Blog Posts

18 August, 2008

Starting Out Right: Helping Your Child Have a Successful School Year

Here we are at the start of another school year: a time of great new beginnings for many children and one of overwhelming anxiety for too many others. What can parents do to help ease their child into a successful new school year—particularly for struggling learners?   I suggest the following steps.  1. Talk to your child about school.   “What did you do in school today, Johnny?”   “Nothin.’”   Sadly, that is a pretty typical exchange between most parents and kids, and it does nothing for improving home-school relations, for making children feel supported, or for helping both teachers and kids to succeed.   As a parent and former ...

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09 August, 2008

Rubber Rulers and State Accountability Testing in Illinois

Much has been made in recent years of the political class’s embrace of the idea of test-based accountability for the schools. Such schemes are enshrined in state laws and NCLB. On the plus side, such efforts have helped move educators to focus on outcomes more than we traditionally have. No small change, this. Historically, when a student failed to learn it was treated as a personal problem—something beyond the responsibility of teachers or schools. That was fine, I guess, when “Our Miss Brooks” was in the classroom and teachers were paid a pittance. Not much public treasure was at risk, ...

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02 August, 2008

Explaining the Reading First Impact Study (New Districts Added)

Recently, I wrote about the Reading First Impact Study in this space. That struck a nerve and received much attention and generated many questions. Given that, here I will answer some of these inquiries. Feel free to send more along and I’ll see what I can do. Hope this helps readers to better understand this study; various political statements recently have suggested that many politicians, at least, don't get it. The Impact Study showed that the Reading First schools made no improvements in reading comprehension, so the program did not work, right? No, that’s not correct. The Reading First Impact Study collected ...

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29 July, 2008

Reading First for English Learners

As I write this, I’m in Nashville, TN at the 5th annual National Reading First conference. It appears to be their last meeting and my first appearance at one of these affairs. Of course, there is a lot of sadness as most state people are resigned to the idea that Reading First funding is not to be renewed. Yesterday, at the opening of the meeting, Laura Bush apparently cheered folks’ spirits by calling for the reinstatement of full funding to Reading First (I was on a plane at the time, but morning radio caught me up on what I missed ...

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27 July, 2008

When Reading Isn't Reading

In this morning’s New York Times, Motoko Rich (the Times cultural reporter) has a terrific article about reading on the Internet. This article is a continuation of a discussion Ms. Rich and I had awhile back about the National Endowment for the Arts’ study that claimed young people were no longer reading. I responded to that study by opining that survey respondents do not include their Internet reading time, even though they might be reading newspapers and books online. The Chicago Tribune followed up on that story at the time by interviewing Chicago area young people, and these young people both separated ...

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21 July, 2008

Vocabulary Learning: Words, Words, Words

Okay, the National Reading Panel found that vocabulary instruction improved reading achievement, especially for older readers. And, research has been showing a clear, substantial empirical link—especially for older kids—between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension (both within reading and readability research) for almost a century. The National Literacy Panel for Language Minority Children and Youth found an even bigger impact of vocabulary teaching with children who were learning English as a second language, and the about-to-be-released National Early Literacy Panel report indicates that vocabulary seems to be a proxy for even more sophisticated oral language skills in reading development. Whew, that’s ...

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18 July, 2008

The Implementation Scandal: Why Research-Based Instruction Often Fails

This week I spoke to the research and curriculum directors from the Council of Great Cities Schools. They held their meeting in Chicago. The topic they were focused on was interventions for older readers. Catherine Snow and I sounded off on the first day, and Jim Kemple of RMDC presented a recent federal study of such interventions on day two.   The big topic of discussion was the implementation of interventions. One thing that stands out from recent experiences with trying to implement research-based practices is how often these practices fail to work once adopted in the classroom. There are lots of ...

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09 July, 2008

Pulling the Plug on Reading First

I wonder if you have seen the various editorials that have been appearing about Reading First recent weeks? These are reactions to the Reading First impact study and Congressional efforts to defund Reading First that I wrote about in this space recently. The Boston Globe came out for reauthorization of Reading First, as did USA Today. In a deft unsigned editorial, USA Today called for continuation of funding for Reading First, albeit with some needed reforms. Their position: “let’s keep funding a good program even as we try to improve upon it” was their very reasonable position. They paid attention to reports by ...

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24 June, 2008

Reading First is Dead

Two very interesting reports came across my desk yesterday--within minutes of each other.   The first one was an Education Week story that said the House Appropriations committee intended to kill off Reading First. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2008/07/16/43budget_web.h27.html?print=1 This is no surprise since Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., is the chair of that committee and he has shown a strong penchant for using his power for political reasons with little regard for educational needs. He has been anti-Reading First for a long time (mainly, I suspect, because it was proposed by a Republican), and the unfortunate management problems along with the recent interim report (see my earlier ...

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16 June, 2008

More on the Reading First Evaluation

I was talking with Dick Anderson today. For those who do not know, Dick is an outstanding scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was the director of the Center for Reading during the years when the best research on reading was coming from there. His comprehension research is great. Dick is not anti-Reading First in my opinion, but I think it is fair to say he isn’t exactly a big Reading First fan. He isn’t against phonics, but tends to think Reading First makes too much of phonics. He feels the same about fluency and phonemic awareness (and, ...

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