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Today's Reading News


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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Education Week
April 29, 2016

Fifteen years of new programs, testing, standards, and accountability have not ended racial achievement gaps in the United States. The Stanford Education Data Archive, a massive new database that allows researchers to compare school districts across state lines has led to the unwelcome finding that racial achievement gaps yawn in nearly every district in the country — and the districts with the most resources in place to serve all students frequently have the worst inequities. New studies shine a light on how racial disparities in education differ throughout the country—and how school segregation widens the gaps among students.`

Ed Central
April 29, 2016

Assessments are controversial, even though they’re key to improving equity in education. This is especially true where dual language learners (DLLs) are concerned. We have limited, and often confusing, data on these students. And because DLLs’ multilingualism leads them through unique developmental pathways, it can be difficult to design tests — and testing policies — that reliably and accurately capture what DLLs know and can do. A new series of briefs commissioned by the Heising-Simons and McKnight Foundations speak directly to this challenge. The briefs synthesize current challenges and promising approaches to supporting DLLs generally, including the area of assessment. Importantly, each brief offers recommendations tailored to different audiences, including teachers, administrators, policy makers, policy “thinkers,” and multilingual families. T

Washington City Paper
April 29, 2016

Programs like Reading Partners have been criticized for their use of unpaid and quickly trained volunteers. Under this model, students are typically selected for the program by their schools if they test six months to two years below grade level, and meet their tutors twice a week for 45 minutes during their regular language arts class. But there’s a growing body of research that says this arrangement can effectively reduce achievement gaps in reading. Muriel Bowser’s administration thinks so, too: The mayor and D.C. Public Schools announced last year that $20 million in District funds would be dedicated to closing the education achievement gap, specifically by targeting the District’s black and Latino males. The Empowering Males of Color initiative features a controversial plan to build an all-boys college preparatory school in Ward 7 ; targeted grants to DCPS schools, including $1.7 million in “innovation grants” for non-traditional enrichment and support programs at 16 schools; and 500 new unpaid literacy volunteers. The Bowser administration is turning to Reading Partners and a similar organization, Literacy Labs, to recruit them.

International Literacy Association Daily
April 28, 2016

There is considerable interest across the United States in increasing the number of children who are reading at grade level by the end of third grade (e.g., Rose, 2012). Some responses to this interest, such as mandatory retention policies, are not supported by the weight of research evidence\. In contrast, research offers substantial support for the impact of professional development, coaching, and specific instructional practices on literacy growth. In Michigan, an Early Literacy Task Force has been formed to support professional development, coaching, and the use of research-supported instructional practices statewide. This is no small task. In our first meeting, we agreed there is an enormous need in Michigan to get on the same page about effective early literacy instruction — on the same page about the content of early literacy professional development for Michigan teachers, the focus of literacy coaching, and the literacy instructional practices we want children to experience.

KQED Mindshift
April 28, 2016

Teachers and parents have long known that every child learns differently, excelling in some areas and struggling in others. And yet many schools still struggle to help students learn a set of standards, while allowing who they are as learners to determine how they do so. While some educators hope technology will make personalization cheaper and easier, so far many of the solutions involve keeping kids on the same path, but varying the pace. Special education practices may offer a model for other educators hoping to pursue more authentic personalization. When special education teachers create Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for kids with learning differences, a variety of professionals come together to help identify specific needs, and parents are part of the process. Building off this model, some schools are trying in various ways to position differences as strengths and are finding ways to let a child’s personality, likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses influence how he is taught.

Education Week
April 28, 2016

In common-core states, nearly all math and language arts teachers are at least somewhat reliant on materials they've developed or selected themselves, according to a new nationally representative survey. District materials were also quite well-used. The researchers also looked in more detail at where teachers are finding materials online. In this case, Google came out on top. Pinterest and Teacherspayteachers were not far behind. Interestingly, the websites most frequently used by common-core teachers are not ones that offer common-core materials specifically — so teachers are either searching for common-core lessons within those sites or they're using materials that may not necessarily be aligned to the standards.

School Library Journal
April 28, 2016

It doesn’t often happen that bibliophiles wake up one morning, decide to open a bookstore, and do so.But then most book lovers aren’t Matt Miller and Maggie Pouncey, college sweethearts from Massachusetts and Connecticut, respectively, who met at Columbia University (they’re now husband and wife and parents of two young boys). This duo is bucking the naysayers and betting that their soon-to-open business, Stories, a combination bookstore and storytelling lab, is just what their neighborhood needs.

Education Week
April 27, 2016

Much like their 4th and 8th grade peers, high school seniors have lost ground in math over the last two years, according to the most recent scores on a national achievement test. In reading, 12th grade scores remained flat, continuing a trend since 2009. Perhaps the most striking detail in the test data, though, is that the lowest achievers showed large score drops in both math and reading. Between 2013 and 2015, students at or below the 10th percentile in reading went down an average of 6 points on the National Assessment for Educational Progress — the largest drop in a two-year period since 1994. The high achievers, on the other hand — those at or above the 90th percentile — did significantly better in reading, gaining two points, on average, while staying stagnant in math.

International Literacy Association Daily
April 27, 2016

As much as I think games can be extremely useful, I caution against advocating for games as the panacea for all educational ills. True, game­based learning allows students to learn many valuable skills such as negotiating complex systems while developing various literacy skills. Great games are now being compared to great literature. However, just as an amazing Shakespearean play alone can’t make students become better readers, great games alone cannot teach our students. I suggest incorporating great games into your classroom ecosystem to maximize the learning potential. Because a game is a tool, it must be chosen for specific learning tasks.

Ed Central
April 27, 2016

Typically placed in early education, special education, and bilingual classrooms, paraprofessionals take on a variety of roles and responsibilities to support teachers, including assessing student performance and instructing small groups of students, as well as direct translation. Bilingual paraprofessionals help narrow the linguistic gulf between students and teachers by assisting with direct translation. But, they could help close this gap even further by becoming lead teachers themselves. One in five paraprofessionals speaks a non-English language at home — double the share for teachers. Perhaps because of the demands of their jobs, among bilingual Americans, paraprofessionals and teachers are more likely to report speaking English well or very well.

Daily Reflector (Greenville, NC)
April 27, 2016

It’s never too early to begin reading. Books From Birth: Early Literacy Coalition of Eastern North Carolina hopes to give local babies, toddlers and young children that jump start on learning by bringing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Pitt County. Scientists say 85 percent of brain development happens before age 3, but many children are not exposed to regular reading until they enter kindergarten at ages 4-6. Early Literacy Coalition organizer Jennifer Christensen, a professional speech-language pathologist, said starting to read to children not long after birth plays a crucial role in wiring neurons in their brains that prepare them to learn.

WGBH Boston
April 26, 2016

Imagine this: Not that long ago, in the 1970s and ‘80s, Massachusetts’ public schools were considered mediocre by many standards. Today, the state’s school system ranks among the best in the world. What happened? Magic. So said Republican Governor William Weld, in 1993, after he signed a landmark effort to overhaul how the state pays for its schools. “Of all the gifts within our purview, a good education in a safe environment is the magic wand that brings opportunity,” Weld said. “It’s up to us to make sure that wand is waved over every cradle.” To do that, Massachusetts poured state money into districts that educated lots of low-income kids, many of which also struggled to raise funds through local property taxes. This windfall allowed poorer districts to hire and keep good teachers, give them better training and improve curriculum in the classroom.

NBC26 (Green Bay, WI)
April 26, 2016

Need to improve your spelling or reading? Yes, there is an app for that. Actually, there are too many to count for students of all ages. Not only are they helpful for native English speakers, but also for English Language Learners. There are a variety of apps that provide the ability to play with the language, listen to the language or find more efficient ways to study spelling techniques, definitions and word origins. Here are a few that elevate the traditional language lessons to a new level.

School Library Journal
April 26, 2016

While reading may often seem like a solitary activity, the second annual National Readathon Day is exactly the opposite: a chance to share the love of books and reading with thousands of fellow readers across the country. Set for Saturday, May 21, the nationwide event is co-hosted this year by the American Library Association (ALA) and publisher Penguin Random House. Authors, including crime novelist Lisa Gardner, Newbery Award winner Jack Gantos, and Sweetbitter (Penguin Random, 2016) author Stephanie Danler are set to participate, along with other writers who plan to read from their own books—or personal favorites— through live video feeds.

PR Newswire
April 26, 2016

Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the nation's largest children's literacy organization, announced the recipients of a Read for Success grant to promote summer reading, and help improve reading proficiency for early grade school students. The literacy program, which launches this week, will support more than 2,000 students in 12 communities from 14 schools and organizations nationwide. Eleven of the program sites are partners with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities to ensure that many more children from low-income families succeed in school.

International Literacy Association Daily
April 25, 2016

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that helps educators create learning environments to address learner variability. The UDL principles and their corresponding guidelines provide direction for the development and design of these environments. Using the three principles of Multiple Means of Engagement, Representation, and Expression, educators are supported in the design of learning environments that ultimately maximizes learning for all. Let’s examine how two resources work together to support struggling readers through UDL — Story Shares and Reading Comprehension Booster. Story Shares is a free online resource developed to provide relevant and readable materials for students in late elementary through high school who read below grade level.

Blue Ridge Now (Pittsford, NY)
April 25, 2016

Now, kids making their annual wellness visit with doctors at Hendersonville Pediatrics can get a fun book to read along with a booster shot. Reach out and Read, a nationwide nonprofit with a mission to boost early literacy, is expanding its impact in Henderson County, thanks to a partnership with Smart Start. “The book is not a gift to these kids, it’s a tool — a tool to develop brains,” said Erica Woodall, community outreach coordinator for Smart Start of Henderson County. Smart Start provides the books; Hendersonville Pediatrics’ staff receives training in the program, and kids get “prescribed” the tools they need to achieve a lifelong love of literature.

Ed Central
April 25, 2016

For years, the Obama Administration has been pushing the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math — known as STEM — in many of its programs. And for years, the Administration has also been emphasizing the importance of early learning. Both of those missions came together last Friday when U.S. Secretary of Education John King stood up in front of a crowd of early STEM educators to open the first-ever early learning and STEM Learning Symposium at the White House. King charged both public and private initiatives at the symposium to think about how STEM can be integrated into early education classrooms in thoughtful and meaningful ways. He also urged his audience to focus on equitable access to high quality learning opportunities for high-needs students, like children from low-income neighborhoods and dual language learners, to help increase the number of underrepresented groups in the STEM field.

The Guardian (UK)
April 25, 2016

Everyone is talking about Shakespeare and we would like to introduce our children to the stories but we also anxious not to put them off to enjoying the plays later. Are there any versions of the plays which are suitable for six to 11-year-olds? It’s hard to avoid Shakespeare in this 400th anniversary year of his death. And no one should want to do since the UK wide celebrations give everyone to chance to revisit the stories of the plays in their traditional form and also in the many adaptations of them in other media. Unsurprisingly, the big themes of love, jealousy, revenge and family feuds were not that different around 400 years ago. Obviously, some of these themes are on the old side for six to 11 year olds, but with imaginative adaption they can become quite manageable.

The Atlantic
April 22, 2016

My students are the children of doctors, lawyers, teachers, and other professionals, and have been hearing words like “dissolve” and “disintegrate” since they were babies. The extensive vocabularies of children like them have been causing quite a stir among researchers and policymakers for two decades now, since the publication of a study finding that children of professionals might hear 45 million words uttered before the age of 4, and that children on welfare might hear just 13 million. This early difference in exposure to vocabulary, the study claims, can shape how well kids do in school later on.

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." — Garrison Keillor