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The American Academy of Pediatrics released updated guidance for schools Monday, recommending that all students over 2 years old, along with staff, wear masks, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The new AAP guidance comes less than two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its own recommendations, calling for indoor mask-wearing for unvaccinated students ages 2 and up, as well as staff. (Children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination.) The CDC notes, however, that schools might find universal masking necessary in areas with low vaccination rates, increasing community transmission or a number of other factors. Both sets of guidance focus on getting students back into classrooms.
During the pandemic, all kinds of technologies helped save K-12 education from completely collapsing. Zoom and Microsoft Teams empowered educators to deliver live instruction and talk with students face to face virtually, many teachers who previously saw no need to use their learning management systems became regular users of them, and digital devices were distributed in record numbers to students all over the country. The result is that teachers’ and students’ technology skills have leapfrogged to the next level and the tech infrastructure in schools is now far more robust than it ever was before the pandemic. But with the crisis easing and most schools planning to return to full-time in-person instruction in the fall, educators now have to make some very important technology decisions. These stories examine all those questions and provide a roadmap for how schools should approach the use of technology for the 2021-22 school year and beyond.
Even as students are sorting through information online more than ever, the number of school librarians who could help them learn the fundamentals of research and media literacy have been quietly disappearing. A report published today from the School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution? (SLIDE), a research project through Antioch University Seattle and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, highlights an ongoing decline in the number of districts nationwide with school librarians. According to the findings, there were about 20 percent fewer librarians during the 2018-2019 school year in the 13,000 districts examined than a decade prior. But the absence of these educators isn’t equally distributed; Smaller, rural districts, and those with higher proportions of English-language learners, Hispanic students, and low-income students were more likely to lack a librarian.
Despite gains at many Early Literacy Grant schools and enthusiasm from school leaders, the program has been a minor player in Colorado’s bid to help children read better. The program has doled out $5 million to $7.5 million annually and accepts a new crop of 20 to 30 schools every other year on average. It’s touched only about 10% of Colorado elementary schools over its eight-year history. In contrast, Colorado’s primary effort to help struggling readers, which awards every district and charter school money based on their number of struggling K-3 readers, typically distributes $26 million to $33 million a year. Until last year, districts had wide latitude on spending those dollars — with some using the funding to buy discredited reading programs or items that have little to do with reading instruction, such as tote bags or lip balm. Of a dozen educators and administrators Chalkbeat interviewed about Early Literacy Grants, most said scaling up the program could make a big difference.
For as long as there have been books, there have been censors who have tried to keep them away from other people. Today these efforts run the gamut from outright bans to limiting a book’s availability by getting it removed from library shelves or cut from classroom syllabuses. The American Library Association publishes lists of the most frequently banned and challenged books, which, revealingly, contain mostly children’s and young adult titles.“You Can’t Say That,” a collection of interviews conducted by the children’s literature expert Leonard S. Marcus, offers an antidote to the censors, elevating the voices of 13 authors whose books for kids have been challenged. Marcus probes not just what made these works controversial, but also the life paths that led the writers to pursue their subjects, and how they reacted to campaigns to muzzle their work — all of which are sure to interest their young fans, as well as students of free speech.
These powerful stories of seven trailblazing women—including a scientist,a marine biologist, a World War II military pilot, a popular singer, an astronomer, an astrophysicist, and a code breaker during the world wars—who were pioneers in their fields will enlighten and inspire young readers.
As schools launch summer programs and plan for the fall, they’re left with a tremendous responsibility (and a windfall of federal money) to try to fill in the gaps for students who have spent a year trying to learn through a computer screen. Researchers and educators are considering various methods to fill these gaps, including small-group instruction, extended school hours and summer programs. But, while the results of research on what might work to catch kids up is not always clear-cut, many education experts point to tutoring as a tried-and-true method. Guilford County Schools turned to tutors early in the pandemic to confront unfinished learning. The district, with 126 schools (including two virtual academies) and nearly 70,000 K-12 students, created an ambitious districtwide tutoring program using a combination of graduate, undergraduate and high school students to serve as math tutors. Now, over the next few months, the district hopes to expand their program to include English language arts and other subject areas and plans to continue it for at least the next several years.
For most of the 18 rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Zaila Avant-garde went through each word with ease before winning the champion title and making history on Thursday night. The 14-year-old from Harvey, Louisiana, received the Scripps Cup at the tournament in Florida after correctly spelling "murraya," a genus of tropical Asiatic or Australian trees. It wasn't just an historic night for the state of Louisiana. Avant-garde became the first Black American to win the bee. In the spelling bee's 96-year history, she's only the second Black contestant to win after Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica, who won in 1998. Her spelling bee training is intense: “For spelling, I usually try to do about 13,000 words (per day), and that usually takes about seven hours or so,” she said.
The last word, after hundreds of competitors fell to some of the dictionary’s worst verbal terrors, was murraya. When Zaila Avant-garde, 14, spelled it correctly on Thursday night, she put her hands to her head, beamed and twirled, her arms outstretched and confetti raining across the stage. Zaila, 14, an eighth grader from near New Orleans, had just won the 93rd Scripps National Spelling Bee, becoming the first Black American student to take the cup after 10 other finalists stumbled in the competition’s final rounds. It was a remarkable achievement for a girl who only began spelling competitively two years ago. Not only did she dissect word after word on spelling’s biggest stage, she had already set three Guinness world records for dribbling, bouncing and juggling basketballs. All before the ninth grade.
Connecticut has become the latest state to pass legislation requiring that reading instruction be based on the science of reading. According to the state’s recently enacted budget bill, every school district in the state is required to focus its reading curriculum on the science of reading by 2023, despite opposition from some educators and parents. Known as the Right to Read act, the Connecticut bill also calls for $12.8 million in spending to ensure that school districts can hire reading coaches to prevent students falling behind and establishes a Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success that will oversee the state reading curriculum for students in grades pre-K–3.
The components of a functional early-literacy system are clear: high-quality, systematic curriculum; trained teachers; targeted assessments; effective data meetings; and sufficient time on task. There are also clear processes to assess, group, and instruct students, as well as monitor their progress. What we don’t yet know is how to help schools combine the component parts and move through the steps with sufficient precision to produce reliable results for every child, in every classroom. If school leaders set the intention to ensure 100 percent of the class of 2032 achieves mastery of foundational reading skills, the path would require at least three things.
If there was ever a summer when parents could assist their children in brushing up on their skills, this is it as experts predict learning loss to be as much as 35%. The good news is that there are some simple, inexpensive ways that parents can help their children get ready for school academically and mentally.
The William S. Gray Citation of Merit honors a nationally or internationally known individual for their outstanding contributions to multiple facets of literacy development—research, theory, practice, and policy. Steve Graham, an ILA member since 2007 and the Mary Emily Warner Professor in the Division of Educational Leadership at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, is a leading expert on the educational psychology of writing and the connections between reading and writing. His research, spanning over 30 years, focuses on identifying the factors that contribute to writing development and difficulties, developing and validating effective instructional procedures for teaching writing, and the use of technology to enhance writing performance.
With the Summer Olympics scheduled to begin July 23 in Tokyo, Games-obsessed young readers—and anyone looking for a little escape or inspiration—will find something in these titles.
Instead of spending their last summer before school playing, two dozen 4- and 5-year-olds in Indianapolis started class six weeks early this year to get a head start before kindergarten. The students attend Kindergarten Kickstart, a five-week program meant to ease their transition to kindergarten. The program is open to students enrolled at Tindley Genesis Academy, an Indianapolis charter school that serves mostly Black and Latino students, many of whom are from low-income communities. Students stay from 9 a.m. to noon, easing into a school setting with short bursts of time in the classroom.
Patricia Reilly Giff, a prolific children’s book author whose work was driven by the idea that remarkable stories could be spun from the lives of ordinary people, died on June 22 at her home in Trumbull, Conn. She was 86. Ms. Giff, who did not start writing until she was in her 40s, gained prominence with the Polk Street School series — 14 illustrated books, published from 1984 to 1990, about the antics and learning struggles of second-grade students in Ms. Rooney’s classroom. The books drew on Ms. Giff’s experience as a reading teacher. Two of her later books — “Lily’s Crossing” (1997) and “Pictures of Hollis Woods” (2002) — earned Newbery Honors, an important recognition for children’s literature. Ms. Giff said she focused on writing stories “that say ordinary people are special.” In total, she wrote more than 100 books for young readers, ranging from the humorous to the historical.
Summer has always been a great time for kids to find a book series or serial they can sink their teeth into—ongoing stories that allow them to revisit to favorite characters, plotlines, or magical realms. Now, with an ever-growing list of series and serial podcasts, children and teens can dive into reading and listening this summer. These shows provide families with miles of listening on long car trips or screen-free hours for hanging out. This list is an introduction to a range of genres, including fantasy, fairy tales, mythology, science fiction, historical fiction, political fiction, mysteries, and humor.
With the Summer Olympics scheduled to begin July 23 in Tokyo, Games-obsessed young readers—and anyone looking for a little escape or inspiration—will find something in these titles.
In the middle of March 2020, schools across America closed abruptly. It didn’t take long to notice everything that disappeared — a safe place to send children while parents worked, nutritious meals and health services for high-need students, opportunities for young people to play and socialize with one another. We invited several principals to share what it was like to navigate their schools through this crisis. We sought out leaders of public schools from different parts of the country with varying pandemic experiences: a combined middle and high school in the small town of Pittsfield, N.H.; an elementary school in a poor neighborhood near downtown St. Louis; a middle school in San Francisco that stayed shut for more than a year; and a large and diverse high school in Central Florida, one of the first states to reopen all of its K-12 campuses.
Kindergarten was among the toughest grades to teach remotely, educators said, since those students aren’t used to working independently or navigating the computer. And so much of kindergarten is rooted in hands-on instruction, including phonics lessons, where teachers demonstrate pronouncing specific sounds, and writing practice, where teachers monitor how kids are forming their letters and holding their pencils. Also, kindergarten enrollment was down nationally. Almost 20 states lost 10 percent or more of their kindergartners during the pandemic, compared to the 2019-20 school year. While some of those children who stayed home may be in a kindergarten classroom in the fall, others will skip it entirely and head straight to 1st grade. Kindergarten is optional for children in 31 states. That means 1st grade teachers will have a wide range of academic and social-emotional experiences to manage in the fall. Here’s what a typical class might look like.
As the U.S. emerges from the worst of the pandemic, this summer is a critical opportunity for students to make up ground academically and re-engage with school. But with more students than usual set to take summer classes in many cities, many schools are once again being forced to play catch-up. A typical district is offering about five weeks of programming. Some are offering both in-person and remote summer classes, others only in-person, and a small number only remote. Many are combining academic instruction with activities like field trips, art projects and outdoor recreation.
Dyslexia affects as many as one in five children. Oklahoma is now laying the groundwork to screen every child for the learning disorder. Starting in the 2022-23 school year, every Kindergarten through third grade student who is reading below grade level will be screened for dyslexia. The State Board of Education voted to approve screening assessment providers in its Thursday meeting. School districts will have the upcoming school year to determine which assessment they want to use. The screening comes amid a years long push to increase dyslexia resources in Oklahoma schools that includes a new dyslexia handbook and resources for teachers to recognize the most common learning disorder.
HarperCollins Children’s Books and HarperTeen Native-focused imprint Heartdrum launched in January 2021 to “offer a wide range of innovative, unexpected, and heartfelt stories by Native creators, informed and inspired by lived experience, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes.” Children’s book author Cynthia Leitich Smith is the imprint’s author-curator, and editor of one of Heartdrum’s first titles, Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, released in February, as well as author of Sisters of the Neversea, released in June, both aimed at ages eight through twelve.
They call it the Hot-Spot library: a ramshackle building of plywood and sheet metal set on a crime-ridden street corner in Cape Town, South Africa. With its threadbare couches and mismatched carpets, the place looks somewhat dilapidated. On winter days, rain leaks through holes in the corrugated zinc roof and drips down onto the tables and bookshelves. Built around a pair of aging shipping containers, it may not look like your conventional library. But for the residents of Scottsville, a neighborhood torn apart by drug abuse and gang violence, it offers a safe space to escape the harsh realities of daily life and to explore different worlds in the pages of thousands of donated second-hand books.
Teachers share their "go-to" strategies for teaching English-language learners, including sentence starters and Total Physical Response.
From flashlight-under-the-blanket page-turners and music-infused time travel to a campy book about camp, here are 11 summer novels for comics-hungry kids.
During a hands-on, project-based science lesson, a group of third graders in Michigan excitedly worked on creating their own garden to grow food for their community. Along the way, they learned about biology, ecology, weather and climate science, and engineering design. But the learning didn’t stop there. During this project, students spent time developing essential literacy skills—reading, writing, and oral language—and using those skills as tools to build science knowledge and solve meaningful problems. They engaged with rich, accessible books such as In the Garden With Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby, about the agricultural scientist George Washington Carver and his traveling educational wagon.
The Philadelphia school district’s summer learning program began Monday, bringing students in all grades back into school buildings for the first time since COVID-19 abruptly closed them in March 2020. More than 15,000 students have signed up for an array of summer activities, city and district officials said. Those range from an extended school year program for students in special education to a “quarter 5” for 10th through 12th graders who need to make up credits lost during virtual learning. When the district reopened some schools in the spring for hybrid learning, about 25,000 students participated, though 10th through 12th graders never had the option to return.
From flashlight-under-the-blanket page-turners and music-infused time travel to a campy book about camp, here are 11 summer novels for comics-hungry kids.
The Horn Book editor in chief Roger Sutton announced the winners of the 2021 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, which honor excellence in children’s and YA literature. “I love the way these nine books show us nine ways of seeing the world, and I thank and commend the judges for their embrace of books that show the difficulties as well as the riches of the human experience,” said Sutton, in his announcement.
What happens when a word doesn’t follow the code like, “where?” If you were my son, you memorized these words as “sight words” because we thought they weren’t decodable. We were wrong. Many sight words actually have parts of code in them, but they are “tricky.” Tricky words don’t follow the entire code, but they have parts of codes in their structure. Instead of having children memorize lists of multiple words, we can teach our children to find pieces of code and learn when words don’t follow the code completely. Then our children become code breakers.
With the proper guidance, children as young as 3 can enjoy read-alouds from complex stories like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Here are six key steps.
Teaching reading to children whose language differs from the oral language of the classroom and from the linguistic structure of academic text adds an additional layer of complexity to reading instruction. There is a large and growing body of evidence indicating that language variation impacts reading, spelling, and writing in predictable ways. In particular, it has been demonstrated that mismatches between the language variety spoken by many African American children in their homes and communities and the written language variety encountered in books and other text can slow the development of reading and writing. The focus of this article is the impact of one language variety, African American English (AAE), on literacy development and on teaching, assessing, and learning. Our goal is to describe aspects of instruction, curricula, and assessment that may create obstacles to literacy for African American children (compounding the effects of other factors, such as growing up in systemically under-resourced neighborhoods) and to share ways to modify instructional practices to benefit AAE speakers in significant ways.
The new question-of-the-week is: What is the single most effective instructional strategy you have used to teach writing? Teaching and learning good writing can be a challenge to educators and students alike. Today, Jenny Vo, Michele Morgan, and Joy Hamm share wisdom gained from their teaching experience. Before I turn over the column to them, though, I’d like to share my favorite tool(s). Graphic organizers, including writing frames (which are basically more expansive sentence starters) and writing structures (which function more as guides and less as “fill-in-the-blanks”) are critical elements of my writing instruction. You can see an example of how I incorporate them in my seven-week story-writing unit and in the adaptations I made in it for concurrent teaching. You might also be interested in The Best Scaffolded Writing Frames For Students.
Young children have been among those hardest hit by academic disruptions during the pandemic, and experts worry that already overwhelmed early-childhood-education teachers will grapple with a rocky transition as those students enter or return to school this fall. That’s the consensus of a new research analysis by 11 university and independent research groups tracking education for children ages 0-8 (roughly preschool through grade 2) during the pandemic. The report collected data from 16 national studies, 45 state studies, and 15 local studies.
For science teachers around the country who live and work in the regions where the periodical cicadas have come out this year, the timing is perfect: After a year of virtual lessons, flagging student engagement and ongoing stress, a real-life science lesson has crawled out of the ground — and started singing. For Nancy Murtaugh, a fourth-grade math and science teacher at Fairfield North Elementary in Ohio, the cicada unit was a “golden moment” at the end of a long school year. “Everything just came together and I felt like, this is our class, we’re back,” she said. “They were engaged in learning, they were 100 percent in. And that’s when you make the brain connections,” Murtaugh said. “If you’re not actively involved in something, and you don’t care about it, you’re not going to make those brain connections, it’s not going to stay in your long-term memory. They’re going to remember this stuff forever.”
John Newbery is called the “Father of Children’s Literature,” not because he was the first to publish children’s books — he wasn’t — but because he was the first to turn them into a profitable business. In mid-18th-century England, a new and growing middle class had money to spend on their children, and Newbery gave them something to spend it on. Beginning in 1744, he published about 100 storybooks for children, plus magazines and “ABC” books, becoming the leading children’s publisher of his time. More than 175 years later, when editor Frederic Melcher suggested that the American Library Association create an annual award “for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children,” he asked that it be named for Newbery, an Englishman who never set foot in America.
Search engines like Google are powerful and often essential resources, and students of all ages can build skills that help them navigate these spaces. Teachers can model good search behavior by thinking aloud after conducting a search. They can walk students through their thought processes for picking and choosing between a list of websites in a set of search results. Students can see how teachers make snap judgments to rule out certain search results and how they dig deeper into other search results to evaluate their authority.
Thursday, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law making Juneteenth the first federal holiday established since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Marking the date when General Gordon Granger arrived with the Union Army to enforce that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were free – June 19, 1865 – Juneteenth is a celebration of Black liberation that has been held in some communities for generations. Around the nation, people will honor Juneteenth this weekend with talks, dance performances, movies, parades, barbecue and strawberry pop and more. Want to help kids understand what it’s about? We are thrilled to have this powerful post by our friend, Torrey Maldonado, who shares why the holiday matters to him and features quotes by a wonderful collection of outstanding Black creators. Happy Juneteenth!
Books can provide a mirror for kids to understand themselves and a window into the world around them. Yet for many generations, Black characters were almost nonexistent in children’s books. Very often, the few that did appear were limited, with one kind of hair and one skin tone. “Thinking about the books that were popular during my childhood, not many of them featured characters that looked like me. My parents had to search hard to find them,” says Keneisha Sinclair-McBride, psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Happily, children’s literature has changed in recent years. These days, families can choose from an ever-growing selection of children’s books by and about people of a variety of races. Here, Sinclair-McBride discusses why diversity in children’s books is great for kids and recommends some of her favorite children’s books about Black families.
School districts across the country are turning to summer programs to combat the educational impact of the pandemic. SLJ’s May survey of 427 school librarians showed 61 percent of the respondents’ districts were planning summer programs specifically designed to overcome student learning loss during this time. Under the federal pandemic relief package, states are required to use some of the money for summer programs. The state of Tennessee made it mandatory for all schools to offer six weeks of programming. In Philadelphia, summer programs have been expanded to district-wide eligibility and, by partnering with community organizations, offer in-person options for every grade level. More than 14,500 students had enrolled so far, according to one report, which said there were 9,300 students in last summer’s all-virtual summer sessions. New York City, which has the country’s largest public school system, and San Diego are also offering summer school for all students not just those struggling academically.
Sarah Kamya saw a lot of Little Free Libraries in her neighborhood: She found five of the cute wooden boxes that look like oversize birdhouses but are filled with books within two miles of her parents’ house. Little Free Libraries are maintained by a host and serve as trading posts where neighbors can leave books to share or take home books they want. But when Kamya took a look at the books inside the boxes, she found them to be homogeneous uninspiring—and white.Thus was born Little Free Diverse Libraries, a project Kamya never expected to start that has now been featured on LIVE with Kelly and Ryan and other media and has raised about $20,000. Kamya has used that money to send diverse books purchased from Black-owned bookstores to Little Free Libraries around the country. Her latest initiative is donating fully stocked Little Free Diverse Libraries to schools with diverse populations in Massachusetts and New York
More and more American students are falling significantly behind in reading, and the widespread academic disruptions during the pandemic are likely to create a critical mass of struggling readers in the nation’s schools, new analyses of federal data show. There’s been no improvement in overall reading performance at any grade level in the national tests called the Nation’s Report Card for the past decade or more, with declines for lower grades happening since 2017 and for 12th graders since 2015. That stagnation has been driven largely by a growing share of students failing to meet even the most basic level of reading proficiency, and by steadily falling scores in the National Assessment of Educational Progress for the 10 percent to 25 percent of students who struggle the most with reading.
After a year filled with disruptions, many parents are worried about how to prevent the “summer slide”—a significant decrease in reading and math skills over summer break, a phenomenon that hits poor kids particularly hard. The summer slide is a real problem, and we don’t want to diminish it, but particularly after the year that we’ve all just been through, kids deserve a chance to have fun, run around outside with friends, and relax. Now is the time, as much as is feasible, to let kids feel as little anxiety as possible. Fun should be the priority, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid academic reinforcement entirely. Carve out some time for literacy and math, making both a regular part of your daily routine.
Depending on where you live, “school” is almost “out.” Whether you’re trying to figure out how to entertain your kids in the wake of a stressful and disjointed year or attempting to infuse your own life with a renewed sense of childlike wonder, we have some reading suggestions that might be able to help. Journey from America’s national parks to the insides of the human body to, yes, the world of Minecraft. Solve alien mysteries and fall in love. Our favorite new young adult and kids' releases promise to breathe life into these slow, sticky dog days.
For the first time since the pandemic began, the majority of 4th graders nationwide have finally made it back to classes in person full time, according to the latest federal data. But there are still big racial and socioeconomic differences in who has access to full-time in-person instruction. In the fourth of five monthly federal surveys this spring, tracking how schools have been reopening and instructing students during the pandemic, the National Center for Education Statistics finds that by April, nearly all K-8 schools offered at least some in-person instruction, and 56 percent of them provided full-time instruction on campus.
Colorado soon will require prospective elementary, early childhood, and special education teachers to take a more in-depth exam on reading instruction to earn their state teaching licenses. The State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the new exam, called the Praxis 5205. The requirement will take effect Sept. 1 for all teacher candidates who are taking licensure tests for the first time on or after that date. The shift to a test that demands prospective teachers have more knowledge about reading instruction aligns with the state’s ongoing push to boost reading proficiency rates among Colorado students.
Reading is arguably the most foundational skill you learn in school, and more than half of Colorado fourth graders are not reading on grade level. It is more urgent than ever for teachers, administrators, and university faculty to “know better” by becoming students of the science of reading. This is why I am energized that the State Board of Education on Wednesday is scheduled to consider a recommendation to help ensure future educators are prepared to teach reading using scientifically based approaches, through an additional licensure test that more specifically assesses a candidate’s knowledge of the five key areas of reading development.
In “community KWL,” students ask their families what they know, wonder, and have learned about a topic to spark more questions to investigate.
As physicians who study infectious disease and epidemiology, we believe that the best way to prevent Covid-19 from spreading in schools is to vaccinate the adults — teachers, staff and parents — throughout the school. When more people in a community are protected against the coronavirus, unprotected people, such as the children who aren’t yet able to get vaccinated, are less likely to be exposed. Children ages 12 and older should be encouraged to get immunized, and vaccines are likely to be available for younger children this fall. The coronavirus will likely still be circulating at low levels this fall, so schools cannot simply operate as they did before the pandemic. school districts should focus on the tactics that work against transmitting the virus. This op-ed suggests an approach to sanitizing routines, COVID-19 testing, quarantining, masks, and social distancing.
Despite the difficulties of offering support remotely, resource specialist Vikram Nahal found that virtual learning allowed him to experiment with new technologies that supported his students with learning disabilities. Speech-to-text technology allowed them to more easily transfer their ideas onto the page. This especially helped his students with ADHD and processing-related disabilities, such as auditory processing disorder or working memory deficits. Speech-to-text tools also saved time, which is helpful for students who might forget their ideas once they try to write or students who struggle with getting any words on the page at all, feeling unable to transfer their thoughts. For some, this was because of the intimidation of writing academically, with spelling and grammar anxieties prohibiting them from starting. For others, the time taken to write out initial thoughts caused them to forget later conclusions and analyses, given the lack of immediacy in writing.
A new review of one of the top 10 most popular reading programs claims that the curriculum has gaps in its alignment to reading research, and doesn’t offer enough supports for teachers. The analysis comes from Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit educational consulting group that started tapping teams of researchers to evaluate popular reading programs last year. The curriculum in question is Wonders, a basal reading program published by McGraw Hill. According to a recent Education Week Research Center survey: 15 percent of early reading teachers surveyed used Wonders in their classrooms. Reviewers found many positives: foundational skills components, lots of English-language learner support, complex texts, and some evidence of knowledge building. But the reviewers also said the program was “overwhelming” and bulky, “a significant issue that dilutes its many strengths.” There’s more content than teachers could reasonably get through, they wrote, allowing for teacher choice in designing units—but the reviewers cautioned that this design puts a lot of onus on teachers.
Though most in-person events have been canceled or put on hold over the past year, nothing could stop the Eisner nominations (selected for creative achievement in American comic books). This year, veteran artist Gene Luen Yang is honored (twice, actually), but newcomers are spotlighted, too, like debut graphic novelists Kiku Hughes for Displacement, a dynamic blend of fact and fiction centering on the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and Kat Leyh for Snapdragon, a tale of a snarky teenager coming into her own magical powers. See below for a full list of the Eisner nominations of books for children and teens, with links to our reviews and coverage—11 of the 18 nominated books received SLJ stars, and seven were named Best Books.
I wanted to explore what goes into being a high-performing and improving district that serves children of color and children from low-income backgrounds. In my new book, I profile five such districts. There’s tiny Lane and Cottonwood in southeastern Oklahoma; Valley Stream 30 in suburban New York; rural Seaford in lower Delaware; small, urban Steubenville, Ohio; and gargantuan Chicago, Illinois. Different locales, different demographics, different assessments, different funding, different governance structures — in other words, they all had very different contexts. And yet, at the heart of these districts are educators who believe in the capacity of all kids to learn, grow, and achieve — and in the responsibility of adults to help them do so.
As schools let out for summer, there are undoubtedly aspects of the past year that teachers and parents alike are ready to leave behind. But then there are the benefits that some are hoping stick around. Among them: better communication strategies and tools that make it easier for special education parents and teachers to interact. Those are lessons that should stay in place long after our current era of remote learning, says research analyst Lane McKittrick, who focuses on special education and families at the Center on Reinventing Public Education. She recently co-authored a report on how charter schools effectively supported students with disabilities during the pandemic.
At least 29 states and Washington, D.C., allow or require schools to hold back struggling 3rd graders who don’t pass state standardized reading tests, the result of ongoing attempts to close the nation’s achievement gap. But as families wrestle with online learning, a pandemic economy, and mental health difficulties, some states are revisiting that approach. Two states, Florida and Mississippi, decided this year that pupils who fail reading assessments won’t be held back. Lawmakers in a third state, Michigan, are debating the same policy. Proponents of letting students pass despite failed assessments say states should focus resources on strengthening classroom instruction and literacy intervention efforts. Critics counter that students who aren’t retained will continue to struggle academically.
As San Antonio school officials turn their attention toward the 2021-22 academic year and recovery efforts to catch kids up, they hope to convince still-hesitant teachers to believe in the practicality and facility of the science of reading method. To make their case, science of reading proponents point to its effectiveness and success during the pandemic: At a time when children could not learn to read by being exposed to a word-rich environment in classrooms with overflowing libraries and word walls, the science of reading still worked, converting more easily to Zoom. While neither the state nor local school districts seem ready to mandate exclusive use of the science of reading, researchers, politicians and school officials have been moving Texas in that direction for years, arguing that balanced literacy is inadequate to make the gains the state needs to see.
A fleet of mobile immersive labs gives students in rural and low-income communities hands-on STEM experiences. When science teacher Kathryn Spivey told her students at Benjamin Banneker Middle School in Burtonsville, Maryland that they were going to take off and visit planet Mars for a day on a Magic School Bus of their own, they didn’t know what to expect. Inside, a long bench runs along one end of the bus’ gleaming white interior, with tablets stationed in the middle. The bus is also decked out with high-definition video and special effects panels, which take students on a five-minute, 360-degree immersive trip across the entire solar system. Students learn about each of the planets before they land on planet Mars, how to solve problems that astronauts could face on a journey into space, and get to work on designing a rover and completing activities that help them think like engineers.
Independent reading is one way to help students build fluency, but we all know that they’re not necessarily going to focus if you simply hand them a book and tell them to read it. I’ve found that if I combine repeat reading, paired reading, and fluency trackers, students are more motivated to do that crucial work that builds fluency.
Scholastic’s Chairman and CEO M. Richard Robinson died unexpectedly over the weekend, the company announced. Robinson, who was 84, had been in excellent health and had been overseeing Scholastic’s long-term strategic direction and day-to-day operations for the better part of five decades, according to the announcement. "Teachers, a heartbreaking day for me and our Scholastic family," wrote Scholastic author Lauren Tarshis. "Our CEO Dick Robinson died unexpectedly. He's the son of the founder (his dad). He led with heart, kindness, wisdom & unwavering focus on YOU and your kids. I'm so lucky to have known and learned from him."