, Professor and Coordinator of MA Teacher Education Program, Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto

"Beyond being a classic study of what works in the classroom and why, Jeanne Chall's final book provides us with an enduring lesson in how to base recommendations for practice on analysis of research."--Mary Beth Curtis, PhD, Center for Special Education, Lesley University

American School Board Journal

"A notable education book of 2000....If a school district could choose one person over the past generation to offer advice on educational strategies, the smart money would be on the late Jeanne Chall....This book is a must for people who work in--and run--schools."--American School Board Journal
Teacher Magazine

"Chall wants teachers to tap the entire spectrum of education ideas--to draw on a wide range of classroom practices regardless of their ideological points of origin. In the end, this call for open-mindedness may be her most important legacy."--Teacher Magazine
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781572307681
  • Publisher: Guilford Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/26/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 210
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 8.74 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author


Jeanne S. Chall, PhD, was Emeritus Professor of Education at Harvard University Graduate School of Education until her death in 1999. She founded and directed the Harvard Reading Laboratory. Her books include Learning to Read: The Great Debate, Stages of Reading Development, Readability Revisited and the New Dale-Chall Readability Formula, and Qualitative Assessment of Text Difficulty. A member of the National Academy of Education and the Reading Hall of Fame, Dr. Chall served on the Board of Directors of the International Reading Association and the National Society for the Study of Education. She received many awards, including the American Psychological Association's Edward L. Thorndike Award for distinguished psychological contributions to education, the American Educational Research Association Award, the International Reading Association Citation of Merit, and the Samuel T. Orton Award from the Orton Dyslexia Society.
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Read an Excerpt

Contents
1. Academic Achievement: An American Dilemma
2. Traditional, Teacher-Centered Education versus Progressive, Student-Centered Education
3. Twentieth-Century Trends in Educational Policy: The Shift toward Student-Centered Programs
4. Trends in Specific Areas of the Curriculum: Reading, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies, 1900 to the 1990s
5. Research on the Overall Effects of Teacher- and Student-Centered Educational Programs
6. Descriptive Studies of Early Educational Experiments
7. Student-Centered Education: From Theory to Practice
8. Socioeconomic and Learning Difference Effects
9. Parents, the Media, and other Nonschool Educators
10. Where Do We Go from Here? Conclusions and Recommendations
Appendix: Key Differences between Teacher-Centered and Student-Centered Instruction
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Table of Contents


Contents
1. Academic Achievement: An American Dilemma
2. Traditional, Teacher-Centered Education versus Progressive, Student-Centered Education
3. Twentieth-Century Trends in Educational Policy: The Shift toward Student-Centered Programs
4. Trends in Specific Areas of the Curriculum: Reading, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies, 1900 to the 1990s
5. Research on the Overall Effects of Teacher- and Student-Centered Educational Programs
6. Descriptive Studies of Early Educational Experiments
7. Student-Centered Education: From Theory to Practice
8. Socioeconomic and Learning Difference Effects
9. Parents, the Media, and other Nonschool Educators
10. Where Do We Go from Here? Conclusions and Recommendations
Appendix: Key Differences between Teacher-Centered and Student-Centered Instruction
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2006

    Leaving kids behind, with everyone's approval

    My first impression, upon reading the introduction of the book, was that Jeanne Chall had devoted her whole professional life to forcing US educators to face the fact that their ¿modern methods¿ for teaching reading were not working. But she then realized that the US educational system actually has a major problem that had been reflected in literacy programs: our methods of teaching are not giving the predicted good results. Her last task before death was to research this problem, and I identified a lot with it because I am a 5 year teacher who's previous management experience sees contradictory goals and programs throughout the New York City Department of Education. As you can imagine, I read the book quite attentively, and verified some of Dr. Chall's positions with my own historical research. To begin her research, Dr. Chall decided to review all of the research done on US educational programs and strategies, completing what I consider to be a nationwide meta-analysis covering a century of work. In addition, she throughout the book she seems to present the American Dilemma as a long standing, widespread unhappiness with student's academic achievement that is not being solved scientifically, with the results of research. ****** Personally, my experience resonates positively with the conclusion that educational programs have been and are being implemented without sufficient prior research and testing: as a public school teacher I had been asked to comply with centrally mandated programs that had no validation of results or methodology, nor was I trained in their use... I also observed how costly multiple, competing after-school programs were used to provide remedial assistance, without proper pretesting and classification of participating students (including mis-application of programmed pre-tests in specific programs)... often these programs only had short, supposedly successful ¿pilot tests¿ instead of proper evaluation. As you may imagine, I agree with much that Dr. Chall presents in her book. ****** To define what I am calling the ¿l00 year¿ meta-analisis of ¿The Academic Achievement Challenge¿, Dr. Chall divided the different educational programs that were studied into one of two very generic groups: Traditional or Progressive Education. She postulated that ¿traditional¿ teaching was ¿Teacher Centered¿, while ¿progressive¿ teachers used ¿Student-Centered¿ strategies. Of course, she clarified that in no case (not even in the early 20th Century schools) was there a ¿pure¿ style of teaching, but she concluded that these two classifications did apply in general, and that over the last century all schools in the US, both public and private, have tended to incorporate ever more elements of the ¿student-centered¿ approach. ****** Reading the book, I thought of all I had learned in my relatively long life, and compared my experiences as a student and a teacher in the NYC school system to Dr. Chall's descriptions. I found many similarities: as an immigrant I remembered being given special ¿speech¿ classes to get me up to speed with my English skills my teachers gave me clear and precise instructions as to what I was to do and how to do it though I could write script and was totally fluent written and spoken Spanish, I was forced to follow writing lessons my classmates were learning, and told not to speak Spanish at home. Yet, as a teacher, I was told to value the prior knowledge children had, even when it was wrong, and to promote group work as much as possible. Of course, as a teacher I also found it contradictory to expect students to learn new concepts if they were allowed to direct their own learning process, most specially at the middle school level, in which physical and emotional changes distract the children... However, I must admit that, faced with impossible expectations, I soon found that I could link prior ¿mundane¿ knowledge to textbook concepts, and have most of the children

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