Posted February 24, 2020
by Linda Diamond, President, CORE and author of Teaching Reading Sourcebook
When I was seven years old, my mother and father brought home my newly adopted baby brother, Larry. Right from the start, I thought that he was mine and that it was my job to protect him and love him. And I tried. But he was not an easy child, and as he grew older he was always in trouble and sometimes violent, even breaking car windows on the neighbor’s car and hitting another neighbor with a baseball bat. He was angry all the time, but I didn’t know why. However, when he was in seventh grade I realized that he couldn’t read and that every day at school was another day of rage and embarrassment. He brought those feelings home with him. Not one of his teachers tried to help and my parents were at a loss, so I, a high school student and knowing very little, tried to help him. I taught him letters and then I did flash cards, and we would laboriously sound out easy words. Often after a really bad day at school he would crawl into my bed and let me read to him. And during those quiet times, he would ask, “Why am I like this?” I had no answer. READ MORE
Posted February 14, 2020
By Dean Ballard, Director of Mathematics, CORE
When I started teaching math 35 years ago, chapter tests were easy to grade. Typically, a test had 20–25 problems and I simply made each problem worth four or five points, whatever was needed to make the total 100 points. In many math curricula today, there may be only 5–10 problems total on a chapter, module, or unit assessment. Suppose I have a test with nine problems. If I assign equal weight to each of these problems, and a student gets six out of nine problems correct, this student would have a score of 67% correct. This often translates into a grade of D. Yet six out of nine correct may warrant a better grade when we consider the actual knowledge displayed by correctly answering those six problems.
Many teachers use a standard percent to grade relationship when determining grades for students: 90–100% is an A, 80–89% is a B, 70–79% is a C, 60–69% is a D, and below 60% is an F. Ten years into my teaching career two parts of this grading system started to strike me as questionable. First, even if a student correctly answers 59% of the problems deemed appropriate to include on the assessment, that student is considered failing. Second, since I’m the one determining the weight of each problem on an assessment, what does the percent correct, or percent of total points, really mean? READ MORE
Posted January 15, 2020
By Dr. Dale Webster, Chief Academic Officer, CORE
Recently, there have been many responses to Lucy Calkins’ essay ”No One Gets to Own the Term, Science of Reading.” Many have responded with strong disagreement to her point of view. Two of the responses are very informative and can be found here and here. More disputes to her essay can be found here. Interestingly, none of the responses that I have seen to date address Calkins’ inaccurate attack on the Reading First initiative, which was the academic cornerstone of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). While there are criticisms of the NCLB Act, in fact, many educators and those directly involved with Reading First have argued that the Reading First Initiative was one of the strongest components of NCLB.
Calkins makes the following statements about Reading First.
Instead, the experiment involved tens of millions of kids. It was called Reading First, the reading instructional program for K-3 mandated in schools funded by No Child Left Behind….involved a set of top-down mandates for intensive phonics instruction that resembled what the science of reading people today are supporting. The mandates included not only intensive systematic phonics based on “the science of reading” but also an unbalanced reliance on highly decodable texts, to the exclusion of trade books…The results of Reading First were not good…the problem with Reading First was not that it taught phonics, but that phonics was largely all it taught.
Calkins makes several factual errors in her statements above which are largely based on anecdotal musings from many who didn’t like Reading First.
Posted December 18, 2019
By Dean Ballard, Director of Mathematics, CORE
Implementing a new curriculum is a daunting task. Often the organization, layout, and even the instructional approach can be drastically different than the previously used curriculum. Change takes time, especially if that change includes learning new instructional approaches. Therefore, the first year or two of implementing a new curriculum may be focused on changing instructional practices and deepening the knowledge base of teachers and instructional leaders. Taguma and Barrera (2019) cite teacher commitment, beliefs, and content and pedagogical understanding of the new curriculum as key factors that either facilitate or impede successful curriculum implementation. For example, if teachers do not know some of the new pedagogy that is embedded within the new curriculum, they will need more professional learning and support.
Posted December 3, 2019
By Dr. Steven Dykstra, reprinted with permission
Don Meichenbaum, one of the world’s leading experts on trauma and violence, and one of the most influential mental health professionals of the last century, said one thing is more important to traumatized children than anything else. More important than therapy, more important than social programs, more important than anything else. The research shows that the single most powerful predictor of their ability to overcome the trauma and survive their circumstances is the ability to read. If they can read, they have a chance to find success in school and overcome all those terrible things in their lives. If they can’t, school will only be another source of pain and failure added to all the other sources of pain and failure. If they can read, they can benefit from therapy and everything else we may try to do for them. If they can’t read, all of that is a waste of time.