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Archive for the ‘Reading proficiency’ Category

Image: Courtesy of UNESCO

Image: Courtesy of UNESCO

This coming Monday (September 8, 2014) is International Literacy Day. Sponsored by UNESCO, the goal of this annual event, which has been celebrated since 1966, is to “mobilize international public opinion” and solicit support for literacy activities that help children and adults lead more vital and informed lives. This year’s theme is “Literacy and Sustainable Development.”

Although rates of illiteracy are dropping, the challenge remains: Some 781 million people around the globe are illiterate, according to UNESCO, and nearly two-thirds of this group are women. “The lowest literacy rates are observed in sub-Saharan Africa and in South and West Asia.”

Boosting literacy is critical. As former UN Secretary Kofi Annan said in 2005, “Literacy is a key lever of change and a practical tool of empowerment on each of the three main pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social development and environmental protection.” (more…)

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highlights

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Here at Strategies for Children (SFC) we’re proud to release our annual Highlights report, a summary of our accomplishments over the last year.

“Strategies for Children is evolving to fill a new role in the birth–third grade continuum,” Chris Martes, SFC’s president and CEO, explains in the report. “Building upon our expertise in advocacy, awareness-raising, and coalition building, SFC is bridging the worlds of policy and practice, and helping to ensure public and private resources are allocated effectively to impact outcomes for children.” (more…)

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This post was originally published on May 2, 2013.

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

As someone who has been writing for a long time, I’m well aware how hard it is to write about something you only partially understand. Now, Education Week reports, there’s an increased focus on teaching writing as a way to improve students’ reading skills. The trend also responds to concerns among employers and college professors about young people’s writing and analytical skills. The article is part of Ed Week’s Rethinking Literacy series. (See “Writing Undergoes Renaissance in Curricula.”)

“The shift is still nascent, but people in the field are taking notice. It marks a departure from recent practice, which often includes little or no explicit writing instruction and only a modest amount of writing, typically in the form of stories, short summaries, or personal reflections, rather than essays or research projects on topics being studied,” Ed Week reports.

“On a literacy landscape that rarely features explicit writing instruction, and where the writing that does take place is often unconnected to reading, experts say, these kinds of projects are unusual for the way they connect writing and reading. Attention to reading has persistently been high, they say, but a focus on writing has waxed and waned in the past few decades. ‘Now we’re seeing a lot more attention to the idea that writing about a text can improve reading about that text,’ said literacy expert Timothy Shanahan, the chairman of the department of curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois at Chicago.”

In one first grade class in Vermont, for instance, children read “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss, first for fun and finally to hunt for ways the protagonist protects the earth. They write a paragraph about the story’s theme supported by these examples.

Research supports the emphasis on writing. “’Writing to Read,’ a 2010 meta-analysis of 93 studies of writing interventions, found that writing had consistently positive effects on students’ reading skills and comprehension,” Ed Week reports. “Writing about what they read was particularly helpful to students’ comprehension, but so were taking notes on what they read, answering questions about it, and simply writing more.”

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“We lead the nation in terms of reading proficiency by fourth graders. Forty-seven percent of our fourth graders are proficient readers. But that means 53 percent are not. And we can’t leave half of our children behind if we want to build a truly strong economy and a healthy society. So we still have a lot of work to do in Massachusetts, but we know how to do it, and we’ve made real progress here…

“There are reasons why we now rank first for overall child well-being. And a big part of that reason is that in Massachusetts we work together. Ordinary citizens, our extraordinary nonprofit community, businesses and labor, child advocates, and our government.”

Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, at the release of the KIDS COUNT Data Book in Boston, July 22, 2014

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14359821987_be01fd4731_mYesterday, The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 25th edition of its KIDS COUNT Data Book, a statistical look at children’s well-being.

The report shows that, “Children have a greater opportunity to thrive and succeed in Massachusetts than in any other state,” according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), the home of KIDS COUNT here in the commonwealth.

This is exciting news for Massachusetts, but it comes with an important caveat: There is still much more work to do.

The Massachusetts KIDS COUNT data profile reports that 15 percent of the state’s children lived in poverty in 2012. And despite being first in the nation in education and fourth grade reading, 53 percent of this state’s fourth graders cannot read proficiently. Thirty percent of children have parents who don’t have secure jobs. And while an impressive 99 percent of Massachusetts’s children have health insurance, it’s also true that this state’s children are as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as children across the country.

MassBudget released the new data yesterday at an event hosted by Nurtury (formerly Associated Early Care and Education) in its brand new Learning Lab in Jamaica Plain where Governor Deval Patrick spoke, along with state legislators, local leaders, and Chris Martes, Strategies for Children’s new president and CEO. (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

“Communities can catalyze systemic change,” according to a new Strategies for Children (SFC) brief that highlights year one of the Massachusetts Third Grade Reading Proficiency Learning Network, a collaborative effort to improve outcomes.

The brief, “Changing the Trajectory: Communities Take Action to Increase Reading Proficiency,” chronicles SFC’s creation of the Learning Network — an innovative model focusing on alignment between state policy and community-level action and data. The work done in the founding communities — Boston, Holyoke, Pittsfield, and Springfield — has produced key lessons that can help guide community leaders’ efforts both here in Massachusetts and across the country.

This work is essential because as the commonwealth’s MCAS scores show, too many children are behind in reading.

“Reading is the foundation of success in school, the workplace and civic life,” the brief says. “Yet, despite Massachusetts’ reputation as a national leader in education, 43% of third graders are not able to read proficiently, a critical predictor of their future success.” (more…)

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GOV Forum logoIn a forum at UMass Boston on Saturday, eight of the candidates in the Massachusetts race for governor made news by agreeing that the commonwealth should improve the quality of preschool programs and expand access to them.

This consensus adds to the growing political support for early education and care both here in Massachusetts and nationally. Ten years ago, research on the benefits of high-quality pre-k were not widely understood, nor part of the public discourse. Today, policymakers and candidates understand that these programs are essential first steps in educating children and preparing them to succeed in the state’s high-tech economy.

Sponsored by Strategies for Children and more than two dozen other organizations (see program agenda for full sponsor list), the “Early Childhood and Education: Closing the Achievement and Opportunity Gaps – 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates Forum” gave candidates the opportunity to share their vision for educating the state’s youngest children. It was a chance to hear how the next governor of Massachusetts might reshape the landscape of early education and care. (more…)

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