Summer slide is dangerous

The summer slide is serious, writes Lisa Hansel on Core Knowledge Blog. Teachers spend the first two to five weeks of school reteaching content and skills that have slipped away over the summer. Yet 61 percent of parents do not believe that their children decline in reading ability over the summer, according to a survey for Reading is Fundamental.
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Parents of 5-11 year olds report that their child spent an average of 5.9 hours per week reading books last summer, compared to 16.7 hours playing outdoors, 10.8 hours watching TV and 6.6 hours playing video games.

A majority of parents thinks six hours a week is just the right amount of reading.

Girls read a bit more than the average and boys read less. The 7 percent gap in parental expectations — they think reading is more important for girls — is reflected in the college graduation rate, writes Hansel. In 2013, 37 percent of females but only 30 percent of males had a bachelor’s degree.

Educated parents take their children to libraries and book stores. They use the summer for enrichment.

Advantaged children tend to make reading gains each summer, writes Hansel. But disadvantaged children fall even farther behind.

Reading is Fundamental is trying to get books into the hands of these kids.

Creating a school community

To write Our School: Searching for Community in the Era of Choice, Sam Chaltain spent a year following two Washington D.C. schools, Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School and Bancroft Elementary School.

In both the charter and the district school, “he found caring teachers and administrators in vibrant schools who struggle to meet new standards with little guidance and at times little support,” reports the Washington Post.

Not everything can be measured, writes Chaltain. However, it’s “just as it is true that there are ways to measure aspects of teaching and learning that go a lot deeper than basic-skills test scores.”

My book about Downtown College Prep, a San Jose charter high school, also is titled Our School. Last week, I went to DCP’s 10th commencement ceremony, which honored both the class of 2014 and the pioneer class of 2004.

DCP, which has added two middle schools and a second high school campus, now has an alumni association and an alumni seat on the board. Graduates are raising scholarship money. When students visit California universities, they can talk to DCP graduates who are students there. Some DCP graduates have returned as teachers.

In low-income, Latino immigrant communities, DCP has made college-going the “new normal,” said Jennifer Andaluz, DCP’s co-founder and executive director.

Trigger warning contest

“Trigger warnings” on syllabi — this book may be upsetting — are the latest campus fad, the New York Times reports.

Students want to be forewarned that Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice deals with anti-Semitism or that Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway addresses a combat veteran’s suicide. Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby includes “a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence,” a Rutgers student writes.

The National Association of Scholars has announced a Trigger Warning ContestWhat should readers be warned about before reading, say, Hamlet, The Republic, Anne of Green Gables, or The Wind in the Willows? Or the classic of your choice.

Readers can submit entries on Twitter, including NAS’s handle and the hashtag #triggerwarningfail.

Examples:

The Iliad: warning – disturbing scene for those suffering sports injuries. #triggerwarningfail @NASorg

Oedipus Rex: warning – prejudicial treatment of alternative family structures. #triggerwarningfail @NASorg

Gulliver’s Travels: warning – size-ist. #triggerwarningfail @NASorg

The top three trigger warnings will be announced on Friday. Each submitter in the top three will receive a copy of NAS president Peter Wood’s book,  A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now (warning: not recommended for the apiphobic).

Education reform pioneers’ story

Education Reform: Before It Was Cool looks at the pioneers of the modern reform movement. The anthology was edited by Jeanne Allen, founder of the Center for Education Reform.

War Against Boys: The boys are losing

The War Against Boys still rages, writes Christina Hoff Sommers in the revised edition of her 2000 book.

The boys are losing, writes Nathan Glazer in an Education Next review. Schools continue to ignore boys’ “distinctive characteristics” and “the gap in school achievement between boys and girls” is “even more substantial and troubling.”

Sommers describes trends in education that hurt boys, including “the
ednext_XIV_3_waragainstboys_coverdecline of recess, punitive zero-tolerance policies, myths about juvenile ‘superpredators,’ and a misguided campaign against single-sex schooling.”

“As our schools become more feelings centered, risk averse, competition-free, and sedentary, they move further and further from the characteristic sensibilities of boys,” she writes.

“The movement to give special attention to girls and their needs was part of the grand drive to equality that has dominated American life and politics for decades,” writes Glazer, a Harvard professor emeritus in education and sociology. “But the drive for equality for the sexes was accompanied by a litigious and bureaucratic fervor that often went beyond common sense.”

Career tech programs that have engaged boys are under pressure to enroll more girls, Sommers writes. Few girls sign up for welding or pipefitting. Few boys want to be cosmetologists or child-care workers.

The Obama administration hopes to use the $1.1 billion Perkins Act to push more girls into “nontraditional” vocational and technical training, notes Glazer.

Sommers points out that in 2010 women made up 64 percent of graduate students in social science, 75 percent in public administration, 78 percent in veterinary medicine, and 80 percent in health sciences. Will that attract the attention of politicians and of bureaucrats enforcing Title IX?

Thirty-two percent of 27-year-old women have earned a four-year degree, compared to only 24 percent of men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Reading Rainbow is not a charity

“LeVar Burton has found a pot of gold at the end of Reading Rainbow, reports the New York Daily News.” The former host’s Reading Rainbow app raised $1 million in 24 hours on Kickstarter.

Burton, also known as Star Trek’s engineer, bought the name of the PBS children’s series, which aired from 1983 to 2009. He’s started a company to bring “Reading Rainbow’s” digital library of books and videos to classrooms and homes.‘We can genuinely change the world, one children’s book at a time,’ LeVar Burton said about his goal to raise money to bring ‘Reading Rainbow’ online.

Burton’s RRKidz, which produces a Reading Rainbow tablet app, is a for-profit company, not a charity, writes Caitlin Dewey in a Washington Post blog. It will be available to teachers for a monthly subscription — not free.

The app features book read-alongs and “video field trips.” Like the show, it fosters interest in reading but doesn’t teach reading skills, writes Dewey.

However, the app may not reach many low-income children. The Kickstarter funds will be used to put the app on desktop computers, while low-income families are much more likely to use phones to access the Internet.

Teachers already can access many episodes of the show for free via YouTube.

A better way to get books to needy kids is to give to nonprofits such as Children’s Literacy Initiative or First Book, Dewey suggests.

Mommy and Daddy are tired

Modern middle-class parenting is All Joy and No Fun writes Jennifer Senior. Deeply invested in their children’s happiness and success, parents invest less energy in their marriages.

The book is No Ode to Joy, notes Abby W. Schachter in Commentary Magazine.

I am not a great believer in our style of parenting,” Jerry Seinfeld said recently. “What I mean is our generation…I just think we’re too into it…The bedtime routine for my kids is like this royal coronation, jubilee centennial of rinsing and plaque and dental appliances and a stuffed animal semi-circle of emotional support.”

Senior offers portraits of mothers and fathers trying to figure out what skills, sports, classes, and aptitudes would be best for future success, even as they acknowledge the economy is so complex and confusing that it is nearly impossible to have a guaranteed path. They are exhausted by all the effort, the driving and the scheduling, but not one seems willing to push their kids out the front door and let them figure it out for themselves.

“Almost all middle-class parents” believe  that “whatever they are doing is for the child’s sake, and the child’s alone,” Senior writes. “Parents no longer raise children for the family’s sake or that of the broader world.”

These “exhausted parents” are raising ” children who are less independent, less resilient, and more disrespectful,” Schachter writes. And they’re putting their own marriages at risk — if they’re married at all.

Story Time From Space

Story Time From Space features astronauts reading books that encourage a love of exploration and science. From the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins reads Max Goes to the International Space Station by author and astrophysicist Jeffrey Bennett.

Why more kids are reading Kafka

Common Core’s list of books, stories, poems and plays isn’t supposed to be an assignment list, but teachers may be using it that way, reports Vox. “Appendix B” is boosting the popularity of stories such as Kafka’s Metamorphosis, according to a Renaissance Learning report.

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A Weed Is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver, a picture-book  example of nonfiction reading for kindergartners and first-graders, was more than 100 times more likely to be read in 2012-13 than it was 2010-11.

Classics such as The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird are even more popular.

Some worry that students won’t read authors who didn’t make the list, such as James Baldwin.

“It’s a misuse of Appendix B to make it a curriculum,” says Carol Jago, a past president of the National Council of Teachers of English, which helped develop the standards. “It was never intended to be so. But people are just nervous about doing exactly what the Common Core says.”

Starting in middle school, students choose independent reading that’s below their grade level, according to the report. In sixth through 11th grade, students choose books written at the fifth-grade level. That pops up to seventh grade in 12th grade.

Core compatible? ‘High low’ books

When a teenager has a Green Eggs and Ham reading level, what’s a teacher to do? “High-interest, low readability” books used to deal with adult themes in very simple vocabulary and short sentences, writes Christina A. Samuels on Education Week. The second-grade level was the starting point.

Now Saddleback Educational Publishing’s Teen Emergent Reader Library offers books that start at a pre-kindergarten reading level.

What is a pre-k reading level? Well, every page has “full-color, riveting photographs.”

The publisher claims “this series offers middle and high school teachers the solution for differentiating instruction while still teaching grade-level content and meeting Common Core standards.”

For example, they can read a book on homelessness — or look at the full-color photos — and discuss the issue. But how does that meet Common Core standards, which call for students to read — and read closely — “complex literary and informational texts?”

“Picking books that appeal to an older audience and use lower-level vocabulary is a really sound concept for teen readers,” said Barbara Stripling, the president of the American Library Association. “They don’t want to be reading about dogs and cats, they want to be reading about Beyoncé.”

Sophisticated knowledge does not always have to come with long words and complex sentence structure, teachers say.

. . . For example, Soldier’s Heart, a book by Gary Paulsen about the devastating effects of the Civil War on a young Union soldier, is appropriate for middle school students but uses language at a 2nd grade level of mastery, (Professor Teri) Lesesne said. Night, Elie Wiesel’s autobiographical account of the horrors of a Nazi death camp, is written at a 5th grade level, she said.

If students have reached their teens without being able to read . . . Isn’t this make-believe?

Of 183 University of North Carolina basketball and football players a tutor researched since 2005, 8 to 10 percent read below the third-grade level, writes New York Times columnist Joe Nocera. Sixty percent read between the fourth- and eighth-grade levels, says Mary Willingham, a reading specialist turned whistle-blower.

Many were eligible for college sports because their high school grades were good enough to outweigh very low SAT scores.