Curriculum & instruction

Why Standards-Based Teaching Has Failed to Raise Reading Achievement

Standards-based educational reform goes back to the early 1990s. Since then, test scores have see-sawed a bit, but for the most part we are doing about as well as we’ve been doing since 1970 (when we first started collecting national reading data).

That means standards-based reform has not led to higher achievement. Establishing educational goals and aligning teaching to those goals to ensure kids succeed has not happened.

Examples of Close Reading Questions

As a principal, I want my teachers to teach student how to read a text closely. After going through your Powerpoint, reading the questions you suggest and the responses, I think professional development in developing questions would be required to ensure they were actually asking the right kind of questions.

Concerns About Accountability Testing

Why don’t you write more about the new tests?

I haven’t written much about PARCC or SBAC — or the other new tests that other states are taking on — in part because they are not out yet. There are some published prototypes, and I was one of several people asked to examine the work product of these consortia. Nevertheless, the information available is very limited, and I fear that almost anything I may write could be misleading (the prototypes are not necessarily what the final product will turn out to be).

Close Reading: A Video Replay

Last week, I provided a link to a close reading video that a reader sent me. The link purported to present a model “close reading” lesson.

Although, there was much to like about the lesson, I complained that it wasn't close reading. Close reading is not a synonym for reading comprehension (or even "really good reading comprehension").

A Close Read of a Close Reading Video

My daughters are Erin and Meagan. When they were little, Meagan would get upset because we always “ran Erins,” but never “ran Meagans.” That’s cute when a little one doesn’t know the meaning of a word. But such miscommunication can be a real problem in Common Core State Standards implementation. It’s getting so that I hate to hear the term “close reading” because it is misused so often these days. A comment from a reader of last week’s blog entry challenged me to evaluate an online video of a close reading lesson.

Why Reading Strategies Usually Don't Help the Better Readers

Last week, I explained why disciplinary reading strategies are superior to the more general strategies taught in schools. That generated a lot of surprised responses. Some readers thought I’d mis-worded my message. Let me reiterate it here: strategies like summarization, questioning (the readers asking questions), monitoring, and visualizing don’t help average or better readers. They do help poor readers and younger readers. I didn’t explain why better readers don’t benefit, so let me do that here. Readers read strategically only when they have difficulty making sense of a text.

What Is the Proper Sequence to Teach Reading Skills?

Years ago, when the National Reading Panel (NRP) report came out, Congress tried to impose a national literacy sequence on American schools. Their plan only allowed phonemic awareness instruction until kids could fully segment words. Then the law would let us teach phonics… but no fluency until the word sounding was completed. Eventually we’d even get to comprehension — at least for the most stalwart boys and girls who hung in there long enough.

A very ambitious plan; one that suggests a clear developmental sequence in how reading abilities unfold.

Prior Knowledge: Part 2

Last week, I focused on a controversy over prior knowledge. Common core has discouraged enhancing reading comprehension through the introduction of information external to a text.

That challenges the most popular ways of introducing texts in schools — such as telling students information about the text topic or exploring student knowledge relevant to the topic. CCSS proponents bridle at such practices. They want students to become independent readers, which means they’d be able to read texts effectively without extra information — information not provided by the author.

Unbalanced Comments on Balanced Literacy

Want to win an argument about literacy? Just claim your approach is “balanced.”

Balanced is a affirmative term. That’s why Fox-News claims to be “fair and balanced.” It not only makes your position sound reasonable, but implies your opponents may be a bit off, you know, imbalanced.

So it is not too surprising that school principals and district literacy leaders often tout their reading programs as balanced. “Balanced literacy” sounds great, but what does it mean? What is being balanced?

Final Notes on Complex Text Requirements

Last week I replied to some of the remarks about text complexity that were made on the Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post column. Here are a couple more.


"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." — Frederick Douglass