More Evidence on the Importance of Summer Reading

We’ve long been proponents of summer reading initiatives, and have written extensively on the substantial benefits these programs can provide.  Last week the School Library Journal released the results of a study from Dominican University on the value of such programs.  They targeted students between the end of third and the beginning of fourth grades and determined students’ beginning Lexile reading levels by using the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI).  Their findings reiterated the importance of summer reading.  As SLJ reports:

Students who take part in their local library’s summer reading program significantly improve their reading skills.  In fact, we found that kids who participate in these programs are 52 Lexile points ahead of their peers who do not.  Summer reading programs are also an antidote for learning loss.  So instead of losing knowledge and skills during the summer months, kids who attend reading programs actually show gains.

In addition, researchers found that the students who participated in summer reading programs “entered the following school year with a positive attitude about reading, were more confident in the classroom, read beyond what was required, and perceived reading as important.” 

This is great news.  Educators have been advocating efforts to combat ‘summer slide’ for years – efforts that have finally begun to catch the public eye.  Clearly, this study provides evidence which further supports the call to encourage summer reading. (more…)

From Competition to Collaboration

Much has already been written on Davis Guggenheim’s thought-provoking documentary, Waiting for Superman – some good, some bad.  While the more controversial points of the movie will continue to be debated for some time, most would agree that the movie has sparked a strong and lively discussion on the current and future state of public education in America.  That, at least, is good news.  That debate may be the first step in encouraging cooperation and collaboration between organizations that have historically been in tension – if not outright opposition – with one another.

One of the more contentious educational issues, as amplified by Waiting for Superman, is the role of charter schools in the U.S. educational system.  But as Education Week reports:

Collaborations popping up across the country between charter and traditional public schools show promise that charter schools could fulfill their original purpose of becoming research-and-development hothouses for public education, champions of charters say.

While some have argued that the differences between traditional public schools and charter schools are minimal and not all that significant, others have pointed out that some individual differences are quite marked and worth exploring:

But others, such as the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, believe charter schools do have some distinctive practices that should be shared with traditional public schools. The alliance hosted a conference in September that featured 26 “promising cooperative practices” between the two kinds of schools. Examples included a Minnesota Spanish-immersion charter school working with a local district to create a Spanish-language-maintenance program, and California charter school and districts teaming up on a teacher-induction program.

“We were trying to move past the whole charter-war debates and move to a more productive place,” said Stephanie Klupinski, the alliance’s vice president of government and public affairs.

That’s good to hear.  At a minimum, these sorts of conferences further the discourse on the benefits of increased instructional time.  At best, promising avenues of collaboration draw the focus to where it should be – effective practices that improve educational attainment for all students.

Read the whole thing for more on how many public and charter organizations are collaborating to identify best practices.

De La Salle Academy: High Expectations

Last week the NY Times wrote about De La Salle Academy, a 26 year-old private school in Manhattan where gossip is an expellable offense, dating is not allowed and makeup – even lip gloss- is prohibited. The school is for academically talented low-income children, with more than half of the students coming from families with annual incomes of less than $35,000. What makes De La Salle stand out, however, is its traditional approach to education:

 At a time when everything about education seems to be in flux – the role of testing, the expectations for teachers, the impact of technology – Brother Carty is something of a throwback.

Brother Carty has a “tough as nails” attitude toward unruly or disruptive behavior and says “pity parties are not allowed here.” Students can struggle, but the expectation is that they learn to cope:

 Parents are instructed on rules regarding parties and cellphone and Internet use. Teaching fads are generally dismissed, memorization is encouraged and smart boards are nowhere to be seen. “I’m not going to spoon-feed them, taking notes is a skill.”

While his rules are harsh, there is a softer side to headmaster Brother Brain Carty – he is as much as pastor as a friend and principal teacher.  He makes it his mission to know everything about every one of his students and their families. He even goes to such lengths as hand selecting each student that comes in, guides eighth graders through the high school admissions process and consults those students four years later during the college application process.

With 1,300 friends on Facebook and children vying for his attention each morning, the tough approach is obviously appreciated by his students.   More impressive still, De La Salle sends most of its graduates to the city’s top private high schools or elite boarding schools in New England.  While it’s true that Carty’s approach may not be best for every student – especially those struggling with basic literacy skills – his passion is evident.  And his commitment to high expectations for each of his students is to be commended.

Preparing Students for Post-Graduate Success

Students, parents and teachers have been counseled over the years on the importance of ensuring that high school graduates are “college or career ready.”  We’ve written much on the Common Core State Standards, college and career readiness, and the importance of preparing students to face the text demand they are likely to encounter after high school.  The book College and Career Ready by David T. Conley offers more specifics and identifies four key elements that students need in order to be successful in their post-graduate years:

  • Key content knowledge: Conley emphasizes a strong content background in the social sciences, world languages, science, mathematics, and the arts with particularly strong skills in reading and writing.
  • Key cognitive strategies:  This involves students’ ability to undertake challenging learning situations with perseverance. Students are able to use creativity and make conscious decisions that will result in the best possible conclusions.
  • Self-management behaviors: Conley describes a realm of academic behaviors that advance the success of college and career studies. Such behaviors include students’ recognition that a predominant amount of time devoted to learning will be outside of the structured classroom. Time management habits are crucial for a successful college experience.
  • College contextual knowledge: Conley emphasizes the ability of a student navigate through the administrative as well as the curricular processes. Admissions requirements, time lines, college traditions, differing social and cultural backgrounds are only a few of the examples of areas of the college culture that students need to be able to manage in addition to their academic studies.

Dr. Conley’s book offers a plethora of practical suggestions on how parents and teachers can prepare students for the transition from high school to the post-secondary world based upon successful practices, research, and new models. The material is easy to read and the suggestions are manageable and reasonable.  Time reading College and Career Ready would be well-spent.

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