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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Secondary Literacy Adoption

I was thinking that perhaps this blog would be good way to talk about your thoughts on the secondary adoption. Many of you expressed the desire to talk about what you liked and didn't like. Instead of waiting until the next meeting, let's get that conversation going. Weigh in.
What did you see that you thought would help you to teach reading, writing, and communication GLEs?
I have sent a message to Holt asking about their materials. I will let you know when I learn more.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Less Teaching, More Assessing?

I must admit this title on a recent Education Update from ASCD grabbed my attention. I was immediately reminded of Marzano's What Works in Schools. Marzano's compilation of years of research shows that timely feedback is critical for student learning.
Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe support this when they note that the essence of good instruciton does not lie in the presentation of the content, but in assessing student understanding and coaching for better performance. Assessing student learning helps teachers monitor and adjust to maximize performance.
To meet standards, students need multiple ways to interact with new learning. Teachers need to build time into the schedule for feedback. It's the outcome--the assessment of the standards-- that matters, not the input--the content. According to Wiggins, good feedback is timely, ongoing, expert, accurate, and consistent. It is user friendly and specific. Good feedback helps students to understand where they can make improvements. It does not tell them what to do.
Do we have enough time in our schedules for feedback?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Ready for Kindergarten

Recently, I attended a workshop with two kindergarten teachers and one preschool teacher. The workshop was sponsored by the Kennewick School District and an organization called National Children's Reading Foundation. KSD has been collecting data and working on interventions since 1996. The most striking data shows that the achievemnt gap really starts in the birth through five age range. In fact, "100% of the gap in reading acheivement between the top and bottom quartiles in reading is created prior to the beginning of the second grade" (READY! for Kindergarten).
Rather than ethinicity or socio-economic status, it is the learning that takes place from birth to five that determines later learning. About 20% of children enter kindergarten with the skill level of a three year old and an additional 20 % enter with the skill level of a four year old. Most children enter kindergarten with the skills of a five to eight year old. As most students grow a year in a year, the gap simply perpetuates itself. Students who are behind never catch up. The rough rule of thumb is that 13 percentile points equals one year of growth. We spend over two times as much money on the students who are behind as we do on the general education population.
What Kennewick has done is create a program that teaches the parents how to interact with their children during the birth to five years. They post signs and send postcards to get the parents to come to the Parent Lessons. They give the parents a literacy box of developmental toys and sign the children up for the Dolly Parton Book Club.
Sounds expensive, but when I think about the cost as well as the data about getting students up to grade level, it seems like money well spent.
Kennewick is still collecting data. I know I'll continue to look at their assessment data.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Literacy in Houston

I recently decided to sign up for google alert to get the links for articles on literacy. As a result, I read about a unique endeavor taking place in Houston, Texas. The Houston Public Library has joined with a supermarket chain called H-E-B to create hip-hop cafes that attempt to attract teens to the cool new world of the library. These cafes will feature slam poetry, teen book discussions, and author visitations.
Citing the need for libraries to go to teens, the spokesperson for the library system noted that they want to make it cool to go to the library.
Beyond cool, what is the incentive? Mighty big, I think! A short story contest they intend to sponsor will include two grand prizes of four years tuition to any Texas state university. I am impressed. H-E-B is giving $1.5 million to support the campaign.
These cafes should start opening this spring. I know I'll be waiting to see how it goes.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Read for Life

Literacy is the core of all learning. To thrive in the world, one must be well read. A broad knowledge base is essential, but even more important, one must be able to think---to make connections between texts, the world, and oneself. To be a contributing member of society, one must also be able to communicate effectively both in a conversation and in writing. To achieve mastery in reading, speaking, and writing, students need many opportunities to practice in a variety of modes.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Washington State has completed the reading grade level expectations and I have been working with grade level teams to complete the first level of alignment. The documents are done and will soon be posted on the PSD website. This has been an enormous undertaking, so I am feeling a great deal of accomplishment as we work to decide how we now move to deep alignment, the next step. It is essential for us to help staff understand the importance of this work.

The writing GLEs are now also complete. So now the work begins anew to align our curriculum to the writing GLEs. This past week I presented at OSPI with my Classroom Based Assessment Group from all around the state. We have developed three modules so far. One is a high school 4 week summer school class based on what students most need to know and be able to do in writing based on WASL results. The second is focused on writing strong introductions and conclusions. The third module is on the critical elaboration piece.

OSPI Writing Presentation

I am so excited to be a part of the OSPI presentation this week. I have been working with the most phenomenal group of women from all around Washington State on the 4 week course designed to improve student writing. It is targeted to address the areas of greatest concern on student performance on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, fondly known as the WASL. This four week course specifically targets high school, but could be adapted for any writers. In fact, we have two other groups that designed a module for elaboration and another on introductions and conclusions that goes deeper than the 4 week course.
I will be working with my district high schools to imbed the writing activities into the current 10th grade English classes. I am also working with two elementaries to adapt the material for younger writers. This is such exciting work.
But now I am being redundant...

Here are some pictures of my team. We are preparing for our presentation and getting ready to share our work.

Accelerated Reader

Recently, we hosted the first ever Accelerated Reader Seminar 501 for elementary school administrators, building learning specialists, and librarians. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Jim Church, The Renaissance Place trainer, did an outstanding job of explaining the proper use of AR in the schools. As we are implementing the 90 minute uninterrupted reading block, many questions about where AR should be used in relationship to the block have arisen.
We have also had inconsistency in library organization, use of the ZPD, and a number of other AR related issues. As such, a steering committee met and developed the district's guidelines for the proper use of AR. We were pleased that Jim's presentation aligned so tightly with our guidelines.
Do you use Accelerated Reader? What do you think of it?

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