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October 10, 2014
Rise & Shine: Shelby County Schools makes plans to close achievement gaps
expanded learning time
August 6, 2014
Fariña: Books are the answer to everything
Students from seven middle schools and three community-based centers were at the event with Chancellor Carmen Fariña to celebrate the end of a reading pilot program called SummerSail, which aims to stem the "learning loss" that affects many students from low-income families when school is out. The implied goal: to make the students enjoy reading as much as Fariña does.
July 22, 2014
Adult students with poor literacy getting short shrift, teachers say
A recent bulletin from the Office of Adult and Continuing Education urged principals to refer low-level students to free classes at the library. The department says referrals benefit students, but longtime adult educators are worried that the department is shortchanging the city's neediest adult learners.
Not Done Yet
June 2, 2014
Years after Common Core's arrival, reading overhauls continue at top charter networks
The city's top charter school networks are continuing to overhaul their reading materials and methods to meet the Common Core standards years after they were adopted. The networks have moved with new urgency since pass rates plunged on the first-ever Common Core state tests.
May 12, 2014
Some Common Core insights from a panel of experts: teachers
To give parents a glimpse into Common Core-aligned reading classrooms, Chalkbeat facilitated a conversation last week among three teachers that touched on close reading and textual evidence—and falcons and agriculture.
May 9, 2014
Sheridan middle school shows off literacy push to parents
Ian Render, a Sheridan Middle School math teacher, shows parent Nora Munoz, right, how one of the school’s new math programs, ALEKS, tracks student proficiency. Munoz…
Anatomy of a lesson
April 21, 2014
At Pueblo charter school, teaching literacy hasn’t changed much with new standards
Reading lessons may seem strikingly similar to lessons of yesteryear, even though this is the first year schools are supposed to be teaching to a new set of standards. For some Colorado districts, the new standards have meant a complete instructional overhaul. But at this Pueblo school, teachers began exploring the standards in 2010 and found that in most subjects, they only had to make slight shifts, said Natalie Allen, head of school.
January 22, 2014
With lawsuit settlement, Shelby County School officials shift focus toward academic improvements
With the municipality split and a subsequent lawsuit mostly settled, members of the Shelby County School Board and Superintendent Dorsey Hopson are shifting…
January 14, 2014
How sticky notes help my students read novels independently
In a First Person piece, teacher Ariel Sacks shares a strategy she uses to help her diverse group of students read and understand whole novels on their own — an unusual goal for a middle school class.
November 19, 2013
Middle school students trade TV for tutoring to boost reading
Tutor Aaron Whidbee with sixth-graders Elijah Parrilla (left) and Manuelle Lamboy, who attend a new extended-day tutoring program at the Highbridge Green School. It was nearly 5 p.m. on a recent chilly November afternoon — in other words, a time of television, text messages, and snacks for most middle-school students. And yet four sixth-graders at the Highbridge Green School in the Bronx were scouring a young-adult novel, “The Skin I’m In,” for clues about the way writers develop their characters. “I would like to add on to what Manuelle said,” said Elijah Parrilla, waiting for a nod from his after-school literacy tutor. “It says, ‘Good writers get close to their characters.’” The tutor, Aaron Whidbee, a former teacher from Yonkers, then asked another question about the chapter, and another student found the right answer. “You guys know what you’re doing here,” Whidbee said. Highbridge is one of 20 district middle schools in a pilot program run by the city and private partners that extends the schools' days by two-and-a-half hours — including an hour of small-group literacy tutoring for some students — in the hopes of raising students’ often alarmingly low reading skills. At Highbridge, for instance, 83 percent of sixth-graders read below grade level when they started the year.
August 16, 2013
Identifying a weakness, Explore Schools shifts focus to literacy
A group of Explore teachers listen to a teaching training session on cognitive engagement in literacy at Brooklyn College on Wednesday. When second-year teacher Alyssa Reyes saw her fourth-graders’ state exam scores, she was surprised. Math was a lot higher than she thought it would be and literacy was lower than she expected, she said. The Explore Excel Charter School teacher attributed the disparity to the fact that last year her school didn't have a literacy coordinator, while it had a full-time math coordinator who was "exceptional." "She really challenged me as a first-year teacher to not only get good at planning but also be much more reflective about execution and coming back to help students with different learning styles," Reyes said. Explore Schools picked up on this network-wide weakness in literacy and has responded by adding full-time literacy coordinators to join the ones in math and increasing the time that teachers have to work together. It is also strengthening its shared literacy curriculum and pushing teachers to tackle bigger-picture goals like "cognitive engagement" in their classrooms. New York schools have known about the new Common Core standards for nearly three years now and were supposed to tie their instruction to the new standards for the first time last year. But the results of the state tests released earlier this month have made the changes a reality, and educators across the city are spending the waning weeks of summer considering how to adjust their teaching in light of the scores.
July 15, 2013
Reading Closely For Connection In The Common Core
The Common Core’s reverence for the text as “the master class,” as chief creator David Coleman said in a 2011 speech, means that students’ personal interpretations are deemphasized — and even denounced. That particular pendulum swing has me concerned because, in my experience, students must also bring their own perspectives and experiences to the text if they are to read critically.
March 4, 2013
Parents work to provide support they didn't receive as students
Dreysser Cano reads a letter he wrote to his daughter aloud to participants in a literacy workshop. (Photo by Scholastic) For many parents who graduated from Scholastic’s “Rise and Read” program this month, the experience was bittersweet: They had learned new ways to support their children’s education, but they had also been reminded about how their own education had fallen short. “I want to prepare my children so they don’t have to go through what we went through,” said Rafael Encarnacion, who participated in the program with his wife Nikiesha. “So they have a basic foundation. We want to show them the basics of doing well in school, keeping up and staying focused.” Scholastic’s six-session Rise and Read workshop series aims to give parents tools to practice reading with their children — by handing out new books, but also by talking about everyday ways to introduce reading, whether through sounding out signs or reading along to lyrics of a favorite song.
October 24, 2012
Even with no model middle school, city expands literacy push
Greg Linton, an 8th grade humanities teacher at M.S. 266, takes notes on his school's literacy data. Nearly a year after beginning their search for an exceptional middle school to lead a push to boost literacy in struggling schools, city officials have concluded that no school is good enough. After the city launched its Middle School Quality Initiative last year, it selected two dozen underperforming schools to receive special training and thousands of dollars in program funding. Then it picked more successful schools to be "anchors" that would teach them. Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School became a model for teacher collaboration, and schools were sent to M.S. 244 to learn about using data to detect signs that students are at-risk. The city also wanted to push the 23 schools on literacy, where their students especially lagged. But officials said they could find no middle school strong enough to use as the emblem of the literacy initiative. "There isn't an anchor we could turn to to say, 'Show us the magic of how it's all done together,'" said Nancy Gannon, the department official overseeing MSQI. Nonetheless, as MSQI expanded from 24 schools at first (six with only partial funding) to 49 this year, the department also expanded the initiative’s literacy program. The schools are getting extra funds and monthly trainings focused exclusively on literacy, in a program that officials consider it the most significant part of the citywide initiative.
July 18, 2012
Seven takeaways from a closer look at the state test scores
The state released the results of this year's third through eighth grade tests yesterday, and officials from City Hall to the charter sector lept to celebrate students' gains. Some changes were the focal point of the Department of Education's Tuesday afternoon press conference—like the drop among English Language Learners and the boosts charter schools saw. But they avoided nuances in the results for the city's new schools, which have been at the center of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's education reform policies. Beyond first impressions, here are seven interesting takeaways we parsed from the trove of data: Like last year, English Language Learners took a step back. Students who are identified as English Language Learners improved slightly in math, but took another step back from the statistical gains they made on the literacy test (ELA) earlier in the decade, before the state made the exams tougher in 2010. While just under half of the city’s non-ELL students met the state’s ELA standards, just 11.6 percent of ELL students did so. But in math, the percentage of ELL students scoring proficient rose by 2.5 points, to 37 percent. But students in other categories that typically struggle showed improvements. The percentage of students with disabilities who are proficient in math and literacy went up again this year, to 30.2 percent in math and 15.8 percent in English. And although Black and Hispanic students are still lagging behind their white peers by close to thirty percentage points in literacy and math, they also saw small bumps in both subjects. Officials said that new initiatives targeting struggling students, particularly students of color, contributed to the gains.
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