Blog Posts

12 June, 2008

The Role of Basic Skills in Reading Comprehension

Recently, the impact study on Reading First indicated that the program had shown no effects when it came to improving performance on reading comprehension tests. That is a real problem because the whole idea of Reading First was to improve kids' reading to such an extent that they would comprehend better. I wonder if teachers and principals (and Reading First directors) knew more about reading comprehension if things would have gone better.   I'm asked frequently by schools to come and help with reading comprehension, but as with the Reading First folks, I often sense that there are many things that these ...

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28 May, 2008

How Would I Fix Reading First?

A recent research report said Reading First failed to improve students’ reading scores. I was disappointed given the hard work of so many teachers, but the study was far from perfect. The Department of Education was more efficient in getting Reading First underway in the schools than it was in getting the study off the ground, so they couldn’t carry out a nationwide randomized controlled trial. Unfortunately, the study only looked at reading comprehension scores and not at performance in any of the underlying skills that support comprehension (so you can’t tell whether the program impacted those skills or not). Far more ...

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27 May, 2008

Interventions for Young Learning Disabled Children

Although I have designed instructional programs for teaching reading to older students who lag in learning, I have never tried to design a beginning reading intervention for such students. My AMP program skips phonics and phonological awareness not because I don't think these are critically important reading skills, but because most students in middle school and high school won't lag seriously in these skills. (I didn't say no older students struggle in these areas. A small percentage, maybe 1 in 7 of struggling secondary school readers, still will need help with alphabetics. But even low middle school readers usually can read at ...

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20 May, 2008

Heterogeneous or Homogeneous for Middle School Disabled Readers?

Dr. Shanahan, I am a mother of a child with a reading disability (as well as processing and short term memory) who will be entering middle school in the fall. Our middle school is planning on heterogeneously grouping the students in reading/language arts classes. As I'm sure you know this would be the lowest level readers blended with college level readers. Also, reading interventions will be cut from every day to every other day. I am a little concerned about the implications this may have on the students. Do you happen to know what research says about this concept? What are ...

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02 May, 2008

Excellent Websites for Teachers, Parents, and Kids

One thing I learned when I was director of reading for the Chicago Public Schools was that teachers’ appetites for resources, support, and professional development in reading were insatiable. No matter how much we tried to provide for them, they always seemed to want more. That is not a criticism of teachers, but praise. The men and women who were teaching in Chicago wanted to do a good job, so their eyes were always open for new resources.   Since then, I’ve tried to keep my eyes out for stuff that would help them and their counterparts elsewhere. Especially free stuff. I’ve ...

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27 April, 2008

Disciplinary Literacy

There is growing interest and concern in the reading of older students (grades 4-12). There are many reasons for this, but ultimately it comes down to the fact that most thoughtful observers are convinced that most students leave high school with insufficient reading and writing skills--insufficient for college success or economic participation.   Over the past few years, we have seen growth in the numbers of reading programs aimed at a student in the upper grades (including my own AMP program. I believe that, once we get through the presidential election, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will be reauthorized, for the first time ...

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20 March, 2008

Strategies or Skills: Does It Really Matter?

Blast from the Past: Do you ever wonder what the difference is between skills and strategies? Originally posted March 20, 2008; re-posted on September 28, 2017.    Recently Peter Afflerbach, David Pearson, and Scott Paris published a nifty article, “Clarifying differences between reading skills and reading strategies” in the Reading Teacher (February 2008, pp.364-373). They did a great job of that. Below I have summarized some of their major points, added some explanation of why you should care about the distinction, and showed the differences in assessment and instruction for strategies and skills. 1. There are no widely-accepted definitions of strategies and skills. To ...

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19 March, 2008

Improving Reading Achievement

Dear Dr. Shanahan: With the pressures and concerns about NCLB and working in a low socio-economic neighborhood, our school district has implemented some mandates to try to ensure the success of our students. It is sort of an interesting imbalance. First, they chose to mandate the use of the SAXON phonics program. It is required of all teachers of students in K- 2. The program teaches phonics in isolation and it takes 40 to 75 minutes to teach each day.  The second interesting situation is that we are given 4 aides that come into our rooms for an hour each day to ...

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19 March, 2008

Improving Reading Achievement

Dear Dr. Shanahan: With the pressures and concerns about NCLB and working in a low socio-economic neighborhood, our school district has implemented some mandates to try to ensure the success of our students. It is sort of an interesting imbalance. First, they chose to mandate the use of the SAXON phonics program. It is required of all teachers of students in K- 2. The program teaches phonics in isolation and it takes 40 to 75 minutes to teach each day.  The second interesting situation is that we are given 4 aides that come into our rooms for an hour each day to ...

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18 March, 2008

What's Wrong with High-Stakes Testing?

It’s not uncommon for educators to oppose high-stakes testing. Teachers and principals have personal reasons to be against such approaches: high stakes tests are more likely to be used to pressure them than on the kids who they serve. University-based scholars also tend to be against testing, but that isn’t surprising as most university professors are politically liberal and most education accountability plans emanate from conservative governments. While professors may have a knee-jerk reaction to high-stakes tests, this in no way disparages the high-quality scholarly analyses of such tests, such as the one that carried out for the National Academy ...

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