How does one know whether one’s teaching is working? That’s a dang important question. Over on myIGDIs, Scott McConnell provides a quick and clear introduction to the answer. In How Do I Know if My Classroom Practices Are Working?, Professor McConnell explains that one needs (a) goals or standards, (b) points of comparison against which to assess change or difference, and (c) trustworthy ways of measuring students’ performance, if one is to assess the effects of one’s teaching.
Although Professor McConnell’s analysis is aimed primarily at early childhood education, it’s base is general enough to be applicable across age groups. He’s talking about Individual Growth and Development Indicators, or IGDIs. Those are important tools in an effective educator’s apron. I’m thinking myIGDIs, which provides research-based, preschool language and literacy measures, looks like a valuable site. These link nicely to RtI, CBM, and other models that align with monitoring progress systematically.
The Michigan chapter of the US civil rights group, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLY), announced 12 July 2012 that it has filed a class action suit on behalf of children in Highland Park, Michigan, who the local public schools have failed to teach to read. The suit alleges that the schools’ failure to teach students to read violate Michigan laws.
“The capacity to learn is deeply rooted in the ability to achieve literacy. A child who cannot read will be disenfranchised in our society and economy for a lifetime,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. “Highland Park students want to be educated. However, their hopes and dreams for a future are being destroyed by an ineffective system that does not adequately prepare them for life beyond school.”
The ACLU contends that this is a first-of-it’s-kind lawsuit, and it may be a true assertion, depending on how one defines “kind.” It’s a class action, which is the first of that theory that I’ve seen—and the class-action approach may be a very good path to pursue because the injury is more clearly widespread than it is for an individual, and the harm to society is easier to show. There have, however, been previous suits alleging that schools failed to discharge a duty to teach reading. Alert readers of Teach Effectively will recall a post about “J.K.” suing his schools for failing to prepare him for post-secondary education (“Ex-Student sues school“) and may also recall that in that post I listed notes about the Peter Doe case from the 1970s as well as some other resources about educational malpractice that have discussed this topic.
Let’s see what happens. For right now, here’s a cheer for the ACLU for raising this important issue. Too many students are being neglected, shunted aside, left for lost. Students who can read and write (and compute and do science as well as sing and do other things, too) will have a better chance to make more and more lasting contributions to society than they would were they if they are left ill-educated, as is happening too often in our public schools. So hooray for the ACLU shining a light here.
Meanwhile, here is as the press release from the ACLU, entitled “Highland Park Students File Class-Action ‘Right to Read’ Lawsuit” (follow the link embedded in the end of the release that points to many additional material) as well as a list of selected examples of coverage of the current story in various press sources:
The US Institute of Education Sciences announced the release of a practice guide about improving writing instruction. The guide, entitled “Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers,” is available for free from the IES What Works Clearinghouse (direct link follows). The authorship team, led by Steve Graham of Arizona State University, included Alisha Bollinger (Norris Elementary School, Firth, NE), Carol Booth Olsen (University of California, Irvine), Catherine D’Aoust (University of California, Irvine), Charles MacArthur (University of Delaware), Deborah McCutchen (University of Washington), and Natalie Olinghouse (University of Connecticut).
This practice guide provides four recommendations for improving elementary students’ writing. Each recommendation includes implementation steps and solutions for common roadblocks. The recommendations also summarize and rate supporting evidence. This guide is geared toward teachers, literacy coaches, and other educators who want to improve the writing of their elementary students.
|1. Provide daily time for students to write.
|2. Teach students to use the writing process for a variety of purposes.
|3. Teach students to become fluent with handwriting, spelling, sentence construction, typing, and word processing.
|4. Create an engaged community of writers.
Go to the landing page for the practice guide or download a pdf of the guide directly.
Professor Graham and his team have done an excellent job of assembling and interpreting the research here and making it useful to consumers. Of course, readers of Teach Effectively recognize him as one of the foremost experts in the US on writing instruction (and a good friend of TE). Alert readers will remember earlier posts about Professor Graham’s work including Graham Lecture with S. Graham (24 April 2009) and Effective methods for teaching writing (15 April 2009).
Even though he harbors doubts about whether there is a need for another education blog, friend of TE Dan Willingham has started a new blog. He thinks there is a niche for providing brief notes pointing at scientific findings that are relevant for education, and he plans to do so at daniel-willingham-science-and-education-blog. Scurry on over there and check on it. I’ll add it to the sidebar here.
As noted in a post a couple of weeks ago (“Free Funnix returns!”), the folks at Royal Limited Partnership are giving away free copies of Funnix, a beginning reading program. Funnix is a sequence of instructional lessons that shows young children the basics of early decoding as well as the fundamentals of comprehension. They are packaged as computer programs (note bene: Because they are Flash-based, they only work on some operating systems) with all the necessary accompanying worksheets and such. Learn more about this opportunity to receive a copy of the program by visiting this special page of the Funnix Web site. Go there during the month of February 2012.
These programs are built on Direct Instruction principles, so they have the entire line of research associated with those principles standing behind them. They require that an informed adult guide the student (checking answers, providing feedback) either in tutorial or small-group situations.
Read Free Funnix returns!, if you wish.
Loyal readers of TE will recall that the folks at Royal Limited Partnership gave away copies of the Funnix Beginning Reading program in 2011. Welp, it’s going to happen again! Yes indeedy! Quoting from a page on the Funnix Web site:
From February 1 through 16th, the Funnix Beginning Reading program will be free for download–no strings, no hidden costs.
The Funnix sequence teaches 2 year’s worth of reading skills. During last year’s promotion, more than 40,000 people received the Funnix Beginning Reading program free. Even higher numbers are anticipated for this year.
If you’re in the market for an excellent beginning reading program, sign up for your free download of Funnix Beginning Reading. The program has been offered for $25 during most of 2011; however, the price will rise to $38 following the giveaway in February.
Funnix is a computer-based early reading program that delivers the essential components for decoding instruction. A teacher, parent, teaching assistant, or other competent reader can work with an individual child or small group and provide the guidance needed by the student or students as they go through the instructional activities provided via the computer. It’s predicated on all the principles of Direct Instruction (its authors are Zig and Owen Engelmann). The lessons are lively and fun. There’s plenty of monitoring and opportunities for individualization.
Now, you can’t register early for this giveaway. You have to arrive after 1 February 2012. But, you can go to the Funnix giveaway announcement and look at the various offerings now, and you can become familiar with the products in advance, and you can be prepared (i.e., bookmark the site, put a reminder in your calendar, and so forth).
Isn’t it unusual to get something for free that is actually worth a lot? The good folks over at Education Consumers Foundation (ECF) are giving away a small book that is quite valuable, and I encourage readers to download it, read it, and tell their friends to get it, too.
What are they giving away? It’s a book called Clear Teaching: With Direct Instruction, Siegfried Engelmann Discovered a Better Way of Teaching by Shep Barbash. As one can tell from the subtitle, it’s about Zig Engelmann’s work on education. I talked with Mr. Barbash as he worked on the manuscript for the book, read an earlier version of it, and am very impressed with this finished product. It’s even more impressive that the book is now out in the wild for free. Kudos to Mr. Barbash, John Stone, and all the others at ECF who made this happen.
Clear Teaching – The Book
Written by veteran journalist Shepard Barbash over a period of 10 years, Clear Teaching is a well-researched, highly readable introduction to Direct Instruction (DI), a systematic teaching approach which for more than 40 years has dramatically improved learning outcomes for students of all abilities and from all walks of life. The book looks at the development of DI through the early experiences of its creator, Zig Engelmann; explains the principles that underpin this approach; and looks at DI’s reception in the world of teaching, where it has been effectively shunned despite a formidable research base and example after example of transformative success.
The image at the top of the post is hot, but readers can also click here to go to the ECF page where they can download the PDF.