I got an email from someone who received this question from a colleague and sent it on to me:
Are there any stats re just how much the TPRS method is being used in schools in the U.S.? What are universities thinking about it? Are any adopting it? Does Krashen or anyone have a handle on this nationwide? Do you know if any nearby schools that are using this? I know I asked you this several years ago, and there was not much evidence to support it as “the real thing”. I am just wondering if there are new developments in tracking this. I would really appreciate it if you could find out this info for me. When we meet, I can fill you in as to why I would like it.
This pushed a few of my buttons so I responded with a bit of a rant. I apologize for the bitchy edge in it. No, I don’t. I am tired of people thinking that a set of comparison data gathered in the old ways of the last century has much value in this new world of language teaching that is finally here. When are people going to get that data is not the only way to determine if something is effective? Here is my rant:
This is rather an awkward question. Why? It is awkward because we don’t have tests developed and in place to test what our CI kids know. Even the DPS tests are flawed, in my opinion, but I don’t want to get into that here. Don’t tell Diana I said that.
I would tell your friend that, until tests written for and by traditional instructors are eliminated from the landscape, we cannot really show what our CI kids know. We are talking about giving a CI kid a test designed by a set of traditional teachers. What will that prove? What can it prove? Are those tests aligned with standards? Uh, no they are not. How could they reflect anything about what our CI kids know, because the instruction we offer them is in fact based strongly and rooted firmly in the standards.
We are in a whole new world, and until the testing area catches up with our new instructional practices, the question is moot – it doesn’t work as a question. My own question is why can’t people go in and see our classes, see what our kids can do with the language in the classroom, see the interaction there, the real stuff going on, put their hands up by the sides of their heads to stop the spinning, and leave and no longer ask such hubris-ridden questions.
Of course, this would mean that they have to wrap their minds around an uncomfortable new truth, that if a kid does well on a traditional test, it means nothing if the child cannot understand the language. It also would require that they accept that input must precede output in the form of both writing and speaking for years before anything real can be measured. Do not miss the sublety of that last point. YEARS of input must precede output, so how can one test what our first and second year kids even know? What is the hurry? I will say it a third time – years of input must precede any measurement of what our kids know.
I will say it a fourth time. The process is unconscious for years, just as it is in small children. We have so little, just a fraction, of the time needed to demonstrate any gains, and yet the data folks want to measure what our first and second, and third and fourth for that matter, can do with the language. Do we do that with four year old kids, who have been exposed to far more language in those four years than our fourth year kids have? As Robert Harrell has said, learning a language is a really hard thing to do that requires lots of time and effort, and to measure what a person, especially a non-motivated person like so many of our students are, can do with a language after only 400 or so hours of instruction time, is really an absurd thing to do.
It is this long silent period when the input is happening in the form of listening and reading that may in fact be a factor in our not having any big time test scores that destroy those of privileged white kids who make it to the upper levels in traditional classes. The role of time and the role of the unconscious mind and how so much time is required for anything real to be measured must be studied and I nominate the same people who ask these questions about what data we have gathered on our behalf to start that research, as if we need to defend what we do.
However, with certain kids, those same kids who form the entire foundation of testing “success” for traditional teachers in traditional classrooms, we do have strong proof. So what if it’s all anecdotal and field based? I am so weary of the claim that anecdotal and field based research is somehow not valid. And Blaine did try to collect data whenever he heard it starting in 2001, and there were some impressive scores especially on the AP exam that we would share with each other each summer at the conferences (Laurie can speak to this) but he never completed the project and everybody else was busy doing things that actually had some importance like learning how to get better at teaching our kids, weird stuff like that.
So our success is all hearsay. People hear that we are doing fantastic things (because we certainly are and in spite of great opposition on a daily basis). But they don’t believe it because they only heard it – it is not put in the form of data somewhere. That’s just so lame. I personally had frequent national scores from TPRS kids until I decided to no longer play that pathetic game of standardized testing. I had to sever my relationship with those tests, all of them, when I realized that I was only doing it to make myself look good.
Want some scores? One of my CI kids got a perfect score on the National French exam, a great many of them had scores in the 60 out of 70 range. Scores below 50 of 70 were rare, except in the kids with hard hearts and difficult home lives. One time my 8th graders got 14 of the 15 scores in CO on the level 1 exam. The kid with the perfect score got a 4 on the AP French exam after only two years of French with no prior background.
But it’s all just hearsay. I would have to prove it. I would have to go back into some dingy file somewhere in some school and try to find those results, right? My perception that those kids rocked the house every day and brought me so much happiness that I decided to start a blog about how cool this way of teaching was is not enough. All of the incredible success stories that we have shared with each other here over the years, all those great stories, are not enough. That is where we have arrived in our society. What a teacher knows about her students and experiences with them is not enough. It must be proven by numbers, which are always flawed.
We seem to have reversed things. What we say to each other doesn’t count. Numbers count. Explain that to me.
I just don’t think that your friend is going to get the information she wants. Why? Because what we are doing is so radical that no one can keep up with it. No one can really test what happens in the unconscious mind where language acquisition really occurs, can they? I would advise your friend to just go into a classroom where CI is being done well and draw her own conclusions. Is a rocking classroom with plenty of laughter and obvious communication through happy eyes vs. worksheets being done in tomb-like silence enough proof? Is it enough proof?
Sorry to get pissy about this, but the fact is that we who are doing this work are changing enough right now. We are working hard enough to bring what Krashen and others have shown us to be true about how people acquire languages to fruition. We should not have, added to the burden of the massive amount of work we are currently doing, another chore, that of proving that what we do is far superior to anything ever done. It is far superior to anything ever done. People don’t know that now, but they will one day.
Those stuck in wondering whether what we do has any value clearly have some reading of their own to do. Let them do their own research if it’s that important to them. But beware of those at the university level doing any research. They don’t even get what is happening. No, they don’t. They don’t.
You can send her some of the Primer articles especially the one by Robert. Really, isn’t the question of whether what we are doing has any value in the world of collected data up to this point really kind of a worn out question? Can somebody ask us another question please? Like is there a map they can use to get to our classrooms? So they can see for real, without the need for any fricking data? Jeez Louise.