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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Why American Students Haven't Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years | The Atlantic

Photo: Natalie Wexler
"Schools usually focus on teaching comprehension skills instead of general knowledge—even though education researchers know better" according to Natalie Wexler, journalist based in Washington, D.C. Natalie is the co-author of The Writing Revolution.

Photo: Geri Lavrov / Getty

Every two years, education-policy wonks gear up for what has become a time-honored ritual: the release of the Nation’s Report Card. Officially known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, the data reflect the results of reading and math tests administered to a sample of students across the country. Experts generally consider the tests rigorous and highly reliable—and the scores basically stagnant.

Math scores have been flat since 2009 and reading scores since 1998, with just a third or so of students performing at a level the NAEP defines as “proficient.” Performance gaps between lower-income students and their more affluent peers, among other demographic discrepancies, have remained stubbornly wide.

Among the likely culprits for the stalled progress in math scores: a misalignment between what the NAEP tests and what state standards require teachers to cover at specific grade levels. But what’s the reason for the utter lack of progress in reading scores?

On Tuesday, a panel of experts in Washington, D.C., convened by the federally appointed officials who oversee the NAEP concluded that the root of the problem is the way schools teach reading. The current instructional approach, they agreed, is based on assumptions about how children learn that have been disproven by research over the last several decades—research that the education world has largely failed to heed.

The long-standing view has been that the first several years of elementary school should be devoted to basic reading skills. History, science, and the arts can wait. After all, the argument goes, if kids haven’t learned to read—a task that is theoretically accomplished by third grade—how will they be able to gain knowledge about those subjects through their own reading?

The federal No Child Left Behind legislation, enacted in 2001, only intensified the focus on reading. The statute required states to administer annual reading and math tests to students in grades three through eight and once in high school, and attached hefty consequences if schools failed to boost scores. The law that replaced No Child Left Behind—the Every Student Succeeds Act, enacted in 2015—has eased the consequences but has hardly weakened the emphasis on testing.

What is tested, some educators say, gets taught—and what isn’t doesn’t. Since 2001, the curriculum in many elementary schools has narrowed to little more than a steady diet of reading and math. And when test scores fail to rise after third grade—as they often do, especially in high-poverty schools—subjects like history and science may continue to be relegated to the far back burner through middle school.

To some extent, it does make sense to focus on reading skills in the early years. One component of reading is, like math, primarily a set of skills: the part that involves decoding, or making connections between sounds and the letters that represent them...

...Louisiana har ikke kun lavet sin egen pensum, men har også bedt den føderale regering om tilladelse til at give prøver baseret på denne pensum snarere end passager på en række tilfældigt udvalgte emner. Hvis denne bevægelse spredes, kan den nationale vurdering af uddannelsesfremskridt endelig leve op til sit navn, og det amerikanske uddannelsessystem kan til sidst være i stand til at låse op for muligheden for millioner af studerende.
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Photo: Steve Helber / AP
The Future of College Looks Like the Future of Retail writes Jeffrey Selingo, contributing editor to The Atlantic and the author of There Is Life After College.
"Similar to e-commerce firms, online-degree programs are beginning to incorporate elements of an older-school, brick-and-mortar model."  

Source: The Atlantic


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