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Literacy and Reading

A Key to Reading Comprehension in 3rd Grade: Oral Language Development

August 16, 2010

Anyone with an interest in how children learn to read has probably heard about the critical shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” To capture this idea, educators have focused on reading comprehension in addition to the importance of understanding the mechanics of language. A child may be able to decode words and even read with fluency. But does he understand what he has read? If not, what should teachers be doing differently?

A recent article in Psychological Science provides a pointed answer: Focus on vocabulary development.  

Inconsistencies in Scores for i3’s Early Learning Winners

August 11, 2010

Of the winners to receive the most money in last week’s Investing in Innovation (i3) awards, three promoted “early learning” as one of their priorities. But an analysis of their scores shows that their stated intentions may not line up with what the U.S. Department of Education was looking for. In fact, the scoring itself raises many questions about the reviewers’ understanding of how to evaluate an early learning plan. 

Parsing the i3 Projects with a Focus on Early Learning

August 6, 2010
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It’s official: forty-nine projects have been awarded Investing in Innovation (i3) grants. Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education announced the highest-rated applicants and released reviewers scores and comments as well as the applicant’s narratives. Colleague Jenny Cohen has the breakdown of all the winners over on Ed Money Watch. Here, at Early Ed Watch, we will focus on the winners that included the early learning competitive priority. (In the coming weeks, we will provide more in-depth analysis of the highest-rated applicants that prioritized early learning.)

Ed Policies Ignore Science on How/When Kids Learn

  • By
  • Lisa Guernsey,
  • New America Foundation
August 2, 2010 |

Our education system starts at age 5, pays little attention to children’s development and achievement until third grade, and is strewn with remedial programs to get older children back on track.

Meanwhile, studies keep pouring forth that highlight the importance of children’s earliest years – birth to age 8 – in developing the mental capacity that enables life-long learning.

In short, our education policies don’t align with the latest science on how and when children learn. American public education is out of whack.

A Look At Proposed Federal FY 2011 Funding for Early Education: Part 2

July 29, 2010
The Early Learning Challenge Fund is still in play.

Thoughts On Indigenous Language Immersion

July 22, 2010
A recent article in Ed Week, “NCLB Seen Impeding Indigenous-Language Preservation,” highlights an issue that flies under the radar in education circles: How does indigenous and tribal education fit into federal policy?
 Last week, leaders from the Native American community gathered in Washington to press members of Congress and education officials for more flexibility in indigenous language immersion programs. These schools educate children in native languages, and often don’t introduce English until fifth grade— which is problematic when testing these children under No Child Left Behind regulations that require the reporting of test scores in reading and math starting in the third grade.

State-by-State Illusions of Reading Proficiency

June 23, 2010

A few years ago, The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation released a paper that exposed just how badly states are overstating the academic competence of their students. The landmark report, The Proficiency Illusion, showed that states were setting such low bars for proficiency that they were giving a false impression of success -- with particularly low expectations for elementary school children.

Last week, a report from Voices for America's Children delivered that same troubling assessment for reading skills in particular.  The report, “Are All America’s Children Really Above Average?,” shows that states' reports of children's reading levels are wildly out of sync with the latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The NAEP, as it is called, measures "proficiency" by assessing whether children can correctly answer questions about passages from grade-level texts. Proficient students, according to NAEP's definition, are those who show that they can draw conclusions and make evaluations based on what they have read. According to the NAEP, two-thirds of American fourth-graders are missing this mark, which means, in the eyes of reading experts, that they are not reading at grade level. For African Americans and Hispanics, the numbers are even more dire, with nearly 85 percent unable to read at grade level.

A Place for Play

  • By
  • Lisa Guernsey,
  • New America Foundation
June 13, 2010 |

When the latest scores of our country's national reading test arrived this spring, they were as depressing as usual: Two-thirds of American fourth-graders, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, cannot read at grade level. Among Hispanic and African American children, it's even higher.

Play & Literacy: Avoiding the Emerging Class-Based Divide

June 20, 2010
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The paragraphs below come from an article I wrote for the current issue of The American Prospect, which features a special report on reading by third grade. There are many worthwhile and thought-provoking articles in the issue, with contributions from  E.D. Hirsch and Robert Pondiscio, Sara Mead, Cornelia Grumman and many more. Check it out.

When the latest scores of our country's national reading test arrived this spring, they were as depressing as usual: Two-thirds of American fourth-graders, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, cannot read at grade level. Among Hispanic and African American children, it's even higher.
Considering the consequences of growing up as a struggling reader, you might assume that the solution is to help children build better reading skills as soon as possible. Research shows that the earlier specialists intervene, the more likely children will surmount reading difficulties. Surely, early literacy instruction is a good solution. What could be controversial about that?

Infants, Toddlers and Precursors to Literacy

June 17, 2010
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Babies and reading: It may sound ridiculous to put these two words in the same sentence. But as new studies uncover connections between infants’ and toddlers’ early experiences and their later reading success, people within the field of education are taking note of what kinds of social experiences and language interactions are best for very young children.
These connections were on display at a webinar yesterday in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education’s 2010 Reading Institute that will be held in Anaheim, CA next week. For the first time, the institute is featuring an “early learning and development strand” that focuses on children from birth through third grade. (A second webinar hosted by the National Institute for Early Education Research will run at 3 p.m. EDT on June 29.)

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