Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Jim Trelease, Privatization, Public Ed, read-alouds, SchoolShootings, Testing, vouchers

2018 Medley #7

Public Education, Testing, 
Arming Teachers, Privatization, Jim Trelease

SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Our Public Schools Are Better Than the NCGA Would Want You to Believe

Here’s a good summary of the reasons we shouldn’t rely on test scores to compare education in the United States with other countries. Simply put, if the U.S. didn’t have one of the highest rates of child poverty among advanced countries, our test scores would be higher because test scores reflect family income.

This isn’t news…(see here and here).

  • “The U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.”
  • “A sampling error in the U.S. administration of the most recent international (PISA) test resulted in students from the most disadvantaged schools being over-represented in the overall U.S. test-taker sample.”
  • “Conventional ranking reports based on PISA make no adjustments for social class composition or for sampling errors.”
  • “If U.S. adolescents had a social class distribution that was similar to the distribution in countries to which the United States is frequently compared, average reading scores in the United States would be higher than average reading scores in the similar post-industrial countries we examined (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), and average math scores in the United States would be about the same as average math scores in similar post-industrial countries.”
  • “On average, and for almost every social class group, U.S. students do relatively better in reading than in math, compared to students in both the top-scoring and the similar post-industrial countries.”

10 Reasons To Support Public School

Peter Greene reminds us that public schools are expected to be everything for everyone. We aren’t always successful, but there are very few places where public schools try to help every child achieve to his or her highest potential.

10) The promise of public education

…Our dream is to provide every single child with the support and knowledge and skills and education that will allow each to pursue the life they dream of, to become more fully themselves, to understand what it means to be human in the world. We do not always live up to that dream, but US public schools have lifted up millions upon millions of students, elevated communities, raised up a country.

TESTING

The Lone Voice of Dissent Against Standardized Testing

For years I felt like the lone voice against the overuse and misuse of standardized testing in my school, and school district…in fact, I started this blog in 2006 because I wanted a place to vent about that very topic. Perhaps other teachers in our district felt the same way, but were afraid to speak out. Most of the teachers in my building just sat quietly while I ranted about wasting all the time with tests that didn’t help anyone. No one ever thanked me, but no one ever objected. Our principal would sometimes say, “Now is not the time,” or “Just do it.” I understand that he was under pressure from the central office, who, in turn were under pressure from the state, to administer tests. Still, it would have been nice to have some support from other educators (perhaps there was, and I just didn’t see it). It would have been nice to hear from an administrator, “I agree, but we have no choice.” Something would have been better than nothing.

And it’s still going on. American teachers and students are being forced to administer and take tests which are being misused…to rank schools, to determine teacher pay, to rank students. It’s unprofessional, educational malpractice, and child abuse.

I’ve seen some of these people reduced to tears by administrators unfairly manipulating them based on their students’ test scores.

Yet none of them have the guts to stand up and be counted when the moment comes.

I say again – everyone wants to fight. But no one wants to do the fighting.

They want someone else to do it for them.

Does that make you angry?

It makes me furious.

But if you feel that way, you’ve got to do something about it.

You think teachers are too cowardly? What have YOU done to fight corporate education reform today?

Do Impacts on Test Scores Even Matter? Lessons from Long-Run Outcomes in School Choice Research

Almost every major education reform of the past 20 years at both the state and national level has rested on a common assumption: Standardized test scores are an accurate and appropriate measure of success and failure. It has followed that programs or policies that increase student scores on standardized tests are “good” and programs that fail to do so are “bad.”

TEACHERS DON’T WANT TO CARRY GUNS

Poll: Most U.S. Teachers Want Gun Control, Not Guns To Carry

The last thing on my mind when I was a pre-service teacher was where I would keep my gun to protect my students from killers shooting up schools with assault-style rifles. My goal as a classroom teacher was to help children achieve as much as they could, academically and personally, while they were in my class. My goal as a reading specialist was to help children who were struggling to overcome the obstacles standing in their way.

It’s time to change our rules about guns. There’s no need for us to be the one country in the world where mass murders are frequent events. We need to require universal background checks, close gun acquisition loop-holes, and remove assault weapons from the catalog of civilian weapons. If trained soldiers at a military base could not prevent a soldier armed with two handguns from killing a dozen people how do we expect a teacher with a handgun to survive against a shooter with an assault rifle?

There are reasonable restrictions to the First Amendment. It’s time to adopt reasonable restrictions to the Second Amendment.

As I put the finishing touches on this post, I read the following two articles on the Guardian. Must Reads:

The Parkland teachers provide graphic and convincing reasons for keeping guns out of classrooms. The students provide the reasonable restrictions to the Second Amendment.

Nearly three-fourths of U.S. teachers do not want to carry guns in school, and they overwhelmingly favor gun control measures over security steps meant to “harden” schools, according to a new Gallup poll.

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE AND COMPETITION DON’T WORK

Venture capitalist visits 200 schools in 50 states and says DeVos is wrong: ‘If choice and competition improve schools, I found no sign of it.’

Charter schools and parochial/private schools that accept vouchers do not provide a better education than public schools.

…I didn’t find charter schools to be, on balance, more innovative than public schools. Some of the most remarkable innovations I observed were in the very public schools that choice advocates dismiss — in places such as Charlotte, Newark, Coachella and Waipahu. And while some charter schools are deeply innovative, many grind away on test scores, with innovation limited to cute test-prep jingles. Free of regulation, you might think private schools would lead the way in innovation, but most are focused on the college application process, a serious impediment to innovation.

Still Waiting for Convincing Evidence

People don’t want vouchers because private schools are better than public schools. People want vouchers because they want to use tax money to pay for religious education. They want to use tax money to shelter their children from those who are “different.”

The voucher debate, therefore, is a question not just of values but also of effectiveness, and research should play a significant role. So how should we interpret the available evidence? At most, only one of the more than two dozen states that have tried statewide vouchers and tuition tax credits has yet to demonstrate convincing, measurable success with them, Given this reality, it is hard to make a case for substantially replacing our system of public schooling on a national scale. The American workforce continues to be the most productive and creative in the world. This does not mean we cannot do better, but it does indicate that we should proceed with caution and care.

The Truth About Charter Schools

Not all charter schools are as bad as the one described in this post, but before we continue the charter school experiment we need to put in place safeguards to insure that charter schools are held to the same accountability standards (including financial) under which public schools are required to operate.

…I soon realized there was a gulf between charter school hype and reality. Every day brought shocking and disturbing revelations: high attrition rates of students and teachers, dangerous working conditions, widespread suspensions, harassment of teachers, violations against students with disabilities, nepotism, and fraud. By the end of the school year, I vowed never to step foot in a charter school again, and to fight for the protection of public schools like never before.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JIM

Chapter One: Why read aloud?

Today, March 23 (actually, yesterday, by the time I get this finished and posted) is Jim Trelease’s birthday. My last post, Carved in Stone, was about reading aloud to children…Jim Trelease’s life work.

In 1979 I ordered a pamphlet from the Weekly Reader Book Club titled The Read-Aloud Handbook. Three decades later, the 30-page pamphlet had grown, in the seventh edition, to a 350 page book complete with a bibliography of several hundred read aloud book suggestions spanning a third of the book.

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.

If there is one person who influenced my teaching more than any others, it’s Jim Trelease.

And how exactly does a person become proficient at reading? It’s 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.

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Posted in Jim Trelease, library, read-alouds, Walsh

Carved in Stone

What we learn in childhood is carved in stone.
What we learn as adults is carved in ice.

Jim Trelease used the above quote from poet David Kherdian to begin chapter 2 of his Read-Aloud Handbook. The first line is as good a reason as any for parents to read aloud to their children – from birth.

Unfortunately, that’s not happening as much as it ought to…

READ-ALOUD SURVEY

In a recent survey on Read-Aloud the percentage of parents who read to their children from birth had increased to 30%, up from 15% in 2015. That number is still way too low. In addition, it was noted that even though there was an increase in the number of parents reading to their children from birth, only 14% of parents spent at least 15 minutes reading with their children. This also is an increase (from 8%) but, again, still pathetically low. Sadly, the increase is not across the board when it comes to reading aloud to children.

• 2018 data shows a slight decrease, from 46% to 42%, in the frequency with which children ages 0-8 are being read aloud to every day. This decrease is driven mostly by parents of children ages 6-8. (Page 23)

• Only 30% (of total parents) say their child is currently read aloud to every day, for at least 15 minutes. This too is down slightly from 2016 (34%). (Page 24)

The survey catalogued reasons for the decline which included such things as,

  • doing other things which are just as good as reading aloud
  • the inability of the child to sit still long enough to read aloud
  • parents don’t have time
  • the child doesn’t like to be read to
  • the child is read to at school, so they don’t need to be read to at home

I accept all those reasons (and the others given in the survey) as completely legitimate, unless the family (parents and children) spend at least 15 – 30 minutes a day watching TV.

THE IMPORTANCE OF READ ALOUD

What’s the big deal? What good is reading aloud, anyway. Back to Jim Trelease [emphasis added]…

The [1983 Commission on Reading, funded by the U.S. Department of Education] spent two years poring through thousands of research projects conducted in the previous quarter century, and in 1985 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.”

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

In their wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than work sheets, homework, book reports, and flash cards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better tool than anything else in the home or classroom—and it’s so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma to do it.

In other words, 1) reading is one of the most important tools for children and 2) reading aloud is positively correlated with learning to read. Meanwhile, as the previously mentioned survey reveals, less than half of the parents of 0-8 year olds in the U.S. read aloud to their children.

Trelease explains why reading aloud helps children learn to read…

…in reading aloud, we also:

  • build vocabulary
  • condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • create background knowledge
  • provide a reading role model
  • plant the desire to read

[For an in-depth study of why these points are important to reading see two series of blog posts by Russ Walsh. The first, an eleven part series on When Readers Struggle, which begins with Background Knowledge. The second, a four part series (so far) on Building Vocabulary which starts with an Overview.]

If language development, gaining background knowledge, instilling a desire to read, building literacy skills, and personal bonding aren’t enough to convince you that reading aloud is important…try these two…

FIGHT POVERTY

Reading aloud to your children can help offset some effects of poverty [emphasis added].

Families Armed With Books Repel The Effects Of Poverty

The important fact is that parents who insert themselves most firmly into early literacy activities—participating in reading, conversation, and writing—and bring those activities into the home regularly provide the best academic foundation for their children. Parent involvement makes a greater difference than money. And children love to listen to books, especially when parents read, and the act of reading together promotes lifelong literacy because people enjoy it. It continues to be fun at any age, long after a child learns to read fluently. We all love a well-spun story.

[See also Reading aloud to children: the evidence]

The more a child is exposed to reading, the better they become at reading. As an elementary school reading specialist, I tried to help the parents of my students understand that reading was one of the most important skills learned in elementary school and quantity was important. Kids should read a LOT.  As Jim Trelease wrote…

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.

Even as adults we recognize that reading is an important skill, which brings us to…

A LIFE-LONG LOVE OF READING

Adults who read continue to learn throughout their lives, are better informed, and live longer. Reading aloud to children helps them become life-long readers as this book review attests to. [Full disclosure: the “dad” in the review below, refers to me!]

There is No Life I Know to Compare with Pure Imagination

As an adult I have realized that it is not just the books I read as a child, but those that were read aloud to me when I was little, that mean the most to me. They are the ones I have the strongest memories of and the ones that can evoke the strongest emotions. I never read My Side of the Mountain or Hatchet, but my 3rd grade teacher read them aloud to us, and I’ll never forget them. The Narnia books, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Ramona books, all the Roald Dahl books–my parents read them all to me, plus countless others, and these are the books that I remember most fondly. There is nothing better than sharing a story with someone. It was not unusual in my house to be reading a book and find certain passages were bracketed or had notes in the margin–my dad read aloud to all his classes, and would use these notes to guide his reading. When I read these books now as an adult, it’s not my own voice in my head that is narrating, but that of my parents. This adds an extra element of pleasure to rereading childhood favorites.

WHAT TO DO

Help your children live longer lives! Read to them from birth. Continue until they are at least 8 years old – longer if you can.

If you know someone with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends and neighbors, let them know the value of reading to their children from birth.

Get books at the public library. Ask librarians for suggestions, or check out The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. You can find it at the library, get your own copy, or use an abridged version online.

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Posted in library, read-alouds, reading, research, Stephen Krashen

Resolution #1: Read-aloud + Access to Books = Reading Achievement

A series of resolutions for 2018…

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION #1

  • Read aloud to your children/students every day.

If you want your kids to be fully literate, start reading to them when they’re babies.

That statement is the title given to a letter to the editor of the LA Times dated December 30, 2017. The letter was written by Allen and Adele Gottfried, professors at Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge respectively and is in reference to a study the Gottfrieds did (with others) investigating adult success and early life predictors. Their letter, in response to an LA Times editorial, includes the following [emphasis added]…

If you want your kids to be fully literate, start reading to them when they’re babies

Research from the Fullerton Longitudinal Study, contained in a paper we recently published in a peer-review journal, showed that the amount of time parents read to their infants and preschoolers correlated with their children’s reading achievement and motivation across the school years, which in turn correlated with higher post-secondary educational attainment…

The research, in other words, reinforces what the Report of the Commission on Reading reported in the publication, Becoming a Nation of Readers, way back in 1985.

The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children. This is especially so during the preschool years.

Parents are their children’s first reading teachers. They teach by reading aloud to their children beginning the day their children are born.

What happens, however, if parents and children don’t have access to books? Stephen Krashen has the answer.

Read alouds lead to reading, reading requires access to books

…Having a reading habit only happens if children have access to books. A number of studies, including our own, have shown that access to libraries correlates with reading proficiency, and our recent work suggests that availability of libraries can balance the negative effect of poverty on literacy development.

Public libraries are an important resource for parents who might have no other means of acquiring books. School libraries, staffed by qualified librarians, are a necessity for every public school.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION #1

  • Read aloud to your children/students every day.
~ ~ ~

More on Reading Aloud

Read Aloud: 15 Minutes

Jim Trelease’s Home Page

Information on Reading Aloud to Children

Click the image above for a larger version

More on the Fullerton Longitudinal Study

Fullerton Longitudinal Study

The Fullerton Longitudinal Study: A Long-Term Investigation of Intellectual and Motivational Giftedness by Allen W. Gottfried, Adele Eskeles Gottfried, and Diana Wright Guerin

Schools Are Missing What Matters About Learning: Curiosity is underemphasized in the classroom, but research shows that it is one of the strongest markers of academic success.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support the investigation of adult success based on early life predictors

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Posted in Article Medleys, DeVos, Jim Trelease, Lead, Politics, Racism, read-alouds, Walsh

2017 Medley #26

Lead Poisoning for Profit, Bigotry in America, Reading Aloud, 
Government by Those Who Hate Government

POISONING CHILDREN FOR PROFIT

Flint Is Slowly Getting Better, Say Scientists Who Exposed Water Crisis

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.”

There are still millions of children in the U.S. who are exposed to lead every day. Flint, Michigan is the best known example of lead poisoning on a massive scale. After 3 years the water situation is starting to get better for Flint…but lead poisoning is non-reversible. How many lives have been damaged permanently?

The situation in Flint is still difficult. Today, residents still use lead filters and bottled water for safety, and they still pay bills for water that they can’t use and for health problems that were the result of the crisis. But the $87 million settlement reached between residents and the city of Flint mandating pipe replacement has already begun to bring new water infrastructure into some parts of the city. All of Flint’s 18,000 damaged pipes are set to be replaced by 2020, and that replacement has already started.

“2020 sounds like a long time, but there’s only two other cities in America that have entirely replaced their lead pipes: Lansing, Michigan, and Madison, Wisconsin. “They both did it over a decade,” Hanna-Attisha says. “So mandating it over three years is actually unprecedented.”

Boxed Water for Flint (click the image for link).

Betsy DeVos and Denying Flint’s Children Special Education

Now that the lead poisoned children of Flint need it the most, the state is balking at providing extra funds for special education services. Meanwhile, DeVos sells boxed water

How can a state that poisoned its children with leaded water, now put roadblocks in their way to get the special education services they need to improve their lives?

BIGOTRY IN AMERICA

‘We Are Living Through a Battle for the Soul of This Nation’

Why didn’t the current occupant of the Oval Office come out against bigotry as strong as Joe Biden?

Today we have an American president who has publicly proclaimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and hate.

We have an American president who has emboldened white supremacists with messages of comfort and support.

This is a moment for this nation to declare what the president can’t with any clarity, consistency, or conviction: There is no place for these hate groups in America. Hatred of blacks, Jews, immigrants—all who are seen as “the other”—won’t be accepted or tolerated or given safe harbor anywhere in this nation.

READ ALOUD

Read-Aloud to Your Kids! Great Advice to Parents from Author Russ Walsh on Reading to Your Children Throughout the School Year

Read aloud to your children from birth.

The beginning of a school year is a good time to take an inventory of at-home practices that parents can institute to support their children’s learning. One of the most important things that all parents should do is read aloud to their children regularly. Some teachers ask parents to make read aloud a regular part of the homework routine, but whether required by the teacher or not, the research has made it clear that read aloud is a critical home-based activity.

Chapter One: Why read aloud?

Jim Trelease agrees with Russ Walsh.

We start by looking at the recommendation of the 1983 Commission on Reading, funded by the U. S. Department of Education, which was alarmed by school scores. Since nearly everything in the curriculum rested upon reading, the consensus was that reading was at the heart of either the problem or the solution.

The commission spent two years poring through thousands of research projects conducted in the previous quarter century, and in 1985 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.”
  • “[reading aloud] is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”

GOVERNMENT BY THOSE WHO HATE THE GOVERNMENT

There is a reason we have a government. There is a reason we pay taxes to support government services.

…you can’t support the things the government does – like caring for the elderly, establishing justice, providing public education, fighting terrorism, and protecting the environment – and still maintain that the taxes that support those things are bad.

The first responders who invariably become the heroes of any natural or human-caused disaster, are paid by taxes. Relief efforts to provide shelter, food, and medical care to displaced citizens are paid for by taxes. Support for rebuilding destroyed cities is paid for by taxes.

Schools, roads, bridges, dams and reservoirs, water systems, and waste disposal facilities, and their upkeep, are paid for by taxes.

Military defense is paid for by taxes.

For the last four decades, Republicans have tried to defund the government claiming that taxes are evil. As tax revenues decrease, government services decrease. As government services decrease, individuals have to take up the slack. Those who can afford to pay for services get them. Those who don’t are out of luck.

As a portion of the nation’s GDP, taxes in the U.S. are among the lowest in the developed world.

Trump Praises Agencies He Wants to Cut

As has become typical of the current kakistocracy, Donald Trump toured areas near the worst-hit region of Texas by Hurricane Harvey and praised the very agencies his proposed budget has tried to cut funds for, including FEMA, HUD and the National Weather Service.

DEFINITION

Kakistocracy

In case you need the definition of “kakistocracy” from the previous article.

A kakistocracy (English pronunciation: /kækɪsˈtɑkɹəsi/) is a system of government which is run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens. The word was coined as early as the 17th century. It was also used by English author Thomas Love Peacock in 1829, but gained significant usage in the 21st century.

Etymology
The word comes from the Greek words kakistos (κάκιστος; worst) and kratos (κράτος; rule), with a literal meaning of government by the worst people.[4] Despite its Greek roots, the word was first used in English, but has been adapted into other languages. Its Greek equivalent is kakistokratia (κακιστοκρατία), Spanish kakistocracia, French kakistocracie, and Russian kakistokratiya (какистократия).

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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 read aloud to my students from my very first day as an elementary school teacher beginning in 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.

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

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.

FATHERS AND READ-ALOUD

In the latest 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 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 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,” 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 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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