Showing posts with label NELP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NELP. Show all posts

Monday, January 19, 2015

Why Does He Want to Hurt Kindergartners?

Two groups that are strong advocates in early childhood education (Defending the Early Years and the Alliance for Childhood), released a report called Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose (see They claim there is no research base for the importance of learning to read in kindergarten (so that its inclusion in the Common Core as a goal for K is potentially harmful).   

I think they are wrong about the research here, but wanted to seek out your reaction. Does research suggest that learning to read, especially as indicated in the Common Core, is associated with long-term positive or negative effects? 

Great question. This is one that I’ve been thinking about since I was 5-years-old (no, really). My mom asked my kindergarten teacher if she should do anything with me to help and the teacher discouraged any efforts in that regard. At the time, the “experts” believed that any early academic learning was damaging to children—to their academic futures and to their psyches.

When I became a first-grade teacher, we were still holding back on such teaching, at least during the first-semester of grade one. We didn't want to cause the mental disabilities, academic failure, and vision problems predicted by the anti-teaching types. 

These days we are doing a great job of protecting poverty children and minority children from this kind of damage. Of course, many of us middle-class white parents are risking our own kids. It is not uncommon these days for suburban kids to enter first-grade, and even kindergarten, knowing how to read. As I’ve written before, I taught both of my kids to read before they entered school.

There are not now, and there never have been data showing any damage to kids from early language or literacy learning—despite the overheated claims of the G. Stanley Halls, Arnold Gessells, Hans Furths and David Elkinds (and many others).

Let me first admit that if you seek studies that randomly assign kids either to kindergarten literacy instruction and no kindergarten literacy instruction and then follow those kids through high school or something… there are no such studies and I very much doubt that there will be. Given how strong the evidence is on the immediate benefits of early literacy instruction I don’t think a scholar could get ethics board approval to conduct such a study.

That it wouldn’t be ethical to withhold such teaching for research purposes should give pause. If it isn’t ethical to do it for research, should it be ethical to do so for philosophical reasons? Yikes.

What we do have is a lot of data showing that literacy instruction improves the literacy skills of the kids who receive that instruction in preschool and kindergarten, and another body of research showing that early literacy skills predict later reading and academic achievement (and, of course, there is another literature showing the connections between academic success and later economic success). There are studies showing that the most literate kids are the ones who are emotionally strongest and there is even research on Head Start programs showing that as we have improved the early literacy skills in those programs, emotional abilities have improved as well.

And, as for the claim that early teaching makes no difference, I wonder why our fourth-graders are performing at the highest levels ever according to NAEP?

The studies showing the immediate benefits to literacy and language functioning from kindergarten instruction are summarized in the National Early Literacy Panel Report which is available on line.

And here are some of studies showing the long-term benefits of early literacy achvievement:

Early reading performance is predictive of later school success (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1997; Duncan, Dowsett, Claessens, Magnuson, et al., 2007; Juel, 1988; Snow, Tabors, & Dickinson, 2001; Smart, Prior, Sansor, & Oberkind, 2005). This means that young children’s reading performances tend to be pretty stable: kindergarten literacy development is predictive of 1stgrade performance; 1st grade predicts achievement in various upper grades and the performance at each of these levels is predictive of later levels.

If a youngster is behind in reading in grade 3, then he/she would likely still be behind in high school, which can have a serious and deleterious impact on content learning (science, history, literature, math), high school graduation rates, and economic viability (the students’ college and career readiness). 

The research seems clear to me: teach kids reading early and then build on those early reading skills as they progress through school. Don’t expect early skills alone to transfer to higher later skills; you have to teach students more literacy as they move up the grades (something that has not always happened).

Cunningham, A. E., & Stanovich, K. E., (1997). Early reading acquisition and the relation to reading experience and ability ten years later. Developmental Psychology, 33, 934-945.
Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., et al. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1428-1446.
Juel, C. (1988). Learning to read and write: A longitudinal study of 54 children from first through fourth grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 437-447.
Smart, D., Prior, M., Sansor, A., & Oberkind, F. (2005). Children with reading difficulties: A six year follow-up from early primary to secondary school. Australia Journal of Learning Difficulties, 10, 63-75.

Snow, C. E., Tabors, P. O., & Dickinson, D. K. (2001). Language development in the preschool years. In D. K. Dickinson & P. O. Tabors (Eds.), Beginning literacy with language: Young children learning at home and school (pp. 1–26). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes. (preschool literacy and language predicts 7th grade performance)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Applying Research to the Teaching of Reading: Here is a Brief Update on the National Reading Panel Findings

Recently, I was asked to give a talk to Expanding the Reach schools in Arizona. Expanding the Reach (ETR) has been a federal effort to help schools to take Reading First style actions without receiving all of the Reading First style support and regulations.

I was to talk to them about the reading research as reviewed by the National Reading Panel (NRP). There is a problem with doing that, however. The NRP completed its work in 2000, and there have been two major federal panels since that time, the National Early Literacy Panel (that looked at preschool and kindergarten literacy) and the National Literacy Panel for Language Minority Children and Youth (that looked at second-language literacy). There have also been a plethora of federal research reports and other research, such as the Reading First impact study. We want teachers to follow the research, but not just the research from a decade ago.

What I did is gave a fairly conventional talk in which I laid out the research findings in the five instructional areas where NRP had findings, but for each of them, I have added a what's new section. So, for example, I shared the studies from NRP that show that phonemic awareness instruction matters, but I then noted that NELP had found a payoff for phonological awareness for younger kids (that is, that it is important to start out with larger sound units than phonemes to get the ball rolling). Or, I explained the NRP phonics findings, but supplemented those with the findings showing that English learners sometimes bring adequate phonics to English (e.g., if they can already read Spanish), and that phonics instruction has a smaller effect size with second language kids (meaning that just raising their phonics won't have as big a payoff for these kids). I showed the comprehension findings from NRP, but pointed out that Reading First had little impact on either the teaching of comprehension or comprehension achievement.

I thought it was a useful way to go, and the audience responded positively, so here is a copy of the powerpoint for your use. It is a nifty summary of the NRP, with some useful updates.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Don't Miss Your Chance to Discuss Early Literacy Report

I just agreed to participate in an asyncronous online discussion of the National Early Literacy Panel report. This is the report that reviewed the research on preschool and kindergarten literacy that has been getting so much recent attention. The discussion in being sponsored by the National Institute for Literacy and will include Laura Westberg, from the National Center for Family Literacy (she was the PI on the report), Tori Molfese, a panelist from the University of Louisville, and me.

It's kind of neat: you can submit questions or comments that get posted, but then throughout next week, Laura, Tori, and I will be posting our responses, etc. It is a nice opportunity. Here is the address for subscribing to that discussion, hope I see you there:

And here is more information about it:

The Impact of the Findings of the National Early Literacy Panel March 9 - 13, 2009

The Family Literacy Discussion List will facilitate a panel discussion about the recommendations of the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) and their impact on educators, parents and other children's caregivers. Three members of the NELP will participate in the discussion. The discussion will take place March 9-13, 2009. Please read the details below, think about the questions, raise questions of your own, and prepare for an exciting look at the findings of the National Early Literacy Panel.

The National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) was convened in 2002 to conduct a synthesis of the scientific research on the development of early literacy skills in children ages zero to five. The objective for convening the NELP was to identify interventions and practices that promote positive outcomes in literacy for preschool children.

The National Institute for Literacy (Institute) acted as the lead agency in this project, in consultation with cooperating agencies from the Partnership for Reading. The National Center for Family Literacy, working closely with the Institute, coordinated NELP's work in the completion of the synthesis.

The panel's report, Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel, was released on January 8, 2009. Developing Early Literacy serves as the basis for several, research-based recommendations for parents and the early childhood community, including educators, caregivers, and Head Start providers on promoting the foundational skills of life-long literacy.

Guest Panelists
Laura Westberg is Director of Special Projects/Research at the National Center for Family Literacy. In this capacity, she oversees research and evaluation across the organization for determining the effectiveness of products and services that contribute to the literacy development of young children through adults. Her responsibilities include project management and supervision, project design, product development, research and evaluation, and proposal and grant writing. Ms. Westberg directed the work of the National Early Literacy Panel and coordinated a meta-analysis on parent involvement in children's reading acquisition for the National Institute for Literacy.

Victoria Molfese is the Ashland/Nystrand Chair in Early Childhood Education at the University of Louisville and Director of the Center for Research in Early Childhood. She received her PhD in Developmental Psychology from the Pennsylvania State University and has published journal articles, books, and book chapters in the area of cognitive development in infants, children and adults. She has received grants in support of research activities, including an NIH funded longitudinal research grant on brain and behavioral predictors of language, reading and cognitive development in children from birth through age 13 years. She currently is conducting research on early predictors of reading and mathematics abilities in infants and preschool children, efficacy of mathematics intervention in preschoolers on improving skills of children at risk at kindergarten entry and the development of interventions for infants and preschoolers to mitigate development of learning disabilities. Dr. Molfese served as a member of the National Early Literacy Panel.

Timothy Shanahan is the chair of the National Early Literacy Panel. Dr. Shanahan is also a Professor of Urban Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Director of the UIC Center for Literacy. He has served as Director of Reading for the Chicago Public Schools, and is a former first grade teacher. His research focuses on the relationship of reading and writing, the assessment of reading ability, family literacy, and school improvement. He has published more than 100 articles, chapters, and books on these topics.

Discussion Questions
1. What were the questions that the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) answered?
2. What types of interventions did the NELP look at?
3. What are the implications of the NELP findings for the instruction and assessment of young children?
4. What do the findings of the NELP mean to adult/parent educators?
5. How can parents best utilize the findings of the NELP to bolster the learning of their children?

Read the Executive Summary of the NELP Report, Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel, to enrich your participation in the discussion. It may be downloaded from

A copy of the full report can be downloaded from

Free print copies are available from EDPubs at

A powerpoint presentation of NELP:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

National Early Literacy Panel Released

Today at the National Press Club, the National Early Literacy Panel Report was released. All of us on the panel were relieved to have this work completed and that it is now available to everybody. If you would like a copy, click here:

National Early Literacy Panel Report

This report focuses on what works in improving the literacy skills of preschoolers and kindergarten children. It got a lot of attention from the press and various policy people (including someone from the Obama Transition Team). This is important work and it is sure to be a widely cited and used work in early literacy. More details on this later, but for now, read the report!