Weekend To-Do List
1. Mississippi Miracle
READ: Sharon Lurye over at the Associated Press writes about how kids’ reading scores are soaring in Deep South states:
Mississippi went from being ranked the second-worst state in 2013 for fourth-grade reading to 21st in 2022. Louisiana and Alabama, meanwhile, were among only three states to see modest gains in fourth-grade reading during the pandemic, which saw massive learning setbacks in most other states.
She included this nifty chart:
The cause? A change to reading instruction, screening, and retention:
All three states have trained thousands of teachers in the so-called science of reading, which refers to the most proven, research-backed methods of teaching reading. They’ve dispatched literacy coaches to help teachers implement that training, especially in low-performing schools.
They also aim to catch problems early. That means screening for signs of reading deficiencies or dyslexia as early as kindergarten, informing parents if a problem is found and giving those kids extra support.
Mississippi, for one, holds students back in third grade if they cannot pass a reading test but also gives them multiple chances to pass after intensive tutoring and summer literacy camps. Alabama will adopt a similar retention policy next school year. It also sent over 30,000 struggling readers to summer literacy camps last year. Half of those students tested at grade level by the end of the summer.
Read more here.
2. Paying for Peer Review
LISTEN: On Tuesday’s episode of Lost Debate, Rikki and I discuss the growing phenomena of high school kids paying for placement of peer reviewed articles. Listen here.
3. Ron DeSantis’ Education Record
READ: Education Next hosted two competing pieces about DeSantis’ education record.
William Mattox is a fan:
Governor Ron DeSantis is a man on a mission—to rid his state of the cluster of neo-Marxist ideas that comprise "wokeness.”
His efforts to promote "education, not indoctrination" have earned him broad support inside the Sunshine State, where he won re-election last year by a larger margin than any Republican gubernatorial candidate in Florida history.
And Governor DeSantis’s commitment to systemic change can be seen in the fact that he broke precedent last year and endorsed more than 30 school board candidates from around the state who share his belief that schools should not be "a tool for a special interest partisan agenda." Almost all these candidates won, flipping control of five county school boards.
Cathy Young is somewhat sympathetic but more skeptical than Mattox:
[T]he conduct of the DeSantis administration so far does not exactly dispel concerns that its educational regulations are setting the stage for massive overreach. Just recently, the administration moved to expand the ban on teaching related to gender identity and sexual orientation from K–3 to K–12. And a new bill introduced in the Florida House of Representatives in February, based on proposals made earlier by DeSantis, takes the axe to a variety of state college and university programs based on progressive ideas about race and gender—including majors and minors in "Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, or Intersectionality, or any derivative major or minor of these belief systems" and general education core courses that include CRT or define American history in something other than the approved way (i.e. "the creation of a new nation based on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence").
If you only have time to read one of the pieces, read Young’s. She’s far more nuanced and objective — acknowledging what she believes are legitimate concerns of DeSantis sympathizers while pointing out their flaws and risks.
4. Less Classroom Time, More Learning
READ: Andrew Bauld at the The 74 profiled a program in Iowa that helps kids develop real life experience outside of the classroom:
BIG launched in 2013 in collaboration with the Cedar Rapids School District and the nearby College Community School District. Since then, it has inspired students to follow their curiosity and discover their passions. BIG later gained support from the XQ Institute in 2016. Today, over 100 students come to BIG from four different high schools, spending half their day at their "mothership" schools and the other half at BIG, working on real-life projects and earning credits in English, social studies and business.
Read more here.
5. Poverty Wages for Support Staff
READ: Blaire Brody at Hechinger writes about poor wages and staff shortages for school support staff:
Support staff receive significantly lower pay than teachers, typically working hourly jobs, meaning no pay during summers or school holidays. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual pay for paraprofessionals in the U.S. at $21,528, when adjusted for unpaid time off over the summer and holidays, below the poverty line for a family of three. In 2021, 37 percent of support staff worked two or more jobs. "Educational support professionals are actually earning less than they did 10 years ago when adjusted for inflation," said Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association. "Many are on a form of assistance like Medicaid or SNAP just to make ends meet."
Read more here.
6. Screens v. Books?
READ: Holly Korbey took to the pages of the MIT Technology Review to assess the data around screen-based reading instruction versus paper-based reading instruction:
Studies on the inner workings of the brain confirm the idea that human interaction helps develop beginning readers’ capacity for understanding. But they suggest that reading paper books is associated with that progress, too. In one study, researchers found that three- and four-year-old children had more activation in language regions of the brain when they read a book with an adult like a parent than when they listened to an audiobook or read from a digital app. When they read on an iPad, activation was lowest of all. In another study, MRI scans of eight- to 12-year-olds showed stronger reading circuits in those who spent more time reading paper books than those who spent their time on screens.
For older students, significant research shows that comprehension suffers when they read from a screen. A large 2019 meta-analysis of 33 different studies showed that students understood more informational text when they read on paper. A study by the Reboot Foundation, evaluating thousands of students across 90 countries including the US, found that fourth graders who used tablets in nearly all their classes scored 14 points lower on a reading test than students who never used them. Researchers called the score gap "equivalent to a full grade level" of learning. Students who used technology "every day for several hours during the school day" underperformed the most, while the gap shrank or even disappeared when students spent less than half an hour a day on a laptop or tablet.
Read more here.
7. Biden Administration: Charter Schools Are State Actors
LISTEN/READ: The Biden administration has asked the Supreme Court to reject reviewing a case involving the legal status of charter schools. In effect, this means the administration believes charter schools should be treated as state actors. Here’s Education Week on the subject:
U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar late Monday filed a brief at the request of the justices in Charter Day School v. Peltier. The underlying dispute in the case is whether the private operator of the North Carolina charter school is violating Title IX by enforcing a student-behavior code that requires girls to wear skirts instead of slacks.
That question hasn’t yet been reached in a case in which the K-9 school in Leland appealed a preliminary ruling that it is a "state actor" exerting government authority when it enforces such a dress code because it is a publicly funded charter school.
The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va., ruled 10-6 last June that Charter Day School was a state actor because North Carolina treats charters as public schools and even private operators of charter schools are being delegated the traditional state function of providing a free public education.
We covered this case on a recent episode of The Citizen Stewart Show. Listen here.