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Daily Archives: September 6, 2007

What works?

Thanks to the fact that that excellent US resource Education Week is having an Open House at the moment, I have been able to access some really good information for teachers. I do have a free subscription, but that limits you to a small number of articles per week; still worth subscribing though.

There is, for example, a blog on gifted education that may interest some, especially because of the cultural context from which it comes: Unwrapping the Gifted.

Tamara Fisher is a K-12 gifted education specialist for a school district located on an Indian reservation in northwestern Montana and president-elect of the Montana Association of Gifted and Talented Education. With Karen Isaacson, she is also co-author of Intelligent Life in the Classroom: Smart Kids and Their Teachers. Her hobbies include drawing, hiking, fourwheeling, and building houses. (She lives in a house she built herself.) In this blog, Fisher discusses news and developments in the gifted education community and offers advice for teachers on working with gifted students.

Subject of much ideologically driven controversy in recent years has been the perennial topic of the teaching of reading. Here in NSW Reading Recovery has for some years been the program of choice in many Infants Departments, but lately phonics-driven approaches, which always appeal for some reason to the political Right, have tended to attract much publicity, and funding. It is interesting then to read Out-of-Favor Reading Plan Rated Highly:

Reading Recovery, a popular one-to-one tutoring program that Bush administration officials sought to shut out of a high-profile federal reading program, has gotten a rare thumbs-up from the federal What Works Clearinghouse.

The positive rating comes after prominent researchers and federal reading officials tried to dissuade states and districts from paying for Reading Recovery with funds from the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program, which calls on school systems to spend their grant money on programs backed by ‘scientifically based research.’ In their objections to the tutoring program, critics raised questions about its cost and cited problems in the studies attesting to its effectiveness.

‘I think this is good news for all the school superintendents who kept Reading Recovery alive in their schools,’ said Jady Johnson, the executive director of the Reading Recovery Council of North America, a nonprofit group based in Worthington, Ohio. ‘I’m hoping this report will signal a change in direction for the [U.S. Education] Department.’

See also Reading Curricula Don’t Make Cut for Federal Review.

Just one program was found to have positive effects or potentially positive effects across all four of the domains in the review–alphabetics, fluency, comprehension, and general reading achievement. That program, Reading Recovery, an intensive, one-on-one tutoring program, has drawn criticism over the past few years from prominent researchers and federal officials who claimed it was not scientifically based.

Federal officials and contractors tried to discourage states and districts from using Reading Recovery in schools participating in the federal Reading First program, citing a lack of evidence that it helps struggling readers.

Other popular programs were found to have potentially positive effects as well. Success for All, a whole-school-reform program developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, got the favorable rating on alphabetics and general reading achievement, but mixed results on comprehension. Voyager Universal Literacy System, a product of the Dallas-based Voyager Learning, was found to have potentially positive effects on alphabetics but potentially negative effects on comprehension. Accelerated Reader, distributed by Renaissance Learning Inc., was found to have a potentially positive impact on comprehension and general reading achievement.

The review discussed here may be found at The What Works Clearinghouse where you may also find a report on ESL programs.

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