Archive for the ‘Reading proficiency’ Category

Here’s Strategies for Children’s statement on yesterday’s release of state MCAS scores.

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In Massachusetts, only 60 percent of third graders are proficient readers, according to the 2015 MCAS results released yesterday. (PARCC results are preliminary and cannot be compared directly to MCAS.)

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education notes that for third grade reading, despite a small increase over 2014, “scores have been essentially flat over the past six years.” 

Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children, commented:

“We are glad to see third grade reading proficiency rates improve slightly, but are troubled by the slow pace of improvement and the fact that scores statewide have remained essentially stagnant since 2001.

To move the needle on this critical benchmark, the state must make larger investments in the birth-to-5 early childhood system. Despite recent state budget increases in early education, Massachusetts’ investment still trails pre-recession spending levels in this area.

Providing high-quality preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, particularly those from low-income families and communities, would be a huge step in the right direction. The Legislature has the opportunity to do that this session, and we hope our lawmakers will pass a comprehensive pre-K expansion bill.

High-quality pre-K is, however, only one piece of the puzzle. Our community-based infant and toddler programs must be staffed by well-trained, well-compensated educators. In the K-3 grades, literacy curriculum, diagnostic assessments, and professional development must be examined closely and aligned with research-based best practices. Parent engagement and after school / out-of-school-time programming are also essential.

As Education Secretary James Peyser recently stated, “In pursuing our shared goals, we cannot afford to treat early education as an afterthought.”

 No matter what test the state adopts, MCAS, PARCC, or some other option, substantially more children will need to meet reading benchmarks by the end of third grade. The future economic prospects of our commonwealth depend on it.

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Nonie Lesaux. Photo source: Harvard Graduate School of Education

Nonie Lesaux. Photo source: Harvard Graduate School of Education

Chris Martes, President and CEO of Strategies for Children, issued the following statement:

“On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of Strategies for Children (SFC), we congratulate Dr. Nonie Lesaux on her appointment as Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care. We applaud Governor Baker for appointing a nationally known literacy expert as the Board Chair.

Over the last several years, we have been fortunate to work in partnership with Dr. Lesaux, including commissioning the 2010 Strategies for Children report “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” which Dr. Lesaux wrote. This report has served as a foundation for addressing and improving the state’s literacy efforts, starting from birth.

We look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Lesaux in her new role of giving young children the strong start they deserve to help secure a successful future. Nearly 40 percent of Massachusetts 3rd graders fail to read at grade level. Third grade reading strongly predicts a child’s future academic success. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Tomorrow is National Summer Learning Day, so break out the sunscreen and some engaging educational activities that will help stop the “summer slide” of learning losses that some children experience during the warm, out-of-school months.

An annual day of national advocacy, National Summer Learning Day is led by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), which seeks “to elevate the importance of keeping kids learning, safe and healthy every summer,” according to the association’s website.

“Research shows that summers without quality learning opportunities put our nation’s youth at risk for falling behind – year after year – in core subjects like math and reading. The math and reading skills low-income students lose each summer are cumulative and contribute significantly to the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income kids,” the website adds.

That’s why this year, “NSLA is asking everyone — programs, families, schools, educators, policymakers, businesses — to make summer a season of learning by pledging to #KeepKidsLearning on our interactive map.” (more…)

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Ralph Smith at CGI America.  Photo Source: Campaign for Grade-Level Reading's Twitter page.

Ralph Smith at CGI America.
Photo Source: Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Twitter page.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) made news last week at the annual Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) meeting.

CGLR was featured on stage at CGI America in acknowledgement of its plans to “launch the More Hopeful Futures Initiative in 2017… the next phase of a decade-long effort to increase reading proficiency among children from low-income families,” according to a news release.

CGLR has bold plans for boosting children’s reading abilities.

“Over the next three years, the planned pre-launch activities will reach at least 50,000 children with an enhanced package of screenings and supports designed to accelerate ongoing efforts to improve school readiness, school attendance, and summer learning.”

CGLR is “committing $30 million, in tandem with close to 40 partners, to help increase third grade reading proficiency for 50,000 children by 2018,” a CGI America press release adds.

How CGI America and the Grade-Level Reading Campaign are Working Together

Sponsored by the Clinton Foundation, which was founded by former President Bill Clinton, “CGI America brings together leaders from the business, philanthropic, NGO, and government sectors to develop solutions for economic growth, long-term competitiveness, and social mobility in the United States.” (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for  Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for
Strategies for Children

“But are we really meeting the needs of the people we’re serving?”

That’s what Shannon Langone wanted to know in 2007 when she started working for the AmeriCorps program at Springfield College.

The program was sending volunteers into schools, hospitals, and clinics. The volunteers’ intentions were good. The program kept track of their hours. Missing, however, was good data on what impact these volunteers were having on the people they worked with.

Langone, meanwhile, was listening to the national conversation about the importance of evidence-based and data-driven volunteer programs. And as a native of Springfield, she disliked hearing negative talk about her city. She wanted to talk about how to solve problems.

“What can we do that we know will work?” she wondered and set out to find ways to make a measurable difference for school children.

She found an answer in the Midwest: the Minnesota Reading Corps.

And as we blogged last year, Langone visited Minnesota to learn more about the program.  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

This blog was originally published on May 9, 2013.

Children’s vocabulary is a key ingredient of learning to read with comprehension, but recent research finds limited instruction in vocabulary in kindergarten – and too little to enable children with small vocabularies to close the vocabulary gap that is evident long before they begin school.

Susan B. Neuman, a professor in educational studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Tanya S. Wright, an assistant professor of teacher education at Michigan State University in East Lansing, analyzed observations of 55 kindergarten teachers’ instruction in a variety of school districts. They found limited instruction in vocabulary in most settings, but low-income children were least likely to be taught the kind of sophisticated, academic words that will help them succeed in school

“Vocabulary is a deceptively simple literacy skill that researchers and educators agree is critical to students’ academic success, but which has proved frustratingly difficult to address,” Education Week reports. “By age 3, when many children enter early preschool, youngsters from well-to-do families have a working vocabulary of 1,116 words, compared to 749 words for children in working-class families and 525 words for children on welfare, according to a seminal 2003 longitudinal study by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, authors of the 1995 book ‘Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children.’

“The consensus among researchers and educators has been that students must close such vocabulary gaps to succeed academically and deal with rigorous content. (more…)

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Educators in West Michigan are tackling third grade reading proficiency by pooling their resources to form the Reading Now Network Initiative. And a recently conducted field team study suggests that intensive efforts are paying off.

Reading proficiency is also getting attention from Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who has called for new efforts to boost reading outcomes.

West Michigan’s Efforts

Launched last year, Reading Now is “the collective effort of superintendents, school boards, [and] local and intermediate school districts throughout West Michigan to improve early literacy and, ultimately, student achievement across all grade levels,” according to a fact sheet(more…)

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