13611 Kelly Avenue Summerland, BC  V0H 1Z0 Principal: Jason Corday

Summerland Middle School
13611 Kelly Avenue
Summerland, BC V0H 1Z0
Principal: Jason Corday
Vice Principal: Darryl Tenisci
SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT PLAN (2014‐15) Summerland Context Summerland Middle School (SMS) is a dual track middle school established in 1999. The school has an instructional staff of approximately 20 fte serving 320 pupils. We have a student services team who support 50 designated students. The school is in the downtown area of Summerland and serves all of the middle school students of Summerland as well as is the sole feeder school of Summerland Secondary School. The school enjoys strong community support and responds to high expectations in a diverse community. The staff has successfully established a middle school program based on the Exemplary Middle School model. The Tribes process has been implemented on a school wide basis and is supported by structures and systems for discipline and individual student behavior support, assessment for learning practices and varied instructional and reflective practices. In addition to core instruction, strong applied skills and fine arts programs are provided to students through the exploratory cycle. Summerland Middle School:  values literacy and strives to meet the needs of all students in the area of literacy  recognizes the importance and connectedness of student confidence, competence, and engagement in reading  understands the success of our school depends on a deep belief in‐‐and commitment to ensuring‐‐that all students can learn  values student connectedness and engagement in all areas  recognizes the need for personalized learning and is exploring how digital literacy and use of technology can help to differentiate instruction and meet the needs of all student learners  recognizes the importance of the middle school years and the need to focus on socialization of students as well as intellectual development  values social‐emotional learning as part of a fundamental skill set students need to lead a happy and healthy life  continually strives to develop teacher collegiality, reflective practice and collaborative planning  values and encourages parental support and involvement  is committed to making decisions that are data driven Using the Tribes process as our fundamental belief, the goal of Summerland Middle (a Tribes school) is to engage all staff, students, and families in working together as a learning community that is dedicated to caring and support, active participation, and positive expectations for all students. We continue to pursue and practice the focus of our previous goal which focused on student engagement as it connects to authentic tasks. Page 2
INQUIRY QUESTION(S) How can our school wide focus on reading instruction result in all students leaving SMS at the end of Grade 8 as engaged, self‐confident and competent readers? RATIONALE: What evidence compelled us to ask this question? 
To align our goal with the District Target for Literacy: “To improve student success in Reading Comprehension” A key element essential to our Inquiry as well as our data is this is a baseline (Year 1 of 3) measure intending to track a cohort through their three years in Middle School 
Key Terms: o Competence in Reading: the ability to read fluently and successfully (measurement: WCRA, STAR, Fluency,) o Self‐Confidence in Reading: the measure of the belief in one's own ability to complete tasks and reach goals in reading (measurement: survey results, anecdotal evidence) o Engagement in Reading: the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show in their reading (measurement: survey results, anecdotal evidence, library usage, words read as measured by Accelerated Reader) o Learning to Read: students who are at the early stages of reading where the focus is on basic decoding, phonemic awareness, fluency, and vocabulary building. Students had direct instructional remediation intervention (measurement: fluency testing, Jerry Johns, WIAT) o Reading to Learn: students who are competent readers, and are now focusing on metacognition, reading strategies and annotation of and interaction with text in order to absorb content and transform understanding. (measurement: WCRA) School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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Staff recognizes that there are two categories of readers: those learning to read and those reading to learn. A measurement to determine improvement is necessary for both, although the measurement might look different based on the learning needs of the student. (Ex: Learning to read – Jerry Johns; Reading to learn‐ WCRA) 
Staff recognizes the need for students to be competent, confident and engaged readers in all subject areas. Literacy is a life‐skill and therefore is essential to student learning and success. 
Necessitates effective use of student data on reading competencies by following a cohort of students as they move from grade 6, to 7, to 8. 
The Staff Development at Summerland Middle School has focused on Assessment for Learning and Instructional and Strategic Reading Practices in all classrooms that focus on building student confidence through purposeful instruction in reading as well as sound Grading and Assessment practices. The belief is with increased student confidence, there is increased student ownership of learning and moreover, increased student engagement. 
A school wide effort rubric was created in June 2012 and has been implemented school wide (see attachment 1). This connects to our focus in that acquisition of true competence, confidence, and engagement in literacy are due to effort, resilience and consistent hard work. All interim reports have been focused upon this rubric and a school wide focus with regard to effort and ownership of learning has been taught, reinforced and emphasized. Students evaluate their current performance, set goals for the term and at term end review progress towards established goals. This process has established clear criteria for the effort mark that is placed on student report cards. 
The underlying focus has been on intrinsic motivation (as opposed the extrinsic) to increase in reading competency. School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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ACTION PLAN OBJECTIVES: Specific Steps to answer our question OR More specific questions? We teach “reading” at SMS. We know that students progress from grades 6 to 8, but do we know: i) How much do students progress from grades 6 to 8? ii) Which students progress less and which students progress more from grades 6 to 8? iii) What we should expect in terms of progress vs. what we are actually seeing in terms of progress? a. What does the research say on this? STRUCTURES AND STRATEGIES: Specific Steps to answer our question OR more specific question Professional Development/Collaboration  Literacy Lead teacher and Grade 8 Team Leader attended the 2014 IRA Conference and presented at subsequent staff meetings  Wide Variety of Professional Learning Texts available and show‐cased regularly in library and at Literacy Meetings  School Wide Bi‐annual Literacy Meeting with focus on data, resources, progress, and areas of need  Continued focus on Digital Literacy via sessions held throughout the year with focus upon professional learning in the areas of: o Teacher WebPages o Smart Board in‐service (followed by an ongoing PLC) to pursue a deeper understanding of best practice using the Smart Board as a learning tool o I Pads  Collaborative team with four participating teachers focusing on literacy in Math 7  Collaborative team with two participating teachers focusing on literacy in Math 8  Collaborative Team focused around use of leveled non‐fiction reading program for news articles that can be used cross‐curricularly  Professional reflection by staff (what’s going well, what’s tricky) with regard to student engagement, confidence, and competence in reading Curriculum and Instruction  A focus on reading a variety of texts, informational (non‐fiction) and fiction: o Classes accessing and exploring a wide variety of informational texts on a wide variety of topics (student selected to encourage engagement) to practice and refine use of reading strategies o Cross grade and curriculum continuity and alignment achieved by adopting the common language of Adrienne Gear’s Reading Power strategies for fiction and non‐fiction o Literature Circles implemented in study of both fiction and non‐fiction in several classrooms o Weekly grade‐wide meetings for our grade 6 classes where reading is always highlighted o On‐going updates on number of books read school wide via our Accelerated Reader Program o Whole Class Reading Assessments administered at the start of the year to determine areas in need of more work and, therefore, inform instruction o Whole Class Reading Assessments administered at the end of the year to determine progress and areas in need of more work for following year o AR Points System o 6 Minute Solution to target improvement in fluency o High Interest Picture Books to model thinking and reading strategies School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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o Audio Books o Kurzweil o LAT o REWARDS: Anita Archer o Independently selected reading in Science, leveled article, silent reading of non‐fiction text General Practice Goals o Classroom culture set up to promote and encourage reading o Each classroom sets aside time for independent reading o Each classroom promotes a literacy rich environment (print, word walls, books, reading materials) o Administration supports high quality classroom libraries o Frequent teacher modeling via “read alouds” where teachers read aloud to students, modeling reading and thinking strategies o Development of a school‐wide reading culture where students see their teachers and themselves as readers (Guest authors, Book Talks, Book Clubs, Competitions, Recognition of top readers) o Collaborate with our local library to ensure students have access and understanding of what is available to them Common Planning Time (Pilot) o Classes will read at the same time on two days a week for 15min o Students will partake in a variety of fiction and nonfiction reading activities o Student focus is around having ‘eyes on text’ o Teachers will use the time for student conferencing (fluency, AR, goal setting etc) o Support staff will utilize the time working with students and teachers o Non‐enrolling teachers will work with students where needed o Development of a school‐wide reading culture where students see their teachers and themselves as readers (common language, all teachers are a part of literacy, cross curricular literacy) o A time to assess students, collect data, and conference around specific strategies to help individual students (Level 1 Response to Intervention) Technology  Student access to high interest literature via audio books  Full school in‐service on Literacy and technology available via the Regional Library  A high proportion of teachers have active websites geared towards keeping parents informed and encouraging communication between parents and teachers, and parents and their children.  Some teachers have implemented regular “class updates” distributed electronically via e mail. Here student reading goals can be communicated to parents.  Kindle Club, 24 reluctant readers paired with a Kindle  Building on our Technology Resources to better enable/empower teachers to take risks and be innovative in their practice: o 3 new Kodak flip cameras o 2 Macbook Pros o 15 iPads School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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Aboriginal Education  Continued academic and cultural support was provided by Ab Ed CEA, Carmen Baker. Aboriginal Education students receive on‐going in‐class support. In addition, students receive specific cultural support in the form of education on culturally pertinent subjects (endangered species, dream‐catchers, tea harvest) and cultural activities (bead work, choker craft). With these authentic, meaningful tasks we intend to increase school connectivity and engagement for our Aboriginal students.  Aboriginal students in grades 6,7,8 participated in weekly meetings for crafts and connecting with Ab Ed Support Staff. Timeline September:  Admin Interviews with all staff  Staff and Admin begin to collaborate on our Inquiry Question October:  All classes complete the WCRA, Star Assessment, and Fluency Assessment  Collaborative Marking Sessions by Grade Teams on the WCRA  School Wide Literacy Meeting – 13 teachers in attendance. Literacy Lead teacher presented AR data  Kindle Project Begins with 24 “reluctant Readers” November:  Students complete on‐line literacy reading survey #1  Teacher collaboration focused upon use of Non Fiction leveled readings in Science 8  Collaborative Whole Staff Discussion around: o What systems (data collection, scope and sequence/at a glance) or methods (team marking/release time), are you already doing in your teams/classrooms that are having a positive impact on reading skills? o After reviewing the WCRA data for your class/grade what do you feel is a starting point in terms of content, teaching methods or instructional strategies in addressing student needs? o As a teacher/team, what will you need in terms of support (from literacy rep (Holly), each other or office) moving forward? January:  All classes complete Star Assessment  Collaborative Team focused around use of leveled non‐fiction reading program for news articles that can be used cross‐curricularly School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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February:  Staff meeting focused upon school and district goal and their connection to RTI work (see Appendix #)  SPC Meeting #1  Three staff members attend Response to Intervention Training in School District No. 53  Four staff members attend Beyond Inclusion April:  Staff Meeting Presentation and discussion focused on Dedicated Reading Time School Wide with Literacy Support (Tier 1 Intervention)  Four staff members attend Beyond Inclusion  SPC Meeting #2  Team Leaders attend Middle School Literacy Summit with Teams from all SD67 Middle Schools May:  Students complete on‐line literacy reading survey #1  All classes complete the WCRA, Star Assessment, and Fluency Assessment  Eight staff members participated in a book study ‘It’s all about Thinking: Creating Pathways for All Learners in the Middle Years’  Staff Meeting Presentation and discussion focused on Dedicated Reading Time School Wide with Literacy Support (Tier 1 Intervention)  Four staff members attend final Beyond Inclusion session  SPC Meeting #3 ASSESSMENT PROCESS & TOOLS: What will we use to measure our success? How will we know if we are making a difference? 
Fluency assessments completed a least two times a year for each student Star Reading Assessment completed three times a year for all students to determine reading level and inform instruction Whole class reading assessments are administered written twice at each grade level to inform instruction and determine student growth Jerry Johns WIAT Student Literacy Survey PROFESSIONAL LEARNING: How will we increase our capacity and collaboration?  Collaborative planning time is provided for any teachers interested in pursuing an inquiry question connected to the improvement of student learning  Our literacy lead teacher attends grade meetings as a literacy resource  Staff to be offered an opportunity to participate in a book study on the topic of literacy  Literacy Lead teacher and Vice‐Principal to participate in a District Group with focus on aligning the use of Reading Strategies across the district School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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RESOURCES: What do we currently have and what do we need?  Reading Power – Adrienne Gear 2006  Non‐Fiction Reading Power‐ Adrienne Gear 2008  Teaching Reading in Middle School‐ Laura Robb 2000  Moving Forward with Literature Circles‐ J.P. Day, D.L. Spiegel, J. McLellan, V. Brown 2002  Assessment for Learning – Ken O’Connor’s Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades: A Repair Kit. 2012  Assessment for Learning – Tom Schimmer 10 Things that Matter from Assessment to Grading 2011  "The Authentic Assessment Toolbox: Enhancing student learning through online faculty development" ‐‐ published in the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (2005)  Continued our commitment to Middle Level Education ‐ This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescent  Tribes: A New Way of Learning and Being Together (Jeanne Gibbs)  Discovering Gifts in the Middle School (Jeanne Gibbs)  The Differentiated School (Carol Ann Tomlinson)  Continued emphasis on collaborative time (release time) to move the work forward  “It’s all about thinking: Creating Pathways for All Learners in the Middle Years” – Leyton Schnellert, Linda Watson, and Nicole Widdess (2015) PARENT INVOLVEMENT: How will parents become partners in our efforts?  This year our focus continues to be on increasing parent communication via an updated website, use of Twitter and Facebook to communicate SMS events, school‐wide e‐mail contact in a move towards a paperless newsletter, e‐mail contact to special interest groups (band parents/ science fair parents). This also includes parent access to our Library Webpage.  In addition, a group of four teachers piloted Fresh Grade in Term III. School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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EVIDENCE Data of Student’s that were tracked from 3 Levels Current Grade 6 Cohort School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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X indicates student did not take English Language Arts 6 as they were in French Immersion Program Current Grade 7 Cohort comparing Grade 6 year and 2014‐015 Grade 7 Year School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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REFLECTION AND SUMMARY REFLECTIONS: What did we learn? How did it make a difference?  Focusing upon the development of a school wide “culture of reading” has positive effects on student competence and confidence.  As a staff, our school wide focus has resulted in conversations and actions that have aligned both scope, sequence and strategy with a focus upon improving engagement, competence and confidence as they relate to reading.  We are curious as to student fluency results and what seems to be a “stagnant” trend in terms of student growth over the year and multiple years, we want to explore what classroom practices increase and sustain improvement in reading fluency.  Finally, through student conferencing next year (which will occur in our School Wide Literacy Time), we are committed to involving students in conversations regarding their reading competence, confidence and engagement. FUTURE PLANNING: Where do we go from here?  Continue to refine and systemize opportunities for teacher collaboration to allow for professional learning with focus upon instructional practices, technology, and assessment.  Continue to support PLC’s via release, staff meeting presentations, and workshops led by our Literacy teacher.  Continue School Wide focus on fluency using the 6 Minute Fluency Solution in every classroom. Recommendation from Literacy Meeting was to assess two times a year.  Continue to refine and reflect on the implementation of Common Reading Time during staff meetings and collaborative time. STRUCTURES AND STRATEGIES  Continued involvement in Instructional Strategies ‐ regularly scheduled sharing sessions at Staff and Team Meetings.  Common Reading Time (Pilot): students will partake in common reading time two days per week where students will explore a variety of reading text and student ‐ teacher conferencing. School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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Appendix #: 1 Research Background: 1. John Hattie: Visible learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta‐Analyses Relating to Achievement  Hattie starts from the observation that in education ‘‘everything seems to work’’, as educational interventions of almost any kind seem to have a positive effect on student achievement. He then proposes to move beyond ‘‘everything goes’’, towards the development of a barometer of ‘‘what works best’’. To this end he applies the tools of meta‐analysis to a huge body of empirical research and calculates effect sizes for 138 influences in the following domains: student, home, school, teacher, curricula and teaching approaches. (Routledge, Abingdon, 2008, 392 pp, ISBN 978‐0‐415‐47618‐8)  Hattie was able to identify a ‘hinge point’ (as he calls it) from exhaustively comparing everything: the effect size of .40. Anything above such an effect size has more of an impact than just a typical year of academic experience and student growth. And an effect size of 1.0 or better is equivalent to advancing the student’s achievement level by approximately a full grade. 
Here is the rank‐ordered list of the top effect sizes. Factors that have an effect size of .7 or greater are starred: 
Student self‐assessment/self‐grading* Response to intervention* Teacher credibility* Providing formative assessments* Classroom discussion* Teacher clarity* Feedback* Reciprocal teaching* Teacher‐student relationships fostered* Spaced vs. mass practice* Meta‐cognitive strategies taught and used Acceleration Classroom behavioral techniques Vocabulary programs Repeated reading programs Creativity programs Student prior achievement http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/what‐works‐in‐education‐hatties‐list‐of‐the‐
greatest‐effects‐and‐why‐it‐matters/ School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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Richard L. Allington: What Really Matters in Response to Intervention (Research Based Designs) 
In studying the nation’s best first and fourth grade classrooms, the practice of using multi‐text and multi‐level instruction and curriculum design was paramount. Every student was reading with text at their own level, not at ‘grade‐level’. 
Paraprofessionals should not be teaching reading. The greater the reading problems, the more essential that expert teachers be teaching reading. Research shows that instruction from paraprofessionals, volunteers and support staff has little, to any effect. There is a direct correlation between low achieving schools and supporting reading instruction by using paraprofessionals as reading supporters/teachers. 
Struggling readers need more teacher time, more intensive reading lessons, and more teacher‐
directed reading lessons targeted to their specific instructional needs. 
Do not think ‘one size fits all’ with intervention or classroom instruction; buying a class set of the same reading materials will ensure that students will continue to fall behind. Hence, multi‐level texts for the content areas are essential. 
Small group intervention is essential. Most reputable researchers cite 1:1 for at least 30 minutes daily is the optimal number with maximum benefit. 
Accelerated reading growth will only occur if intervention time is scheduled in addition to the regular instructional day. Otherwise, careful consideration must be given to what subjects/content area a student is missing, and it should not ever be language arts instructional time. Content area can be worked in to the intervention time, but level‐appropriate resources are essential. 
There is significantly greater growth in schools where teachers have been trained to do running records (and their subsequent analysis, diagnosis and intervention – assessment for learning) and student reading development is monitored over time. School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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Appendix #:2 February Staff Meeting Discussion and Feedback: 1.
How does our work at SMS in terms of reading assessment and data collection transfer to classroom practice and student intervention  AR Program/STAR Assessment o Program and goal used to check for comprehension and student learning‐helpful in conversations with students o Words Read/AR Quizzes: motivators  6 Minute Solution great for fluency but lacks comprehension assessment  Fluency Probe o Teacher, LRT info to inform instruction/intervention o Teacher would like opportunity to listen to fluency along with LRT 
Dialogue and conferencing around students (Weekly Team Meetings) o Continual dialogue regarding where students are at helps to guide instructional decisions as well as helps identify at‐risk learners and re‐affirms teacher instincts regarding student needs WCRA o provides Grade wide feedback to guide instruction o Provides a focal point for discussion regarding who needs to be included in intervention strategies o Information for LRT o WCRA provides a “snapshot” of the overall “speed” of my class and illustrates where the gaps are: o Helps to determine which students would benefit from Kurzweil/audiobooks etc. o A good tool that directs our teaching School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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Appendix #:3: Common Reading Time Pilot (presented at April/May Staff Meetings, Implementation September 2015) School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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Appendix # 3: Results of School Wide Literacy Survey School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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Appendix # 5: Reading at Summerland Middle School Scope and Sequence (Developed by all teachers, Spring 2014) School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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Appendix # 6 Article Discussion – April Staff Meeting March 2012 | Volume 69 | Number 6
Reading: The Core Skill Pages 10-15
Every Child, Every Day
Richard L. Allington and Rachael E. Gabriel
The six elements of effective reading instruction don't require much time or money—just educators'
decision to put them in place.
"Every child a reader" has been the goal of instruction, education research, and reform for at least three decades. We
now know more than ever about how to accomplish this goal. Yet few students in the United States regularly receive
the best reading instruction we know how to give.
Instead, despite good intentions, educators often make decisions about instruction that compromise or supplant the
kind of experiences all children need to become engaged, successful readers. This is especially true for struggling
readers, who are much less likely than their peers to participate in the kinds of high-quality instructional activities that
would ensure that they learn to read.
Six Elements for Every Child
Here, we outline six elements of instruction that every child should experience every day. Each of these elements can
be implemented in any district and any school, with any curriculum or set of materials, and without additional funds. All
that's necessary is for adults to make the decision to do it.
1. Every child reads something he or she chooses.
The research base on student-selected reading is robust and conclusive: Students read more, understand more, and
are more likely to continue reading when they have the opportunity to choose what they read. In a 2004 meta-analysis,
Guthrie and Humenick found that the two most powerful instructional design factors for improving reading motivation
and comprehension were (1) student access to many books and (2) personal choice of what to read.
We're not saying that students should never read teacher- or district-selected texts. But at some time every day, they
should be able to choose what they read.
The experience of choosing in itself boosts motivation. In addition, offering choice makes it more likely that every
reader will be matched to a text that he or she can read well. If students initially have trouble choosing texts that match
their ability level and interest, teachers can provide limited choices to guide them toward successful reading
experiences. By giving students these opportunities, we help them develop the ability to choose appropriate texts for
themselves—a skill that dramatically increases the likelihood they will read outside school (Ivey & Broaddus, 2001,
Reis et al., 2007).
Some teachers say they find it difficult to provide a wide selection of texts because of budget constraints. Strangely,
there is always money available for workbooks, photocopying, and computers; yet many schools claim that they have
no budget for large, multileveled classroom libraries. This is interesting because research has demonstrated that
access to self-selected texts improves students' reading performance (Krashen, 2011), whereas no evidence indicates
that workbooks, photocopies, or computer tutorial programs have ever done so (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998;
Dynarski, 2007).
There is, in fact, no way they ever could. When we consider that the typical 4th grade classroom has students reading
anywhere from the 2nd to the 9th grade reading levels (and that later grades have an even wider range), the idea that
one workbook or textbook could meet the needs of every reader is absurd (Hargis, 2006). So, too, is the idea that skills
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developed through isolated, worksheet-based skills practice and fill-in-the-blank vocabulary quizzes will transfer to real
reading in the absence of any evidence that they ever have. If school principals eliminated the budget for workbooks
and worksheets and instead spent the money on real books for classroom libraries, this decision could dramatically
improve students' opportunities to become better readers.
2. Every child reads accurately.
Good readers read with accuracy almost all the time. The last 60 years of research on optimal text difficulty—a body of
research that began with Betts (1949)—consistently demonstrates the importance of having students read texts they
can read accurately and understand. In fact, research shows that reading at 98 percent or higher accuracy is essential
for reading acceleration. Anything less slows the rate of improvement, and anything below 90 percent accuracy doesn't
improve reading ability at all (Allington, 2012; Ehri, Dreyer, Flugman, & Gross, 2007).
Although the idea that students read better when they read more has been supported by studies for the last 70 years,
policies that simply increase the amount of time allocated for students to read often find mixed results (National
Reading Panel, 2000). The reason is simple: It's not just the time spent with a book in hand, but rather the intensity
and volume of high-success reading, that determines a student's progress in learning to read (Allington, 2009; Kuhn et
al., 2006).
When students read accurately, they solidify their word-recognition, decoding, and word-analysis skills. Perhaps more
important, they are likely to understand what they read—and, as a result, to enjoy reading.
In contrast, struggling students who spend the same amount of time reading texts that they can't read accurately are at
a disadvantage in several important ways. First, they read less text; it's slow going when you encounter many words
you don't recognize instantly. Second, struggling readers are less likely to understand (and therefore enjoy) what they
read. They are likely to become frustrated when reading these difficult texts and therefore to lose confidence in their
word-attack, decoding, or word-recognition skills. Thus, a struggling reader and a successful reader who engage in the
same 15-minute independent reading session do not necessarily receive equivalent practice, and they are likely to
experience different outcomes.
Sadly, struggling readers typically encounter a steady diet of too-challenging texts throughout the school day as they
make their way through classes that present grade-level material hour after hour. In essence, traditional instructional
practices widen the gap between readers.
3. Every child reads something he or she understands.
Understanding what you've read is the goal of reading. But too often, struggling readers get interventions that focus on
basic skills in isolation, rather than on reading connected text for meaning. This common misuse of intervention time
often arises from a grave misinterpretation of what we know about reading difficulties.
The findings of neurological research are sometimes used to reinforce the notion that some students who struggle to
learn to read are simply "wired differently" (Zambo, 2003) and thus require large amounts of isolated basic skills
practice. In fact, this same research shows that remediation that emphasizes comprehension can change the structure
of struggling students' brains. Keller and Just (2009) used imaging to examine the brains of struggling readers before
and after they received 100 hours of remediation—including lots of reading and rereading of real texts. The white
matter of the struggling readers was of lower structural quality than that of good readers before the intervention, but it
improved following the intervention. And these changes in the structure of the brain's white matter consistently
predicted increases in reading ability.
Numerous other studies (Aylward et al., 2003; Krafnick, Flowers, Napoliello, & Eden, 2011; Shaywitz et al., 2004) have
supported Keller and Just's findings that comprehensive reading instruction is associated with changed activation
patterns that mirror those of typical readers. These studies show that it doesn't take neurosurgery or banging away at
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basic skills to enable the brain to develop the ability to read: It takes lots of reading and rereading of text that students
find engaging and comprehensible.
The findings from brain research align well with what we've learned from studies of reading interventions. Regardless
of their focus, target population, or publisher, interventions that accelerate reading development routinely devote at
least two-thirds of their time to reading and rereading rather than isolated or contrived skill practice (Allington, 2011).
These findings have been consistent for the last 50 years—yet the typical reading intervention used in schools today
has struggling readers spending the bulk of their time on tasks other than reading and rereading actual texts.
Studies of exemplary elementary teachers further support the finding that more authentic reading develops better
readers (Allington, 2002; Taylor, Pearson, Peterson, & Rodriguez, 2003). In these large-scale national studies,
researchers found that students in more-effective teachers' classrooms spent a larger percentage of reading
instructional time actually reading; students in less-effective teachers' classrooms spent more time using worksheets,
answering low-level, literal questions, or completing before-and-after reading activities. In addition, exemplary teachers
were more likely to differentiate instruction so that all readers had books they could actually read accurately, fluently,
and with understanding.
4. Every child writes about something personally meaningful.
In our observations in schools across several states, we rarely see students writing anything more than fill-in-the-blank
or short-answer responses during their reading block. Those who do have the opportunity to compose something
longer than a few sentences are either responding to a teacher-selected prompt or writing within a strict structural
formula that turns even paragraphs and essays into fill-in-the-blank exercises.
As adults, we rarely if ever write to a prompt, and we almost never write about something we don't know about. Writing
is called composition for a good reason: We actually compose (construct something unique) when we write. The
opportunity to compose continuous text about something meaningful is not just something nice to have when there's
free time after a test or at the end of the school year. Writing provides a different modality within which to practice the
skills and strategies of reading for an authentic purpose.
When students write about something they care about, they use conventions of spelling and grammar because it
matters to them that their ideas are communicated, not because they will lose points or see red ink if they don't
(Cunningham & Cunningham, 2010). They have to think about what words will best convey their ideas to their readers.
They have to encode these words using letter patterns others will recognize. They have to make sure they use
punctuation in a way that will help their readers understand which words go together, where a thought starts and ends,
and what emotion goes with it. They have to think about what they know about the structure of similar texts to set up
their page and organize their ideas. This process is especially important for struggling readers because it produces a
comprehensible text that the student can read, reread, and analyze.
5. Every child talks with peers about reading and writing.
Research has demonstrated that conversation with peers improves comprehension and engagement with texts in a
variety of settings (Cazden, 1988). Such literary conversation does not focus on recalling or retelling what students
read. Rather, it asks students to analyze, comment, and compare—in short, to think about what they've read. Fall,
Webb, and Chudowsky (2000) found better outcomes when kids simply talked with a peer about what they read than
when they spent the same amount of class time highlighting important information after reading.
Similarly, Nystrand (2006) reviewed the research on engaging students in literate conversations and noted that even
small amounts of such conversation (10 minutes a day) improved standardized test scores, regardless of students'
family background or reading level. Yet struggling readers were the least likely to discuss daily what they read with
peers. This was often because they were doing extra basic-skills practice instead. In class discussions, struggling
readers were more likely to be asked literal questions about what they had read, to prove they "got it," rather than to
be engaged in a conversation about the text.
School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
Page 27
Time for students to talk about their reading and writing is perhaps one of the most underused, yet easy-to-implement,
elements of instruction. It doesn't require any special materials, special training, or even large amounts of time. Yet it
provides measurable benefits in comprehension, motivation, and even language competence. The task of switching
between writing, speaking, reading, and listening helps students make connections between, and thus solidify, the
skills they use in each. This makes peer conversation especially important for English language learners, another
population that we rarely ask to talk about what they read.
6. Every child listens to a fluent adult read aloud.
Listening to an adult model fluent reading increases students' own fluency and comprehension skills (Trelease, 2001),
as well as expanding their vocabulary, background knowledge, sense of story, awareness of genre and text structure,
and comprehension of the texts read (Wu & Samuels, 2004).
Yet few teachers above 1st grade read aloud to their students every day (Jacobs, Morrison, & Swinyard, 2000). This
high-impact, low-input strategy is another underused component of the kind of instruction that supports readers. We
categorize it as low-input because, once again, it does not require special materials or training; it simply requires a
decision to use class time more effectively. Rather than conducting whole-class reading of a single text that fits few
readers, teachers should choose to spend a few minutes a day reading to their students.
Things That Really Matter
Most of the classroom instruction we have observed lacks these six research-based elements. Yet it's not difficult to
find the time and resources to implement them. Here are a few suggestions.
First, eliminate almost all worksheets and workbooks. Use the money saved to purchase books for classroom libraries;
use the time saved for self-selected reading, self-selected writing, literary conversations, and read-alouds.
Second, ban test-preparation activities and materials from the school day. Although sales of test preparation materials
provide almost two-thirds of the profit that testing companies earn (Glovin & Evans, 2006), there are no studies
demonstrating that engaging students in test prep ever improved their reading proficiency—or even their test
performance (Guthrie, 2002). As with eliminating workbook completion, eliminating test preparation provides time and
money to spend on the things that really matter in developing readers.
It's time for the elements of effective instruction described here to be offered more consistently to every child, in every
school, every day. Remember, adults have the power to make these decisions; kids don't. Let's decide to give them
the kind of instruction they need.
School District No. 67 (Okanagan-Skaha)
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