Today on the podcast, we‘re joined by literacy expert Jan Hasbrouck, Ph.D. Dr. Hasbrouck is an education consultant, author, and researcher. She opens the episode talking about her start with literacy, underscoring how she was one of the lucky ones who learned how to teach reading correctly in college. Dr. Hasbrouck also discusses what it’s like to combat skepticism—both of the Science of Reading and the power of assessment. She then goes on to talk about the book she co-authored on student-focused coaching and ends the episode by addressing assessment anxiety directly, including a discussion of where it comes from, the importance of progress monitoring, and more!
Student-Focused Coaching by Jan Hasbrouck, Ph.D., Daryl Michel, Ph.D.
Susan Lambert: 0:02
If you don't know the work of Dr. Jan Hasbrouck, you are in for quite a treat. And if you do know her work, you'll already be excited to listen. Jan has been in the work of literacy for decades and still brings us relevant, timely, and helpful information. You'll enjoy hearing a bit about her Science of Reading journey. You'll learn more about what she calls a weird little assessment, and you'll be introduced to her most recent book, Student-Focused Coaching. Drop us some comments in the Science of Reading: The Community Facebook group and let us know what you think. Well, hello, Jan, thank you so much for joining us on today's episode.
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 0:43
Hey, Susan. I'm happy to be here. I look forward to our conversation.
Susan Lambert 0:47
Oh, I'm really excited about this. We had some great conversation already in the pre-call, so we're gonna unpack some of that, but I'm very excited. As you know, our listeners, just love to hear a little bit about who you are and your journey. How did you get interested in literacy?
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 1:04
<laugh> Yeah, that was a fun one to think about, because I am far along in my literacy journey at this stage of my career. I've been doing this as a professional educator for many, many decades. To think back about how I got started took me back to my own personal journey with literacy. I was one of those precocious readers. I probably had taught myself to read. But my very young mother was trying to follow all the rules. I was the eldest of three girls so I was her guinea pig, <laugh> but somehow she got the message—and we did have kindergarten back there in California, where I started school—but she was told, don't let your children, don't teach your children to read. That will happen in first grade. So don't, you're not supposed to do that. So as we know about precocious readers, those kids who basically teach themselves. She was reading to us and doing all that, not teaching us to read, but she said she was trying really hard to keep me from reading. And it was really <laugh> hard. So I don't really remember learning to read. It was easy for me and a joy throughout the process. So personally I had that experience. And right around that time, another story my mom loved to tell about me is that the first day of kindergarten, I came home that evening, and we always had dinner together, and we sat at the table and she wanted me to debrief this kindergarten experience for my sisters. And she said I announced—and I wouldn't be surprised—that I said, "I'm going to be a teacher when I grow up." <laugh> and, you know, OK! And of course, life takes turns and all kinds of things, and there were periods of time when I played around with something else. I did seriously consider possibly a medical career for a while. And because, you know, I'm a product of when I grew up—I grew up in the fifties, and for women, the choices were stay-at-home mom or you could branch out maybe and be a teacher or a nurse or librarian or something. So for medical, I thought nursing. In high school, my cousin was living with us at the time. She's my age. And we did candy-striper training together, and then went to volunteer in the high school [hospital?] with our little candy-striper uniforms and everything. And that first day we walked out and I said—
Susan Lambert: 3:59
"No, thanks"? <laugh>
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 4:02
<laugh> "Not for me! I am not going into nursing!" And she just recently retired from a 40-some year career as a surgical nurse. With advanced degrees and everything. She knew that day; this is her thing. This is her passion. I knew that day <laugh> I better stick with teaching. But right around that time, also, the next probably most major thing that happened on my road to where I am today is I had really narrowed down that I was gonna be a teacher and I was excited about it. But as I was getting ready to leave high school, I had a conversation one day with a high-school English teacher that I really admired and had worked with. And so after school I went to her class and I had a life-changing conversation. Because I said to her, "Well, you know, I'm gonna be graduating soon, and I wanted to let you know that I've decided that when I go to the university next year, I'm going to study so that I can be a high-school English teacher."
Susan Lambert: 5:13
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 5:13
And she gave me not the response I expected. She looked at me and there was a pause. And, you know, to this day, of course, I don't know if she just had a really rotten seventh-period class, or a bad headache, or whatever it was, but she looked at me and said, "Oh, Jan, no. You don't wanna be a high school English teacher. Seriously."
Susan Lambert: 5:35
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 5:38
She said, "I get it, why you would want to. You know, reading and English and writing and everything is so easy for you. And you're so good at it. And you wanna share that with children and your students. And that would be wonderful. But," she said, "Jan, the world doesn't need more high-school English teachers. There's too many of these kids that just don't even know how to read."
Susan Lambert: 5:58
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 5:59
"We don't need more high-school English teachers. We need somebody to teach these kids how to read." Wow. OK! I'll do that! Or I'll consider that. So she planted a seed. 'Cause I hadn't really thought about that, that there were kids around me didn't know how to read. I hadn't thought about that! But I then started very soon after that the University of Oregon in the teacher-ed pathway. And I was very unhappy. Around my junior year, I was just trying to come to grips with what I was being taught and what it felt like. And I think justifiably, looking back, I was not being taught how to teach. And I wanted that information. Surely there's some art or there's some theory or there's some—but I was getting art and theory, actually that wasn't the problem. It was more the specifics. There was all this vague stuff. I would go to my music-theory class or my music-ed class, music methods, and we would learn to play the recorder. And then we would go to science-methods class and we would make toast and write up about the experience. It's like, "Yeah, no, something's not right here." And in one of those classes, we had to teach each other lessons, make up a lesson and teach it. I don't remember which class. But one of my peers, one of the teacher-ed candidates in there, taught a lesson using what I now know is direct instruction. She was teaching us something and said, "Modeling, guided practice, choral repetition."
Susan Lambert: 7:44
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 7:44
And I'd never seen anything like that before. And after she was done, I went right up to her and said, "What were you doing?" And she said, "It's called direct instruction. And right over there, there's some trailers and there's some folks working in there, including Zig Engelmann, and he's signing up students to learn direct instruction and you should go over and talk to him." So I did. And that was the next major step in my career. 'Cause I dropped out of the teacher-ed track and dropped into the direct-instruction track at 19 years old. A junior. And so I learned to teach using direct instruction. And what I hear now at this stage of the discussions about the Science of Reading and that wonderful [inaudible] lovely Facebook group of The Science of Reading, what I should have learned in college. There's just so many people agonizingly telling their story about being taught incorrectly, how to teach or not taught how to teach and having to discover what I should have learned in college. And I am one of a small handful of people that I learned what I should have in college. I learned how to teach from Zig Engelmann, which was not—if anybody knows anything about Zig, um, that was not always an easy process! But he was passionate and heartfelt. And he knew his stuff. And he taught us what he knew then. But you know, that was 19—many decades later. I'm still learning. The process isn't over. I have bookmarked two research studies that I hope to get to this afternoon to read. There's just new information coming about both how to teach and how to teach reading specifically and writing and the interface between reading and writing. And so I know I chose the right career. <laugh> I was right that first day in kindergarten when I came home! No doubt, no question in my mind. Because it was a good fit for me. And lucky for me, unlike some careers where my cousin, for instance—we just talked this week and she said there's no way she could have continued in the career of nursing. She just—at her age, at my age, nursing was just much too demanding, physically and emotionally. Whereas my career can allow me—I mean, I don't think I could teach a classroom of 30-some children every single day and maintain that, but I can find a way to keep involved with the profession and continue to grow myself and continue to give back to the profession. So yeah, my journey continues, but that's the trajectory.
Susan Lambert: 11:06
<laugh> I love that. And we love that you're still involved in teaching us all along the way as you're learning, too. So thank you for your commitment to this career that you chose, which is really now more than just a career. It feels a little like you're talking, this is a little passion for you, or you wouldn't be reading research articles on a Thursday afternoon. <laugh>
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 11:25
In between this morning, creating a webinar that I will deliver next week, and this evening, delivering a webinar to some educators—and parents apparently—in Calgary, Alberta, it's a wonderful, exciting time.
Susan Lambert: 11:44
Well, part of your professional journey includes helping us understand a lot about this—what you call the weird little assessment called ORF. <laugh> Oh, I love that you called that weird little assessment. Talk to us a little bit about—I mean, ORF has got a big place and it's often misunderstood. Can you tell us a little bit about how you've been involved in that and what you know and learned?
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 12:14
Yeah, I sure can. That was a moment too, that I remember, much like that connecting with Zig Engelmann, which was a memorable moment. My connection with ORF was a memorable moment, too. I had been a reading specialist working in a couple of school districts, but I was still a reading specialist in Springfield, Oregon. But my administrator that I worked with, the district director of the Title I teachers—I was the one reading specialist—had this idea that it would be a really good idea if one of us, one of the reading teachers, instead of working with kids, worked with the other reading specialists to go out into the schools and help them. You know, "help them" is pretty much what his words were. So I said, "You're thinking about me to do that job." So anyway, I was plucked out of the classroom, put into this role that had no job title, no job description, and the goal was to go out in the schools and to help teachers. I kind of figured out right away, first of all, that I needed some help. I needed some help doing that, that it was a whole different role than the thing I'd been doing for 15 years, which was teaching children. I knew how to get in a car and drive out to the schools! That wasn't the problem! <laughs>.
Susan Lambert: 13:56
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 13:56
But when I got there, what was I supposed to do? So I started thinking that it was clear I needed help. And around that time in my mailbox, I wish I still had that piece of paper, but for some reason I got a little flyer in my mailbox that said that there was a program at our nearby university, University of Oregon, that was training in a post-graduate level course or series of courses, training teachers to work with their peer colleagues to improve educational outcomes and student outcomes and that kind of thing. And I thought, "I think maybe that's what I'm supposed to be doing! And if there's somebody over there teaching those courses...." So I called up and found out that the person teaching those courses was this brand-new professor named Jerry Tindal. And so I said, "Well, I wanna be in that program." So I went over and interviewed with Jerry, and he signed me up and the first course—that was a whole series of events that changed my life. But speaking about ORF, particularly, he had just completed his doctoral program at the University of Minnesota, where he worked with Stan Deno and Jim Ysseldyke. And Jerry's cohort of doctoral students included names that I'm sure many of your listeners would know. Other of the cohort were Lynn Fuchs, her husband, Doug Fuchs, uh, Mark Shinn, uh, Gary Germann, and on and on and on. It was this dream cohort of doctoral students. And what they were all studying together was this idea of creating very short, reliable, valid assessments that teachers could use to both quickly identify kids who might need some academic help and evaluate the effectiveness of that. So that's what Jerry had been studying as a doctoral student. One of those assessments that was created by this amazing team of people was this weird little assessment called Oral Reading Fluency. And, and I remember sitting in that class—I mean, it had just been invented; nobody heard about it; nobody was writing about it; there were some research reports, but most of them were being published just at the University of Minnesota. I mean, it was really, really early on. But Jerry was, you know, all talking about it all the time. This was the key to everything! And I was like, "I'm supposed to be learning how to go out into schools and help teachers, and all you're talking about is assessment?" It didn't quite jibe. And then when he told us about ORF: "So you have a child read aloud from an unpracticed passage. You have them read for 60 seconds. You score their errors. You calculate words correct per minute. And that's this amazing tool." And I raised my—oh, and he said, "Then you take that score, words correct per minute...what do you do with it? Well, what you do with it is you create building-level norms, and then you can find if your student is at the normative benchmark or not." And I just sat there, thinking, "First of all, 60 seconds? Are you kidding me? You know, I'm a reading specialist. I have a master's degree. I've been doing this for a long time."
Susan Lambert: 17:54
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 17:54
"I can't imagine that 60 seconds is gonna give me what I need." And also, "Are you kidding me that we should create building-level norms?" Like, my hand went up. Jerry and I to this day, still recall that conversation, <laugh> arrogant little student that I was, who said, "Ah, you know, Jerry, I've been teaching primarily my 15-year career in Title I schools. You get to be a Title I school by having low-performing, usually high-poverty kids. So I don't get that we should create building-level norms for these low-performing, at-risk kids, and then use those low norms <laughs> to let us know anything about kids! That doesn't make any sense to me!" So this is going beyond your question for sure. But he said, "Well, what should we do about that?" And I said, "Well, we need to create national norms!" So that was the spark of now 25 years of research that Jerry Tindal and I have done together to create those national norms.
Susan Lambert: 19:07
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 19:08
But I did take some convincing, just to believe in the value of that ORF assessment. And so there could not be, Susan, a bigger skeptic. I know there are skeptics of ORF when I share ORF...or now I'm very rarely sharing something new with people; they've heard of it, or you know, Oral Reading Fluency, DIBELS, you know, Acadience, whatever it is they've heard about it. And they may use it. But people are as skeptical as I was about the value of it. And I get it. I sit there and listen to their skepticism and say, "Yeah, yeah! <laugh> It doesn't make any sense! But I've been using it now for...what would this be? 30-some years. I've done several research studies using it. I've used it as a practitioner. I've used it as a grandmother measuring my own grandson's progress. It works!" That team back at the University of Minnesota essentially invented the tool that we as reading professionals can use as a thermometer. It has reliability. We can trust the score. It gives us consistent scores. It has validity. It gives us good, useful information, and like a thermometer, it's super-quick.
Susan Lambert: 20:34
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 20:35
But, just like a thermometer, it only tells us essentially whether a student has a fever or not. Should we worry about you or not worry about you? So if we can understand that this weird little assessment really is valuable when we understand what it is and what it isn't, how to use it, how not to use it, when to use it, when not to use it...I could not imagine being a professional without that tool. But it is, as you say, widely misunderstood.
Susan Lambert: 21:11
Yeah. Just talk a little bit about this. I know we have some more things to cover, but just this idea that oral reading fluency, I think you mentioned to me that you think the name itself sort of breeds some misconceptions.
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 21:25
Oh yes. Thank you for remembering that. It does. And there are people on that team, Mark Shinn, particularly—he and I have had, on that team of doctoral students way back when that essentially invented these assessments—Mark and I have had conversations about the fact. And he and I are not the only ones; there are others. People have written about this—that it was very unfortunate to put the term, the label, of "fluency" on that assessment. Primarily because—I mean, certainly there are aspects, what words correct per-minute is measuring is accuracy, words correct per minute, which is a rate measure. And in the general research, the science of learning, rate plus accuracy is considered fluency in educational psychology. And where we study skill acquisition, you start with accuracy, and then as you get more proficient, your rate increases. And so you get to a point of fluency or automaticity. So it is in a way a measure of fluency in the way the general world thinks about it. But we reading teachers think of fluency as something much—or we should think of fluency as something much more multifaceted and complex that at minimum includes prosody or expression, which has nothing to do with an ORF score. And in reality, when we're really looking at, "Does a student have sufficient text-reading fluency to allow comprehension?" It is their accuracy; it is their rate; it is their expression; it is their metacognition; it is their background knowledge. It's all of this stuff that really experienced reading teachers think of as fluency. So they think of fluency that way. And then you come along and say, "Here's this little weird 60-second assessment that measures fluency." And they say, "Oh, no, it doesn't." And, you're right! It doesn't! What it does measure is words, correct per minute. We could have just called it "words correct per minute." It is oral. It is reading <laugh> you know, reading aloud. But we shouldn't have called it fluency. There's some colleagues of mine in a book all about these kinds of assessments that suggested it should have been named "oral passage reading." OPR. Oral passage reading. That's probably a little bit better. Um, uh, do John Hosp has suggested, "Let's just label it automaticity." It's a measure of automaticity.
Susan Lambert: 24:11
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 24:11
I like that too. 'Cause I think that really is what it's measuring and why it's important. But yes, I think it's unfortunate and I spend way too much time in my webinars and trainings talking about what ORF is and how wonderful it is and how it's weird, yes, but you should trust it, but it should never have been called "fluency." Well, I wish they hadn't 'cause we have to backtrack and reexplain and all that.
Susan Lambert: 24:42
So the message here is: Trust that ORF measure, but know it's a measure that needs...it's an indicator of something.
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 24:50
It's <whispers> an indicator.
Susan Lambert: 24:51
Yeah. All right. Well for those of our listeners that wanna attend a webinar with you, I'm sure you'll unpack that ORF measure at another webinar. Or we can do another recording too, if we wanna do that.
Susan Lambert: 25:04
I recently attended the CDL Plain Talk conference in New Orleans and our team asked attendees to share their Science of Reading stories. Take a listen, and we'll be right back.
Educator 1: 25:15
Hi, I'm a teacher. And what brought me to the Science of Reading was that my students were struggling so much with my guided-reading instruction. It just did not align to what I wanted students to understand. It seemed to have been confusing them. And when I really realized by reading books and researching the Science of Reading, I understood more of why I was confusing my students and why it seemed like I was wasting their time. I was able to understand better ways to educate my students. And now I am the Teacher of the Year in my school district. So thank you to the Science of Reading.
Susan Lambert: 25:49
Well, let's segue a little bit. It was so fun to hear about you going from working with students directly to being extracted from that and doing a little bit of...I would call coaching. So that leads to your new book, co-authored book, called Student-Focused Coaching, recently published. I have it here on my desk. I actually showed it to you. I have my copy all marked up! We'll link our listeners in the show notes to the book. Tell us a little bit about the book and what the genesis for writing that was
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 26:21
Oh, yes. I'm happy to do that. Thank you, Susan, for letting me talk about that. That book is a culmination—I mean, I could go back really to that conversation that my boss had when he had that big idea of "somebody should be available to go out and help the teachers." He asked me to take that role. How quickly I figured out that I don't know what to do! I'm terrified, as many coaches—I now have had contact over three decades with many, many coaches, and one of the things we all share is terror of doing this job. Because no matter how skillful and experienced you are, how in the world can we have the chutzpah to walk into a colleague's classroom? Sometimes, if we're a much younger novice coach, they may have been teaching for decades longer than us. They may be teaching a content area that we've never taught before. What do we bring to the table? And what if they ask us a question we can't answer there? It's such a frightening and overwhelming role. So with that terror and being overwhelmed and frightened, I turned to Jerry Tindal as the beginning of my process to "How do I do this job?" And Jerry most importantly gave me the data message. That data has a role, not only in teaching children, but also in working with adults. So I got that message really early on. It's not all about data by any means, but coaching is enhanced by data collection too. But then I also found that there were other people studying this coaching, or there were quite a group of people back then 30 years ago, studying a process called consultation, and that research was happening primarily in special education and school psychology. So what next happened was, Jerry Tindal convinced me to drop my work as a reading coach and come work with him and work on a doctoral program. And the focus of my doctoral program was coaching or consultation. So I spent quite a bit of time reading and studying and ultimately doing some research on the coaching and consultation process. And throughout that time, I was training coaches because another thing that Jerry Tindal was quite renowned for was writing grants. So he had me writing grants and we would use those grants to fund research, but also to bring in students and pay their tuition and have them study under us. So right away in my doctoral program, I was working with people, training them to be coaches, using whatever knowledge I had...and I can tell you back in the day, I hope none of them are listening, but I was <laugh> one step ahead of them, maybe. Maybe one step ahead of them. 'Cause we were trying to figure out what this thing was. What was coaching and consultation? So whatever I had figured out, I would meet with this group—usually young women, but we had different cohorts of people over the year—to talk about what coaching is; how to do it well; what are the challenges; what are the nuances? So that was starting when my doctoral program started in 1986 and that year I was training coaches. So all of that work...and then I ended up, I wrapped up my program with Jerry at the University of Oregon and was hired at Texas A&M University. That was a big shift in every possible way. Culturally, um—
Susan Lambert: 30:29
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 30:32
Climate change, that's right! Language change. I had to learn a whole new language in a lot of ways, but I became—I got a job as a tenure track professor in educational psychology and had a wonderful opportunity to work part-time in school psychology with Dr. Jan Hughes, who happened to have a grant to study consultation within school psychology. And the other half of that job was in special ed, and I continued to work to write grants and train students in coaching. So those two worlds—I mean, all of that worked together. One of my students in the special-ed half of that work was Carolyn Denton. And she and I wrote the first version, the original version, of the book that you now have. It was about—the publisher that we worked with wanted us to call it The Reading Coach, because at that time, most academic or instructional coaches were working in reading. And that worked very well. Carolyn's background was reading; my background was reading. So we wrote a book, actually we wrote two books, part one and part two, on The Reading Coach. And so that was used very widely during the Reading First years, a lot of Reading First mandated that schools had coaches. There were very few books for coaches. So a lot teachers, a lot of coaches used our book. But then, you know, Reading First was over, and the publisher of those two books decided to not continue to print it. So it was out of print. But I was still doing coaching training here and there. And part of my—at one time that work brought me into contact with Daryl Michel, who is just a wonderful person with a lot of interest and background himself in coaching in schools. And he had read the books that Carolyn and I wrote and was using them in his trainings. So he had a lot of experience with the model that we had created, which is called student-focused coaching. It's a particular model; it's a particular way of offering coaching. Um, so we put our heads together, Daryl and I, and said, "You know, that original book is out of print." I contacted Carolyn. And she said that she had moved on. She didn't really want to go back and do a book on coaching. So Daryl and I rewrote the book. He brought a lot of wonderful, new, fresh ideas to it, but it's also the cumulation of 30 years of work and research and practice. So that's what you, that's what you have in your hand.
Susan Lambert: 33:31
That's amazing. What a great story. You must be very proud of yourself for that. The second version of this, the new one. Um, I hope you are! <laugh>
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 33:42
I definitely am. And I definitely am proud and very grateful to have Daryl on board, particularly. It's the huge value... I have been so blessed in my career so many times to have the opportunity to collaborate with just the right person at just the right time. That original book, The Reading Coach, would not have been written, could not have been written, without the input of Carolyn Denton. This book, I would've not had the energy or the impetus to write it without Daryl's new vision and fresh ideas and great thinking around the process. So yeah! it is...I'm very proud of it, but very happy to have Daryl, because I think he's going to take this model of coaching into the future. He's very busy, doing coaching trainings all over the world, via Zoom and other formats. So yeah, I'm really, I am proud and really happy to watch this little baby that I helped create now go off into the world.
Susan Lambert: 34:58
Sure. That's great. Well, I would love to read just a couple of sentences that come right from this book and just ask you to respond to them.
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 35:07
OK. All right.
Susan Lambert: 35:08
"The word assessment can bring about a great deal of anxiety, based on conversations with some educators. There does not seem to be a shortage of tests being administered. Rather, it sometimes seems like testing takes precedence over instruction. There is often too much time taken for testing, little time to analyze all of the data, and even less time trying to figure out how to use the data to differentiate instruction." What's the power there, of those sentences? There's a lot packed into those.
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 35:40
Susan Lambert: 35:41
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 35:42
A lot packed in there. Yes. And it rings true to me to this day. That there is a lot of anxiety around assessment. I do think in my experience, my many decades now I've experienced, I think most people who go into teaching are... first of all, you don't go into teaching because you love assessments! "You know, that's why, that's why I wanna go into teaching!" Certainly that's not the reason. I mean, that's laughable. But also the personality type I think that generally gets attracted to teaching is people who are people-people. And they like the relationship-building and they like all of that, and data is something, you know, assessments are something they will use if they have to. But it's not the reason that they get it up and go to work every day. Having worked in school psychology and having been a researcher in a Tier 1 university educational psychology department. I know there are brilliant, wonderful people whose life is all about data and assessments and statistics and that kind of thing. And they couldn't ever imagine themselves teaching in an elementary classroom or something. So there are really different people and there are...so I think a lot of us who've become teachers have an aversion, a fear, a dislike, a distrust of assessments for a lot of reasons. Then there's the issue of—in teaching, we never have enough time. We never have enough time. Or money. Or people to do the work that we want to do. And so assessments get a little—we can feel annoyed about assessments there, too, because it's absolutely right. The most important thing we do is our teaching and we don't have enough time to do it! And then somebody usually tells us we have to take some of our time, or a lot of our time, to do assessments. And if those assessments aren't really carefully selected, and if those assessments are...if we are not well-trained in both how to do the assessment, but how to analyze the data and then what to do with that data, then it's wasted time. SoThat's what I'm seeing in school. That administrators are probably feeling pressure on themselves. They're told you need to do these assessments they don't fully understand. Nobody's taken the time to explain to them what these assessments are; how to use them; what does it mean? And even at the highest leadership level that's happening. So the culmination of that is layer upon layer upon layer of assessments. It's very rare that someone goes in and says, "OK, we're not gonna do that assessment anymore; we've got this better, more strategic, more useful assessment. We're gonna do this one instead." What's often happening, too often happening, is assessments get layered on each other. So we're doing lots of assessments. We're doing assessments that were not well-designed. I mean, going back to that weird little ORF: I didn't like it when I first heard about it, but I now love it. And I love it in part, because it is short, because it does have those psychometric properties that you have to have in order to believe and have an assessment be useful. Reliability and validity. And it is 60 seconds. I love that about it. And some of these assessments take 45 minutes, an hour and a half, days of observational assessments that some kindergarten teachers are having to do! It's just...and then at the end, what do I do with this data? So I really do understand that concern about—yeah, there is anxiety. We are probably, in most schools, I would say, doing too much testing that overlaps, repeats itself. We're using assessments that are much longer than they need to be. And our attempt to fix all that really is... Let's just, first of all, take a deep breath. Let's all have a kumbaya moment. Link arms. And agree that we don't have enough time. We don't have enough money. We don't have enough people. OK. And with that precious time and money and people, we should be doing the best instruction possible. We all agree on that, but in order to do that best assessment possible, we really do it best if we have some data. Just, just like a physician. We have these amazingly trained physicians who know all this stuff, but if you said, "Go in and take care of this patient, but you spend any time—you only have to take care of the patient, but you can't spend any time collecting data; you just have to do the care, do the surgery, give them some medicine." A physician can't do that, right? <laugh>
Susan Lambert: 41:12
Yeah. My face, no. The listeners can't see it, but my face just went crazy.
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 41:15
I saw the reaction! No, we do not want a physician—I mean, we don't like being poked and prodded and have to get on the scale and have our brain scanned in an MRI and all this, and nobody loves that as the patient, but we trust that our physicians are doing that to collect data that informs their decision-making. So we as professional educators and our leaders who guide us and direct us need to know that we need data, just like a physician does. We don't need as much. We don't have the fancy tools. And we don't need them! We need little things like ORF to get us started. Do you have a fever, an academic fever, <laugh> or not? If OK, you do, you're not at benchmark with this assessment of automaticity, words correct per minute, you're not at benchmark, well, what do we do about that? We turn to another set of tools. And I frame all of that as assessment. I think it's most helpful for administrators and teachers and specialists to think about organizing tools around assessment around three key questions. And the threshold question is, "I've got these children in front of me. I've got my 108 reading students that I see across a week. I've got my 27 second graders, whatever it is. Which of these students might need some extra help? Who needs some extra help?" Then the next one is I found a student who need —or probably a few students who need—some extra help. The next question is, "What kind of help do they need?" What are their skill strengths? What are their skill deficits? How am I going to use my precious time and resources to give them what they need, not what I think they need, or I wish they needed, but what do they really need? And then the third driving question, is "After instruction starts, is the work working?" I'm working really hard as a teacher. This child seems to be working really hard. Is that work working? So we have categories of assessments that answer these questions, that first question—"Which kids might need some extra help?"—that's those benchmark screening assessments, where we give to all kids, and the reason we give 'em to all kids is we're making sure that nobody falls between the cracks. We're finding those kids who might need help. When we found them, we turn to—we want to answer that question, "What kind of help do they need?" We have a category of assessments called diagnostic skills assessments. Do they need help with phoneme awareness? Do they need help with phonics? Do they need help with reading text fluency? Do they have all that down, but they just need help with comprehension— just need help with comprehension! or is that the focus?
Susan Lambert: 44:11
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 44:11
And then once I've got that information, I can use that to plan my instruction. And then I should bravely pull out the assessments designed to answer that question, "Is the work working?" I do think that's the bravest question that a professional educator can ask. I want to evaluate my own teaching. And that category of assessments is called progress-monitoring assessments. And we can use that to make determinations over a relatively short period of time about the effectiveness of our instruction. And wise administrators can use that kind of assessment to make determinations about the effectiveness of an entire curriculum or entire grade level. Most of these kids are making good progress or oops! Look at this fifth-grade class; it's the whole fifth grade are not making sufficient progress. So it's very valuable information to then use, to go back to those precious work that we do, the hard work that we do, of teaching. So we wanna be smart. We wanna be strategic. We want to be efficient about the assessment. We never want to do one iota, one second, one minute of extra assessment that we don't have to do, unless it answers a key question that makes us better teachers.
Susan Lambert: 45:41
Mm, that's great. I wanna go back to that progress-monitoring moment. And what you said about that's a scary moment, because sometimes teachers can take that to mean, "I was the failure," maybe. Right? Like, this is something maybe I did. But if we put it—and this was just an a-ha moment for me right now— if we put it in the context of the medical field: a doctor gives us a prescription and we come back to have a six-week check on that, "How are you doing?" Doctor says, "Mm, not so well, really, so let's try something else." Like, there's no value judgment there. It's just like, well, this didn't work. That's OK. Let's try the next thing. How can we encourage teachers to get to that place where it's OK! It's about how the kids are responding to this teaching, and if they're not responding, that's all right! Let's try another way.
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 46:42
That's exactly right. Well, this has been another mission of my work. A few years ago, many years ago at this point, I wrote a book called Educators as Physicians. And it was all about collecting the right data, which is as little as possible, using it to make good decisions, including planning, instruction, and monitoring progress. But that analogy of educators as physicians is one I continue to use. That book also is out of print. But I have another wonderful opportunity to collaborate with a colleague. Margaret Goldberg has said that she would be—
Susan Lambert: 47:26
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 47:29
Susan Lambert: 47:29
She is one of my favorite people in the world!
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 47:31
She is amazing! And she has said she read—um, I was writing a new version, an updated version, of that book, and she expressed some interest in assessment, which not all teachers do. So I asked her to read an early draft of the book. And I said to her, "Based on your reaction, I may ask you to come on as a co-author." And she agreed to do that. So it's very much in the background, because she's full-time teaching, working as a reading coach this year, and I'm busy too. But today I was working on a webinar based on that concept. And the webinar is about educators as physicians. And it's exactly your a-ha moment: that we are responsible for the academic health and wellness, as well as the behavior and social-emotional wellness, of our children, just like a physician is responsible for the physical, and depending on their field, the psychological wellness. In order to do that well, we do need to collect data. And just like a physician, it would be malpractice if you come in with a sore throat that they say, "OK, let's do a CAT scan of your spine; let's do a biopsy of your liver; let's do—like what?! No! Let's not collect too much data! I've got a sore throat. Why don't you examine my throat and maybe take a swab? You know, so not too much data, but some data, and the right data. Use that to make a determination of what should we try. Let's try some medicine. Let's try some antibiotics. And your statement that, OK, I tried the antibiotics I've taken 'em for three weeks or whatever. I come back and say, <cough> "Still sore!" We don't say, "OK, Doctor, we take away your medical license! Clearly you have failed!" No! In medicine, the human body, getting the human body well is very complex. Getting the brain to learn to read is very complex. We try some things. Sometimes we're right. Sometimes we're a little bit, but we need to do it differently, Or more. That's what progress-monitoring data can help us do. But it is brave, 'cause it's a new question for teachers. It's it is part of the training that physicians get. They have to sit around with their colleagues and their teachers and do case studies and grand rounds. And they are grilled when they say, "OK, the patient presented with a sore throat and I did these diagnostics." And everybody says, "Why did you do those diagnostics? Why didn't you do different diagnostics?Why didn't you do this?" They're grilled upon that. And then they say, "OK." And then:"I prescribed this," and everybody jumps in: "Why didn't you prescribe this? Why didn't you prescribe—" They're, from the beginning of their work, experiencing that kind of—for good professional reasons! not to chop people down and make them feel bad, but to deepen their learning and to test their own thinking and to hear new ideas. I think that's a potential for PLCs that are happening in school.
Susan Lambert: 51:03
For sure, yeah.
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 51:04
If we brought our student data and said, "I'm doing the best I can, but this student is not making progress." Not "I'm a failure," but. "Help me, colleagues, to think about this differently. Should I have administered different assessments? Are there some interventions that I should be doing that I haven't thought of yet?" Or "I can only see this student twice a week for 20 minutes. Is there something else the group as a whole, the system as a whole, can we teach him? Can we find two more 15-minute or 20-minute slots during the week?" There's all kinds of things that we should do that mirrors—not to say that the medical world is perfect and has answered every question by any stretch of the imagination. But I think there's something about that analogy and some things about the way they've done their work that can be helpful to us.
Susan Lambert: 52:07
Yeah. That's great. Well, so we're, we're gonna look forward to another Jan book coming, sometime.
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 52:14
Jan and Margaret, I'm hoping!
Susan Lambert: 52:15
<laugh> Well, as we sort of wrap up here, what final thoughts or advice do you have for our listeners?
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 52:23
Susan Lambert: 52:24
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 52:24
Well, all of you listeners out there who are engaged in this amazing work that we are doing of working with children, keep it up and bless you and thank you for choosing this profession! I know in this day and age, I'm even more grateful because unlike me and many of my peers back in the '50s, when we were choosing our career, the options were really—maybe they weren't as limited as we thought, but we were kind of put into just a few boxes—so I know that these young men and women who are choosing to be educators nowadays have many, many other choices. So I'm really, really grateful when I see these bright, eager people choosing this very challenging career, and being brave enough to continue to grow and take risks, to take on new responsibilities, like coaching. If someone comes along and taps you on the shoulder, like I was, to suggest trying something new...yeah, that's a good thing to do! And those people who feel called to move into administration, those are incredibly important roles. And some of us will then also, as I did, move into higher ed and teacher education. There's just many, many options for professional growth. But the, the rewards just continue. I mean, there's nothing like watching the light go on in a child's eyes, and you had something to do with that. That they get it! That this letter says, "Mmm." <laugh> Or this multi-syllable word really can be decoded and has meaning. Or that this amazing piece of literature can speak to your soul or open worlds that you never imagined. So, yeah, that's just a wonderful place to be. And I'm grateful for you, Susan, to bring these messages to so many educators. It's one of the silver linings of the pandemic, right? We found ways to connect with each other and create this really global community. And I think it's just fantastic. And your podcast is playing a big role in doing that.
Susan Lambert: 55:05
Well, thank you, Jan, and thank you again for the work you do. It's been so great. Our listeners will get linked in the show notes to the book, for sure. And we just appreciate you being here.
Dr. Jan Hasbrouck: 55:17
It's been my honor, and a great deal of fun too, <laugh> to walk back through some of the big moments of my long professional career.
Susan Lambert: 55:31
Thanks for listening, and keep your feedback coming. Want to learn more? Be sure to stay connected by subscribing to your favorite podcast app. And join our Facebook discussion group, Science of Reading: The Community. Don't forget to register for our new webinar series,The Science of Reading Is for Everyone. Over the next few months, experts including Natalie Wexler, Dr. Jan Hasbrouck, and Dr. Carolyn Strom will discuss how the Science of Reading can help all students. Educators like you will talk about their journeys with the Science of Reading and why making the change is worth it.