Each weekday, Reading Rockets gathers interesting news headlines about reading and early education. Please note that Reading Rockets does not necessarily endorse these views or any others on these outside websites.
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Most of the states that first endorsed the common-core academic standards are still using them in some form, despite continued debate over whether they are improving student performance in reading and math. Of the states that opted in after the standards were introduced in 2010—45 plus the District of Columbia—only eight have moved to repeal the standards, largely due to political pressure from those who saw common core as infringing on local control. Twenty-one other states have made or are making revisions—mostly minor ones—to the guidelines. Illinois kept the wording while changing the name. In April, North Dakota approved new guidelines "written by North Dakotans, for North Dakotans," but some educators said they were quite similar to common core. Earlier this month, New York moved to revise the standards after parents protested new tests aligned to common core, but much of the structure has been kept. "The core of the common core remains in almost every state that adopted them," said Mike Petrilli, president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
Many factors play into reading proficiency, including poverty rates and language barriers for English-language learners, and schools struggle to rise above these demographics. Brown Elementary is not poverty-free -- its free and reduced lunch rate is 21 percent -- but it has achieved above 90 percent proficiency for the past several years, posting 93.6 percent for the 2016-2017 school year. So what’s the secret at Brown, a 2015 National Blue Ribbon-winning school? What instructional practices lead students to such high achievement? Visit Brown, and one thing stands out: Students are reading books they like. Third-grade teacher Gayle Corey, in her 20th year at Brown, said a consistent curriculum with buy-in from all teachers prepares students from kindergarten on. Teachers also credit collaboration among all grade levels for their success. Together, they analyze data and discuss what is working and what isn’t. This is key, Kiel said: “If you can get your whole building on the same page with the same type of talk and curriculum, that can be a really big first step in getting all students to grade level.”
Seeing a complex task — like writing — through to completion is a tough challenge for many youngsters. As educators, we can provide opportunities for our budding authors to pursue their passions, see persistence pay off, and be mindful about their goals and limits, leading to extraordinary, memorable learning — like for the sixth-graders who wrote and produced a play based on the books of Roald Dahl. Check out these picks to help inspire perseverance in developing and experienced writers alike.
“A key ingredient in building a culture of peace is education.” – Ambassador A. K. Chowdhury, Former UN Under-Secretary-General & High Representative and former head of UNICEF. Peace Day provides a powerful and inspiring opportunity to engage children and young people in diverse activities related to peace, unity and making a positive difference in their world. There are so many books which support this subject and we have picked out a few of our favourites for older and younger readers.
Something is different at Sarasota County’s elementary schools this year. All 23 of the schools now employ a new program to help younger students read better. Lisa Fisher, a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader for Sarasota County Schools, said the program’s results can be wide-ranging. She described one student who was struggling in the first grade, reading at an early kindergarten level, but now is much further along. Reading Recovery started in the 2015-2016 school year in Sarasota County. For 12-20 weeks, students receive 30-minute lessons focused on reading and comprehension. It gives intense, one-on-one tutoring to struggling first-graders, in an effort to reach them early and set them up for achievement as they continue through school. Part of what makes Reading Recovery so effective is that it’s a proactive program rather than reactive. Instead of offering remediation to students who already are behind, it offers help before they fail. And studies show that students who meet their class average with the program stay on level as they move forward.
When the fourth-graders in Mrs. Marlem Diaz-Brown's class returned to school on Monday, they were tasked with writing their first essay of the year. The topic was familiar: Hurricane Irma. By the time I visited, they had worked out their introduction and evidence paragraphs and were brainstorming their personal experiences. To help them remember, Mrs. D-B had them draw out a timeline — starting Friday before the storm. Then, based on their drawings, they could start to talk about — and eventually, write about — what they experienced. The essays all started off this way: The name Irma will always strike fear, disappointment, and dismay in our city. Here's what else they had on their minds.
Beverly Cleary, age 6. She’s sitting on a table, legs crossed, hands at her sides. Her dress has puffy sleeves and her socks are pulled high and rolled at the top. Her haircut is a pageboy — what used to be called a Prince Valiant — with bangs straight across her forehead. But look at that face. The chin is level, the eyes are bright as a pair of sparklers, the lips are pulled back in a half-smile that says I’m Watching You. It’s there in every picture of Cleary, from her first-grade photo in 1922 to the ones from last year, when she celebrated her 100th birthday. Cleary was nobody’s little princess then and she’s nobody’s sweet old great-grandmother now, no surprise to anyone who’s read “Beezus and Ramona” or “The Mouse on the Motorcycle” or any of her 40 children’s books.
Education in Michigan is not just failing to keep up with the rest of the country; we are rapidly racing toward the bottom. For example, in fourth-grade reading, Michigan students have fallen from 30th in the country in 2005 to 41st in 2015. Right now, Michigan has an opportunity to reverse these disturbing trends and put our state on the path toward becoming a top ten education state. For the first time in a long time, the focus of key stakeholders – including parents, educators, community leaders and business leaders – is focused squarely on improving early literacy. As research has long shown, this is the right place to start because reading is so essential for success in and out of school.
State officials have been celebrating Tennessee's Imagination Library Week (Sept. 17-23) to honor the program's early literacy impacts on workforce development. The core mission of the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) is to promote early childhood literacy in Tennessee's birth to age 5 population. In partnership with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, GBBF gives all preschoolers in Tennessee the opportunity to receive high quality, age-appropriate books in the mail each month at no cost to families. Research shows early exposure to books improves cognitive skills and is consistently proven to be a predictor of academic success.
When it comes to promoting literacy, there is no time for silence. As important as it is to read to children, it is equally important to talk with children, especially back and forth conversations between parents and children. Rather than asking closed-ended questions which only elicit one-word responses, he encourages open-ended discussions. Asking children to describe their classroom, explain what they saw on a walk or narrating activities as you complete them are another way to improve literacy skills.
Starting in the late 19th century, advances in printing technology allowed images to be printed cheaply and in lively color. Consumers of newspapers and books, conversely, began to demand images to complement the words they were purchasing. Those two factors led to the rise of a so-called "Golden Age of Illustration." One of the leading figures of this age was the English artist Arthur Rackham, who was born 150 years ago on this day. If you don't know his name, you'll know his illustrations. Rackham created many of the fantastical creatures and people that decorated the pages of the children's books in the early 20th century. Rackham's expressive, detailed style of art makes pieces like his iconic drawings of scenes in Grimm Brothers' Fairy Tales instantly recognizeable.
A report released Friday by a group of congressional Democrats touts the benefits of universal prekindergarten for children and working families. The report comes the day after Democrats in the House and Senate unveiled the Child Care for Working Families Act, which is designed to make child care more accessible. The Democratic staff of the Joint Economic Committee, a congressional committee composed of 10 members from both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, produced the report. The JEC includes eight Democrats and 12 Republicans. The report, entitled "High-Quality Early Learning and Care Drives Lifelong Success," lays out both economic and academic benefits of children attending quality preschools and includes information about pre-K enrollment and costs by state.
New York has an opportunity, one shared by cities across the country, to improve library infrastructure while creating badly needed housing. By using aging branches as sites for development, new libraries may rise with affordable apartments on top. The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio should seize the chance at sites citywide to link these crucial needs. Other cities are much further ahead. Starting in 1995, Chicago created a master plan tying libraries to community development and has replaced more than three-quarters of its branches. In 1998, Seattle issued the largest library bond in history, allowing for the construction or replacement of all 27 branches. And Columbus, Ohio, unveiled a plan to double, and possibly triple, its system’s square footage over two decades.
School is officially back in session, but for some lucky Oregon students, they'll be returning to their studies like wizards thanks to a teacher who transformed his classroom into a magical Hogwarts commonroom. Kyle Hubler, a math teacher at Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon, decorated his classroom like a Hogwarts study abode, complete with designated tables for the different houses, quills and inkwells, loads of books, a Pensieve, and a sign marking the door to enter as Platform 9 and 3/4. As if these details weren't enough to summon the spirit of Harry Potter and the gang, Hubler also sorted his students into houses during the first week of school by giving personality tests.
When Mitch Resnick was growing up, he and his little brother were always making up new games. For example, he says, "In the basement, throw a tennis ball so it goes between the pipes in the ceiling for two points, and bounces off the pipe for one point." His parents were tolerant of their making noise and rearranging the furniture. One summer he even dug up the backyard for a minigolf course. The design process was a matter of trial and error: Could he use soda cans to make the holes? What path would the ball take as it hit various obstacles? Behind these games, he says, was a positive spiral of imagining, making, playing, sharing with others, reflecting and imagining again. Today Resnick leads a research group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab with the delightful name of Lifelong Kindergarten. It's dedicated to drawing people into that same spiral.
Children are naturally curious about the world around them, always asking, “Why?” “What is that?” “How does that work?” “Why is that happening?” Their curiosity leads them to explore their environment, problem-solve, invent, and discover new things, which ultimately leads to future learning and development. It is through play that young children are able to engage in this learning process, and it is through play that adults can support and guide children’s natural desire to explore and learn about STEM ideas.
New York leaders have approved a new set of reading and math expectations for students, moving the state a step away from the Common Core State Standards, which are still in use in some 36 states. The new standards retain many of the common core's key features. They still emphasize learning how to read and analyze increasingly complex texts, and how to learn problem-solving algorithms and model with math. Educators are still parsing out precisely what some of the changes will mean for day-to-day instruction. Accompanying changes in curriculum, training, and testing are still months and years away.
Publicly funded pre-K programs enjoy broad public and political support, largely because of research suggesting that preschool graduates enjoy both short-term and long-term benefits, including improved academic and school readiness, higher graduation rates, and lower incarceration rates. Public preschool is also a financial benefit to lower- and middle-class parents, as quality pre-K can cost as much as a college tuition. “We are at a really critical moment for pre-K in the United States,” said Suzanne Bouffard, an education researcher and author of the newly published book The Most Important Year: Pre-Kindergarten and the Future of Our Children. In 2016, enrollment in state-funded preschool programs reached an all-time high of nearly 1.5 million children in 43 states. While Bouffard applauds the momentum to make pre-K more accessible, she said policy makers are not paying enough attention to what is happening in these classrooms. “Quality,” she said, “really matters.”
Sandra Boynton lives on a farm in rural Connecticut. She works out of a converted barn, surrounded by pigs in overalls, frogs wearing cowboy hats, a clutch of bemused chickens and a few skeptical sock puppets. Standing there, you get the feeling that at any moment they might all come alive and break into a high-stepping song-and-dance. Which they probably will. Because this is Boynton's world, and in Boynton's world, animals do whatever she wants. And what she wants them to do, mostly, is make her smile. And they go out into the world and do the same for untold multitudes of kids.
Contrary to what its length suggests, the way that meaning is communicated in a short story is generally MORE complex and abstract than in other narrative forms, including the much longer novel. In order to grasp the meaning of most short stories, we must analyze and dissect them. Short stories offer a truncated story experience, not a complete one.They tend to be very limited in character development, and plot lines are symbolic, not literal, and/or they are self-conscious twists on traditional plot lines, playing with the reader's expectations. When we read short stories, we complete the experience through our analysis. For more mature readers, who have plenty of experience with more traditionally structured stories, this can be a fascinating and enjoyable challenge. But for readers who struggle to "get into a story" through reading, it can be an uncomfortable, confusing jump.