Aya Academy of Excellence

Lies Teachers Tell Us: Why Kids Can’t Read

My daughter is a voracious reader. Each morning, before she packs her snack, she is grabbing a book to read.  I scoop my daughters up to visit Barnes and Nobles every month to stock up on new reading material and every other week they head to their school’s media center to check out books. A few months ago, I picked up a purple plastic book light for my daughter from the dollar store.  Her faced gleamed.  To her, this was better than a slice of chocolate cake.  She reads in the car on the way to school, she reads before bed every night and she reads when she wakes up awaiting her turn in the bathroom.  What’s the issue?  My third grader is a bookworm who cannot read. 

According to the ITBS, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, my child who gobbles up books like Godzilla devours Japanese skyscrapers, is a poor reader.  She has low comprehension and vocabulary.  As a parent, I was mortified.  Hadn’t I done all the right things?  No TV during the week?  Reading every night?  Model the love of reading by sticking my own head in a book each day? As a teacher, I got scared for my students and the legions of teachers who have uttered the following lie to parents across the nation, “As long as your child reads 20 minutes each day, it doesn’t matter what she reads.  She will be fine.” Poppycock. 

As a teacher I know that I was not empowered to pinpoint students’ reading deficiencies and develop a plan of action to improve them.  I figured it was because I was a content area teacher.  Someone has been trained to teach kids how to read, right? Maybe the language arts teachers knew this stuff.  I was wrong.  It appears that teachers are not knowledgable on measuring students’ reading capabilities and developing strategies for their students.  After meeting with my daughter’s teacher, she never raised any specific activties to improve her reading.  She was at a loss.

Here is what parents – and teachers – need to know to strengthen  their child’s reading.

1. Determine how well your child reads using tests already administered in school.  Ask for your child’s Lexile score.  A Lexile score is a measurement to determine reading comprehension.  At her school, in 3rd grade, my daughter is expected to be in the 500-800 range.* Lexile scores can be determined from national norm tests, school purchased reading assessments such as SRI from Scholastic or end of the year state exams.  Be mindful that assessment scores will vary.  My daughter’s scores on the state exam were 200 points higher than the school administered reading exam because the latter did not include text support.  In other words, assessments with pictures, graphs and other visual aids will help your child comprehend the reading better and may sqew the results.  *This range is NOT in line with what MetaMetrics the developer of Lexile ‘recommends.  See below.

2. Have your child read material, books, magazines and online articles, that is 100 points below to 50 points above their level.  If material is too easy, your child will not be challenged. If it is too difficult, it will be too frustrating.  Any material out of their range will not lead to growth in their reading.   Your child’s book choices should appeal to their interests to keep them engaged.  Lexile scores are available online on Barnes and Nobles website as well as www.lexile.com.

3. Ask your child questions throughout their reading of the book.  Would you want to be a friend of  (main character) ?  Would (event from story) have happened if (previous event) wouldn’t have happened? Have your child sort out story developments to sequence information and explain out events led to latter events to show causal relationships.

4. Create a vocabulary book.  As your child comes across an unfamilar word, have them jot it down in a notebook to make their own personal dictionary.

5. Link your child’s reading experiences to family field trip experiences.  If your child is reading about dinosaurs, take them to the local natural history museum.  Make reading a whole family activity by incoporating it into family movie nights.  Select films that relate to the theme of the book – Jurassic Park, for example.  Have sketch parties at home by drawing scenes from the book. When children make connections between what they are reading and their real life experiences it makes reading a more engaging activity.

6. Ask your child’s teacher how often they plan on testing your child’s reading development.  It is recommended that students are assessed four times per year to guage growth.

As a  parent, I am greatful that my child already has a love of reading.  By taking these steps, I aiming to ensure that this passion isn’t extinguished. I am grateful that I became aware of the issue early to intervene and I am thankful that I have platform to share this information in the hope that it can shed some light and assist another parent and teacher.

Typical Reader Measures, by Grade

Grade Reader Measures, Mid-Year
25th percentile to 75th percentile (IQR)
1 Up to 300L
2 140L to 500L
3 330L to 700L
4 445L to 810L
5 565L to 910L
6 665L to 1000L
7 735L to 1065L
8 805L to 1100L
9 855L to 1165L
10 905L to 1195L
11 and 12 940L to 1210L

The chart above is from www.lexile.com.


Classroom Calculus: The Ed Reform Equation

Much ado about nothing has been plaguing the internet for the last several months.  Educators with years of classroom experience have been pitted against newbies who have never seen a chalkboard.  Pundits with little to no classroom experience have been proponents of every initiative offered by people with no vested in interest in education aside from the very lucrative bottom line the education industry offers.  And to what avail?  Classroom teachers see the marking off of school day, after school of the 180 day calendar with child-after-child still struggling to perform academically and keep their head above water emotionally. So cutting to the chase, below are a series of solutions to end the squabbling of how to ‘fix’ America’s broken system so that we can take action and support our children.

Issue #1: Teacher Pay and the VAA

Until longitudinal data can be tracked and aligned to standards, teacher pay should not be dependent on student outcomes.  However, all teachers, completing the same job should have the same rate of pay within a local district.  This will eliminate pay increases based on years of service and instead make pay tied to the job performed by the educator. 

Additionally, the ratio of non-teaching personnel including administrators and clerks should be vastly reduced to diminish the bloat on school budgets.  Teachers should be required to perform one ancillary duty needed at building level – counseling, technology support, etc.  The old adage TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More would be implemented into a flat management model versus the towering Giza hierarchy existing within most school districts.

Once longitudinal data can be ascertained and shown valid for tracking student outcomes with teacher performance without extraneous considerations such as one classroom full of English second language learners versus another without, then it can and should be used for merit pay and teacher removal.

Issue #2: Class Size

Less is more.  Smaller class sizes enable teachers to more proficiently tend to the divergent learning needs of today’s classrooms.  However, the more, the better is also true and to attend to the needs of learners, schools need to extend their school calendars beyond the traditional 180 days.  This change should not be at any additional rate of pay for educators  because although we all enjoy an extended summer, the number of students receiving remediation in the months of June and July is a clear indication that this system is not working to the benefit of children.

Issue #3: Teaching for the Test

Anyone with knowledge of how poorly exams are constructed including the very low threshold needed to meet standards would have no issue with teaching for the test.  However, the insanity does not lie with the tests themselves but the outrageous number of standards embedded within the curriculum.  Teachers scramble with ‘covering’ curriculum instead of allowing students to ‘uncover’ the curriculum.   Changing the curriculum…better yet, reducing the number of standards to allow for cogent teaching of content will increase the level of proficient teaching and learning.  Educators are attacking the wrong beast – grab your pitchforks and stab the standards folks, not the tests.

I’m ready to roll up my sleeves to focus on the learning in the classroom.  are you ready to join me?

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