10 educator suggestions to instill a love of reading in students

My husband quite often reminds me not to use my behavior as a child OR an adult as an indicator of others’… because I’m weird. From the moment I learned to read, I loved it. My favorite winter break was spent bingeing on every Baby-Sitters Club book in the series. As an adult, at any given moment, I’m listening to an audiobook and bouncing between one or two print books. Sometimes I read to learn. But most often, I read because I love it. But again… I’m weird.

Is it weird? Or did the mere fact I enjoyed access to books at home, school, and in the public library as a student give me a distinct advantage? The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), otherwise known as The Nation’s Report Card, indicates that students scoring in the lowest percentiles in reading and math are dipping noticeably.

Related content: How school librarians are getting creative in a pandemic…Read More

7 strategies to improve vocabulary instruction

Two-thirds of students in the U.S. are struggling with reading and the gap is widening, according to recent NAEP testing. Although insufficient decoding skills are typically thought to be the reason for weak comprehension skills among students, research has revealed that in many cases, an area of pronounced weakness for struggling readers is vocabulary. As a language arts teacher and learning specialist, I have been alarmed by the decline in vocabulary knowledge I’ve witnessed over the years.

Starting several years ago, my colleagues, speech-language pathologists Beth Lawrence and Deena Seifert, began questioning long-held assumptions about how students should be taught vocabulary. They wondered whether rote memorization of dictionary definitions, a hallmark of vocabulary instruction for decades, ought to be used at all, considering that these definitions often include even more unfamiliar terms, further taxing students, especially those with a language deficit.

Related content: Mindfulness instruction can make a big impact on learning…Read More

The other gap that schools aren’t talking about—relationships

The NAEP scores released in April set off a flurry of headlines about the sobering state of achievement gaps across the nation. The general consensus? Despite pockets of promise, and slight declines in gaps by race, achievement data reveal that gaps by income have remained relatively flat, or uneven at best.

The news for young people on the wrong side of these gaps, however, may be worse. Measuring opportunity in terms of household income or school quality, as education reformers are prone to do, doesn’t paint the whole picture. Students today are competing on an even more complex playing field, one that’s often masked by statistics on income and achievement gaps. A well-resourced childhood introduces a whole new set of inequities between rich and poor students, and those whose parents have or have not earned college degrees: social gaps.

Gaps in students’ networks matter immensely in both immediate and longer-term measures. Research groups like the Search Institute have shown that developmental relationships drive everything from higher grades to persistence in school. Down the line, an estimated 50 percent of jobs come through personal relationships.…Read More

Tests show U.S. students struggle to explain answers

A second type of test, Interactive Computer Tasks, went beyond what had previously been measured, testing how students ran their own experiments in simulated environments.

American children do much better identifying the correct answers to simple scientific tasks than using evidence from their experiments to explain those answers.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the Nation’s Report Card, asked students in grades four, eight and 12 to perform actual experiments to apply principles they learn in the classroom on a practical level. The results of the 2009 tests were released June 19.

“That tells us that our science teaching isn’t getting us as far as we need to go,” said Chris Dede, professor from Harvard Graduate School of Education.…Read More

Study: Eighth-grade students still lag in science

Just 31 percent of students were considered proficient or better on the test.

Eighth-graders in the U.S. are doing slightly better in science than they were two years ago, but seven out of 10 still are not considered proficient, the federal government said May 10. What’s more, just 2 percent have the advanced skills that could lead to careers in the field.

The information comes from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, released by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The average score was 152, up from 150 in 2009.

Gerry Wheeler, interim head of the National Science Teachers Association, said the results showed “minuscule gains” in student achievement in science.…Read More

U.S. students fare poorly in civics understanding

Only 27 percent of fourth-graders, 22 percent of eighth-graders, and 24 percent of twelfth-graders scored proficient or higher in civics.
Roughly three-quarters of U.S. students failed to reach proficiency in a national exam testing their awareness of civics last year—a result that severely undermines the nation’s democracy, some observers warn.

The National Assessment Governing Board released the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) “Civics Report Card” at a press conference May 4 at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The “Nation’s Report Card,” as the NAEP exam often is called, is the only nationally representative, continuing evaluation of the condition of education in the United States and has served as a national yardstick of student achievement since 1969. The data released May 4 provide a snapshot of what students nationwide know—and don’t know—about civics.…Read More

Fewer than half of students proficient in science

Only 1 percent of high school seniors demonstrated advanced science skills in the 2009 NAEP.

The nation’s students are still struggling in science, with fewer than half considered proficient and just a tiny fraction showing the advanced skills that could lead to careers in science and technology, according to results from a national exam released Jan. 25.

Only 1 percent of fourth-grade and 12th-grade students, and 2 percent of eighth-graders, scored in the highest group on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a federal test known as the Nation’s Report Card.

“Our ability to create the next generation of U.S. leaders in science and technology is seriously in danger,” said Alan Friedman, former director of the New York Hall of Science, and a member of the board that oversees the test.…Read More

Proficiency of black students is found to be far lower than expected

An achievement gap separating black from white students has long been documented — a social divide extremely vexing to policy makers and the target of one blast of school reform after another. But a new report focusing on black males suggests that the picture is even bleaker than generally known, reports the New York Times. Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys. Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches. The data was distilled from highly respected national math and reading tests, known as the National Assessment for Educational Progress, which are given to students in fourth and eighth grades, most recently in 2009. The report, “A Call for Change,” is to be released today by the Council of the Great City Schools, an advocacy group for urban public schools. Although the outlines of the problem and many specifics have been previously reported, the group hopes that including so much of what it calls “jaw-dropping data” in one place will spark a new sense of national urgency…

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Reading scores hold steady on nationwide test

Fourth grade NAEP reading scores remained unchanged.
Fourth-grade NAEP reading scores remained unchanged.

The reading scores for fourth- and eighth-grade students on a national test held mostly steady last year, continuing a stubborn trend of minimal improvement across most racial, economic, and geographic groups.

Scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a series of federally funded achievement tests commonly referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card,” rose in two states and the District of Columbia in grade four and in nine states for grade eight in 2009. Overall, the fourth-grade average remained unchanged, while eighth-graders rose one point.

Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Utah showed higher eighth-grade scores. In fourth grade, average scores rose in Kentucky, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia, while the average scores fell in Alaska, Iowa, New Mexico, and Wyoming.…Read More