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Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through Third Grade

Susan Notes:

First, I posted this in Outrage of the Day. Then I moved it to Research because it is critical for teachers to know the research and figure out which of it counts for her students. The authors of this "IES Practice Guide" admit that there is "minimal evidence" for two of the five strategies for reading comprehension that they recommend but nonetheless insist on the importance of these strategies:

  • Guide students through focused, high-quality discussion on the meaning of text.

  • Select texts purposefully to support comprehension development.

  • The authors insist that Teachers should select texts that are compelling enough to spark a discussion. You will see lots of emphasis on discussing those books that "support comprehension development." I wrote a section in my book on building vocabulary on the importance of riddle books.

    Funny thing: My goal was for my third graders, students grouped together as the worst readers in that grade, to choose their own books. And we struggled mightily to reach that goal. Lots of tears--theirs and mine. First of all, those kids had spent years doing phonics worksheets and looking at phony phonics "stories." But they'd never read a book. Not one. Once they did become readers, some books swept through the group: Everybody wanted to read Beatrix Potter, Amelia Bedelia, Rotten Ralph, and Nate the Great, to mention a few. But Jenny was the only child who read Wind in the Willows. Nobody but Dougie zeroed in on Encyclopedia Brown, and nobody loved Jack Prelutsky as much as Chris (who wrote Prelutsky 20 fan letters--and got a reply).

    We never had in-depth discussions about the books. . . because the kids were always busy choosing another book to read.

    I saw the goal of reading as more reading, not talking about reading. I leave text deconstruction to English majors. Maybe I shouldn't admit this but I don't think the word "setting" ever passed my lips.

    On the standardized test at the end of the year, those third grade readers made phenomenal gains in reading comprehension, shooting above grade level. They also made impressive gains in spelling (even though their actual spelling remained lousy) and grammar (even though I did not teach grammar). They remained below grade level in phonetic analysis.

    What? I didn't teach grammar?!! Call the certification police. We were too busy writing. I exchanged daily notes with the children, the single best pedagogical principle I ever put into practice. They also wrote short daily "connections" to a story we read together. So they had the experience of "writing like" Jack Prelutsky or Jack Gantos or Arnold Lobel. I typed up these connections every day and the homework was always "Read this aloud to an adult." Parents gave this homework RAVE REVIEWS. . . to the degree that the custodian told me the father of one boy read one very very funny homework of the kids' collected writings aloud at the local bar, saying he hadn't realized his son could be so clever.

    With all due respect to these US Department of Education functionaries, when Dad reads his kid's homework aloud at the local bar, you know you're doing something right.

    The children's homework response to Rita Golden Gelman's More Spaghetti I Say won a Scholastic Grand Prize for involving parents. Our prize was 100 books and Scholastic wanted me to order a package deal. I said, "No way! Send me half a dozen catalogs. We are going to choose these books one at a time." I told the children to choose 2 books each for themselves and 60 for the classroom library. No book critic or U. S. Department of Education researcher-for-hire could have made such carefully reasoned and appropriate selections.

    Arne Duncan, put that in your anaphoric relationship and sit on it.

    I will acknowledge that this U. S. Department of Education publication contains some ideas a teacher might want to consider, but I find the overall thrust troubling. For your information, I provide the bibliography of the works cited.

    Think about who's in the bibliography.

    Think about who's missing.

    Ask yourself why there are so many unpublished works here. Of what use are unavailable citations to a teacher? Is the US Department of Education planning to make copies of unpublished dissertations?

    To help you think about what's going on here, I've put in a few hot links--with the reminder that those who don't learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. And as these hot links show, we are already repeating Reading First, both literally and figuratively.

    Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through Third Grade

    IES Practice Guide

    This report was prepared for the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences under Contract ED-07-CO-0062 by the What Works Clearinghouse, which is operated by Mathematica Policy Research.

    This contract is listed as MATHEMATICA POLICY RESEARCH, INC.
    What Works Clearninghouse Competition (Note the interesting typo: Clearing/Cleaning/Learning: Take your pick)

    Mathematica Pollicy Research, Inc current projects include:
  • New Approaches to Teacher Certification: American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence [Look at their board of directors)

  • Evaluating the Effectiveness of Charter School Management Organizations

  • The Effects of Charter School Laws and Programs on Student Outcomes: A Study Across Multiple States

  • A National Study of Early Elementary Math Curricula

  • And lots lots more.

    Here's one of special interest to the subject at hand:
    National Study of the Effectiveness of Reading Comprehension Interventions

    This five-year, scientifically based study focuses on four reading comprehension curricula aimed at fifth graders. Mathematica's subcontractors for the study include RMC Research Corporation, RG Research Group, the Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Utah. The research team collected data through classroom observations, teacher surveys, and school records abstraction, as well as by administering standardized tests to students. Data analyses address critical questions on the effectiveness of reading comprehension curricula. Ultimately, the study findings could substantially influence reading instruction policy and practice.

    This Disclaimer is fascinating. Arne is trying to cover his a**, trying to avoid Reading First illegalities, which is hyper-hypocritical when you look at the people involved.

    The opinions and positions expressed in this practice guide are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions and positions of the Institute of Education Sciences or the U.S. Department of Education. This practice guide should be reviewed and applied according to the specific needs of the educators and education agency using it, and with full realization that it represents the judgments of the review panel regarding what constitutes sensible practice, based on the research that was available at the time of publication. This practice guide should be used as a tool to assist in decision making rather than as a "cookbook." Any references within the document to specific education products are illustrative and do not imply endorsement of these products to the exclusion of other products that are not referenced.
    U.S. Department of Education
    Arne Duncan

    The citation should be: Shanahan, T., Callison, K., Carriere, C., Duke, N. K., Pearson, P. D., Schatschneider, C., & Torgesen, J. (2010). Improving reading comprehension in kindergarten through 3rd grade:
    A practice guide (NCEE 2010-4038). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and
    Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

    September 2010

    Timothy Shanahan
    University of Illinois at Chicago

    Does he really think kids shouldn't read?
  • Exchange between Shanahan and concerned teacher

  • New ERIC steering committee and content experts

  • author of Macmillan/Mcgraw-Hill reading program
    (Prof. Cynthia Shanahan of UIC is involved in a 2010 $19,256,585 grant to the University of Illinois at Chicago, Reading for Understanding Across Grades 6 through 12: Evidence-Based Argumentation for Disciplinary Learning)

  • http://www.shanahanonliteracy.com
  • Literacy First.com

  • Kim Callison, Anne Arundel County Public Schools

    Christine Carriere, Chicago Public Schools

    Nell K. Duke, Michigan State University

    P. David Pearson, University of California--Berkeley

  • McGraw-Hill webinar series

  • Power Point on Common Core

  • Common Core Validation Committee

  • Christopher Schatschneider, the Florida State University and Florida Center for Reading Research (Listed among "key personnel" for a 2010 $20,000,000 grant to Florida State University, Examining Effective Intervention Targets, Longitudinal Intensity, and Scaling Factors for Pre-K to 5th Grade Student Comprehension

    Joseph Torgesen, the Florida State University and Florida Center for Reading Research

  • Orange spends millions on disputed phonics tool

  • Targeting Kindergartners

  • Reading First Power Point

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    — U. S. Department of Education
    Teacher Practice Guide


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