Clarice Swaney

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20 thoughts on “Clarice Swaney”

  1. The data piece is in process, a big process just now getting started in Denver Public Schools. Dr. Beniko Mason running point but not without the step by step involvement of Dr. Krashen. More on that later as it develops. But if you want data and if we get what we think we’re gonna get, we’re gonna have some data.

    1. Ben, cooking up some data? We’ve talked here on the blog about the data monster, but not about preparing him a meal…
      Please, more on this soon. The current educational environment runs on data fuel and, well the reality is that good data DOES say something. I am hoping to not be wasting my time with the continued thinking that I am putting into my scales. I hope that I can get some real data for my own classroom. Rule one, though, is that things stay ultra simple. But…if I CAN capture some sort of demonstration of learning gains with real numbers that were not so difficult to gather, then all the better I suppose.
      Keep us informed of Denver’s effort’s (and Krashen’s?) to get data.

  2. The data monster we will feed is not the same one we are required to feed in our buildings. This is not a monster at all, but, finally after all these years, a carefully thought out study by Dr. Mason that will slay the bullshit data of today by removing the tacit agreement among teachers that text book companies are good at coming up with data that holds water, as per the last fifty horrible years. No promises yet but Beniko is now here in Denver, Krashen will be on this thing, as Diana told me a few days ago. The horses are in the gate, but we need some traditional teachers to get into the study. We need somone to run against, to compare foot speed, as it were. Basically, we plan on gathering the first credible data on TCI yet. But, the horses aren’t running yet. There is so much opposition, much of it unseen because it is in the form of a rabid kind of ignorance in the profession.

    1. It’s hard for the traditional teacher when doubt begins to chip away at the “way I have always done it”. I recently watched a documentary on charter schools. The teacher in one class was wearing an earpiece. As she was teaching, her colleagues in the back of the room were coaching her – mostly focusing on her questioning skills (not a wl class). Of course, this school was having great results. I shared that with a colleague, since coaching is a big part of who we are and she was appalled that someone would be “telling” her how to teach. Instead of seeing the benefit, her takeaway was that the teacher must have been incompetent! It’s a mindset. It’s a way people define themselves. When someone gets a whiff of self-doubt – maybe I have been wrong all these years – the defenses really go up. Data will be helpful, but finding a traditional teacher open enough to an honest, empirical exchange of ideas?

  3. Ben, perhaps you could create a “data” category for the blog that could contain any sort of finding, be it a teacher’s account of rising enrollment/retention since switching to CI, testimonials, academic studies referred to, etc. Basically, anything we could use to arm ourselves against the doubters.

    1. John, Blaine tried this and it never flew. I had five 8th graders rank the state on the national French Exam one year and he told me to send those scores to somebody but nothing happened. It’s all disorganized and messy and therefore not accurate with us. Diana and Beniko will finally get some data that, because the study is done by arguably one of the great scholars in the world right now and supported by Krashen, will have some real teeth. We don’t need to gather data because even if we did people always want to see what they want to see, but the study we are planning here will, when published in a few years, be irrefutable.

  4. I am curious about what Clarice, the original poster, means by “data”. I find the term to be overly generic in the discussion. We could be talking about so many different things. John mentions rising enrollment/retention comparisons, testimonials, etc. Clarice mentions textbook-driven district common assessments. What kind of data will ever be enough to convince “them”? I say this because massive data, which supports Krashen’s theories, has been around for decades and is still ignored. Thus, this discussion.
    My sense is that traditionalists find discrete point, decontextualized, grammar-driven, accuracy weighted, short-term, memory driven data to be valid and sufficient. CI practitioners dread these cram fests and believe the data they generate to be invalid.
    CI practitioners favor data that shows positive comparisons in areas like those that John mentions and CI communication tasks like “whole writing”, listening and reading omprehension, and acquired (not memorized) speaking ability; these strike fear to the hearts of the traditionalist.
    Philosophically, the trads believe that accuracy, from the very first days of instruction, is the most important feature of learning language. CIers believe that understanding the message, transmitted in the language through speech/reading), is the most important (grammatical accuracy being important at the later stages of language acquisition and/or when necessary for clarity of message).
    I know there are districts that are trying to “bridge this data gap”, including different kinds of assessments which include writing and reading. Unfortunately, they continue to weigh “accuracy” heavily at Levels 1-3. I see no bridge. I don’t believe that the trads are interested in “our kind of data” and I’m certainly not interested in theirs. Seen enough of it for a lifetime. They can’t convince me with it. Can we convince them with ours? Doubtful.
    The data already exist–and not old data. Krashen posted something recently about recent CI research that’s been done–published in IJFLT (not exactly a journal thousands are reading). I’ll have to find the citing.
    I agree with somebody (was it you, John?)–that concentrating on improving our craft trumps everything else.

    1. I found the Stephen Krashen quote: “We have been trying, some of us for the last 35 years, to provide the evidence supporting the theory underlying TPRS, and there are studies specifically showing that TPRS works. The evidence is overwhelming, in my opinion. The easiest way to find it is, a free online journal, as well as my website, There are, of course, those who disagree, and claim to have counter evidence. To my knowledge, all responsible attacks and criticisms have been answered and they will continue to be answered, in the professional literature.”

    2. “I am curious about what Clarice, the original poster, means by “data”. I find the term to be overly generic in the discussion.”
      So do I. I have asked our new principal what type of data he wants to see. Last year, as he started stepping in for our previous principal as she was fighting her illness, he was excited about our increased enrollment numbers. Last week he told me those numbers really don’t mean anything. The increase in numbers could be explained because we are easy teachers and that reputation is getting around so more kids are signing up and going on. (I know I should have had a comeback for that but I don’t really think that fast about those things. I think it was at this point that I asked our principal a question my fellow TCI teacher has asked, “Where and what is the data that supports the textbooks and projects?” He basically said we weren’t going to have that discussion.) I then asked what kind of data will suffice. I was told we will need to look at AP numbers and scores, which is difficult at our site since we don’t have many students sign up for AP Spanish, they are taking IB Spanish instead. That of course could be argued as easy vs. hard since I use CI in IB and the Honors 4 and AP teacher, if there are enough sign-ups for a class, has the students complete tons of vocabulary lists, grammar exercises and write 1-2 essays a week in which she uses an error correction sheet with which they have to figure out exactly what the error is and then fix it.
      It’s the lack of clarity on what data are necessary that makes my heart pound, my palms sweat and wakes me up at night and won’t let me go back to sleep. What exactly and how exactly will we gather it? Blehhh!

      1. This guy is a politician disguised as a building administrator, clearly. He finds a way to negate your increased enrollment, then almost in the same breath finds no reason to see anything wrong with the traditionalists lack of any data whatsover. This guy plays a good game of Gotcha. I recommend getting some sleep and not even allowing your deeper mind to try to come up with something on how to deal with this guy. It’s a big sickness. It’s a fairy tale. All the people in the land are under a spell. How else to explain it? So, if it were me, I would choose to sleep in the field of poppies rather than go on down that yellow road. There is no grand and magnificent Oz – just meatheads like this guy.

  5. Nobody has any counter data, they just say they do. That is what is so frustrating about the trads. I hear you, Jody, completely. But it occurs to me, as I mentioned to John, that what is really needed is some direct comparison based on the same exact material being taught by the trads and the CIers (great terms you used there). That is what we are trying to set up here in Denver. Right now, we have one traditional French teacher, a native speaker who is as traditional and vocal against us as they get and who, bless his heart, is willing to teach the same material over an extended period of time that Paul Kirschling, Reuben Vyn, and me will be teaching in our high schools. We need two more traditional teachers to round out this scenario so Beniko can go to work, but nobody else wants to play. We may have to go out of district – we’ve approached Columbine High but they don’t want to play either. That is where we are now. If we can do this, teaching the same material in two different ways, the data will be more easy to manage. I can say one thing, those of us how know Diana, I have never seen a fire in her eyes like on this project. She knows what is at stake and the opportunity we have with Dr. Mason right now.

  6. Hi everyone.
    I’ve just read this thread. Thank you, Clarice, for your post!
    I believe that there is some data to be collected in the form of surveying our students. And, I believe that these survey questions should be linked to SLA theory. Questions like, “When in class/doing homework/testing, rate your level of anxiety” or “If you don’t understand something said in the target language, does your teacher make sure you understand before moving on?” I’ve been wanting to develop a survey that gets at the heart of why a CI + P class works so well. Tying in the P is something that the Suits will like to see. If your students overwhelmingly report a positive relationship with you, it’s not about being an ‘easy’ class, it’s obviously something you are doing.
    On another note, I think the best way to convince your admin is to have him/her come in and watch your class. If you are tight on the discipline, per Ben’s rules, you are checking for comprehension in multiple ways, multiple times per class, you are modeling what “A” work looks like, your Interpersonal Communication targets are clear… man, you just can’t argue with it.
    On a third note, it’s about proficiency. One of the things that Dr. Mason and Diana should do is to have both sets of kids complete 10 minute free writes. In the spring the CI kids will be able to write a ton. they’ll be able to write fluidly – with fluency. With better word order. From the heart, not memorized regurgitation. It’s about proficiency. It’s about proficiency. It’s about proficiency.
    On a fourth note, compare the following data:
    In the last 4 years the total # of students enrolled in Spanish when from:
    Spanish I (three years ago) = X (there were X boys and X girls)
    Spanish II (two years ago) = X (There were X boys and X girls and X% attrition)
    Spanish III (last year) = X (There were X boys and X girls and X% attrition from year 2 and X% attrition from year 1 and the boy:girl ratio is now X)
    Spanish IV (this year) = X (There are now X boys and X girls and the overall attrition rate from year 1 is X% and the ratio boy:girl is X%)
    then, analyze for socioeconomic if you can or ethnicity if you can.
    Ask your administrator if this amounts to equitable teaching – Offer TCI not as the answer, just as a better way.
    PS. I just had an interesting conversation with a PhD candidate in language learning and he suggested that the overall rate of attrition from year 1 to 4 across the country is 50%. I don’t know if this included just public schools or not, but I’ve _never_ heard of those kind of numbers (except in Harrel’s German program!). Does anyone have comparable information?

  7. Thank you, Grant. We must be on the same wave length. I went to our numbers guy and got him to run some of the numbers you mention above. I especially like your suggestions regarding the subgroups. And I think the principal will like that data.
    The district likes us to conduct a student evaluation/survey of our instruction on a yearly basis. Your ideas about the survey can be adapted to that. ?
    Thank you.

  8. oh, SURVEY gods, where are you??????
    Grant you are such a GENIUS!!! Seriously – our numbers are falling off a cliff after Level 2 (no lie — this year we have a TOTAL of Level 3 in Spanish of 8 students; and in French only 5 students……how can we sustain a program with attrition rates like that?)
    I try to explain what worked for me last year, then in another conversation I explained “Circling with Balls” and one of my colleagues said, “oh, is that one of your TPRS ‘things’ ” and instead of being defensive, just said, “yes, it is TOTALLY what the guy in the video we watched today (that our principal had us watch — the TED talk with Peter Benson, and igniting the “spark” in kids) was talking about — it’s what I do the first few weeks of class to get to know the kids.”
    But, then someone else said that we need to know what the KIDS are saying – and I suggested that we ask the principal to take a survey of the kids who have chosen not to continue past Level 2 and ask them WHY? (esp. when they know how beneficial learning the language is)
    I had my hopes up about this person the other day – I don’t know if the open mind will stay. I am the only CI teacher out of the 4 of us, but me and the other two were trying to explain to that 4th that it’s about proficiency – NOT accuracy in Levels 1 and 2. That person’s argument is that s/he wants to prepare them for the rigors of college.
    This person also stated that the Level 4s kids who did not want to move to Level 5 (of course the 4%ers) did not want to take 5 bc they didn’t want Spanish to negatively affect their overall GPA!!!!! So, we have THAT to deal with too!
    We really need a way to collect data of our own. We do not have relevant assessments; we cannot afford the National Language Exams (French Contest and Nat’l Spanish); and the NYS Regents that’s online is only for one level. I want to do a pre-assessment next week when they start, but don’t know what it should be!

  9. Ours in DPS is significantly better than the Regents and getting better fast. But everytime I bring it up with Diana about sharing it around she mumbles something about proprietary and ignores me. I guess it’s the property of Denver Public Schools. I bet there is over $200,000 in it over the past four years, perhaps a lot more. My thinking mb is to cool things down a bit and let your own numbers do the talking. Those people don’t want to engage in dialogue with you. Just sayin’. Choose your battles. Just my advice, but I have the scars to prove that we must know when to back off with the CI talk if they clearly don’t want to hear it or even think about changing to align with the national standards, the Three Modes, the 90% Use Position Statement, and all the other new stuff that will determine whether they have jobs in four years.

  10. yes, I went into it not wanting a battle; however, when our numbers are THIS low, and people are asking for solutions, how can I be quiet, when I see (from learning French from you, Donna and Susie; and learning Mandarin from Linda) how easy it is to acquire a language first-hand; and after I have done research on comprehensible input for my research graduate course? Then after all the work we have done on this blog this summer on rubrics (and all the money I spend on professional development traveling to CO) and they tell me “we have to do our grading THIS way.” all while addressing the LOW numbers in upper levels — I felt a need to try to HELP – to be the solution, not create a problem!
    BTW, our common assessments are all output-based!!! THAT is why I am trying to find RELEVANT pre- and post-assessments.
    Ben, as per your suggestion prior to Breckenridge…..I asked Diana @ Breck if I could talk to her at anytime that week about pre- and post-assessments. she said that we could probably have a SIG about it, but unfortunately that never happened (what a busy, crazy week!) So, I never got to talk to her about it; therefore, I am asking here, now.

  11. I’ll ask her to email you. She is one busy boss, trust me. To take an entire district of teachers five years ago with four out of one hundred teachers doing CI to (now this year) sixty out of a hundred, she had to have been busy. But I will sound the alert here. I truly believe in your vision, but I still say, based on experience, that you are in a crushable place professionally right now and since you are in your second year I would take all my energy and put it into getting kids to sign up next year bc they have fun and let your numbers do the talking. Just sayin’ again and not trying to be obnoxious.

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