Monday, March 27, 2006


I will get back to the Faculty development pieces, but I wanted to comment on all the recent discussion on No Child Left Behind.

Yesterday the Times ran this article about how schools that are performing poorly on the standardized tests are narrowing the curriculum. While there is some concern about this potentially damaging these kids because of a less rounded education, how can one be worried about not learning history if the kids can't read? So I was less bothered by that. I did wonder with all the emphasis on reading in the schools, whether the kids were doing any reading outside school. When I was in elementary school, in the mid 1960s, we did two things for reading. One was SRA which was color coded modules that forced certain type of reading for comprehension and combined with a testing/assessment mechanism. The student proceeded through the colors at their own pace, and progressed to the next level when proficiency was attained. I'm guessing that SRA is something like the current focus with testing for reading.

The other things we did was called Individualized reading. We read outside of class and kept a list in a notebook of what we read and then perhaps a sentence on the book. During the reading time in class the teacher would have one on one consults with the students about their individualized reading. I'm not seeing anything like that discussed in the papers. Everything is about the testing. But are the kids reading outside of class?

I did a quick Google search and found a piece from NPR on the issue.
The commentary by David Dunn, who is a spokesman for the Department of Education, confirmed my fears. Lots of emphasis on looking at scores, no discussion about whether the kids are reading on their own.

From that I found this other piece about a new Delaware Middle School run by the clergy that is having success with high risk students
But the regime they have in place is draconian. In essence, school becomes the total life for these kids, because their home lives are so debilitating. With such intensity of commitment the kids do learn --- and they read, real books according to the piece.

So the question seems to be whether absent a middle class home life that gives the kid the support to develop the reading habit on their own, if this type of commitment at the Delaware school become a necessary condition for real learning. It seems to me the answer is it likely is.


Anonymous said...

Here in Richmond,VA, the Henrico County schools place a huge emphasis on reading at home. "Book-it" is the name of the program, and the number of books varies from month to month, but now it is up to 20.

Naturally, as a librarian, I read a lot with my kids, and even for us a 20-book/month requirement on top of the regular homework/piano lesson/time-to-play-because-you're-a-kid requirements was a lot for 1st grade. (We did finally work out that each chapter in a chapter book could count as one book, and that helped!)

I really appreciate this emphasis on reading outside the regular curriculum.

Lanny Arvan said...

Thans for the info about how this is addressed in Henrico County. Do you know whether these type of interventions have sustained benefits for the higher grades? My own sense is that the reading habit takes root around 4th or 5th grade, if it takes root at all.