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NAEP Results

The 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading results are in--and they are not good. The NAEP is the nation's reading and writing report card, providing a snapshot of student achievement.
34% of fourth graders and 43% of eighth graders scored at the basic level, which indicates that these students have only a partial mastery of the skills they need to be successful at their grade level. In addition, 33% of fourth graders and 26% of eighth graders scored below the basic level. That means that fully 67% of fourth graders scored below proficient—the same number of students who scored at that level in 2007.
From my perspective, it is clear that implementing one-size-fits-all programs and mandating one novel for all students in a class to read are practices that prevent too many students from making progress in reading. When will schools see that differentiating reading instruction is the way to support all readers?
Laura Robb

Give Students Choices

When I interview students, they repeatedly tell me that they want to choose their books and their writing topics. Learning to make good choices builds responsibility and independence. Students develop literary tastes, discovering topics and genres that they relish and feel the need to read about. With writing, students can explore topics that they feel passionate about and want to invest time in developing. Writing choice can exist side-by-side writing test prep. Practice with a state prompt every seven to eight weeks. The rest of the time, offer choices.
It's possible to offer students choices with instructional reading, especially when you organize whole-class differentiated instructional reading (see my book, Differentiating Reading Instruction, Chapter 4). You and your librarian can select books on a wide range of reading levels, then give students choices within their instructional reading levels.
Let me know how you handle choice in your reading and writing curricula.
Laura Robb

Everybody in the Same Book?

Schools all over the United States are still doing round robin reading in the middle grades and in middle school. I also see classes in which students are placed in one novel or one basal anthology, even if it's too difficult or too easy for many. We need to educate administrators and school districts that legislate these policies by sharing the research on differentiation, which demonstrates that students need to be given materials at their reading level, and by sharing the research that shows students lose ground when they don't read. Daily, students march from subject to subject confronted with textbooks and anthologies that they can't and don't read. Students who can't read and write well will have difficulty meeting the demands of higher education and the job market. Changing this landscape is challenging because money for multiple texts is tighter than ever, and because teachers need professional development and support to bring best practice teaching to their students. Yet, we have to be change makers to support the children we teach.
I'd like to hear teachers' experiences with these issues. Have you created change at your schools? If so, how?
Laura Robb

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in The Laura Robb Blog are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.