How to support older struggling readers

The reasons that students remain struggling readers in middle and high school are frequently based on myths and misconceptions.

The first big myth, based on reading assessment measures, is that comprehension is the problem. The majority of reading assessments and standardized tests for older students focus on reading comprehension measures without determining gaps in the essential components that lead to comprehension: decoding, fluency, and vocabulary. A low comprehension score doesn’t tell teachers what they need to know to intervene, yet the proposed solution is often more reading “strategies.” This is generally unsuccessful because, as stated by Dr. Anita Archer, “There is no reading strategy powerful enough to compensate for the fact that you can’t read the words.”

Decades of research have shown that effective readers have a solid and automatic knowledge of how to translate the sounds of our language to the print that represents those sounds. This begins with the sounds for consonants and vowels—called phoneme proficiency—and an understanding of how speech and print work together for reading and spelling. Without this foundation, the ability to develop accurate and automatic word recognition and fluency will always be limited.…Read More

Calling all teachers: Who’s up for the 1,000-word challenge?

How might a lesson run if the teacher were allowed only 1,000 words of whole-group instruction each class period? Speaking 1,000 words at an average pace takes about nine minutes, which means that a teacher could only use nine minutes to address instructions, misconceptions, management, and assessment for an entire class.

I believe that if teachers and professional development leaders took this challenge on a regular basis, it would drastically change the way they plan, the tasks they ask students to do, the way they manage behavior, and the way they would differentiate for each student in the classroom.

Implications of the 1,000-word challenge on planning

First, it is important to note that the 1,000 words only count in whole-group instruction. I am not advocating for a teacher to spend their words and then sit at their desk while the students work. The 1,000 words do not include conferring or small-group instruction.…Read More

5 things you don’t know about K-12 virtual learning

Online learning has come a long way since its early champions saw it as a supplement to classroom learning. Skeptics initially questioned the viability of the new model, wondering if it would provide the right levels of support, curriculum, and engagement needed to ensure student success. And while online learning has more than proven itself to be both an alternative to and complementary offering for traditional classroom instruction, some misconceptions still persist.

For example, because virtual instructors aren’t physically present in a classroom, their qualifications and expertise can come into question. The subject matter itself—often thought of as “boring” or “unengaging”—is another area where myths persist. And finally, online skeptics are still talking about issues like lack of teacher support and low student success rates.

Dispelling the myths about virtual learning

To help dispel these myths and provide some insider knowledge on how online education really works, here’s a five-point list of things that you may not have known about virtual learning.…Read More

3 startling misconceptions about student testing

New report reveals the problem isn’t time on testing; it’s the quality of the tests

testing-student-misconceptions A new report is shedding light on what the nation might not know but teachers have known for a while: Time spent on testing depends on district requirements and the quality of the tests. The report argues that it’s time to switch the national conversation from time-spent-on-testing to quality of testing.

The report, “The Student & the Stopwatch: How much time do American students spend on testing?” produced by Teach Plus and authored by Mark Teoh, Ed.D., director of Research& Knowledge at Teach Plus and a former teacher and administrator, encompasses research from 32 districts across the U.S.—both urban and suburban—and over 300 teachers.

The report measured testing habits in both English Language Arts (ELA) and math in kindergarten, third and seventh grades.…Read More