How our reading platform changed our instruction

Nearly all students can learn how to read, yet only 35 percent of them are reading proficiently. This widening gap seems insurmountable, but the bottom line is that teachers are the most essential factor in student reading success.

However, here’s the problem as I see it: only about half of all teaching institutions effectively prepare teachers for literacy instruction. And while it’s easy to assume that the schooling, master’s degrees, and pre-service training adequately prepare us to walk into the classroom and teach students how to read, the reality is that this training isn’t enough.

To truly master reading instruction, teachers need more. Fortunately, our cooperative’s previous director recognized this and started using LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) Suite. The program teaches the skills needed to master the fundamentals of reading instruction, including phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing and language.  …Read More

Is the education system working?

PISA, the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics, and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges. Its league table of results suggests which of the 90 participating countries have been able to improve their education system and student performance.

But when we look back at people throughout history who have made a significant impact on society, it’s not their school reading, math, or science test results that measure their success.

One well known winner of the Nobel Prize for physics was told by his teacher at school that he would ‘never amount to anything.’ For Albert Einstein, it was his fascination with the invisible forces that deflected a compass needle and a book on science that ignited his lifelong fascination with the world around him. But how do we strike a balance between the core curriculum and the invaluable importance of developing a child’s hard and soft skills, their curiosity, and their creativity?…Read More

5 ways to support students’ access to diverse books

Access to diverse books positively impacts children as readers and as people. Having access to diverse texts helps children expand their vocabularies, deepens their understanding of language, provides opportunities for problem-solving, provides critical affirming experiences to students’ lives, and presents opportunities for students to learn about people with different lived experiences.

Students of all races, genders, religions, languages, abilities, interests, and beliefs should have opportunities to have affirmative literary experiences, where they see themselves reflected in the books they’re reading. These opportunities still do not exist today for many children.

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center publishes research on books depicting characters from diverse backgrounds. The research showed that books included very low representation of primary characters for many backgrounds and experiences. According to this data, many students are more likely to encounter a book with a primary character who is an animal or other nonhuman character (29.2 percent of total books) than a book including a primary character who is Black/African (11.9 percent of total books), Asian/Asian American (8.7 percent of total books), Latinx (5.3 percent of total books), a person with a disability (3.4 percent of total books), or LGBTQIAP (3.1 percent of total books).…Read More

How mixed reality glasses can help struggling readers

Imagine you are a struggling reader. You dread reading…in any class. You feel like a failure, and you are starting to hate school. One day, your science teacher brings in a Microsoft HoloLens headset. You put on the mixed reality glasses and pick up the science article that the teacher wants you to read. You begrudgingly begin reading.

After only a few sentences you are lost because you don’t know what “light energy” means. Because your eyes stopped on that phrase, an animation jumps off the page through the glasses demonstrating an example of the concept with a voiceover explanation. Several moments later you read the word “photosynthesis” and another animation appears with an audio explanation. Suddenly, reading in science class takes on a whole new emotion…you are feeling success and are even interested in reading more about science.

Characteristics of struggling readers…Read More

Popular Ebooks and Audiobooks Keep Students Reading All Summer Long

CLEVELAND – May 6, 2022 As schools seek innovative new strategies to increase reading and learning, teachers are using digital tools inside and outside the classroom. In response, OverDrive Education is offering the most expansive Sora Sweet Reads summer reading program yet, May 4–August 17. In its ninth year, this free program is designed to help educators and students beat the “summer slide” with popular digital reading materials through the award-winning Sora student reading app. Currently, over 53,000 schools around the world are opting into the program. 

Sora Sweet Reads provides free access to a variety of popular digital books during the next 100+ days to encourage student reading during the rest of the school year and summer break. From May 4 through August 17, students from participating schools worldwide can enjoy free, 24/7 access through the Sora reading app to 50 juvenile and young adult ebooks, audiobooks and Read-Alongs from their school, the largest amount ever offered through the program. The Sora Sweet Reads titles are provided by 21 publishers and divided into elementary, middle and high school sections. Ebook titles include 10 Blind Dates, Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, Ironheart, and Ark Angel. Audiobook titles include Flannery and Game Changer. See the  full list

“When our students began using Sora last spring, they were excited to check out ebooks and we wondered whether that excitement would carry over into the summer months,” said Alexandra Brown, Educational Technology Specialist at National Heritage Academies in Michigan. “When we participated in Sora Sweet Reads our students were so enthusiastic about the selection of books that our checkouts surpassed all our expectations. Sora Sweet Reads gave our students access to ‘always available’ books ensuring there was no waiting list and students could read favorites at the same time as their friends.” …Read More

How to improve literacy through the science of reading

The Fall 2021 PALS Report found that reading skills in young learners are at a 20-year low. Over the past three years, reports have shown there had been little growth in reading and in some cases, states were backsliding. The majority of students who are exiting our school system do not have the reading skills they need to be successful at a job that requires reading skills.

I have analyzed how literacy education has evolved, exploring why we are where we are today and how we can improve. Educators can improve their K-3 students’ reading achievements by focusing instruction on structures of the English language. By applying findings from the science of reading, educators can positively affect students’ confidence in their academic careers and beyond. Here’s how to get started.

Assessing Your Curriculum for Elements of Structured Literacy

The science of reading is massive, and there’s much to learn from it. Structured Literacy is the practical approach that helps educators implement that science.…Read More

How online learning can bridge the math gap

As the U.S. moves toward more normalized learning and day-to-day life, we know many students continue to feel the impact of remote and hybrid learning. The lingering effects of remote learning during the pandemic have left many students behind, particularly in essential math and reading skills.

In a 2021 study, more than half of public-school K-12 teachers said the pandemic resulted in a “significant” learning loss for many students. Other evidence shows that the pandemic widened pre-existing learning gaps in key subjects such as math. In fact, the World Bank projects $10 trillion in lost future earnings for children due to the pandemic if they do not make up lost or delayed skills like math.

During the initial phase of COVID-19 lockdowns, Generation Alpha (born 2010-2024) and Generation Z (born 1995-2009) had to pivot to virtual-only school platforms. While these students were heavy technology users, they were unskilled remote learners, with many never having the experience of online-only learning. Schooling outside of higher education was mainly following an in-person model. …Read More

Is your PD missing this key element?

The importance of professional development in education cannot be overstated. In fact, according to research, when teachers receive well-designed professional development, an average of 49 hours spread over six to 12 months, they can increase student achievement by as much as 21 percentile points.

Yet, professional development is often overlooked and considered an afterthought—especially with pressing concerns around students’ mental health and well-being, gaps in reading and math skills, and so much more. The COVID-19 pandemic shook up professional development, encouraging schools and districts to rethink what this process looks like and how to best set their educators up for success and, in turn, their students.

At Waxahachie ISD in Texas, we’ve implemented professional development through the use of video, and lean on self-reflection and personalization that is naturally part of the video process to transform how our educators learn, collaborate and grow.…Read More

Learn to use books to foster critical thinking

While I’m a far cry from a Newbery, once a year, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing a picture book for my nephew Knox. My goal is to keep the eight-year-old excited about reading, because what little boy doesn’t want to read a book about himself?

For the purposes of this article about using picture books in instruction, I invite you to listen as I read aloud to you The Great PunkaKnox.

When I was in school, my teacher would have read the book out loud and asked us questions to test our comprehension, such as:…Read More

Latest Research from Curriculum Associates Highlights Importance of Grade-Level Readiness for Student Growth

NORTH BILLERICA, Mass.,March 17, 2022—Whether students are prepared for grade-level learning matters more to their progress over the course of the pandemic than whether they were remote or in school, according to a new report released by Curriculum Associates. The report, Student Growth during COVID-19: Grade-Level Readiness Matters, analyzes data gathered from the edtech company’s i-Ready Assessment tool for reading and mathematics from more than two million Grades 1–8 students who used i-Ready Diagnostics during the last three school years, using student testing location (i.e., in school or remote) as a proxy for learning location.

The report provides new insights on student learning trends, and serves as a call to other education researchers to look at similar factors. Curriculum Associates’ data follows the same students, examining how they progressed over time from the 2019–2020 school year before the pandemic hit through the 2020–2021 school year. This report offers a unique understanding of how the pandemic impacted students as, unlike most research published on unfinished learning, it followed the same students across two years, incorporating their reported testing location during the pandemic.

“After several reports exploring the extent of unfinished learning, we find that remote versus in school alone did not matter much in impacting student scores,” said Dr. Kristen Huff, vice president of assessment and research at Curriculum Associates. “Though there were slight differences in student growth based on location, what mattered most was where students started in the first place—that is, whether they were already behind or prepared for grade-level work at the beginning of the school year.”…Read More