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Archive for the ‘Reading proficiency’ Category

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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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Colorado and Hawaii are joining the list of cities and states that are forging ahead on early education by expanding access and quality.

Colorado’s Education Investments

The Colorado Legislature approved a budget deal that invests new funding in early education and K-12.

Chalkbeat Colorado, an educational news website says, “The bottom line is this. The package increases Total Program Funding, the combination of state and local spending that pays for basic school operations, to $5.91 billion in 2014-15 from $5.76 billion this year.”

And as an Associated Press article explains, “Two Colorado education bills aimed at restoring school budgets hurt by years of budget cuts have been signed into law.”

As a result, statewide average per pupil spending is increasing from $6,839 this year to $7,020 next year.

Among the budget’s allocations:

• $27 million for English language learner programs

• $18 million for the READ Act, which provides special services to K-3 students who are behind in reading, and

• $17 million to create 5,000 additional slots for at-risk preschool and kindergarten children

(more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

In 2010, the Springfield Housing Authority used philanthropic funding to launch its Talk/Read/Succeed Program, a place-based early literacy initiative that helps children living in public housing become proficient readers by the fourth grade.

This year, the Massachusetts Legislature may invest public dollars into the program – potentially expanding this promising public/private partnership. An amendment to the Senate Ways and Means Budget filed by Senators James T. Welch (D-West Springfield) and Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham) would give Talk/Read/Succeed $250,000 in state funding — an investment that would continue to support children’s early learning and lay the foundation for their future success in school and beyond.

The Talk/Read/Succeed Story

Back when it started, Talk/Read/Succeed relied on guidance and grants from the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This philanthropic base of funding led to several positive outcomes. (more…)

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