2019 Medley #12: Reading

Reading Wars, Emergent Literacy,
Third Grade Retention Laws

What is reading? Is it more than decoding? Is it only comprehension? Reading Hall of Fame member Richard Allington has a nuanced discussion about it here.

When should we teach reading? Do four-year-olds need “reading instruction? Five-year-olds? High achieving Finland doesn’t teach five- or six-year-olds to read…unless the teacher determines that they’re ready. In the U.S. it’s one-size-fits-all in kindergarten (aka the new first grade).

When children have trouble reading at age nine or younger, what should we do? Do we remediate them? Or do we retain them in grade for another year?

READING WARS REDUX

The “Reading Wars” have ignited again. We start with an article from Australia which divides us into two simplistic sides — a pro-phonics tribe and an anti-phonics tribe. While attempting to sound unbiased the author assumes we all know that “science” is on the side of the pro-phonics tribe and it’s only those foolish “regular educators; teachers and educationists in schools” who refuse to see that systematic phonics is the “only way.”

I taught reading for 35 years and always included phonics even when I was using the “whole language” method of Reading Recovery. The difference is how you use phonics instruction.

‘When two tribes go to war’: the reading debate explained

Over time, as the scientific evidence in favour of the efficacy of phonics instruction became overwhelming, the whole language movement relaunched themselves as being in favour of ‘balanced literacy’. All five Big Ideas were important, including phonics (which they now claimed was being taught in most schools, but more as a method of last resort).

Moreover, phonics instruction (where necessary) should occur naturally during ‘real’ reading activities involving quality children’s literature and certainly should not be taught explicitly and systematically.

The author uses information from the U.S.’s National Reading Panel (2001) when discussing the “five Big Ideas” — that is, the five major pillars of “scientific reading instruction” identified by the National Reading Panel…

  • phonological awareness
  • phonics
  • fluency
  • vocabulary
  • comprehension

The National Reading Panel Summary, arguing for explicit and systematic phonics instruction, said,

The meta-analysis revealed that systematic phonics instruction produces significant benefits for students in kindergarten through 6th grade and for children having difficulty learning to read. The ability to read and spell words was enhanced in kindergartners who received systematic beginning phonics instruction. First graders who were taught phonics systematically were better able to decode and spell, and they showed significant improvement in their ability to comprehend text. Older children receiving phonics instruction were better able to decode and spell words and to read text orally, but their comprehension of text was not significantly improved.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what the National Reading Panel found. The Summary, written to favor phonics, overstated the findings. The full report (p. 2-116) tells a different story.

Because most of the comparisons above 1st grade involved poor readers (78%), the conclusions drawn about the effects of phonics instruction on specific reading outcomes pertain mainly to them. Findings indicate that phonics instruction helps poor readers in 2nd through 6th grades improve their word reading skills. However, phonics instruction appears to contribute only weakly, if at all, in helping poor readers apply these skills to read text and to spell words. There were insufficient data to draw any conclusions about the effects of phonics instruction with normally developing readers above 1st grade.

Stephen Krashen offers a couple of responses to the Australian article…

Sent to the Sydney Morning Herald, June 24, 2019.

Basic Phonics appears to be the position of Anderson, Hiebert, Scott and Wilkinson, authors of Becoming a Nation of Readers, a book widely considered to provide strong support for phonics instruction:

“…phonics instruction should aim to teach only the most important and regular of letter-to-sound relationships…once the basic relationships have been taught, the best way to get children to refine and extend their knowledge of letter-sound correspondences is through repeated opportunities to read. If this position is correct, then much phonics instruction is overly subtle and probably unproductive.”

Beginning Reading: The (Huge) Role of Stories and the (Limited) Role of Phonics

Stephen Krashen
Language Magazine April, 2019

The inclusion of some phonics instruction does not constitute a “balanced” approach or an “eclectic” approach: All components of the complete program, stories, self-selected reading and a small amount of direct phonics instruction are in the service of providing comprehensible input. Stories and self-selected reading provide [comprehensible input] directly: They are assisted by a variety of means for making input comprehensible: some conscious knowledge of the rules of phonics is one of them. It is, however, very limited.

Cryonics Phonics: Inequality’s Little Helper

Gerald Coles (Reading The Naked Truth) offers a discussion of the Reading Wars and how the errors of the National Reading Panel are still haunting us.

Propelling the skills-heavy reading instruction mandated in NCLB was the 2000 Report of the National Reading Panel. Convened by Congress, the panel concluded, after a purportedly exhaustive review of the research on beginning-reading instruction, that phonics and direct-skills instruction was the necessary, scientifically proven pathway to academic success. In Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy, Legislation, and Lies (2003), I reviewed all of the “scientific” studies cited in the National Reading Panel report and documented how the panel repeatedly misinterpreted and misrepresented the findings in study after study. The following are just a few examples:

  • The boost in reading associated with early phonics instruction did not last beyond kindergarten.
  • The overall data in the studies reviewed actually contradict the report’s conclusion about the “better reading growth” in skills-emphasis classrooms.
  • Systematic phonics teaching was not superior to whole-language teaching in which phonics was taught as needed.

Again, I would emphasize that I always provided phonics instruction for my students and there are times when systematic phonics can be used to benefit students. However, it’s important to remember that “Systematic phonics teaching was not superior to whole-language teaching in which phonics was taught as needed.”

[For more about the National Reading Panel and its report see:

WHY AREN’T YOU TEACHING READING TO PRE-SCHOOLERS?

Why Don’t You Teach Reading? A Look at Emergent Literacy

Just because someone went to school doesn’t mean they know everything about teaching. There’s more to reading instruction than worksheets and book reports. There’s more to language development and the skills needed for learning to read than letters and phonics.

Many developmentally appropriate preschool teachers have been asked, “Why don’t you teach reading?” The question is innocent. But teachers often come away frustrated, as most of what they do is focused on building successful readers. Often, outside observers are looking for reading worksheets and primers and long stretches of direct phonics instruction. The trick is, in these early years, so much is being done to build successful readers, but it is in the form of emergent or early literacy skills, which are much less visible to the untrained eye.

THIRD GRADE PUNISHMENT LAWS

In Indiana and 18 other states in the U.S., when third graders have difficulty passing a standardized reading test, they’re required to repeat third grade.

We know, however, that retention in grade, especially when used as a one-size-fits-all approach to reading remediation, is not effective.

States Are Ratcheting Up Reading Expectations For 3rd-Graders

Noguera sees a disconnect in the increased expectations and flat school funding. “We often hold kids accountable,” he says. “In this case, with retention. We hold teachers accountable for not raising test scores. But the state legislature doesn’t hold itself accountable for putting the resources in place to make sure schools can meet the learning needs of kids.”

Force and Flunk, Tougher Kindergarten Lead to Parental Dissatisfaction with Public Schools

States are requiring schools to retain third-graders who are having trouble reading, but reading instruction in the early years of schooling is often inappropriate and lacking resources for identifying and helping at-risk children. In other words, the children are paying the price for the failure of the adults in their world to provide developmentally-appropriate instruction and sufficient help for those who struggle. What follows, says Nancy Bailey, are parents who blame the school and perpetuate the myth of “failing schools.”

When kindergartners don’t like reading and do it poorly, public schools fall short on remediation programs. Even if a child has a learning disability they might not get the needed services because so many children struggle due to being forced to read too soon!

Kindergarten never used to be where and when children were expected to master reading! Mostly, children learned the ABCs. Kindergarten was a half day involving play and socialization, like Finnish children are schooled today.

But with the looming fear of third grade retention, parents are alarmed for good reason. Kindergarten is no longer joyful or the “garden,” its original German definition. It’s dominated by assessment and forced reading and writing exercises that raise fear in children. This is due to the concern that children won’t read by third grade and will fail the test and be retained.

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Answers hiding in plain sight

Today’s editorial on the News Sentinel page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette about Governor Holcomb’s Teacher Pay commission is generally favorable for an increase in salary for the state’s teachers. They argue that Indiana’s teacher salaries are generally lower than neighboring states and that there is a big variance in the pay of different Indiana districts.

State teacher compensation commission needs to come up with plan to increase pay scale

Indiana’s average pay is $50,218 a year, which is between $2,000-$10,000 less than teachers in neighboring states. Starting pay for teachers at some school districts in Indiana is less than $35,000. It is believed low pay is one reason there is a shortage of qualified teachers at many schools.

and

The highest average pay in the state was Hamilton Southeastern Schools at $64,983, while the lowest was Medora Schools at $37,221.

The chair of the commission is a retired Anthem Insurance executive, Michael Smith. The commission is filled with business executives, school administrators…oh, and one teacher. Hooray.

Indiana teacher pay was comparable to surrounding states until 2009, [Smith] said, and the commission is trying to discern what has changed since then.

What’s changed since then? Let me think…

This reminds me of the statements in 2015 of Bob Behning and Dennis Kruse, at that time chairs of the House and Senate Education committees, respectively, questioning why there was a teacher shortage in Indiana.

Indiana legislative committee to study teacher shortage (August 16, 2015)

The Republican chairmen of the House and Senate education committees had asked General Assembly leaders to approve having the legislative education study committee review what is causing the drop and how the state could respond.

Why is there a teacher shortage? Teachers know why.

Why have Indiana teacher salaries failed to keep pace since 2009 (actually much longer than that, but who’s counting)? Again, teachers likely know why.

CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION, BUT…

What has changed since 2009?

I admit that correlation does not imply causation but just consider Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, and the 2008-2012 Daniels administration…

As Governor, Mitch Daniels, with the help of then State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, a Daniels-heavy State Board of Education (run by Bennett), and a Republican supermajority in the Indiana House and Senate, declared war on public schools and public school teachers.

During the Daniels administration (and since) Indiana has seen bills and policies which,

  • required teachers to be evaluated in large part based on the achievement test scores of their students
  • establish an A-F grading scale for schools and school districts which had the effect of blaming teachers for all low student achievement without any attention being paid to out-of-school factors on student achievement.
  • restrict teacher collective bargaining to money only. No more bargaining for class size, teacher prep time, or hours of work.
  • weakened teacher job security. No longer did a teacher have due process if a district wanted to fire him/her. No longer would an impartial arbitrator listen to both sides and make a judgment.
  • allow anyone with a college degree to teach their subject in high school with no previous pedagogical training. Apparently, the State Board of Education believes that child development and classroom management skills taught in education schools aren’t necessary to begin the year teaching a group of teenagers.
  • restrict teacher contracts to a maximum of two years thereby imposing repeated bargaining on school districts at least every other year. 
  • changed the funding of public schools through the passage of a Daniels supported property tax cap which shifted school funding responsibilities to the General Assembly. Equitable funding of public schools was now up to the whims of the legislature.
  • reduce the importance of experience and education level as a factor in teacher salaries. 
  • expanded the 2001 charter school law making the increase of charter schools easier.
  • opened the door to, and regularly increased economic support for, vouchers…public tax dollars diverted to private schools.

Indiana Choice Scholarships

In 2011 the initial school voucher program in Indiana passed while Mitch Daniels was governor. In 2013 the Indiana General Assembly passed HB 1003, which amended the school voucher program by creating tax credits for those already enrolled in private school and expanding voucher eligibility.Mike Pence was governor and supported the changes. [1]

Indiana has seen a burst of new charter schools since 2011 law

The number of charter schools in Indiana has grown rapidly since a 2011 state law passed expanding authority to approve and oversee them to new sponsors, and the acceleration looks likely to continue over the next two years.

THE ANSWERS ARE IN PLAIN SIGHT

What has changed since 2009? The Teacher Pay Commission can find the answer in plain sight…though perhaps they could use a few more actual teachers at the table.

Why haven’t teacher salaries kept pace with our neighboring states?

  • When you have one pot of money for education, and you try to support three separate, and often competing school systems, something is going to be underfunded. In Indiana, it’s public schools and teacher salaries.

Why is there a teacher shortage?

  • When you underfund a profession, take away job security, and ignore the voices of actual practitioners, young people will choose other careers.

Now, what should we do with a nearly half-billion-dollar budget surplus?

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2019 Medley #11 – Vouchers and the Wall Between Church and State

Vouchers; Government shouldn’t interfere with religious institutions, and church wallets shouldn’t be filled with government dollars.

There’s a reason that I’ve been quiet on this blog for the last month…posting only a Father’s Day remake of an annual call to fathers to read to their children, and a quick Medley in the middle of June.

Since mid-May, I have been somewhat self-absorbed dealing with a cancer diagnosis. This was followed by successful surgery, and now, recuperation. I have been assured that the offending cells have been totally removed and no new ones apparently remain. This is, of course, good news (though no guarantee of future events). Until the final pathology report, however, I was unsure of the future. Instead of commenting on public education issues, I was contemplating the very real possibility that cancer had spread into lymph nodes in my neck which would mean further treatment…chemotherapy and radiation.

As luck, and modern medicine, would have it, I was spared any additional treatment (for the time being, at least) and right now I can focus on recovering from the effects of surgery, a much more positive – if slightly uncomfortable – activity than worrying about putting my digital life in order.

I didn’t ignore the news about public schools entirely. There has been news about privatization through vouchers. People like Bill Gates and the Koch Brothers are still devising ways to monetize the education of our children (because wealth implies expertise in education, right?), but some main-stream publications are writing about the conflicts caused by mixing tax dollars with religious education. Also, in some places, public schools were supported and privatization wasn’t promoted…thank you Texas (I never thought I would say that!). But it’s not all flowers and chocolates…

VOUCHERS

The Supreme Court

First, two articles about the Supreme Court which will hear an appeal from Montana, whose state Supreme Court denied an end-run around giving tax money to religious schools. The case involves “tax-credit scholarships” which are essentially a way to launder money so that tax dollars can go to unregulated, unaccountable religious schools.

Until we repeal the First Amendment prohibiting the establishment of religion, the state shouldn’t be allowed to favor religious institutions with tax dollars.

There’s a difference between public and private. We don’t subsidize folks who want to use a country club instead of public parks. We don’t award vouchers so people can shop for books at Barnes and Noble instead of the public library. We don’t give tax credits to people who drive their own vehicles instead of using public transportation. We shouldn’t give any sort of tax credit/rebate/voucher for those who choose not to use public schools.

The Supreme Court Has Accepted A Case That Could Undermine Church-State Separation And Public Schools

AU President and CEO Rachel Laser said, “Montana taxpayers should never be forced to fund religious education – that’s a fundamental violation of religious freedom. The Montana Supreme Court’s decision protects both church-state separation and public education. It’s a double win.”

This Case Could Break The Wall Between Church And School

The case matters because it could open the door wide to the use of public tax dollars for private religious schools. The court could also drive a stake through the heart of voucher programs aimed at shuttling public funds to private religious schools, no matter how clever and convoluted the voucher scheme may be. That last possibility seems less likely, because, as with many issues beloved by the right, this is an issue that may be facing the friendliest court in many decades. This is definitely one case to watch for this summer.

Keep Tax Dollars and Religious Institutions Separate

Why does voucher money go to schools banning gay students? | Editorial

Private schools ought to be able to decide who sits in their classrooms (as students or teachers). Governments should not interfere with religious institutions’ ability to freely exercise their beliefs.

On the other hand, the government shouldn’t pay to support those beliefs.

In other words, we ought to keep government money out of the hands of religious institutions. Otherwise, religion might use government dollars to further their beliefs, thereby establishing state-supported religious institutions. Otherwise, government strings attached to government dollars might stifle the free exercise of religion.

That was Jefferson’s point in calling for a “wall of separation between Church and State.” Keeping the government’s hands off religion, and religion’s fingers out of the public treasury are better for both the church and the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican legislators promote spending millions in tax dollars on tuition vouchers at unregulated private schools as providing opportunities for more choices for students. What they don’t mention is some of those private schools have policies that say they will not accept gay students and will expel any they discover who are enrolled. Florida should not be effectively sanctioning such discrimination, and companies that have been supporting the existing voucher program should think twice about it.

School vouchers threaten religious autonomy

An article from 2015 confirms this concept…

In states’ attempts to honor the separation of church and state, most private religious schools have fewer regulations to meet than their public school counterparts, which is an appropriate balance between the state interest in educating our children and respecting citizens’ First Amendment rights as long as parents or private foundations are paying the tuition and other education costs.

However, when the state subsidizes these educational costs, then this balance must shift to give the state mechanisms to oversee how the public tax dollars are being spent. Increasing government regulation over private religious schools threatens both their autonomy and their religious mission.

Indiana’s Catholic schools get millions in public money. Some lawmakers want that to stop.

And here we are in Indiana facing just such a problem. Do we prohibit private schools from choosing who their teachers should be, or do we refuse to allow public money to be used at a religious institution which discriminates?

When Cathedral High School fired a gay teacher last week over his same-sex marriage, it renewed a long-simmering debate about public money that goes to private schools in the form of taxpayer-funded scholarships.

The school, which has said it was forced by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to terminate the teacher or lose its status as a Catholic institution, has received more than $6 million from the state over the last six years through Indiana’s “choice scholarship” program.

Indiana began offering “choice scholarships” in 2011 to help low-income families afford a private education. It’s now the country’s largest such voucher program, directing more than $134 million to private schools last year.

Vouchers have been controversial since their inception, with critics saying they undermine the state’s public school system by siphoning students and money. In 2013, the state Supreme Court upheld the program as constitutional but that hasn’t stopped calls for reform.

“Again, we see a public institution engaged in an obvious act of discrimination because of sexual identity,” said Democratic Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, Indiana’s House minority leader, “but we do not have to sit by and watch this happen.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

When The Wall Of Separation Comes Down

Here’s what’s going to happen. If you win the right to spend tax dollars on religious institutions (like, say, private schools), sooner or later you are going to be shocked to discover that your own tax dollars are supporting Sharia Law High School or Satan’s Own Academy. And that’s not going to be the end of it. Where resources are limited (there can only be, for instance, as many meeting opening prayers as there are meetings), some agency will have to pick winners and losers. Worst case scenario– you get a government agency empowered to screen churches and religions. You can paper over it, as Kenai Peninsula apparently did, by turning it into a lottery (but what does it mean that God apparently let Satan’s crew win that drawing).

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Filed under Article Medleys, Jefferson, Privatization, Religion, vouchers

2019 Medley #10

Lead Poisoning, Segregation,
Charters are a Waste of Money,
Fearing Small Children, Testing,
Telling ADHD Kids to Try Harder,
Is it Achievement or Ability?

IT COSTS A LOT TO POISON OUR CHILDREN

American children are regularly exposed to lead at higher than safe levels, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control is ZERO [emphasis added]!

…There are approximately half a million U.S. children ages 1-5 with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), the reference level at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.

In some places, the exposure is long term due to governmental neglect.

7 years later, new study shows East Chicago kids exposed to more lead because of flawed government report

Kids living in two of the contaminated neighborhoods actually were nearly three times more likely to suffer lead poisoning during the past decade than if they lived in other parts of the heavily industrialized northwest Indiana city, according to a report unveiled last week by an arm of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Written in dry, bureaucratic language, the mea culpa is the latest acknowledgement that federal and state officials repeatedly failed to protect residents in the low-income, predominantly Hispanic and African-American city, despite more than three decades of warnings about toxic pollution left by the USS Lead smelter and other abandoned factories.

New evidence that lead exposure increases crime

The point of all this? By not spending the time and money to clean up lead contamination in our cities and neighborhoods we’re losing money. We’re losing money in increased crime and decreased academic productivity. What are we waiting for?

Three recent papers consider the effects of lead exposure on juvenile delinquency and crime rates, using three very different empirical approaches and social contexts. All have plausible (but very different) control groups, and all point to the same conclusion: lead exposure leads to big increases in criminal behavior.

STILL SEGREGATED AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Trump judicial nominees decline to endorse Brown v. Board under Senate questioning

Candidates nominated by the current administration for Federal Judicial posts — and this administration is nominating judges at a fast pace — don’t seem to endorse the 1954 school desegregation decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.

Schools are more segregated today then they have been at any time since the 1960s. We have yet to fulfill the promise of Brown v. Board of Education. Segregated schools mean segregated opportunities. There is a $23 billion racial funding gap between schools serving students of color and school districts serving predominantly white students.

But the Federal judges now being appointed by the current administration decline to endorse Brown v. Board of Education. In fact, most of the entire country apparently disagrees with Brown…given the segregation present in our public schools.

The matter was especially pronounced in the nomination of Wendy Vitter, who was confirmed Thursday as a federal district judge in Louisiana without the vote of a single Democratic senator. “I don’t mean to be coy, but I think I get into a difficult, difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions — which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with,” Vitter said during her confirmation hearing. “If I start commenting on, ‘I agree with this case,’ or ‘don’t agree with this case,’ I think we get into a slippery slope.” “I was stunned by her answer,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who posed the question, said this week on the Senate floor. “Brown is woven into the fabric of our nation. How could anyone suggest disagreeing with Brown, as she did?”

Rucker C. Johnson is a professor of Public Policy at UC-Berkeley. His new book, Children of the Dream, explains how the school integration efforts of the 1970s and 1980s were not a “social experiment doomed from the start”. Instead, the integration of public schools in the 70s and 80s was overwhelmingly successful…until the advent of Reagan Conservatism which reversed the process.

A scholar revives the argument for racial integration in schools

The main argument of Johnson’s book is much bigger than racial integration. He says three things are essential for schools to give poor kids a chance to break out of poverty: money, preschool and desegregation. Johnson finds that black children make much larger academic gains when integration is accompanied by more funding for low-income schools. Similarly, the benefits of early child education endure when they’re followed by well-resourced schools. All three — money, preschool and desegregation — are a powerful combination in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. “Synergy has the power to take two policies that in isolation seem flat and transform them into one package of policies with profound promise,” Johnson wrote in his book.

Children Of The Dream: Why School Integration Works

An acclaimed economist reveals that school integration efforts in the 1970s and 1980s were overwhelmingly successful — and argues that we must renew our commitment to integration for the sake of all Americans

We are frequently told that school integration was a social experiment doomed from the start. But as Rucker C. Johnson demonstrates in Children of the Dream, it was, in fact, a spectacular achievement. Drawing on longitudinal studies going back to the 1960s, he shows that students who attended integrated and well-funded schools were more successful in life than those who did not — and this held true for children of all races.

Yet as a society we have given up on integration. Since the high point of integration in 1988, we have regressed and segregation again prevails. Contending that integrated, well-funded schools are the primary engine of social mobility, Children of the Dream offers a radical new take on social policy. It is essential reading in our divided times.

CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE A WASTE OF MONEY

Charter Schools Will Always Waste Money Because They Duplicate Services

We live in a throw-away civilization. When something doesn’t work, we throw it away and get a new one. That throw-away attitude has found its way to the issue of the public schools. When public schools aren’t working, we abandon them and get new schools in the form of charters and vouchers. Instead of spending money to improve the schools we have, our money goes to privatized schools which don’t do any better than public schools.

Steven Singer also reminds us that most charter schools aren’t really needed…they’re not opened because public schools can’t handle the number of students in a district. They’re not opened because schools are overcrowded. They’re opened because someone decided to use public education as a money-making venture.

When a district’s public schools aren’t performing well, instead of abandoning them and opening charter schools, we need to spend the time and effort it would take to improve.

You can’t save money buying more of what you already have.

Constructing two fire departments serving the same community will never be as cheap as having one.

Empowering two police departments to patrol the same neighborhoods will never be as economical as one.

Building two roads parallel to each other that go to exactly the same places will never be as cost effective as one.

This isn’t exactly rocket science. In fact, it’s an axiom of efficiency and sound financial planning. It’s more practical and productive to create one robust service instead of two redundant ones.

However, when it comes to education, a lot of so-called fiscal conservatives will try to convince us that we should erect two separate school systems – a public one and a privatized one.

The duplicate may be a voucher system where we use public tax dollars to fund private and parochial schools. It may be charter schools where public money is used to finance systems run by private organizations. Or it may be some combination of the two.

But no matter what they’re suggesting, it’s a duplication of services.

And it’s a huge waste of money.

THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR…ARE SMALL CHILDREN?

Feds: No more education, legal services for immigrant kids

We have become a nation of cowardly, selfish, small-minded, ignorant, fools.

“By eliminating English classes and legal aid that are critical to ensuring children successfully navigate the asylum process, the Trump Administration is essentially condemning children to prison and throwing away the key until their imminent deportation,” Grijalva, who represents a district on the border, said in a statement.

TESTING: DOING IT WRONG SINCE 2001

Why The Big Standardized Test Is Useless For Teachers

I began teaching long enough ago to remember when the Big Standardized Test wasn’t so big. In the school system I worked in, we tested students in grades 3, 6, 8, and 10 instead of all of them. Back in 1976, I taught third grade. Our students’ scores were compared with other students around the country. Not only that, as the classroom teacher, I received a complete analysis of how each student did…and I got it a week or two after the test was taken. Yet, like tests today, the ones I gave didn’t really tell me anything that I didn’t already know. John couldn’t read but could add and subtract. Annie had to count on her fingers but was reading at a 9th-grade level. Michelle was an excellent all-around student. Paul and Stan probably needed special education services. The important information was not how each individual student scored. It was my understanding that the tests were used to help us determine if our curriculum was adequate. Were we teaching our kids things they needed to know? How did we compare to other schools around the country?

One big difference…we were told, specifically, not to teach to the test. In fact, as I recall, “teaching to the test” was a serious breach of testing etiquette. Our school district had developed a well-rounded curriculum and we wanted to see if teaching our curriculum yielded good scores. My classrooms of middle-class white kids generally did average to above average…just like today’s middle-class white kids.

It was interesting to see my students’ scores each year. But it was interesting because it reinforced what I already knew. Rarely did I see anything that surprised me. You could have ranked the report cards I made out for my class…and their standardized tests…and the rankings would have had a nearly perfect correlation.

One important difference compared to today’s tests; The tests didn’t determine student grade placement, school “grades,” teacher cash bonuses, or teacher evaluations. Standardized achievement tests — then and now — weren’t made to do those things. The tests were designed to test certain aspects of student achievement and nothing more. Misusing tests by using them to measure things they weren’t designed to measure invalidates the test. You wouldn’t use a teaspoon to measure the temperature. You shouldn’t use a student achievement test to measure teacher competence.

Imagine that you are a basketball coach, tasked with training your team for great things. Imagine that when game day comes, you are not allowed to be in the gym with your team to see them play, and that they are forbidden to tell you anything about how the game went. You aren’t even allowed to know about the opposing team. All you are allowed to know is how many points your team scored. And yet, somehow, you are to make efficient use of practice time to strengthen their weaknesses. You can practice the kinds of skills that you imagine probably factor in a game, but you have no way of knowing how they use those skills in a game situation, or what specifically you should try to fix.

That’s the situation with the standardized test. (Well, actually, it’s worse. To really get the analogy right, we’d also have to imagine that as soon as the ball left the players’ hands, a blindfold slammed down over their eyes, so they don’t really know how they’re doing, either.)

TRY DIFFERENT

10 Things People Need to Stop Saying About Children with ADHD

I grew up hearing this. No matter how hard I tried my efforts were rarely recognized. I was always “lazy” and “unmotivated.”

After struggling through four years of high school my senior English teacher told me “You have so much potential if only you’d put forth some effort.” She obviously cared about my success, but couldn’t see the effort that I was already putting forth.

One of my professors in college suggested that I stick to retail, at which I was very successful, by the way. After I graduated (before I went back for my teaching credentials), I made a mark in the retail business I worked at. Each month, it seemed I was given more and more responsibility. The difference was that the work was hands-on, and didn’t take the same kind of mental concentration that school work (K-12 or college) took. By the time I left my first job after two years, I had been given the responsibility of an entire sales department.

If you have a child or student who you suspect of having ADHD, saying, “just try harder” doesn’t help. Instead, help them “try different.”

3) “He just needs to try harder.” If you’ve ever worked one-on-one with a child who suffers from ADHD and who is trying to complete a homework task that they find challenging or tedious, you will see just how hard these kids try. It is a heartbreaking thing to witness.

ACHIEVEMENT OR ABILITY?

Why Streaming Kids According to Ability Is a Terrible Idea (Oscar Hedstrom) 

Streaming is what we used to call tracking…grouping kids by their class achievement. Years and years of research has shown that, while it’s more convenient for teachers, it doesn’t really help students achieve higher…and the author acknowledges that in the second paragraph below.

In the first paragraph, the author quoted British PM David Cameron who said, “Parents know it works. Teachers know it works.” I’m not sure about parents, but teachers know it’s easier. What teacher wouldn’t like a fourth-grade class, for example, where the range of reading levels is grade 4 through 6, instead of a class with reading levels from first-grade through ninth-grade. Planning would be easier, teaching would be easier. But, as already mentioned, the evidence doesn’t support doing that.

My main focus for this article is the tendency of education writers and teachers to conflate ability with achievement. Once in a while, the difference is understood, such as this explanation from the NWEA Map Test,

MAP Growth tests measure a student’s academic achievement, not his or her ability.

But in the article below, and in so many more discussions among educators, the difference is either not understood or just plain ignored and the words are used interchangeably. In the first paragraph below the author refers to mixed-ability classes, while in the third paragraph he refers to the meta-analysis of student achievement.

Here is what we need to remember. Ability refers to one’s potential, whereas achievement reflects what one actually does.

Mixed-ability classes bore students, frustrate parents, and burn out teachers. The brightest will never summit Everest, and the laggers won’t enjoy the lovely stroll in the park they are perhaps more suited to. Individuals suffer at the demands of the collective, mediocrity prevails. In 2014, the UK Education Secretary called for streaming to be made compulsory. And as the former British prime minister David Cameron said in 2006: ‘I want to see it in every single school. Parents know it works. Teachers know it works.’ According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 98 percent of Australian schools use some form of streaming.

Despite all this, there is limited empirical evidence to suggest that streaming results in better outcomes for students. Professor John Hattie, director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute, notes that ‘tracking has minimal effects on learning outcomes and profound negative equity effects’. Streaming significantly – and negatively – affects those students placed in the bottom sets. These students tend to have much higher representation of low socioeconomic backgrounds. Less significant is the small benefit for those lucky clever students in the higher sets. The overall result is relative inequality. The smart stay smart, and the dumb get dumber, further entrenching social disadvantage.

In the latest update of Hattie’s influential meta-analysis of factors influencing student achievement, one of the most significant factors – far more than reducing class size (effect: 0.21) or even providing feedback on student work (0.7) – is the teachers’ estimate of achievement (1.57). Streaming students by diagnosed achievement automatically restricts teacher expectations. Meanwhile, in a mixed environment, teacher expectations have to be more diverse and flexible.

🚌📖⛪️

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Filed under Achievement, ADHD, Article Medleys, Charters, Gadflyonthewall, Immigrants, Lead, Segregation, Testing

Father’s Day 2019: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

An annual Father’s Day post…with updates and additions.

READING ALOUD

I read aloud to my students from the very first day I taught at an elementary school beginning in January 1976. I had caught the read-aloud bug from the late Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors. I had it reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children. [I’ve referenced Jim Trelease quite a few times on this blog.]

I read aloud to all my classes because reading aloud is simply one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us [emphasis added]

In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”

In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to a simple, two-part formula:

  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.

Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains…it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains…and, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:

  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model

Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.

My collection of Read-Aloud Handbook editions,
several of which have been signed by the author, Jim Trelease.

FATHERS AND READ-ALOUD

In the latest edition of his book (2013), Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud. He focuses on fathers reading aloud to sons because fewer fathers than mothers read aloud to their children, and sons are the ones, according to statistics, whose academic achievement could use the read-aloud boost. Obviously, this does not mean that fathers should not read aloud to their daughters. The point is to get fathers to read aloud to their children.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease: CHAPTER 9: Dad—What’s the score?

In case you’ve been off the planet for the past several decades, let me bring you up-to-date on our boys and their school woes.

  • In a 2008 study of reading tests in forty-five states, the girls exceeded the boys at every grade level.
  • Unlike four decades ago, it is now common for girls to dominate a high school’s highest academic positions (valedictorian), class leadership positions, advanced placement spaces, and school activities. While the girls are assuming responsibilities, the boys are playing sports or video games.
  • For the first time in history, women exceed their male counterparts in most collegiate achievements, from enrollment and graduation to earning advanced degrees, and the gap is widening annually. About the only significant area in which males dominate in college is “dropout,” where they lead by a 3:2 ratio.

(And an excellent pamphlet with important information specifically for dads….Fathers, Sons and Reading)

Boys, Trelease says, need their fathers to read to them. The relationship between fathers and sons has changed over the years, and not necessarily in a good way. Over the last few decades, America’s “male” culture has been dominated by politics, sports, and television, and boys watch their role models carefully. Among those men in important cultural and political positions in America are abusers, racists, and misogynists. It’s more important than ever that fathers exert positive role-model influence over their sons.

The landscape of the American male’s attention span was being dramatically altered and boys were soaking up the changes.

“Is there a connection,” Trelease asks, between the “decline in boys’ interest and achievement in school and the behavior of the male culture?”

Can a father play catch in the backyard after dinner and still read to the child that same evening? Can they go to a game one day and to the library the next? You betcha.

The question is…do they? Do fathers take part in their children’s, and specifically their sons’, intellectual development? Reading aloud to your child is an easy, fun way for fathers to have a positive academic influence on their children.

Dad—what have you done for your son’s head lately?

Make a Father’s Day resolution. Read to all your kids every day.

Need more convincing? Check out the following online resources…

📕📙📘

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Filed under Jim Trelease, Parents, read-alouds, reading

MemeWise – Thinking About Science

I don’t understand how people who drive cars, fly in airplanes, cook meals, use clocks, talk on telephones, trust that their tap water is clean, smell flowers, watch TV, and take their medicines can deny science when it doesn’t suit their biases.

As a voter, as a citizen, scientific issues will come before you…Isn’t it worth it to say, “Let me at least become scientifically literate so that I can think about these issues and act intelligently upon them”?

So…

THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a quick reminder…

THOSE ARROGANT SCIENTISTS

The same people who trust a plumber with their pipes and gas lines, a mechanic with their cars, and a doctor with their health, choose to believe politicians over 97% of the world’s climate scientists when it comes to the fate of life on Earth.

DON’T CONFUSE YOUR GOOGLE SEARCH WITH MY PROFESSIONAL DEGREES

This is how I feel when the Indiana General Assembly starts passing laws about education.

CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION

Just because there’s a correlation between the divorce rate in Maine and the per capita consumption of margarine doesn’t mean that they necessarily relate to each other.

A VACCINE AGAINST CHARLATANS

Scientific literacy is a vaccine against the charlatans of the world who would exploit our ignorance. Without it, we are unprotected…

“When you have an established, scientific, emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it, and the sooner you understand that, the faster we can get on with the political conversations about how to solve the problems that face us.”

🔬⚗️🔭

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Filed under 1000 Words, Sagan, Science, Tyson

One Size Does Not Fit All

More than four dozen literacy experts have signed on to a letter expressing concern over the lack of balance in PBS Newshour’s segment about dyslexia.

Among the signers of the letter are Reading Hall of Fame members, Richard Allington, Pat Cunningham, Ken and Yetta Goodman, Michael Graves, Stephen Krashen, P. David Pearson, Gay Su Pinnell, David Reinking, and Barbara M. Taylor.

The entire letter can be found at Concern_letter_to_PBS.pdf and is listed with all signers.

One objection the signers have with the PBS episode is the assumption that there is only one way to teach reading that works for every child, and that other variables and individual characteristics of students are unimportant. The show also implies that America’s teachers don’t know how to teach reading, once again, misdirecting blame onto teachers for a lack of achievement among students.

There are a wide variety of out of school factors which could result in reading difficulties such as vision problems, lack of literacy experiences in the home, exposure to environmental toxins such as lead, and family trauma.

Dyslexia is defined differently in different places and by different people, so one single method of teaching reading is insufficient to cover all differences. Because of the confusion and differences in defining dyslexia, the American Psychiatric Association has removed dyslexia from it’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual.

The letter goes into detail on these and other issues.

Paula Kerger, PBS, President and CEO
pakerger@pbs.org

Sara Just, Executive Producer, PBS NewsHour
viewermail@newshour.org

Dear Ms. Kerger and Ms. Just,

We, the undersigned, write to express concern about the PBS NewsHour segment on dyslexia, broadcast on April 30. As experienced senior scholars in the field of reading and literacy education, we found this segment to be inconsistent with the NewsHour’s stated aim of balanced and trusted reporting.

Our professional work is devoted to studying literacy and how it can be developed in schools to enrich the lives of all students. So, we well understand and share parents’ and others’ anguish and frustration when children are identified as experiencing reading difficulties. Competent reading and writing are fundamentally important in and out of school, and difficulties can shape children’s concepts of themselves as learners, while affecting virtually every aspect of their everyday experience.

Our concern is that the NewsHour received inadequate and incomplete scientific advice when producing the segment on dyslexia. The result perpetuates inaccuracies, misconceptions, and distortions related to reading, how it is taught, and the complexity of reading difficulties. It suggests erroneously that there is scientific certainty about dyslexia and how it should be addressed instructionally. In fact, the research evidence is equivocal and there is much room for debate about whether dyslexia is an identifiable condition, whether it can be reliably diagnosed, and whether there are instructional approaches that are uniquely effective in ameliorating it…

…We are particularly concerned about the dyslexia segment’s suggestion that a narrowly conceptualized instructional approach is unequivocally effective, not only for individuals categorized as dyslexic, but for all individuals learning to read. Such a suggestion perpetuates a view that there is a single approach guaranteed to transcend the incredible diversity of factors and individual characteristics that might explain why learning to read is easy for many but incredibly difficult for some. It is widely accepted that learning to read English texts entails instructional attention to sound-symbol correspondence and other phonemic aspects of reading. But, the amount and form of that attention, how it is balanced with other aspects of reading and learning to read such as motivation, and how it might deal with the orthographic irregularities of English spelling, cannot be reduced to a single, narrow, unquestioned approach. In particular, we worry that such a narrow view might divert teachers from attending to other scientifically based facets of good literacy pedagogy, such as attention to oral language, knowledge acquisition, motivation and self-efficacy, and sheer exposure to print. Again, such issues, in one form or another, have periodically blossomed into public controversies across decades and are often nurtured among the general public by shallow or misleading media reports such as the NewsHour’s segment.

We are also dismayed that the NewsHour segment implicitly questioned, even if unintentionally, the professionalism of teachers and American schools in regard to teaching reading. It was suggested that teachers were ignorant of or resistant to the scientific certainty of dyslexia and how reading can be effectively taught, not only to those children diagnosed with dyslexia, but to all children. Beyond the absence of such certainty, as we have explained above, the segment unfairly provided no opportunity for a rebuttal from qualified representatives of those groups. They could have pointed to a complementary body of scientific research that supports alternative explanations of reading difficulties and instructional approaches that have been shown to be effective for a wide range of students with reading difficulties. That lack of balance was exacerbated when the segment included emotional comments about how children’s needs were not being met…

📚📝📚

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Filed under Allington, dyslexia, reading, Stephen Krashen