Core Knowledge Reading Pilot in NYC

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AngusM
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Core Knowledge Reading Pilot in NYC

Post by AngusM » Tue Oct 06, 2009 4:18 am

There has been some publicity in the NY press and radio media about the Core Knowledge Foundation's Reading program which Matt Davis is testing in NYC public schools. I don't know if Matt has been blowing his horn here on the message board but he should be!

These are probably very preliminary results but they are still remarkable. As he says in his email the NYC Department of Education report that "the progress of students in the ten participating schools was more than five times greater than the also-significant performance of students at ten peer schools with comparable student populations"! But most importantly, Core Knowledge appear now to have the ear of Joel Klein - the Chancellor of the NYC Schools system - and that is really quite an achievement. Klein was reported as saying that "the method can go a long way toward bridging learning gaps". And Klein went on to say that although he wouldn't mandate the program for schools he hoped "teachers choose to use it.". Watch the video here (note the wall charts in the classrooms - 'The Basic Code' etc etc):

http://www.ny1.com/content/news_beats/e ... fault.aspx

Here's the text of the Core Knowledge email that Matt sent:

One year after announcing a pilot program to test a new Core Knowledge Early Literacy program in ten New York City Schools, Joel Klein Tuesday announced very strong early results. As a news release from the New York City Department of Ed puts it:

The progress of students in the ten participating schools was more than five times greater than the also-significant performance of students at ten peer schools with comparable student populations, and was reflected among students at all levels of literacy. Additionally, teachers surveyed as part of the pilot rated the program highly, and nine of the ten participating schools have selected to use the Core Knowledge program with their new kindergarten classes in addition to continuing the program with their first graders, who remain in the pilot.

Speaking at a press conference at a South Bronx elementary school — one of the pilot schools – E.D. Hirsch noted that while the initial results were gratifying, the bigger payoff could come later, since the program is designed to build broad background knowledge across the curriculum, which pays off in improved reading comprehension in the years ahead:

Kindergarten is just a start. There is always the danger of fade out in later years, as we know from Headstart research. Elsewhere in the nation, and right here in New York, schools have made noticeable progress in raising reading scores in the early grades according to NAEP, the Nations Report Card. These improvements reflect better teaching of decoding. But the improvements in scores are still confined to the early grades. Verbal scores in the later grades of NAEP have stayed unacceptably low. Yet these later verbal scores are the ones that predict a student’s ultimate success in life.

The program consists of two strands: a phonics-heavy decoding strand, and a “listening and learning” strand to build content knowledge. “Assuming that we will get funding to develop materials for the later grades,” Hirsch noted, “I am predicting that even more dramatic results will show up further on. Instead of the current flat or even declining verbal scores among middle and high school students we will see in students who follow a program like this significantly higher scores, and we will see a narrowing of the language gap between races and ethnic groups.”


http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2009/09/2 ... g-program/

JIM CURRAN
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Post by JIM CURRAN » Tue Oct 06, 2009 7:33 am

Thanks Angus for sharing this wonderful news with us and well done to Matt Davis and the Core Knowledge people.

It will be very interesting to see how things progress. Like all Reading Reform Foundation members I've always been a strong advocate for initial synthetic phonics teaching but I have never felt that this would be sufficient to bridge the gap between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers.I have always been mindful of the late Jeanne Chall's work on ''Poor Children's Fourth Grade Slump'' http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/america ... chall.html. Good decoding skills on their own will never be enough, to be good comprehenders children need "word knowledge and world knowledge'' and this is what The Core Knowledge Foundation is attempting to do.

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Tue Oct 06, 2009 7:55 am

This is certainly great news about Core Knowledge in New York. Congratulations to Matt and all others involved.

Jenny C.

AngusM
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Post by AngusM » Wed Oct 07, 2009 2:55 am

Here is the NYC Department of Education Press Release about the Core Knowledge Foundation's Pilot Program. The City has been touting rising reading scores in all schools in the last few years in order to justify the radical changes that Mayor Bloomberg has made to the Dept of Education during his tenure - essentially centralizing control of the schools under Klein who now reports directly to him. Hence the rather cumbersome syntax used in their claim that the remarkable gains made in the CKF schools were 'more than five times greater than the also-significant gains' of the control group of schools. Anyway, that's the politics of the situation - but it makes the gains made by the CKF schools even more remarkable: they were five times better than improving schools.

For evaluating these gains it appears that CKF used the Woodcock Johnson III Diagnostic Reading Battery and the Terra Nova III Battery of tests.


Encouraging Results from First Year of Core Knowledge Early Literacy Program 09/22/2009

Students Taking Part in Pilot Make Substantial Reading Gains

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced that kindergarten students participating in the Core Knowledge Early Literacy Program made substantial gains in reading in 2008-09, the first year of the pilot program. The progress of students in the ten participating schools was more than five times greater than the also-significant performance of students at ten peer schools with comparable student populations, and was reflected among students at all levels of literacy. Additionally, teachers surveyed as part of the pilot rated the program highly, and nine of the ten participating schools have selected to use the Core Knowledge program with their new kindergarten classes in addition to continuing the program with their first graders, who remain in the pilot. Chancellor Klein announced the results in the South Bronx at P.S. 30, one of the schools participating in the pilot, and was joined by Dr. E.D. Hirsch, Jr., founder of the Core Knowledge program.

“The results we’re announcing today represent an early but promising indication of Core Knowledge’s effectiveness,” Chancellor Klein said. “Teachers and principals have been very happy with the program, and the participating students have made important progress toward becoming skillful readers.”

“The short-term results of our Core Knowledge pilot are gratifying, but I expect the biggest payoff is yet to be seen,” Dr. Hirsch said. “Lack of background knowledge in science, history, the arts, and other subjects is what causes reading scores to decline in later grades. The Core Knowledge program represents a long-term investment in reading achievement and our children’s long-term success. I hope to build on our exciting work in New York City in coming years.”

“Core Knowledge has made a big difference for our kindergarteners,” P.S. 30 Principal Roxan Marks said. “Their literacy skills improved significantly last year — so much so that I decided to use Core Knowledge again in this year’s incoming kindergarten class. I’ll be interested to see how these gains hold up over time.”

The Core Knowledge Early Literacy Program is a three-year pilot program in reading instruction. Initiated in September 2008 with kindergarten students, the program will continue to be used with the same cohort of students as they move through the first and second grades. The Core Knowledge program develops reading skills by building students’ content knowledge while emphasizing phonics and vocabulary instruction. This content-based approach to literacy instruction helps students gain the knowledge and skills necessary for success in later grades. The ten schools participating in the pilot program are being measured against a comparison group of similar schools to test the effectiveness of the Core Knowledge Reading program and its impact on students over time.

Literacy for students participating in the Core Knowledge pilot is measured by the Woodcock Johnson III Diagnostic Reading Battery and the Terra Nova III Battery, assessments that evaluate student ability in basic reading skills, oral comprehension, decoding, and spelling.

The Core Knowledge Early Literacy Program has a budget of approximately $3 million and is funded in part by private donations made to The Fund for Public Schools. Donors include the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation, the Bank of New York Mellon Corporation Foundation, the Verizon Foundation, the Centerbridge Foundation, Sarah Jessica Parker, and the Joseph Drown Foundation. The cost includes teacher training, materials, and evaluation throughout the duration of the program.

JIM CURRAN
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Post by JIM CURRAN » Wed Oct 07, 2009 7:57 am

Always worth another watch, Professor Daniel Willingham ''Teaching Content is teaching reading'' on u tube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiP-ijdxqEc

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Wed Oct 07, 2009 12:02 pm

The Willingham presentation is very good.

An aspect which he doesn't mention but which I'm sure he would recognise and which is worth thinking about is this: if children get stuck on a word, whole-language teachers would say that they can use their comprehension of the surrounding text to work out what the word is - but what if they don't understand the surrounding text, or if understanding the surrounding text actually depends on knowing the identity of the word that they haven't yet identified? It can all get very circular.

The only safe way is for children to understand that they should start by accurately decoding all the words and thus being sure that they have identified them correctly - i.e. have translated them correctly into their spoken forms. If they then realise that there is a problem with comprehension, they can think about which word or group of words is causing the problem and at that point they can consider whether the surrounding context may help or whether they need to look up the meaning of a word, acquire the necessary background knowledge etc.

Jenny C.

JIM CURRAN
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Post by JIM CURRAN » Wed Oct 07, 2009 5:30 pm

I remember reading somewhere, that in order to comprehend any piece of written text, the reader must know the meaning of 95% of the words in that text. This knowledge allows the reader to work out the meaning of the 5% of words that he/ she are unsure of. This is how reading can hugely increase a child’s vocabulary.

Unfortunately poor vocabulary and weak general knowledge are a huge problem, especially among disadvantaged children and remains a major barrier to comprehension. This is where I feel that the Core Knowledge approach could begin to make such a difference. Only time will tell.

Elizabeth
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Post by Elizabeth » Wed Oct 07, 2009 6:43 pm

Fantastic news, Angus. I wonder what effect the results will have on the people who influence the teaching of reading in the USA.
Elizabeth

AngusM
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Post by AngusM » Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:14 am

Jenny:

You write that Dan Willingham didn't specifically mention low-level decoding skills as being a necessary prerequisite to comprehension. You said:

"The only safe way is for children to understand that they should start by accurately decoding all the words and thus being sure that they have identified them correctly - i.e. have translated them correctly into their spoken forms."

Believe it or not, I've actually been told by some educators (in special LD schools) here that even if children are still not decoding fluently they'll eventually recognize words 'automatically'. Practicing these low-level decoding skills is therefore progressively de-emphasized - even when the children are still guessing! Even the discredited Dual Route Theory doesn't go that far: it, at least, assumed that new words would always have to be phonologically recoded in order for them to be 'accessed directly' (ie 'automatically') later by skilled readers.

Anyway, you may not have seen in the responses to Willingham's article that there was one from Tom Carr (Michigan State University) making your point. And later a response from Willingham - agreeing with him (and you).

Here is the exchange:

"Hey Dan. What you say is true, but the devil is in what you leave out. Reading comprehension requires background knowledge that can be automatically retrieved by the cues from what you’re reading, background knowledge that you need to think of and hence retrieve intentionally and with effort, and a general attitude toward understanding what you’re reading and trying to relate it to what you already know. But reading comprehension ALSO requires a lot of “lower level” SKILLS that are practiced enough to be automatic enough to not interfere with those of the higher-level knowledge-based processes that you emphasize. If a reader spends all his or her mental energy and capacity trying to figure out words and/or syntax, there’s not going to be enough information passing forward to higher-level processes, or mental energy/capacity left over to make the connections and help build them into representations of the content of what is being read, to be able to understand and remember the material. There’s LOTS of evidence for the way I just described it — if you think I’ve got it wrong, I’d love to hear back why. But if you think I’ve got it right, I’d love to see you write a followup in your column…. Best regards,

Tom Carr
Professor of Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience
Department of Psychology
Michigan State University

"Hey Tom

You’re absolutely right. I’m assuming that these low level skills will be practiced enough that they are fluent for most readers by 4th or 5th grade. I think US performance on international tests (pretty good in the early grades for reading) indicate that most US kids are getting this. It’s not until 8th grade and h.s. that US kids really take a nosedive in reading performance. That’s when reading tests no longer tap decoding and decoding fluency (because most kids are competent by then) and instead tap comprehension.

Now as to writing a follow up that emphasizes the need to practice low-level skills. . . I try to write only one column each month that yield a cascade of angry emails "

Seems clear that they both support the view that these low level skills should be practiced to automaticity - even beyond Fifth Grade, if necessary.

Angus

JIM CURRAN
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Post by JIM CURRAN » Fri Oct 09, 2009 8:02 am

The point is well made Angus. Weak decoding skills will always cause problems with comprehension. Decoding skills must be practiced to the point of automaticity and too many children are not getting the level of practice they need for this to happen. They are being pushed on to read ever more demanding texts without being given time to practice and consolidate their decoding skills.

In upper primary they are diagnosed with having a comprehension problem when the real problem is unconsolidated decoding skills. As Susan S pointed out in a recent post, the problem that presents isn’t always the problem that needs to be solved.

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palisadesk
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Post by palisadesk » Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:02 pm

Elizabeth wrote:Fantastic news, Angus. I wonder what effect the results will have on the people who influence the teaching of reading in the USA.
Alas, if previous experience is anything to go by -- and it generally is -- the results, however positive, will have little to no effect on the people who control the agenda of reading instruction in the USA. They are dedicated to fads rather than proven practices, to ideology rather than data-based decision making, and to social change rather than student learning. Project Follow Through was only the most egregious example of this phenomenon.

However, that does not diminish the importance of developing these effective programs, and implementing them in schools, even if it is only on a small scale. There will always be a few who wish to learn from and replicate successful instructional initiatives, and who will fight to implement them. And the benefits to the children who are lucky enough to profit from them are real, lasting and often life-changing.

Susan S.

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:11 pm

I agree, Susan. We all wish we could bring about large-scale changes overnight, but if we can't, small-scale changes wherever we can bring them about are certainly worth achieving.

Jenny C.

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