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Assessment & evaluation

Why an Overemphasis on Foundational Reading Skills Isn't Healthy for Kids

Principal's question:

District leadership has advised primary teachers to focus on the Foundational Skills Strand, and de-emphasize the other strands. The belief is that if students go into Grade 3 having mastered foundational skills, they will be prepared to master the rigor of the other strands.

How Can Reading Coaches Raise Reading Achievement?

Teacher question: I have just been hired as a reading coach in a school where I have been a third-grade teacher. My principal wants me to raise reading achievement and he says that he’ll follow my lead. I think I’m a good teacher, but what does it take to raise reading achievement in a whole school (K-5) with 24 teachers?
 
Shanahan's response:
 
It’s easy. Just do the following 9 things:

1. Improve leadership

On Teaching Nonsense Words

Lil Wayne can do rap, but he’d definitely be out of place at a Gospel Convention, sort of like a love affair with a happy ending in a Taylor Swift lyric.

So what’s out of place in reading education?

My nominee is the act of teaching kids to read nonsense words. Don’t do it. It doesn’t belong (it may even be worse than orange and green together).

Why, you might ask, would anyone teach nonsense words? I attribute this all-too-common error to a serious misunderstanding of tests and testing.

Opting Your Kid Out? Part 2

Last week, I wrote about the value of the information parents receive when their kids take common — or standardized — assessments.

Opting Your Kid Out? It Means Opting Out of Being a More Informed Parent

Some kids tell their parents everything that goes on in school.

At least, that’s what I’ve heard. My kids certainly never did. My older daughter, in particular, considered school to be her domain.

She established my outsider status her first day of nursery school, when I went to pick her up. Excited to hear about everything she had done, I asked her how her day went. Her response: “None of your business,” or something to that effect.

What Phonological Awareness Skill Should We Be Screening?

Teacher question: I read a research study (Kilpatrick, 2014) that questions the value of segmentation tests for measuring phonemic awareness, because such tests did not correlate well with first- and second-grade reading achievement. At our school we have used DIBELS in Kindergarten and Grade 1 to identify children at risk for reading difficulties. Is this really useful or are we identifying kids as needing help when they do not? Should we be using measures of blending and manipulation instead?
 
Shanahan's response:

On Progress Monitoring, Maze Tests, and Reading Comprehension Assessment

Teacher question:

Identify, Intervene as Early as Kindergarten for Students with Dyslexia, Researchers Say

In research just published by the University of California at Davis and Yale University, educators can find advice to heed now about promptly identifying and intervening with students who are dyslexic.

RtI: When Things Don't Work as You Expected

When I arose today I saw lots of tweets and Facebook posts about a new U.S. Department of Education study. Then I started getting emails from folks in the schools and in the state departments of education.

“What’s going on here?” was the common trope.

Basically, the study looked at RtI programs in Grades 1 through 3. The reports say that RtI interventions were lowering reading achievement in Grade 1 and while the RtI interventions weren’t hurting the older kids, they weren’t helping them to read better.

Be Like Sherlock: Use PAR/uPAR Data to Determine Who Needs Reading Accommodations

The popular fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes said,“it’s a capital mistake to theorize before you have the data.” Ben Johnston makes the same point when schools seek school success for struggling readers. He offers a solution for improving decisions whenever questions about providing reading accommodations seem more like a game of chance than a science. 

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"Writing is thinking on paper. " — William Zinsser