School-wide efforts

January 17, 2017

Teacher question:   I truly want to help teachers strengthen their literacy instruction and students develop and strengthen their reading comprehension. I just viewed your online presentation on “How and How Not to Get Higher Test Scores” and I am intrigued. With only a few short months away from the testing frenzy as you can imagine administrators and teachers are in a...

January 9, 2017

I hear you. Last week I posted a blog challenging the amount of testing and test preparation in American reading classes. I got smacked, metaphorically, by friend and foe alike. Some posted their concerns, many more sent them to me directly. The grumbles from past foes are the easiest to reply to...

January 4, 2017

I believe in being upfront with my readers, so let me start with a confession: I don’t hate testing.

I know it is a horrible thing for a so-called “educator” to admit. It’s sort of a social disease.

September 16, 2016

Question: I am now director of literacy in my district. I am advocating for interactive read alouds, shared reading, guided reading, and similar activities in our primary grades (K-3). Is there a research base that would allow me to determine how many minutes of these activities I should prescribe? Could you provide me with a copy of that research? Shanahan's...

June 7, 2016

Why do you support the use of basal readers for teaching reading? Isn’t it the teachers that make the difference, not the textbooks?

What a peculiar—but all-too-common—question.

What has led to this weird belief that schools can have either textbooks or good teachers? That investments in teacher development and textbook adoption are opposites? Or, that the good...

May 24, 2016

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...

April 19, 2016

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

But I know that leaves some parents wondering whether they are permitting their children to experience harm by taking those assessments. There’s certainly...

April 1, 2016

When is inclusion done right? Sessions at education conferences where Lynn Fuchs is speaking on this topic (and others related to accessing the curriculum) are always packed.

In the video clip below, Fuchs — the Nicholas Hobbs Professor of Special Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University — has sage advice about effective inclusion of students with disabilities in...

March 31, 2016

I recently learned that my work has been used as justification by school officials who advocate deliberately concentrating poverty in a few schools.

My reaction is dismay.

The high-performing, high-poverty schools I write about hold many lessons, but none of them is that we should deliberately...

March 15, 2016

In the last few weeks I've visited five schools in four states. Each of them educates large numbers of students from low-income homes and students of color, and each is either high-performing or on an impressive improvement trajectory.

The schools are different in lots of ways, but one thing characterizes them all: Teachers, principals, and other administrators work hard at building...

March 2, 2016

"I don't think there's a child out there who doesn't want to learn and be the best they can be."

Those are the words of Barbara Preuss, a veteran educator with more than 30 years of experience.

That is to say, she is no bright-eyed novice about to be confronted by reality. She is confronted by plenty of reality, every day. And yet she retains her belief that even the kids who...

February 4, 2016

I was lucky enough to speak a few weeks ago at Learning Forward, an organization dedicated to the professional growth and development of educators. It was great to talk with a group of educators dedicated to professional learning. But even better was that two principals about whom I have written a great deal were both in attendance. I...

October 13, 2015

Reader Question:

The Atlantic just published an article about the mistake American educators make by teaching reading in kindergarten. Shouldn’t we do what the Finns do: let kids learn to read when they want to and end up with...

July 29, 2015

From a teacher:

I wanted to ask your opinion regarding the structure of report cards for parents of students in grades 3-5. Understanding that ELA CCSS intertwines the areas of reading, language, spelling, writing, and moving toward creating district standards-based report cards in all K-5 grade levels, how do you think students' progress should be reported out to...

July 2, 2015

From a reader:

Every teacher has experienced this. While the majority of the class is thriving with your carefully planned, research supported instructional methods, there is often one kid that is significantly less successful. We work with them individually in class, help them after school, sometimes change things up to see what will work, bring them to the...

June 11, 2015

We Need Diverse Books™ (WNDB) just launched a Booktalking Kit that is now available to download at no cost. The kit is comprised of 30 titles and helps to increase the comfort level involved in identifying, reading, and discussing books that feature diverse...

February 23, 2015

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...

February 17, 2015

I would like your thoughts on some instructional practices that I am seeing an increase in amongst the schools that I work with What do you have to say about decreasing or eliminating science/social studies instruction for those students who have not met proficiency in reading (as determined by a screener or other assessment tool) to allow for RTI time?

We all deal with...

January 29, 2015

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...

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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase