Posted in Jim Trelease, Literacy, read-alouds

Teacher Appreciation Day: Read Aloud

Charlotte’s Web has been a favorite read aloud of third grade teachers for decades…probably since 1952, the year it was published.

I first heard the book when my third grade teacher, Mrs. Gilbert (Philip Rogers School in Chicago) read it out loud during the 1956-57 school year. It was the first novel I remember hearing a teacher read aloud in school, and it had a significant effect on me and my future.

  • I remembered it when I was a student in the education department at IPFW.
  • I remembered it when I became a father and began reading aloud to my children.
  • I remembered it once I started teaching and began reading aloud to my own classes.
  • I remembered it when I discovered the Read Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease.
  • I still remember it as I read aloud to a friend’s third grade class when I volunteer.

For Teacher Appreciation Day, 2017, I’m reposting an entry, with some minor changes, from 2013 about reading aloud.

In appreciation of three of my favorite teachers, and the three who most influenced my growth as a teacher – Mrs. Gilbert, Dr. Lowell Madden, and Jim Trelease – who taught me that reading aloud is still the most important part of reading instruction…

July 1, 2013

JIM TRELEASE

In 2008 I wrote that Jim Trelease was going to retire. This year, just about a week ago in fact, he released the seventh and final edition of The Read Aloud Handbook. The first Penguin edition of his book was published in 1982, but I was already familiar with The Read Aloud Handbook three years before it was published by Penguin.

In 1979 I ordered a pamphlet on reading aloud from the Weekly Reader Book Club. I had earned my teaching certificate before the 1976-77 school year and had been reading to my third graders every day…just like Dr. Madden (Lowell E. Madden, education professor at Indiana/Purdue Fort Wayne) taught me to do.

Dr. Madden impressed upon us the importance of reading aloud…and for the 19 years (out of 35) I spent in a general education classroom it was my favorite part of the day. I read to all my classes…kindergarten through 6th grade…Where the Wild Things Are and Junie B. Jones through The Island of the Blue Dolphins. I can’t remember ever missing a day. It was my belief — and it still is — that reading aloud to children is the most important thing that a teacher (or parent) can do to help their child(ren) succeed in reading.

The Read Aloud Handbook, Weekly Reader edition, was my first introduction to Jim Trelease and from that point on, reading aloud, which was already an important part of my reading instruction time, became even more important.

The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children…It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades. [emphasis added]

That quote from Becoming a Nation of Readers published some years later (1985) reinforced my desire and my determination to read aloud to my students every day.

As new editions of The Read Aloud Handbook were published I would buy them. When friends and family members had new babies, I would give copies of the book as gifts. When Jim Trelease visited Fort Wayne, which he did several times, I’d go hear him speak. I even started gathering a few autographs from the author.

[I took the Weekly Reader edition of the Read Aloud Handbook to one of his lectures. I stood in line for an autograph after the presentation and was delighted at his response. He acted like he just had a visit from a long lost friend.]

WHY READ ALOUD

According to the newest edition reading aloud helps a person become proficient at reading in two ways…

  • 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; the more you know, the smarter you grow. [citation here]

Why does it work? Because having someone read to you is fun…humans like fun…they want that fun to continue so they are motivated to learn to do it on their own.

Trelease talks about reading achievement in the US compared to the rest of the world. We have, he says, some of the best nine-year old readers in the world, second only to Finland. By the time American kids are 14 however, they drop to eighth place. Would reading aloud to older students help?

READING ALOUD TO OLDER STUDENTS

Most primary teachers read to their students every or almost every day. As the children get older, however, the frequency of teacher read aloud diminishes. Part of this is because the curriculum is so much heavier in upper grades, and part of it is, of course, the pervasive and time consuming influence of testing and test-prep. By the time students are 14, barely half of their reading/English/literature teachers read to them…and almost no teachers of other subjects do.

An article titled Why Reading Aloud to Older Children Is Valuable argues that reading aloud to older students is still valuable.

“Research indicates that motivation, interest, and engagement are often enhanced when teachers read aloud to middle school students,” wrote research authors Lettie K. Albright and Mary Ariail. Teachers surveyed for the study cited modeling as their number-one reason for reading aloud.

The article also refers to Jim Trelease…

For Trelease, the power of shared words is a big reason to keep on reading aloud after children are able to read for themselves. Students might interject questions, comfortably wading into complicated or difficult subjects because they are happening to the characters in the story, and not to themselves. “Why do you think so many children’s stories have orphans as characters? Because every child either worries or fantasizes about being orphaned.”

While Trelease maintained that read-alouds can happen through any device (“Look at all the truckers listening to books on CD,” he said), and Lahey reads from a physical paper book, dogeared and scrawled with all her notes in the margins, both emphasized how students recall read-alouds with fond memories. Trelease recently received a letter from a retired teacher who reconnected online with former students some 30 years later. She wanted to know the one thing her former students remembered about her class.

“Without fail, it was the books she read to them.”

THEY REMEMBER

A few years before I retired I met a couple of my former third graders at a school function. They were in their early 20s, out of college, starting on their own careers. I asked them if they remembered being in third grade. They said the same thing that most of us say when we return to our elementary schools after becoming adults…”The school looks a lot smaller now.” Then one of them added…

I remember you were the one who read all those books to us…

…and he proceeded to name off half a dozen of his favorites. Over the years I’ve gotten notes from former students telling me that they were reading a book to their children or their class which I had read to them when they were in my class. Reading aloud makes an impression…a positive one.

Wouldn’t it be nice if teachers at all grades could eliminate some of the test prep and spend more time reading to their students?

Wouldn’t it be nice if all parents read aloud to their children? (Parent hint: Start when your baby is an infant…day one. Don’t stop till they leave home for good.)

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Posted in Article Medleys, Curmudgucation, DeVos, Edushyster, Lead, music, poverty, read-alouds, retention, Testing

2017 Medley #2

Retention in Grade, Poverty, Lead Poisoning, Testing, DeVos, Read Aloud, Musical Interlude

END RETENTION IN GRADE LAWS

Time to Eliminate 3rd Grade Retention

States continue to adopt third grade retention laws. They do it based on the erroneous reasoning that since kids who don’t learn to read by third grade have the most trouble in school, it makes sense to retain the ones who can’t read by third grade. This is another case of confusing correlation with causation. Promoting third graders with reading problems to fourth grade is not the cause of poor reading skills. The problem begins much earlier than third grade.

The answer to the “reading problem” is twofold First, we need to spend enough money to catch children with problems early in their school career, pre-school, if possible. Intensive intervention, when started early enough, can help most children. Second, many school failures are caused by the conditions of poverty…emotional or physical trauma, lead poisoning (see Lead Exposure and Racial Disparities in Test Scores, below), etc. Dealing with the high rate of childhood poverty in the U.S. will go a long way to solving our low achievement problems.

Rob Miller discusses the issue on his blog…

Please don’t tell me that “third grade retention is working” because state reading scores in 3rd or 4th grade have increased slightly. One or two years of data based on a multiple choice test with constantly changing standards is not convincing.

As I’ve shared before, recent short-term increases in fourth grade state or national reading scores are thoroughly predictable, given the fact that most of the lower scoring readers have been removed from the sample, or are tested a full year later than normal.

Who will be around eight to ten years from now to talk with these same students about the long-term effects of grade retention? Will they come back to share with us the number of dropouts in the class of 2025 who were subjected to retention in third grade?

Long term studies show that short term gains drop away after three or four years, and by the time a child is four years past his “retention year” he is just as far behind – or further – than before.

Miller says that he has misgivings about social promotion, but in my experience, there are very few cases where retaining a child is the best option. The best option is usually intensive intervention.

Retaining students is a shortcut answer to a problem that actually works against our goals as educators. We would do better to attend to struggling students with programmatic changes than with this mean-spirited “hold them back” approach.

Don’t misread what I am saying. I also have misgivings relative to blanket practices of social promotion. There are children for whom grade retention is the best option to address the unique social and academic needs of a child.

This issue simply illustrates the problems associated with bureaucrats at the state and national level establishing mandates that strip local teachers and administrators from making the best decisions for individual children.

POVERTY MATTERS

The Long Shadow of Poverty and School Segregation by Income

Teachers struggle daily to help children learn. We could help them by focusing on the high level of child poverty in America.

Family background is of great importance for school achievement; the influence of the family does not appear to diminish over the child’s school years. Neither the impact of one school or another nor the impact of facilities nor the impact of curriculum is as great as the impact of the student’s family background. Of in-school factors that matter to children, the teacher is the most important. Finally, “the social composition of the student body is more highly related to achievement, independent of the student’s own social background, than is any school factor.”

Lead Exposure and Racial Disparities in Test Scores

If we were serious about helping our children learn, we would be dealing with the causes of low achievement, child poverty and its concomitant problems.

One major issue facing children who live in poverty is environmental toxins in general, and lead poisoning in particular. It’s expensive to clean up, but which of our children aren’t worth some expense to ensure healthy brain development?

We find that since 1997, when the state of RI instituted measures to reduce lead hazards in the homes of RI families, lead levels fell across the state, but significantly more so for African American children. This is likely because their lead levels were considerably higher than other children in the state in 1997, including other low income children, and African American families were disproportionately located in high concentration poverty areas where outreach efforts were focused. We find that this translated into reductions in the black-white test score gap in RI witnessed over this period.

“REFORM”

7 Educational Reforms Needed in 2017

“Standardized tests shold only be used to track student progress, not to indicate teacher accountability.” Exactly.

1. Decrease the Number of Standardized Tests
Notice I suggest fewer standardized tests as opposed to no standardized tests. Standardized tests do have their place in education, but like with anything else, too much is overkill. Perhaps student progress can be tracked every 3 years as opposed to every year. This would save many states a great deal of money and students a great deal of stress. Furthermore, standardized tests should only be used to track student progress, not to indicate teacher accountability. There are other, more effective means to measure a teacher’s worth, such as observations, lesson plan reviews, and student surveys.

Op-Ed Forget charter schools and vouchers — here are five business ideas school reformers should adopt

“Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality,” Deming wrote. “Routine inspection becomes unreliable through boredom and fatigue.” That recommendation should be applied to the annual testing of students in reading and math mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 and reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015.

Instead of “routine inspection,” Deming urged detailed analysis of small samples. Bucking widespread practice, the Finns do exactly that, with high-quality exams administered to small groups of students. Teachers consequently feel no pressure to “teach to the test,” students get a well-rounded education and administrators gain superior understanding of student progress. Finnish teens score at or near the top of international educational assessments.

MORE ON DEVOS

The Red Queen

One of the most complete exposés of the oligarchy in Michigan led by the DeVos’s. This is a long article…worth spending the time it takes to read!

By the measures that are supposed to matter, Betsy DeVos’ experiment in disrupting public education in Michigan has been a colossal failure. In its 2016 report on the state of the state’s schools, Education Trust Midwest painted a picture of an education system in freefall. *Michigan is witnessing systematic decline across the K-12 spectrum…White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income—it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live.* But as I heard repeatedly during the week I recently spent crisscrossing the state, speaking with dozens of Michiganders, including state and local officials, the radical experiment that’s playing out here has little to do with education, and even less to do with kids. The real goal of the DeVos family is to crush the state’s teachers unions as a means of undermining the Democratic party, weakening Michigan’s democratic structures along the way. And on this front, our likely next Secretary of Education has enjoyed measurable, even dazzling success.

More Baloney in Support of DeVos

The Finnish philosophy of education is that you may choose whatever public school you want for your child, but because they are all excellent you can be assured that choosing your local school will be a good choice.

Instead of closing schools, wasting money on vouchers and charters, and disrupting children’s education, we need to invest in all our public schools. If children are struggling to achieve, then we need to give their school more resources, not strip it of funding.

All children should NOT have “access” to high performing schools. Every passenger on the Titanic had “access” to a lifeboat, but only a few got to ride in one (or on a door). All children should have a good school. All children should be in a good school. Why the hell is the formulation always, “We think this school si failing, and that’s unfair to the students in it, so we’re going to rescue 5% of those children and do nothing to help the rest, including doing nothing to improve the school we’re leaving them in.” How is that a solution??!!

READING ALOUD

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

For your encouragement.

Bob Dylan wrote “The Times They Are a Changin'” in 1963.  I think that after fifty-three years we need it again…

“This song was written at a moment in our country’s history when people’s yearning for a more open and just society exploded. Bob Dylan had the courage to stand in that fire and he caught the sound of that explosion. This song remains as a beautiful call to arms…” – Bruce Springsteen, 1997

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Posted in Charters, Election, Equity, Gulen, Indiana, Politics, Privatization, read-alouds, reading, TeacherShortage, TFA

2016 Medley #24

Teacher Shortage, Teach for America,
Reading, Privatization, Politics, Read Aloud

TEACHER SHORTAGE

Understanding the Teacher Shortage Crisis and the Solutions to Fix it

Those of us who have watched the destruction of public education and the vilifying of teachers by legislators, state (and national) executives, and billionaire “reformers,” are not at all surprised by a teacher shortage.

The reasons for the decline in the number of teachers are correlated to teacher evaluation systems blended with high stakes standardized testing implemented over the past ten years, a shrinking student base in teacher education programs, a lack of respect for the teaching profession, and low salaries and benefits.

Candidates present their cases

Eric Holcomb, Republican Candidate for Governor of Indiana, says that the teacher shortage is “not just in Indiana,” which is true. However, the reasons are the same nationally and locally. Teachers in Indiana have lost collective bargaining rights, lost due process rights, lost classroom autonomy, and gained salary stagnation. The state legislature, the governor, and the State Board of Education all contributed just like similar politicians in North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida…

In addition, Holcomb’s comment “lawmakers have increased K-12 funding” is misleading and disingenuous. A big chunk of that money is going for “reform” schemes like the overuse of standardized testing, private school vouchers, and charter schools…all pushed by the Republican governor and the Republican supermajority in the state legislature.

The issue of teacher shortages arose, and Holcomb pointed out it’s a national problem, not just one in Indiana.

He said lawmakers have increased K-12 funding, but “it’s about where that money ends up.” For instance, he said, too much is going to administrative costs instead of salaries.

But Gregg said, “we created this teacher shortage in the last few years by the way we have demeaned those in the education profession.” He promised to bring teachers back to the table on policy and testing decisions – one thing he said will help attract and retain teachers.

DESTROYING THE TEACHING PROFESSION WITH TEACH FOR AMERICA

Do Americans Hate Teachers, Or are they Duped by Teach for America?

Teach for America gives its “corps members” – students from the nation’s highest ranked colleges and universities – only five weeks of training to prepare them to teach poor, urban students.

Is there any other profession which would let recent graduates take on professional responsibilities without serious preparation? I have a masters degree in Elementary Education, a Reading Specialization, and nearly four decades of experience in elementary school classrooms. Would I be prepared to practice corporate law with five weeks of “training?”

Yet school systems (and states) around the country regularly allow these untrained novices into classrooms with the neediest students.

“But there is no one else who will take this job!” the school systems respond. Aside from the fact that that’s not always true the problem then becomes one of recruitment. Maybe teachers ought to be given salaries commensurate with their training. Maybe they ought to have more autonomy, prep time, and time for collaboration with other teachers. Maybe states should stop bashing teachers and do what’s needed to make the profession more attractive.

Do Americans understand that by contributing to a turnaround group of young novices to be teachers, they are destroying the American teaching profession? Do they know that sooner or later there will be no more real, qualified teachers to instruct their students?

Are they not aware that fast-track trained beginners, who focus on data, digital instruction, and classroom control, and who are never intent on becoming teachers until they recruited, are not the best individuals to lead a classroom?

Are they confused and think they are doing something nice, or are they hell-bent on destroying public education?

TEACHING READING

Teaching Struggling Readers: Focus on Meaning

Thanks to Russ Walsh for his thoughtful discussion of how to improve literacy instruction. Educators must take back instruction from statehouses and billionaire board rooms.

The key thing to understand in designing a support program for readers is that reading is communication. If we begin our search for the best way to help a struggling reader with the idea that language is meaningful and reading is about making sense of written language, then we have a better chance to help struggling readers.

What does this mean for instruction? One thing it means is we need to provide interventions early, before children experience too much failure and adopt too many “confusions” about how reading works. Secondly, it means that rather than doubling down on phonics instruction, we need to double down on meaning making. If a student struggles to make meaning from text, we must scaffold the meaning sufficiently to assist the student in decoding the words.

Most instruction for struggling readers, in other words, has it backward.

PRIVATIZATION: GULEN CHARTERS

Who Is Watching? Turkish Cleric, Accused of Motivating Military Coup, Controls Large Network of Charter Schools in the U.S.

Did you know that the reclusive Turkish primary school graduate preacher, former imam, writer, and political figure who failed in a coup attempt in Turkey is running one of the largest networks of charter schools in the US?

The lack of transparency of the Gulen charter network and the failure of federal and state oversight are warning signs of the dangers involved in turning over taxpayer dollars for public education to private charter operators. In the case of the Gulen network, the amount of money involved is enormous—hundreds of millions of dollars. Shouldn’t there be government investigations? A moratorium on adding more schools to these networks? Where is the voice of the charter industry for due diligence in schools where we send our children? Our children deserve better.

PRIVATIZATION: INCREASES INEQUITY

Report: How privatization increases inequality and here (full report)

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.” — John Adams

Section 5: Privatization perpetuates socioeconomic and racial segregation

… implications of this increasing segregation can especially be felt in districts with rapid charter growth. In Durham County, North Carolina, the fast growth of charters has increased racial segregation at the financial expense of the public school district. Neighborhood schools have lost middle class children to charter schools and have been left with a higher concentration of poor students and students of color. Charter schools are exempt from providing student transportation or free and reduced price lunch, making it less likely that poor students can attend charter schools that don’t provide these critical services.

Charter school expansion has been destabilizing for the school district. One recent study estimates that the net cost to the Durham Public Schools could be as high as $2,000 per charter school student. The school district estimated in 2014 that charter schools take $14.9 million each year from neighborhood schools. This means that the traditional public schools in the district, which contain higher proportions of lower-income students, students of color, and more expensive-to-educate children (such as those with disabilities) are financially strained, as the district is unable to reduce its spending proportionally with the loss of charter students due to unavoidable fixed costs.286 Unfortunately, this financial loss hurts the public school district’s ability to provide quality education to its remaining students, who lose out even more as schools become more racially isolated and segregated.

POLITICS

10 Emotional Abuse Tactics That Trump Blatantly Used in the First Debate

A lot of people are saying that this guy is abusive. Is he? I don’t know. Maybe he is.

His speeches are filled with language such as “it’s a disaster,” “this is tremendous,” “we are in a big, fat, ugly bubble,” “it’s unbelievable,” and “it’s the greatest.” He also loves to use language of “everyone” and “always.” He cushions many of his egregious claims with statements like “everyone tells me” – a claim that is very difficult to prove or disprove or fact-check.

Apophasis

…a rhetorical device wherein the speaker or writer brings up a subject by either denying it, or denying that it should be brought up.

Trump’s Definition of the “High Ground”

Donald Trump claimed the high ground after the September 26th Presidential Debate.

“I’m very happy that I was able to hold back on the indiscretions with respect to Bill Clinton, because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton and I just didn’t want to say what I was going to say.”

He Would Never Say It, But This Is Donald Trump’s Favorite Rhetorical Device

“I was going to say ‘dummy’ Bush; I won’t say it. I won’t say it,” Trump said in January.

Trump referenced then-GOP hopeful Carly Fiorina’s rocky tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard in a similar way.

“I promised I would not say that she ran Hewlett-Packard into the ground, that she laid off tens of thousands of people and she got viciously fired,” he said. “I said I will not say it, so I will not say it.”

…“I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct,” he wrote on Twitter. “Instead, I will only call her a lightweight reporter!”

And of the former host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Trump stated that, “unlike others, I never attacked dopey Jon Stewart for his phony last name. Would never do that!”

READ ALOUD

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Posted in asimov, Baseball, Personal History, poverty, Public Ed, read-alouds, retention, Teaching Career

Random Thoughts on the Occasion of My 10th Blogoversary

…which is tomorrow.

[NOTE: This is not my “main blog.” You’ll find that at http://bloom-at.blogspot.com. I began this “mirror” blog in January of 2013, a full 7 years after I started blogging at Blogger.]

Here are some random thoughts about learning, education, and other things…with a few quotes sprinkled throughout. FWIW…

  • “Lazy” students are most likely students who have given up. If there’s one argument in favor of investing more in early-child education and early intervention, then this is it. It’s much easier to keep a child going with successful experiences than to get a child to “restart” after they have failed and given up.
  • Misbehavior is often a cover up for academic difficulties. It’s much easier to choose to be a behavior problem than it is to accept that learning is difficult and risk being labeled as “stupid.”
  • Despite the chronological gap between the students I taught in 1975-1976 and the students I taught in 2015-2016, the needs of the children were the same. They wanted – and want – to learn, to be accepted for who they are, and to be loved.
  • Reflective teachers never stop learning. I have never considered myself a “master teacher” because I recognize my own inabilities and weaknesses. I don’t believe that I ever “mastered” teaching. Each day there were things I could have done better.
  • “…it is the struggle itself that is most important…It does not matter that we will never reach our ultimate goal. The effort yields its own rewards…” – Data in The Offspring
  • Criticism is worthwhile. Ask trusted colleagues for it, then accept it and use it to improve.
  • “For years we’ve been told from Wall Street entrepreneurs that we don’t need more money for these inner-city schools, we just need the same management techniques that they use on Wall Street. They say, “You can’t throw money at this problem.” But they are the ones who pull their kids out of the public school system and put them in Exeter and Andover, which now costs about $50,000 a year, or the people who live in the rich suburbs who spend $24,000 on their public schools, almost twice as much as children in New York. They say you can’t throw money at the problem, but I say it seems to work for their kids.” – Jonathan Kozol An Interview with Educator and Activist Jonathan Kozol
  • Every student can learn. However, expecting that every student will learn the same thing, at the same time, and in the same way, is unreasonable. Human beings don’t grow on a set schedule. We all didn’t learn to walk on the 3,000 day of life and not everyone will learn to read in First Grade Kindergarten. Those who expect uniformity in child development should stay out of the classroom. Those who demand uniformity in student achievement should keep their policies out of public education. Students are not widgets. Education is not a business.
  • Every student is different. The strength of a classroom is in the diversity of its students. One way for humans to outgrow the damaging tribalism which has been responsible for most of the wars in human history is to bring together our children to play and learn.  We should celebrate and encourage infinite diversity in infinite combinations.
  • “When people have said ‘poverty is no excuse,’ my response has been, ‘Yes, you’re right. Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a condition. It’s like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.'” – Gerald Bracey, Parents, Poverty and Achieving in School
  • It’s well established that children need a safe place in order to learn. No one can learn if they’re afraid. The same goes for the adults in school. Teachers need a safe place to teach. Bullies don’t belong in the classroom, the school office, or the central office.
  • Things I miss in today’s schools: cursive writing, typewriters, card catalogues, and paper based reference materials (aka World Book Encyclopedia).
  • “Cub fans will take winning in stride. With enthusiasm, with tears of joy, perhaps, but in stride…When it happens you will find us, like our ancestors in 1908, sensitive enough to know how to be humble in the face of a miracle.” – Jim Langford in The Cub Fan’s Guide to Life, 1984
  • “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children…It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” – 1983 Commission on Reading. Reading aloud is more important than standardized tests, test-prep, work sheets, homework, book reports, flash cards…
  • Teachers, you won’t be able to “finally get caught up” until the end of the school year. There’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. Until a better way comes to American education, teachers will have to accept that fact and prioritize.
  • Teachers, there won’t be enough money for public education until the American people, through their leaders, give it a higher priority. It’s the future of the nation. Public school students are the future leaders of the country. We’re a nation of selfish, shortsighted people only thinking about “mine” and “now.” We need to invest in our future…in public education.
  • If you retain a student in grade you’re increasing to 60% the chance that he will drop out. Obviously no teacher can force a student to learn, but we need to reach students before they fail. Students need early intervention, wraparound services, and attention to the causes of their learning problems, rather than the reaction of retention. Policy makers can help by funding Pre-K education, early intervention programs, and support services. Which child isn’t worth the money?
  • “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” – Isaac Asimov
  • My first students are now adults in their late 40s. I can see how they impact the community. Teachers, quite literally, have the future of the nation in their classrooms. Today’s difficult student might one day make a contribution to national defense, the national economy, or an advancement in medicine.
  • “History has proved again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less-developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference might be, the results are invariably disastrous.” – Picard in Symbiosis
  • One’s skill as a teacher, while important, is secondary to one’s ability to understand and relate to children. My greatest successes as a teacher were with those students whose hearts I was able to touch. My greatest failure – and one stands out more than all the rest – was with the student I couldn’t reach because I couldn’t relate to him.
  • Technology is not “the answer.” It’s a tool. The same goes for educational trends like…brain training, phonics vs. whole language, multi-graded classrooms, project-based learning, and new math. Those techniques and concepts, and others like them, might be helpful for some students some times, but they are just tools. I’m more and more convinced that the “answer” is found in the relationship between teacher and student.
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Posted in Article Medleys, library, Politics, poverty, Public Ed, read-alouds

2016 Medley #19

Public Schools, Politics, 
Priorities: Libraries or Tests,
Trauma, Read-Aloud, Poverty

WORDS MATTER

‘Bailing out’ schools

The “business model” of education is so pervasive among “reformers” that they are taking to using terms inappropriate to a public service like public education.

In Chicago, the Mayor’s office refers to the needed funding for the city schools as a “bailout.” It’s as if regular and sufficient funding of public education was not the responsibility of the city…and the “education industry” needed to be “bailed out” of their fiscal problems. Keep in mind that, in Chicago, the mayor appoints the members of the school board who run the schools. If there is fiscal mismanagement, whose fault is it?

The truth is that, if there is a problem with the funding of the schools in a locality it’s the fault of the city or state responsible for that funding. Illinois, like most states in the US, has a constitution that calls for the funding of a system of “common schools” for the purpose of educating the state’s children. When the legislature fails to fund those schools it’s their fault…not the fault of the schools.

They’ve obviously gone from viewing public schools as beggars to outright criminals. As in — Let’s not let these dangerous public institutions back out on the street where they can steal again from the city’s most wealthy tax dodgers.

POLITICS

BREAKING NEWS – Trump goes with anti-public education running mate

We don’t yet know how a Hillary Clinton administration would treat public education. As president she could easily follow the Bush/Obama plan of encouraging charters and over-testing. The Democratic party has come down on charters in its platform, much to the chagrin of the DFER crowd, but that doesn’t mean that Clinton will follow the platform.

On the other hand, we know exactly where Trump stands on public schools. There are three basic points to his K-12 policy (if you can call it a policy

  • locally controlled
  • no common core (“A total disaster”)
  • spend more money than anyone and we’re rated 28th

Those “points” are either vague or incorrect, but that was where Trump stood on education until recently when he chose Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate. We know Pence’s education platform: privatize through charters and vouchers, test children till they drop, and destroy the teaching profession (for more information click here – PENCE).

As Indiana’s governor, Pence has driven an anti-teacher, anti-public education political and legislative agenda that has included dramatically expanding charter schools and diverting scarce public funds to voucher programs that, in turn, have allowed private individuals to use taxpayer money to send their children to religious schools.

PRIORITIES

Far more $ for tests than for libraries

There’s no name associated with this post, but my guess is that it’s from Stephen Krashen.

Not only do we spend more on testing than on school libraries, there are public schools across the nation with no school library at all. You can be sure that even those schools find the money to test their students annually. I am also fairly sure that individual teachers spend their own money to stock their classroom libraries.

School libraries: About $10 per student = $500 million SLJ’s 2014 Spending Survey: Savvy Librarians Are Doing More with Less

Data from 2011, 2012: I could not find more recent data.
Testing: Estimates range from 1.7 billion (J. Chingos, Brookings Institution, 2012) to 25 billion (Five reasons standardized testing isn’t likely to let up)

Add to this: test prep paid by parents: 13 billion/ (A 21st century boondoogle: high tech testing)

RESEARCH INTO TRAUMA

Teaching Traumatized Kids

Students are not widgets. Their environment has an impact on their physical and emotional health, as well as their achievement.

Neuroscience tells us that the brains of kids regularly facing significant trauma or toxic stress are wired for survival and likely to erupt at the smallest provocation. A major study of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente found that the higher a young person’s ACEs score, the greater the risk in adulthood of chronic disease, mental illness, and premature death. These children also have a far greater future likelihood of either inflicting or being the victim of violence.

READING ALOUD

Read to them…just because…

We know reading aloud to children is important. It is the single most important activity a parent or teacher can do to help children succeed in reading.

Read alouds matter. They create opportunities for a vibrant tapestry of rich classroom discussions. They provide pathways to broader thinking and reflection about the world. The empirical research about the benefits of read aloud is abundant, but there is “heart evidence” too. Books touch our students’ hearts and minds.

Read alouds open up opportunities for gaining new perspectives or different appreciations in ways that only beautiful literature can. Teachers read aloud… because…“Strong young minds continue to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who send their books out into the world like ships on the sea. Books give a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.” (Matilda by Roald Dahl)

POVERTY

Two more from Stephen Krashen…he repeats his point again and again, whenever he can get someone to print his letters or on his own blog…

Lift kids out of poverty before expecting higher test scores

Instead of spending billions on unnecessary testing, let’s invest in protecting children from the impact of poverty by expanding and improving food programs, improving healthcare and building better libraries in high-poverty areas. The best teaching in the world has little effect when children are hungry, sick and have little access to reading material.

Education: The real problem

Instead of spreading rumors, let’s make sure our students are protected from the negative impact of poverty: let’s push for better food programs, more school nurses, and well-supported school libraries.

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Posted in Jim Trelease, Parents, read-alouds, reading

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

An annual Father’s Day post…with changes.

READING ALOUD

I started teaching elementary school in 1976 and from my very first day as a teacher I read aloud to my students. I had caught the read aloud bug from Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors and 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 I’m convinced that reading aloud is 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 that  [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…but, 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.

FATHERS AND READ-ALOUD

In the newest edition of his book, Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud.

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 sports and television — ESPN (and ESPN2, ESPN Classic, etc.), Monday Night Football, and others — and boys watch their role models carefully.

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

“Is there a connection,” he 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 your kids every day.

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Posted in Parents, read-alouds, reading, summer, water safety

Summer Safety, Summer Learning Loss, Intelligent Parenting

Summer vacation has started…swimming, mosquitos, summer learning loss. Here’s are some tips for

  • summer safety
  • preventing summer learning loss
  • intelligent parenting 24/7

SUMMER SAFETY

Watch your children when they’re in the water. Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning. Click the link. Be prepared…

  1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has two pages of safety information. Print them and save them…

Summer safety tips…(and en Español).

  • Fireworks safety
  • Bug safety
  • Playground safety
  • Bicycle safety
  • Skateboard, scooter, in-line skating and heelys safety
  • All-terrain vehicles
  • Lawn mower safety

and Sun and Water Safety Tips (also en Español)

  • Fun in the sun
  • Heat stress in exercising chidlren
  • Pool safety
  • Boating Safety
  • Open water swimming

SUMMER LEARNING

The most important summer learning task for parents and care-givers –  read aloud to your children…EVERY DAY.

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” — Becoming a Nation of Readers

Need some help with read aloud? Try these…

Also see

PARENTING

Increase harmony during summer vacation with some tips from parenting experts. Don’t just read the lists here…go to the sites and take a look.

10 Commandments of Good Parenting

  • What you do matters.
  • You cannot be too loving.
  • Be involved in your child’s life.
  • Adapt your parenting to fit your child.
  • Establish and set rules.
  • Foster your child’s independence.
  • Be consistent.
  • Avoid harsh discipline.
  • Explain your rules and decisions.
  • Treat your child with respect.

9 Steps to More Effective Parenting

  • Nurture Your Child’s Self-Esteem
  • Catch Kids Being Good
  • Set Limits and Be Consistent With Your Discipline
  • Make Time for Your Kids
  • Be a Good Role Model
  • Make Communication a Priority
  • Be Flexible and Willing to Adjust Your Parenting Style
  • Show That Your Love Is Unconditional
  • Know Your Own Needs and Limitations as a Parent
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