Education Week - May 13, 2015 - Special Report - (Page S16)

S16 | EDUCATION WEEK MAY 13, 2015 n Building Literacy Skills > I Should 3rd Grade Be Pivot Point for Early Reading? Research questions the wisdom of retaining students who struggle to read IT'S BECOME A TRUISM IN EDUcation policy that reading is the gatekeeper to later academic success. In hopes of ensuring that success, a rising number of states bar promotion for students who do not read proficiently by 3rd grade. In 2004, only Florida and Ohio used 3rd grade reading as a gatekeeper to promotion. Today, 16 states and the District of Columbia require-and three others allow- schools to retain 3rd graders based on reading performance. Yet even as retention gains traction among state policymakers, new research questions both the effectiveness of holding back students and the timing of reading development itself. "Not being able to decode is different from phonological fluency, which is different from not understanding what words mean," said Shane R. Jimerson, the chairman of counseling, clinical, and school psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "Just repeating a grade is not going to magically solve all those problems, and it adds the consequences psychologically of being left behind." 'Reading to Learn' The theorized cognitive shift from "learning to read" in 3rd grade to "reading to learn" in 4th grade may not be as clear-cut as traditionally thought, some experts say. "I think that a lot of the basalreading programs grabbed onto that and structured their curricula so there was a clear shift in 4th grade, to move on from word work," said Donna J. Coch, the principal investigator for Dartmouth University's Reading Brains Lab. "It became a self-fulfilling prophesy." In a 2014 study in Developmental Science, Ms. Coch and her colleagues tracked the brain activity of students in grades 3-5, as well as college students, as they saw a mix of actual words like "bed," pseudowords like "bem," and strings of random letters or symbols. In one test, they circled the real Common Wisdom on Reading vs. Research Test your knowledge about learning to read. NATURAL DEVELOPMENT? 1) Children will instinctively learn to read if given enough time. True or False? READING TO LEARN 2) Kindergartners are developmentally capable of learning new information from books. True or False? ON TRACK TO GRADUATION? 3) Students who do not read proficiently by 3rd grade are less likely to graduate from high school on time. True or False? MULTIMEDIA: For answers to these and other questions, go to: words on a written test, to measure how well they consciously understood the words, while in another test, they saw one letter at a time, which allowed researchers to measure how quickly they processed real words and meaningless series of letters or symbols. At a conscious level, the 4th and 5th graders were as accurate as adults at identifying what was a word and what was not a word, but in brain scans, they continued to process pseudowords like real words through 5th grade. While on a paper test, they looked like adult readers, the scans showed they processed words differently from adults well past 4th grade. While 4th and 5th grade teachers often move to higher reading and content skills, "our study shows the lower-level skills are still developing [in students] through elementary school," Ms. Coch said. The concept of children's continuously developing reading brains also plays out in the Common Core State Standards, which call for students to begin "reading to learn"- that is, drawing information from text-as early as kindergarten. There is no clear break between learning to read and reading to learn. "There isn't this magic age that, if you don't catch a kid by that age, you lose them forever," said Timothy Shanahan, a distinguished professor emeritus specializing in literacy research at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a lead writer of the common-core language arts standards. "It's harder if a kid is six years behind to catch him up than if he's two years behind, but it's not because he's stupider or loses the capacity to learn; it's just a greater distance." And the opposite also holds true: "Just because you catch a 7-yearold up and get him to his class average, that's terrific, but that doesn't guarantee his future, eiBy Sarah D. Sparks

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 13, 2015 - Special Report

Education Week - May 13, 2015 - Special Report
Teachers Turn to New Read-Aloud Strategies For Common-Core Era
Alabama Coaches Up Literacy Lessons
Broadening the Push for Grade-Level Reading
Forget Word Lists: Vocabulary Lessons Start With Context
Should 3rd Grade Be Pivot Point for Early Reading?
Fluency Still Seen as Neglected Skill

Education Week - May 13, 2015 - Special Report