Linda Diamondby Linda Diamond, President, CORE and author of Teaching Reading Sourcebook and Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures

I write to you, colleagues in education, with a deep sense of sadness and unease as I continue to watch the events that are unfolding in our communities and in our nation. At no time that I can recall has our country been so divided and so traumatized. We have been living in the midst of a public health crisis and an economic and unemployment crisis of staggering proportions. These conditions already impacted the most vulnerable in our country and hit the Black community hard. But now the chilling and brutal murder of George Floyd escalated the crisis in our country and rekindled fear and outrage, particularly among Black Americans for whom this killing is all too familiar. As educators striving for equity and educational and social justice, we must redouble our efforts to increase awareness of the discrimination that exists in our country and in our educational institutions. (more…)

CORE, Pivot learning, and Center for the Collaborative Classroom have been examining our own practices with a critical eye, looking for ways to better equip educators with the tools and support they need to connect with a diverse student population that has been adversely affected by school closures. When we look ahead, we understand school will likely look different in ways we cannot even imagine.

To support our educator partners, we offer guidance and resources that can be used over the summer and taken into the fall to support students both academically and socially. Pivot Learning’s CEO, Arun Ramanathan, and Collaborative Classroom’s President and COO, Kelly Stuart, share what we believe is essential for making sure our students don’t fall behind. Read their commentary on the Collaborative Circle blog.

Written by Arun Ramanathan, CEO, Pivot Learning, featured in EdSource

Since schools were closed two months ago to curb the spread of the coronavirus, changes have come so fast it has been difficult to get our bearings. But as the educational picture has come into focus, it is clear that students are losing critical months of learning. The students who can least afford to lose that learning — English Learners, foster youth and students with disabilities — are taking the biggest hits. Addressing this situation will take state leadership.

The planning should begin with recognizing the limits of virtual learning. Overburdened parents are thankful for anything that engages their children, but ensuring availability of internet access and devices are the just the first steps. Every other element is dependent on the capacity of teachers, students and parents.

Distance learning is difficult enough for middle-class parents in a single-family home, but it is far more difficult for low-income families in smaller residences — not to mention homeless families. For students with disabilities such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism, the situation may be untenable educationally and emotionally. Nor can we expect non-English speaking parents to teach their children English. The longer we stay in this situation, the more we will deepen the structural and racial inequities in our education system. (more…)

Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) in Watsonville, CA wasted no time. In early January as concerns about COVID-19 were just beginning to surface in the United States, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Rodriguez moved quickly to implement a distance learning plan for the district in order to minimize the learning loss that would be unavoidable once California’s Shelter in Place order went into effect.

First, Dr. Rodriguez wanted to ensure all students had access to online distance learning. By getting Chromebooks and hotspots into the hands of her students, this goal was readily achieved. But given the diverse population of the district — 66% English learners, 81% in poverty, 14% special education, 16% without permanent housing, and 10% migrant — having the right hardware and software was not enough. Dr. Rodriguez created a robust tech support network for parents and teachers to turn to for help getting online, using applications, and accessing the other remote learning tools being offered by the district. (more…)

Linda DiamondA systems approach offering intensive care for the most at-risk students and specialized attention for those with moderate literacy needs.

by Linda Diamond, President, CORE and author ofTeaching Reading Sourcebook and Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures
Originally published in AASA’s
The School Administrator, April 2006 Number 4, Vol. 63

Middle schools and high schools across the country face a literacy crisis of monumental proportions. Whether they are students from households where English is a second language or learning-disabled students mainstreamed into difficult classes, struggling readers demonstrate lower achievement in all academic subjects. While many poor readers have developed coping strategies, they rarely improve their academic performance or test scores.

Secondary schools are ill-equipped to help these students become better readers. And with a more diverse student population entering middle and high school than ever before, the challenge of educating under-prepared readers will only increase. Whether the problem stems from societal change, the use of instructional reading practices in elementary school lacking research support or some combination of factors, these struggling readers deserve to learn. And they can’t learn if they can’t read. Understandably, secondary school students who are reading below grade level often are unmotivated and turned off to reading. Many of them are the same students who were poor readers in 3rd grade — about 75 percent of students with reading problems in 3rd grade will still have them when they get to high school, according to Sally Shaywitz, professor of pediatrics and child study at Yale University School of Medicine. In fact, research shows that the gap between good and poor readers actually widens in later grades. (more…)

by Susan Van Zant and Nancy Volpe, Educational Services Specialists, CORE

Susan Van ZantNancy VolpeWhat can be done to maximize the time that students are in school?

There is no mystery about time. Students attend school a set number of hours each week and days each year. At each grade level they have a lot of skills and knowledge to learn. Establishing specific times that reading and math are taught is a good beginning. However, if time is not used efficiently during the allocated periods, student learning time is lost. Often precious minutes slip away because good time management practices are not in place.

Ten minutes might not seem like much, but it can add up. For example, students take three minutes to enter the class and quiet down, the teacher waits two minutes while three students look for their materials, a student sharpens a pencil for a minute, one group needs three minutes to transition to another, and a class disruption lasts for a minute. It all adds up. Just 10 minutes a day adds up to 50 minutes a week. In a typical school year, it would add up to about 1,800 minutes. Divide that 1,800 minutes a year by 180 days of school, and that is the equivalent of 10 school days lost. (more…)

by Linda Diamond, President, CORE and author of Teaching Reading Sourcebook and Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures

Linda DiamondIn 1976, when news Anchor Howard Beale in the film Network yelled this famous line on air and urged everyone to open their windows and yell too, it resonated with me. It resonates even more now as once again the reading science deniers disparage those of us in the reading research community who accept the settled science on teaching reading by implying all we care about is phonics. That is a cheap shot that cannot be further from the truth. However, it is a slick strategy by the advocates of other teaching methods to belittle the rest of us and stir up anger and more sales of products that ultimately only work for a few children. This same line of resistance has been used to smear any curriculum that didn’t fit a “balanced literacy” or guided reading approach and was successfully used against a fantastic ELA curriculum, Open Court, as being only about phonics. Again, a big lie. Explicit systematic instruction, the science of reading, Structured Literacy, whatever the term, has NEVER, I repeat NEVER been all about phonics. It is about a systematic and explicit approach to developing ALL the critical literacy skills, including phonemic awareness, sound-spelling relationships, syllable patterns and morphemes, fluency, sentence and paragraph structure, vocabulary, text structure and comprehension.

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By Linda Diamond, President, CORE & Dale Webster, Chief Academic Officer, CORE

As many of our readers know, CORE has never wavered from its stance that teachers should be knowledgeable about ELA and/or math pedagogy and equally important, teachers deserve support to implement an evidence-based, standards-aligned curriculum for ELA and math. A renewed focus among educators on implementing a curriculum is a shift from the past several years where many school districts provided teachers with internally-created and loosely-designed units of study. This shift from units of study to adopting standards-aligned materials has been occurring more and more in school districts across the country and is supported by organizations such as the Gates Foundation.

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Our most vulnerable students also require structured materials designed specifically to fill learning gaps

by Linda Diamond, President, CORE and author of the Teaching Reading Sourcebook and Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures

Back in September 2018 I wrote about the importance of selecting and fully implementing a great curriculum with excellent support and ongoing professional learning. This is a huge and important step in accelerating achievement for all students. But is that enough? The answer, unfortunately is “no.” A standards-aligned, high-quality curricula, while significantly improving outcomes for many students, will not be sufficient for those most at risk. Core curriculum is targeted at grade-level standards and will ensure all students have access to robust content, but it will not meet the needs of students who are significantly behind in their skills. Such students will still require a targeted or intensive intervention curricula that is well beyond what a standards-aligned core program can provide.

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