No Effect on Comprehension Seen From 'Reading First'
By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
The $6 billion funding for the federal Reading First program has helped more students “crack the code” to identify letters and words, but it has not had an impact on reading comprehension among 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders in participating schools, according to one of the largest and most rigorous studies ever undertaken by the U.S. Department of Education.
While more time is spent on reading instruction and professional development in schools that received Reading First grants than in comparison schools, students in participating schools are no more likely to become proficient readers, even after several years with the extended instruction, the study found.
Among both the Reading First and comparison groups, reading achievement was low, with fewer than half of 1st graders, and fewer than 40 percent of 2nd and 3rd graders showing grade-level proficiency in their understanding of what they read. On a basic decoding test, however, 1st graders in Reading First schools scored significantly better than their peers.
The problem with literacy and academic achievement does not originate in students having problems learning 26 letters and corresponding phonemes.
The real problem is that they are not familiar with the words and the meaning they add to a sentence.
If I would get a dollar for ever teacher telling me that explicit vocabulary instruction and practice is no longer needed, I would be going on vacation today.
Who started the rumor students will somehow learn words by themselves?
Fact is that students from a disadvantaged background enter school with half the vocabulary of their more supported peers. This gap widens as the years progress, with 4th grade commonly being considered the critical year. If the lack in vocabulary skill and confidence is not remedied by 4th grade, the student is at high risk to fail academically, and to drop out of school.
So much for the sad news. The good news is that every student can build a strong vocabulary with efficient and targeted practice. eSpindle was designed to be that program, providing personalized learning sessions and unlimited support.
It is not uncommon that new members need an incredible amount of repetitions - sometimes 50-60!! - before a word is learned. Quite quickly, however, this number shrinks to around 5 as the student develops confidence and interest in words.
Why? Because the student was given the opportunity to figure out, at their own pace and time, that learning words is really not hard. It takes a bit of effort, yes, but it is not rocket science, and definitely something most everybody can manage to accomplish with the right support.
This understanding helps the brain to stop resisting the challenge and gain confidence.