Have we “Hattie” enough debate? Show me the data!

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    If one is careful not to take oneself too seriously, one can gain perspective in a 40-year career. Here is mine so far.

    I am very tired of ideological arguments. I get that religion is ideological. I do not get that politics are.

    It is impossible that every idea coming from a Democrat is wrong. It is impossible that every idea coming from a Republican is wrong.

    I used to write a monthly column for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. My first was a piece on the need for democracy to have the chaos of a good discussion. We have lost that ability.

    In the Congress, it used to be true that Democrats and Republicans would scream at each other and then go have dinner together. No more.

    It used to be that political issues could be discussed among friends. No more, unless everyone first shows her or his card proving their pre-agreement about every issue.

    My wife and I have lost good friends over the politics of the last decade. Tragic.

    One would think that education, the one chance we have with our treasured children to guide them to caring and competent citizenship, would be immune from ideological disagreements.

    Of course, it is not. Three examples:

    Whole language versus direct instruction is the first example. It is not possible that we as a field have not discovered the best ways to teach virtually all children to read proficiently. If one looks at the data, in fact, we have. But, because, some of the explicit approaches that work violate the ideology of many professors and some educators, we refuse to implement widely what works. Show me the data!

    The use of the IQ/achievement discrepancy to identify students eligible for special education in the learning disabilities category is the second example. The IQ/achievement discrepancy sure looked scientific. When I was Utah’s state director of special ed (and I am a school psychologist), we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a discrepancy disk using a mile long regression formula from Cecil Reynolds.

    In the early part of this century, Jack Fletcher, Matt Burns, and many others showed us unequivocally that the discrepancy model is not scientifically valid.

    Did everyone immediately stop using it? Of course not. After all, RtI is not fully developed as an alternative. Besides that, we psychs have to have our WISC kits!

    The RtI revolution is way past its tipping point and has been transformed into building a sustainable and coherent multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) for all students. More on MTSS later. Show me the data!

    Site-based decision making is the third example. For years, we have tried to make site-based decision making work. Our ideological reliance on this idea has not raised achievement.

    Marzano and Waters (2009) did a meta-analysis that found that site-based decision making does not work to raise achievement. What does work is for a school district to establish a limited number of non-negotiables and then to have schools innovate in the context of those non-negotiables.

    Have we all listened? Oh no. If our ideology is site-based decision making, we keep doing it until we retire. This sort of adult-centered decision making is the biggest problem we have in education. Show me the data!

    As a past master of corny titles, I think this one wins. “Have we ‘Hattie’ enough debate?” The reason for this cornball title is because of what I think is the most important contribution to education in my career.

    John Hattie has recently (2009, 2012) published his epic scientific findings. Called Visible Learning, these books describe the results of the following methodology: 800 meta-analyses of 50,000 research articles including 150,000 effect sizes from a cumulative sample of 240 million students. Show me the data indeed!

    Remember that an effect size of 0.2 or more is a significant effect.

    Here are the top 10 influences on achievement from Hattie’s research:

    Rank Most Influence Effect Size


    Self-reported grades/Student expectations



    Piagetian programs



    Response to Intervention



    Teacher credibility



    Providing formative evaluation






    Classroom discussion



    Comprehensive interventions for learning

    disabled students



    Teacher clarity



    Teacher clarity


    Please note that all of these effect sizes are well above 0.2. Please note that the third most influential factor is RtI. The fifth is providing formative evaluation. The eighth is comprehensive interventions for LD students.

    To be complete, here are the bottom 15 influences on achievement:

    Rank Most Influence Effect Size


    Teacher subject matter knowledge



    Changing school calendars/timetables



    Out-of-school curricular experiences


    Perceptual-motor programs



    Whole language



    Ethnic diversity of students



    College halls of residence



    Multi-grade/multi-age classes



    Student control over learning



    Open vs. traditional



    Summer vacation



    Welfare policies












    So, according to Hattie, whole language has an effect size of 0.06, student control over learning, 0.04, retention, –0.13.


    Our ideologies should not predetermine our decisions, my friends and colleagues. If it works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, we must stop.


    This directive is the foundation for the MTSS initiative. Each of our students needs whatever she or he needs to be successful.


    The only way to be sure that we provide “whatever” is to collect formative data about the effect of all of our instructional strategies on each of our students. Those that work, we continue. Those that don’t, we stop using.


    Organizing these strategies into an MTSS (one districtwide system, many data based supports, directed by districtwide non-negotiables) is a proven transformational strategy that works. Take a look at the 2010 and 2011 Fullan books in the Kukic Collection included below for examples from all over the country.


    Because of Hattie’s work, we know what works and what doesn’t. If we really treasure our students, can we do anything other than use these data to direct our efforts? I think not.

    Steve Kukic's Collection (April, 2013)



    Allain, J. (2008). The logistics of literacy intervention. Longmont, CO: Sopris West.

    Archer, A.L. & Hughes, C.A. (2011). Explicit instruction. New York: Guilford Press.

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    Bridges, W. (1991). Managing transitions. Reading, MA: Perseus Books.

    Brown, J. (2006). The imperfect board member. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Burns, M.K. & Gibbons, K.A. (2008). Implementing response-to-intervention in elementary and secondary schools. NYC: Routledge.

    Byrne, Rhonda. (2006). The secret. New York: Atria Books.

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    Collins, J.C. & Porras, J.I. (1997). Built to last. NY: HarperBusiness.

    Cortiella, C. & Burnette, J. (2008). Challenging change. NY:

    Covey, S.M.R. (2006). The speed of trust. NY: Simon & Schuster.

    Covey, S.R. (2011). The 3rd alternative. NY: Free Press.

    Covey, S.R. (2004). The 8th habit. NY: Free Press.

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    Covey, S.R. (1989). The seven habits of highly effective people. NY: Simon & Schuster.

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    Espin, C.A., McMaster, K.L., Rose, S., Wayman, M.M. (2012). A measure of success. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press.

    Fixsen, D.L., Naoom, S.F., Balse, K.A., Friedman, R.M., & Wallace, F. (2005). Implementation research: A synthesis of the literature. Tampa: University of South Florida.

    Frankl, V.E. (1984). Man’s search for meaning. NY: Touchstone.

    Fullan, M. (2013). Stratosphere. Toronto: Pearson Canada Inc.

    Fullan, M. (2011). The moral imperative realized. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    Fullan, M. (2010). All systems go. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    Fullan, M. (2010). Motion Leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    Fullan, M. (2008). The six secrets of change. New York: Jossey-Bass.

    Fullan, M. (2003). Change forces with a vengeance. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

    Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a culture of change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Fullan, M. (1999). Change Forces: The sequel. Philadelphia: The Falmer Press.

    Fullan, M. (1993). Change forces. Philadelphia: The Falmer Press.

    Fullan, M., Hill, P., & Crevola, C. (2006). Breakthrough. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

    Gawande, A. (2009). The checklist manifesto. New York: Metropolitan Books.

    Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching. New York: Teachers College Press.

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    Gladwell, M. (2000). The tipping point. New York: Little, Brown, and Co.

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    Griffiths, A., Parson, L.B., Burns, M.K., VanDerHeyden, A., & Tilly, W.D. (2007). Response to Intervention: Research for practice. Alexandria, VA: www.nasdse.org.

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    Johnson, P.E. & Chrispeels, J.H. (2010). Linking the central office and its schools for reform. Educational Administration Quarterly. Vol. 46, No. 5, 738-775.

    Keith, K.M. & Johnson, S. (2002). Anyway. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

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    Lencioni, P. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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    Marzano, R.J. & Waters, T. (2009). District leadership that works. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

    Marzano, R.J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B.A. (2005). School leadership that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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    Interventions for adolescent readers. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction. www.centeroninstruction.org

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    1000 Awesome Things

    Alliance for Excellent Education

    Center on Instruction

    Center on Teaching and Learning: Big Ideas on Reading

    Children’s Defense Fund

    Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

    Colorado Department of Education

    Common Core State Standards Initiative

    Data Accountability Center (DAC)


    Explicit Instruction

    Florida Center for Reading Research

    Florida’s Multi-tier System of Supports

    Florida’s Problem Solving & Response to Intervention Project

    Heartland Area Education Agency

    Illinois ASPIRE (Alliance for School-based Problem-solving and Intervention Resources in Education)

    Intervention Central

    Kansas Multi-tier System of Supports

    Los Angeles Unified School District Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2)

    Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

    Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk

    Michigan's Integrated Behavior and Learning Support Initiative (MiBLSi)

    Motion Leadership: Michael Fullan

    Moving Your Numbers

    National Association of State Directors of Special Education

    National Center for Learning Disabilities

    National Center on Intensive Intervention

    National Center on Response to Intervention

    National Council on Educating Black Children

    National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities

    National High School Center

    National Longitudinal Transition Study-2

    NCLD’s A Parent’s Guide to Response-to-Intervention

    OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports

    Research Institute on Progress Monitoring

    Response to Intervention Guidance for New York State School Districts

    RTI Action Network

    Search Institute

    TED: Ideas worth spreading

    The Lexile Framework for Reading

    U.S. Department of Education: Recovery Act

    Wisconsin's Vision for Response to Intervention
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