Friday, April 20, 2018

Why American Students Haven't Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years via The Atlantic

Why American Students Haven't Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years
Schools usually focus on teaching comprehension skills instead of general knowledge—even though education researchers know better.
The Atlantic: 4.13.2018 by Natalie Wexler

Every two years, education-policy wonks gear up for what has become a time-honored ritual: the release of the *Nation’s Report Card. Officially known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, the data reflect the results of reading and math tests administered to a sample of students across the country. Experts generally consider the tests rigorous and highly reliable—and the scores basically stagnant.

Math scores have been flat since 2009 and reading scores since 1998, with just a third or so of students performing at a level the NAEP defines as “proficient.” Performance gaps between lower-income students and their more affluent peers, among other demographic discrepancies, have remained stubbornly wide.

On Tuesday, a panel of experts in Washington, D.C., convened by the federally appointed officials who oversee the NAEP concluded that the root of the problem is the way schools teach reading. The current instructional approach, they agreed, is based on assumptions about how children learn that have been disproven by research over the last several decades—research that the education world has largely failed to heed.

The long-standing view has been that the first several years of elementary school should be devoted to basic reading skills. History, science, and the arts can wait. After all, the argument goes, if kids haven’t learned to read—a task that is theoretically accomplished by third grade—how will they be able to gain knowledge about those subjects through their own reading?

The federal No Child Left Behind legislation, enacted in 2001, only intensified the focus on reading.

One of those cognitive scientists spoke on the Tuesday panel: Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia who writes about the science behind reading comprehension. Willingham explained that whether or not readers understand a text depends far more on how much background knowledge and vocabulary they have relating to the topic than on how much they’ve practiced comprehension skills. 

Another panelist—Timothy Shanahan, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois and the author or editor of over 200 publications on literacy—went on to debunk a popular approach that goes hand in hand with teaching comprehension skills: To help students practice their “skills,” teachers give them texts at their supposed individual reading levels rather than the level of the grade they’re in.

According to Shanahan, no evidence backs up that practice. In fact, Shanahan said, recent research indicates that students actually learn more from reading texts that are considered too difficult for them—in other words, those with more than a handful of words and concepts a student doesn't understand.  READ MORE >>


Condition of Education, NCES
Digest of Education Statistics, American education: pre k-graduate school, NCES
Diplomas Count, Education Week
Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States, USDE, IES, NCES
Education Fast Facts, NCES
Homeschooling in the United States, USDE, IES, NCES
Nation’s Report Card NAEP – Reading, NCES
Progress in International Reading Literacy Study PIRLS
Program for International Student Assessment PISA

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Former First Lady Barbara Bush Dies at 92 :: Family Literacy Champion

Former first lady Barbara Bush dies at 92
Texas Tribune: 4.17.2018 by Ross Ramsey

Barbara Pierce Bush, matriarch of an American political dynasty that has produced presidents, governors and other high officials, has died in Houston. She was 92.

Bush was an outspoken public figure, often putting into words the thoughts that the elected men in her family were too cautious to utter. She did practically everything in politics short of running for office herself, organizing campaigns and “women’s groups” in the parlance of the day, riding herd on political friendships and organizations critical to electing her husband, George H.W. Bush, to the U.S. House, the vice presidency and ultimately, to the presidency itself. Her oldest son, George W. Bush, was the 43rd president after twice winning election as governor of Texas. His younger brother, Jeb Bush, was governor of Florida and, later, an unsuccessful candidate for president.

Literacy – Spanning the US :: Solano Co CA :: Bradford-Wyoming Co WY :: Roanoke VA

Literacy: Spanning the U.S.     

Reading program helps students start a new chapter in their lives
Daily Republic: 3.04.2018 by Bill Hicks

Posters around most any library proclaim, “Reading is Fundamental.”

Usually these posters emphasize the “fun” in fundamental to encourage young readers. -But reading is indeed a fundamental skill and one many adults either lack or struggle with.

The Solano County Library Literacy Program celebrated the accomplishments of students transitioning through the adult literacy program Saturday at the Solano County Events Center.

Literacy program manager Cherelyn Hunt estimated as many as 60,000 adults in Solano County read at or below the fifth-grade level, with another 40,000 likely in need of strengthening their reading skills.

A small number of the program’s students are English-learners but the great majority are native English speakers who fell behind in their early years for various reasons and are taking steps now to get caught up.

Hunt explained improved reading skills can help greatly in general, but they can also help financially, with a recent study showing 100 hours of tutored lessons can lead to as much as $10,000 in annual income gains, she said.

The program is carried out largely through the work of volunteer tutors.

“We come to work every day and we’re so lucky because we have our volunteers and our students doing their work,” Hunt said. “We couldn’t do this without our volunteers.”  READ MORE >>

Volunteers needed to help provide lifetimes of literacy
Times Tribune: 3.06.2018 by C J Marshall

For Laurie Anson of Noxen, volunteering to help adults improve their reading just made sense.

In addition to a career helping people as a nurse, Anson also home-schooled her children. So when she heard about the need for volunteers at the Bradford-Wyoming County Literacy Program, she signed up.

“This seemed like a nice fit,” she said.

Anson has provided tutoring to three adult learners. The first, she said, is now attending community college, studying to become a welder.

“You get to know your students very well,” Anson said. “As a tutor, you work with them on a one-on-one basis. And that’s fantastic.”  READ MORE >>

Local couple is brought together through love and literacy
WSLS: 3.06.2018 by Lezla Gooden

Imagine being an adult and not knowing how to read or write. This was the case just 10 years ago for Alvin Riley. The love of his life, Joyce, gave him a goal to reach before they said "I do."

“She told me I had to write her a love letter,” said Alvin Riley.

Alvin and Joyce agree that having Alvin learn to read and write brought them closer together and changed their relationship for the better.

“He now writes me a lot of cards and special little love notes,” said Joyce. "And I like that and I think that makes a marriage special and it has brought us closer.” 

Alvin was able to show his love through writing due to the help of the nonprofit organization Blue Ridge Literacy. The Rileys attribute Alvin's success to the patience and support from teachers like Stephanie Holladay.  WATCH VIDEO

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

National Volunteer Week :: What Your Volunteers Need to Be Happy via The Balance

What Your Volunteers Need to Be Happy
Are You Appealing to Today's Volunteers?
The Balance: 10.10.2017 by Joanne Fritz

Although volunteer participation has decreased in recent years, charities need volunteers more than ever. And many people, of all ages, want to volunteer. There are even, in the US alone, some 15 officially recognized special days that involve volunteerism.

Now could be the very best time to take a look at your volunteer program and spiff it up so that your volunteers will want to come and stay.

But volunteerism has changed and volunteer expectations have evolved. Today's volunteers may seem more demanding, but they really should be. It's no longer enough to just put out a generic call for volunteers and then treat them all alike once they show up. Volunteers expect to give in order to get something back.

A study from pretty much sums up what volunteers want. The points from the study can be summed up with the word GIVERS. Here's what those letters mean:  

G. Personal growth and well-being
I. Increased sense of purpose, such as knowing just how they make a difference.
V. Voice or how volunteers are asked to give their time.
E. Easy to sign up, to get there, to get the job done.
R. Recognition. Being thanked, appreciated, and celebrated.
S. Social opportunities like making new friends and working on a team.

Here are ten ways to work all of those expectations into your volunteer program.  READ MORE >>

Monday, April 16, 2018

John Corcoran :: ‘I Was a Teacher for 17 Years, But I Couldn’t Read or Write’ via BBC

‘I was a teacher for 17 years, but I couldn’t read or write’
BBC News: 4.15.2018 by Sarah McDermott   LISTEN

John Corcoran grew up in New Mexico in the US during the 1940s and 50s. One of six siblings, he graduated from high school, went on to university, and became a teacher in the 1960s - a job he held for 17 years. But, as he explains here, he hid an extraordinary secret.

When I was a child I was told by my parents that I was a winner, and for the first six years of my life I believed what my parents had told me.

I was late in talking, but I went off to school with high hopes of learning to read like my sisters, and for the first year things were fine because there weren't many demands on us other than standing in the right line, sitting down, keeping our mouths shut and going to the bathroom on time.

And then in the second grade we were supposed to learn to read. But for me it was like opening a Chinese newspaper and looking at it - I didn't understand what those lines were, and as a child of six, seven, eight years old I didn't know how to articulate the problem.

I remember praying at night and saying, "Please Lord, let me know how to read tomorrow when I get up" and sometimes I'd even turn on the light and get a book and look at it and see if I got a miracle. But I didn't get that miracle.

At school I ended up in the dumb row with a bunch of other kids who were having a hard time learning to read. I didn't know how I got there, I didn't know how to get out and I certainly didn't know what question to ask.

I taught high school from 1961 to 1978. Eight years after I quit my teaching job, something finally changed.

I was 47 going on 48 when I saw Barbara Bush - then Second Lady of the US - talking about adult literacy on TV. It was her special cause. I'd never heard anybody talking about adult literacy before, I thought I was the only person in the world that was in the situation I was in.

I was at this desperate spot in my life. I wanted to tell somebody and I wanted to get help and one day in the grocery store I was standing in line and there were two women in front of me talking about their adult brother who was going to the library. He was learning to read and they were just full of joy and I couldn't believe it.

So one Friday afternoon in my pinstriped suit I walked into the library and asked to see the director of the literacy programme and I sat down with her and I told her I couldn't read.

That was the second person in my adult life that I had ever told.  READ MORE >>

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Literacy – Spanning the US :: Lafayette Co MS :: Bradford-Wyoming Co WY :: Fulton MO :: Guilford Co NC

Literacy: Spanning the U.S.     

Lafayette County Literacy Council hosts Adult Education Ceremony
Oxford Eagle: 2.28.2018 by Anna Gibbs

The Lafayette County Literacy Council and Oxford First United Methodist Church hosted their fourth annual adult education ceremony last night, as part of the ABLE adult education program.

ABLE, which stands for Adult Basic Literacy Education, is a service that pairs “learners” with “coaches,” who provide everything the learner needs to pass their high school equivalency tests or simply improve their basic literacy skills. The program is open to any Lafayette County resident who is above the age of 18 and needs to obtain their GED, pass a workplace test or even a driver’s license test. There is a $15 registration fee, but all other services are free for the learner.

Barbara Wortham, Program Coordinator for ABLE, says the program aims to help more people in the community improve their quality of life through education.

Approximately 4,300 people in Lafayette County do not have a high school diploma or equivalent certificate. Sarah McLellan, director of the Lafayette County Literacy Council, says the goal of ABLE and other GED programs, like those at Northwest Mississippi Community College and WIN Job Center, is to put a dent in that number. What sets ABLE apart is the personalized non-classroom approach for each learner.  READ MORE >>

Teaching people to read
WC Examiner: 2.28.2018 by C J Marshall

For many people, the greatest gift they receive in their lifetime is the gift of literacy.

According to Aubrey Carrington, Program Coordinator for the Bradford-Wyoming County Literacy Program, more than 30 million adults nationwide cannot read or do math above the third grade level.

These people must rely on a support network to provide such basic functions as reading instructions, understanding street signs, and adding up a simple row of numbers.

Locally, the Literacy Program provides tutoring to adults in such situations to help them lead more productive lives. Volunteers are always needed to provide such tutoring, and the program will be offering training workshop at the Tunkhannock Public Library in March.  READ MORE >>

HiSET class takers reach for future
News Tribune: 2.28.2018 by Helen Wilbers

He spent six years in a classroom where he couldn't hear a single word.

That's how determined Tim Schultz is to complete the High School Equivalency Test (formerly GED).

"I've been working on it for a while now," Schultz said Tuesday through an American Sign Language interpreter.

Until five months ago, Schultz had no access to an interpreter, which made following classes difficult. With the help of an interpreter and the Adult Education and Literacy Program's classes at John C. Harris Community Center, he is making progress toward his goal of a better job.

"I would just like to go work at a hospital, and whatever they let the deaf do, I'll do," he said.

Schultz didn't earn a diploma because he spent his teenage years working for a higher cause.

"I'm a Jehovah's Witness," he explained. "I was spreading the word to other deaf (people)."

Now, he's among the 15 people enrolled in the evening HiSET class at the community center. On Tuesday, the students — who appear to range from teens to middle-aged — settled down with textbooks and worksheets while enticing smells wafted in from the soup kitchen next door.

Cliff Atterberry, the evening class's teacher, hustled around assuring that everyone had the right books.  READ MORE >>

Reading Connections literacy agency in Guilford County seeks to teach people how to read
MyFox8: 3.02.2018 by Chad Tucker

Adriana Adams' father knew no English when he came to the United States as an immigrant from Cuba.

"He had to rely on the kindness of several teachers that he had," said Adams. "That took him along the journey from someone who knew no English to someone who was a pastor in this community for 30 years."

Today, Adams continues that kindness working with Reading Connections, an adult literacy agency in Guilford County.

"We meet people where they are on their literacy journey," she said. "We want to make sure they get a tailored education experience."

With volunteer tutors the agency helps around 1,000 people each year with reading, math and resumes.

"Whether they are an English language learner or someone who never learned to read in school or someone who is looking for a job, we want to meet them where they are," said Adams.

Currently more than 50 people are on a waiting list for help which is why the agency is searching for more volunteers.  WATCH VIDEO

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Read This — US Literacy Gap Needs Closing via The Hill

Read this — US literacy gap needs closing
The Hill: 4.03.2018 by Norma Nelson, Executive Director of Readers 2 Leaders

The Oklahoma teacher strike reminds us that our nation does not adequately fund public education. Oklahoma teachers have not had a raise in 10 years. Starting pay for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree in the state is $31,600.

The lack of adequate funding in education is not simply an Oklahoma problem — it is a national crisis with deep moral implications. Children across the U.S., particularly those of color, bear the burden of our broken education system. 

In 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education that school segregation was unconstitutional, and with that decision came the hope that integration would give young people of color access to an equitable education. The recent passing of Linda Brown, the young black girl then at the center of the case, begs the question. Has the promise of integration and equitable education been fulfilled?

School segregation still exists, as a 2016 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office recently shows. Between 2000 and 2014, the percentage of K-12 public schools that had high numbers of poor black or Hispanic students increased from 9 to 16 percent.

Since the 2000-2001 school year, students eligible for free and reduced lunch also increased by 142 percent. Black and Hispanic students have poverty rates two to three times higher than white students.

Low teacher pay, segregated schools and equity gaps that continue to fall squarely along racial and income lines 64 years after Brown v. Board of Education are keeping whole generations of children in our country from reaching their full potential.

Early literacy is one area where lack of progress is particularly alarming. A student’s ability to read on grade level by the end of 4th grade is a key indicator of future success in school and in life.

Investment in early literacy is critical. Students who do not read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school, and low literacy in pre-teen girls is a strong predictor of teenage pregnancy.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation found that investments made in the first four to six years of school (including pre-K) produced a long-term return to society of $8.24 for every $1 invested.

It is time to recognize that all children, regardless of income or race,deserve the basic human right of early literacy.

It is critical to align policy, funding and community efforts to make this happen. Early literacy is not just a “nice to have,” it is vital. Our children deserve the chance to succeed.  READ MORE >>