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11 June 2015 @ 01:25 pm
Do words count?  
A link in the latest edition of Smart Brief (and I fell as if I should use air quotes whenever I mention this newsletter) led to a story about a program helping struggling readers in one district. The program was Read 180, and the article noted awards given to students who had read the most words. That alone gave me pause. Since when do we give awards based on this? What exactly does it mean when a student has read 300,00 words? What else has she gained? I know: research indicates that minutes spent reading leads to increased stamina for reading, i9ncreased vocabulary, and increased scores on comprehension tests. But to talk about words as if they are som disjointed element instead of what tells the story or provides information? That was disconcerting.

There were other places within the article that left me scratching my head including a note that the most struggling readers did not qualify for this program at all (WTW?). But the bottom line is this: what is having the impact claimed by the people who promote and sell Read 180?I suspect it is a case similar to Accelerated Reader. The program makes extravagant claims about improved test scores but cannot point to anything that proves it is the quiz and not all the other elements that improve scores. What about Read 180?

In the case of this article, it seems as though Read 180 is being used for RtI. So, what is it that improves test scores and how much of each element accounts for what percentage of improvement? Is it the independent reading that elevates scores? Or is it the whole group or small group instruction? Is it the quizzing or testing done on the computers?

Today, I have read hundreds (if not thousands) of words as I pored over a dozen or so picture books. I selected the books myself. I carved out the time to read. I wrote a little something about each of them along the way and posted it to Facebook. Do programs lead readers to do this? I doubt it. Lifelong readers, those Donalyn Miller calls "wild readers" are not made by programs nor programmatic instruction (class sets of books, prescribed projects). Those readers are schooltime readers. Some of them might break free eventually and become wild readers, lifelong readers. But I worry about the larger percentage who never read another book after the last one required is done.
Current Location: on the way to Austin
Current Mood: puzzled
Sherry BorgrenSherryTeach on June 14th, 2015 10:51 pm (UTC)
Read 180
I am the Read 180 teacher at my school, which is ironic since I am at the opposite end of the spectrum of anyone who would teach out of a kit. But I am old enough and experienced enough to use the time with students as I see fit and ignore the program script. I am required to use the rotation format and that's fine. My students are required to use the program software and I could regret that loss of time, but I can't control that. But the section of time with me and the independent reading time are golden. I do not restrict what kids read in any way and have worked hard (and spent a lot of $$) developing a pretty good classroom library. There are no lexile numbers on my books and I say very little about that. Our tutorial rotation is spend with sharing books, read alouds, think alouds, lessons on how to know if a book is the right one, lots of hooks and mini-lessons using excerpts from the texts available in the library. I talk about new books every day and we end up with lots of waiting lists.

I am very fortunate that my administration has a hands off policy in what I do in my classroom. It is gratifying that so many kids come in hating books and reading and many come to see themselves as readers by the end of the year.

I know that others are not so fortunate. Some of my colleagues at district in-services complain that their kids hate the program and hate reading. I do what I can but some are reluctant or afraid to deviate from the program. Sad and frustrating.