Yesterday, Michael Shaughnessy of EdNews interviewed Dr. Matthew Davis, who is leading the implementation of the Core Knowledge Reading Program pilot in New York City. Much of the interview covers basics of the program which we've discussed here already, including the two-strand approach to teaching reading and comprehension and the body of research supporting this method. What the interview highlighted for me are the contradictions of researching a program while trying to decide whether to continue using it, especially when real children are the subjects. Davis says that the pilot will begin this year in kindergarten classes at 10 high-needs schools, then add grade 1 next year and grade 2 in 2010-11. But the continuation of the pilot "will be contingent on success in year one and a continuation of funding," he says. Sounds fair: a program should prove itself before people (in this case, the Fund for Public Schools) invest further. Davis describes the plan for assessing the program: Within the next several weeks, students in both sets of schools will be administered nationally standardized reading assessments in order to establish a baseline performance. These same tests will be administered again at the end of the kindergarten. In addition, there will be formal observation of all teachers in the pilot classrooms to ascertain any possible correlation between the level of implementation of the Core Knowledge program and the level of student achievement. In addition, specific case studies will be conducted by the NYCDOE in three pilot schools to provide additional qualitative information. As far as the test are concerned, we hope to see a significant difference in word attack, word reading, decoding skills, and spelling by the end of the kindergarten year -- because the program has what we think is a very strong way of teaching the mechanics of reading. Background knowledge and vocabulary take a bit longer to build, and gains don't start to show up on some tests until later, but, by the end of the three-year period, we hope to see the front end of what we think will eventually be a very significant difference in vocabulary, oral comprehension, and reading comprehension. So although the survival of the program may rest on a single year's results, the promised impact of the program — increased vocabulary and content knowledge — may take three years to show up. At least three years:
Discussion of reading instruction — which started with a look at the Core Knowledge Reading Program (CKRP) being piloted in NYC this year — has really taken off, with commenters raising important questions: How does the content in CKRP differ from what's being read now? What about helping children understand syntax? Does vocabulary development in Science differ from other subject areas? While I look into those issues, here's a technique one Queens teacher uses to help her students learn new words. Katie Kurjakovic, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at P.S. 11 in Queens, illustrates the problem with an anecdote: A second-grade teacher was preparing to read a story about George Washington's wife, Martha, to her class. She anticipated all the unfamiliar vocabulary she thought they would encounter. She told them what colonies and colonists were. She spoke of the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. Then, shortly after she began reading, a girl raised her hand with a puzzled look on her face. "What's a wife?" she asked. Kurjakovic uses a six-step process to explicitly teach vocabulary to her English Language Learners. Before reading a text, she identifies and introduces ("previews") new vocabulary for her students, then she reads the text, uses the words in the context of the text and then in a new context, and finally gives her students an opportunity to use the words.
<em>Photo by ##http://flickr.com/photos/wencheung/417851981/##wendelling##</em> Four days into the new school year, I thought I'd check in with the city's teacher-bloggers, who give us a unique look at everyday life in schools. Alicia, a midwesterner new to the city, but not new to teaching, experienced a little culture shock — uniforms, unpronounceable names, mice?! — and reflected on another teacher's advice not to be too nice: I am torn and a little sad at the thought that these students cannot handle me being me as a teacher. They've had strict disciplinarians in the past, and it's probably the best way to ensure for a successful school year. It's just a bit more intense than I had hoped or planned. When would I have ever imagined that being called "nice" would backfire on me?! Hopefully in the next few months I can be nice again, but for now, I'm all business, and I'm going to start making sure that a few particular boys are aware of this... Starting at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow. Jose Vilson also feels like his teaching self is a "persona," but finds that kids react well to his "incredible swagger" and strict expectations for order and productivity. "If I thoroughly believe in that persona, then that’s exactly what I’m going to get … and sometimes to a fault," he says.
Julia Gillard with Australian students Courtesy of ##http://www.theage.com.au/##The Age## It's no secret that Michelle Rhee, down in Washington, D.C., is faithfully replicating New York City's recent school reforms. But it might be more of a surprise that some of Joel Klein's ideas have gained traction with leading education officials in the land down under. After a trip to New York earlier this year, Julia Gillard, the deputy prime minister tasked with carrying out the Australian Labor Party's promised "education revolution," returned home sold on Klein-style school reform. She told the Australian Council for Education Research conference last month: We can learn from Klein's methodology of comparing like-schools with like-schools and then measuring the differences in school results in order to spread best practice. Something Joel Klein is personally and passionately committed to is the identification of school need, the comparison of like-schools and the identification of best practice. Since that speech, when Gillard's ministry proposed ranking Australian schools publicly according to the methodology used to create the controversial report cards released last year for New York's schools, Gillard has sworn to restructure failing schools by removing school heads and firing teachers; proposed financial incentives to attract good teachers to weak schools; and promised more money to low-performing schools, although states that refuse to carry out the national reforms will have their funding withheld. Klein told the Australian, a newspaper, that he's pleasantly surprised by how quickly Gillard adopted his ideas. But school advocates in Australia aren't letting Klein-style reforms be implemented without question.
<em>Screenshot originally posted at the ##http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2008/august20/teachsci-082008.html##Stanford News Service##</em>. <em>Screenshot originally posted at the ##http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2008/august20/teachsci-082008.html##Stanford News Service##</em>. Photosynthesis, glucose, chloroplasts: the language of science…
In response to yesterday's post about the Core Knowledge Reading Program, reader Smith asks, Is he saying their is a core set of content that would prepare a student to understand a randomly selected reading passage on a standardized test? Could someone explain this idea to a non-ELA teacher? I’ve always assumed those reading passages could range from “The Mysteries of Ancient Egpyt” to “Sally’s Bad Day at School” to “Roger’s Time Machine Adventure”. How is content selected? Great question. It's true that the content of test reading passages varies, and I don't think anyone believes that a child can be prepared with content knowledge specific to every possible topic. Rather, some children enter school knowing thousands more words than others, and this difference compounds over years of schooling in a "rich get richer" scenario called the "Matthew Effect" by researchers. (Don't take my word for it: this study, one of many, found that by age 3, children of parents with smaller vocabularies not only knew fewer words, used fewer words per hour, and used a smaller variety of words per hour, "but they were also adding words more slowly.") Hirsch summarized this effect in a 2006 article in American Educator: Many specialists estimate that a child (or an adult) needs to understand a minimum of 90 percent of the words in a passage in order to understand the passage and thus begin to learn the other 10 percent of the words. Moreover, it’s not just the words that the student has to grasp the meaning of—it’s also the kind of reality that the words are referring to.... When a child doesn’t understand those word meanings and those referred-to realities, being good at sounding out words is a dead end. Reading becomes a kind of Catch-22: In order to become better at reading with understanding, you already have to be able to read with understanding.
If a small group of consultants gets its way, Chancellor Klein could make a move from Tweed to City Hall next year when term limits push Mayor Bloomberg out of office. Joel Klein A group of eight political consultants is exploring the prospects for a Klein mayoral bid, reports Elizabeth Green in today's Sun. Although DOE spokesman David Cantor says the chancellor isn't planning to run for mayor, Klein himself hasn't told the group to count him out, Green reports, and the group members have concluded that he would have a good chance of winning should he enter the race, which so far has attracted only candidates that many consider uninspiring. With Mayor Bloomberg's interest in changing the law to allow himself a third term roundly criticized by even his own staffers, a Klein mayoralty could ensure the continuity of the last seven years of Children First school reforms as well as bring the DOE's emphasis on accountability to other city agencies.