We could teach every child to read

We could teach
vulnerable children to
Richard L Allington, PhD
University of Tennessee
Much evidence indicates that some
teachers literally teach every child to read
while others are far less successful.
Stuhlman & Pianta (2009) report that
approximately 20% of 1st grade teachers
offer high-quality reading lessons and
20% offer very low quality lessons.
Classroom lessons matter…
Sanders (1994) found that 3 consecutive
years with effective teachers resulted in
reading achievement 50 percentile ranks
higher than 3 years with less effective
Effective teachers = 80%ile
Less effective teachers= 30%ile
Effective teachers…
Gates (2011) notes that the difference
between the most and least effective
teachers in a building are twice as large
the the difference between the most and
least effective schools in the nation.
He suggests parents search for effective
teachers rather than effective schools.
Effective teachers or effective
Vellutino, Scanlon, et al (2007) found…
In 4 elementary schools 100% of
vulnerable readers were reading on or
above grade level at the end of 3rd grade.
In 4 schools fewer than 60% of the
vulnerable readers were reading grade
level at the end of 3rd grade.
Schools differ…
Not clear from the study just what teachers
do differently in the 4 more successful
schools, because classroom instruction was
not observed.
But which schools these at-risk kids attended
mattered in asking how many kids could be
reading on grade level.
The 4 schools suggest that the answer is all
kids could be reading on grade level.
Schools matter…
"Thus, addressing instructional problems
at the classroom level is critically
important and would be a vital component
of any preventive model…High-quality
supplemental instruction should not be a
substitute for high-quality classroom
instruction and one should complement
the other." (Scanlon, et al, p. 211- 212)
Instructional coherence….
However, in the majority of schools
“planned fragmentation” is the model in
Not a coherent and rich reading plan.
So vulnerable children have to learn to
deal with incoherent curriculum.
Coherence or Fragmentation?
The key to effective classroom reading
lessons is teacher expertise.
Expertise in:
◦ Classroom management
◦ Effective literacy instruction
◦ Managing literate conversations
Teacher expertise (or not)…
Scanlon, et al (2010) and McGill-Franzen, et al
(1999;2010) both report 30-60 hours of
professional development is powerful in changing
reading lessons and reading outcomes.
Scanlon, et al found PD more effective than
expert 1 to 1 tutoring at addressing the needs of
struggling readers.
McGill-Franzen found PD developed K teachers
who brought students to grade level reading
skills in high-poverty schools.
Teachers matter…
Improving the quality of early literacy
instruction is the best way to improve
student outcomes.
Developing the expertise of every teacher
is the best way to improve early literacy
Improving early literacy lessons…
Developing teacher expertise seems to be
the only proven strategy for teaching all
vulnerable children to read.
Few schools have adopted massive and
rich professional development for staff as
their intervention design.
Is PD your school’s intervention?
Access to high-quality early literacy
lessons is critical to school and life
Four years of struggling damns a child to
a lifetime of struggles.
We can do better…
90% of children reading on grade level by the
end of 3rd grade graduate high school on
This regardless of the SES, neighborhood, or
parents of the child.
Children from low-income families who are
not reading on grade level by the end of 3rd
grade are 13 times as likely to drop out as
those children who do read on grade level.
Annie Casey Foundation…
Schools have, then, 4 years (K-3) to teach
all children to read proficiently.
4 years is actually a lot of time, same
number of years needed to graduate high
school or college.
What do schools need to do then?
Four long years…
Schools need to begin attributing
difficulties with learning to read to the
school’s failure to provide extensive,
intensive, and expert reading instruction.
Not all children find learning to read an
easy task and it is these children who
need the extensive, intensive, and expert
reading instruction.
Extensive, intensive and expert…
“There is now considerable evidence, from recent
intervention studies, that reading difficulties in
most beginning readers are not caused by
biologically based cognitive deficits intrinsic to
the child, but may in fact be related to the
opportunities provided for children learning to
read.” p. 378
Vellutino, F. R., & Fletcher, J. M. (2005). Developmental
dyslexia. In M. S. C. Hulme (Ed.), The science of reading:
A handbook (pp 362-378). Malden, MA: Blackwell
Limited opportunities…
No continued reliance on mythological
causes of reading problems.
By mythological I mean…
◦ Learning disability
◦ Attention deficit disorder
◦ Dyslexia
Vulnerable children have a right to
experience the same higher quality
reading lessons that achieving readers
All children have a right to effective
reading lessons.
Effective lessons from their classroom
The right to effective lessons…
Our beliefs about vulnerable pupils may
limit our efforts.
We provide those kids with reading
lessons very different from the reading
lessons our kids get (e.g.,Valli &
Chambliss, 2010).
The problem may be us…
More oral reading, less silent reading.
More hard reading, less high-success
More low level questions, less literate
More skills work, less reading activity.
More worksheets, less reading activity.
More testing, less reading activity.
What vulnerable children are more
likely to get…
What kids do during reading lessons
predicts what kids learn during reading
Let’s try a simple but research-based
Redesigning reading lessons…
Will read texts they have selected.
Will read texts accurately.
Will read texts they understand.
Will write text that is meaningful.
Will listen to a fluent adult read aloud.
Will talk to peers about their reading.
Every day every child…
Eliminate all those activities that research
indicates are largely a waste of time.
Round robin interruptive oral reading
Low-level interrogations
Isolated skills lessons and skills tests
Fluency tests
Unit tests
Test prep
Where to find the time…
In too many classrooms such activities
make up the bulk of work done during the
school day.
Eliminating wasteful activities provides
hours each day for productive activities.
It also provides a source for funding what
we need to change ($100,000-$250,000
every year).
It’s not that we don’t have the
It is the design of lessons where changes
need to be made.
It is teacher beliefs that need to change.
It is the nature of the work that needs
WE can make these changes, kids cannot.
It isn’t the kids that are the
 Are
you up to it?
 The
students are waiting.
It is up to you…
Summer reading setback results from
students spending the summer without
the opportunity to read.
It is easy access to books they can read
and books that they want to read that is
the key.
Access and choice….
Our latest book…
Schools cannot ignore whether kids have
books to read during the summers.
Schools can and must provide access to
books that kids want to read.
Not difficult but someone has to take
Distributing 15 books self-selected books
every summer eliminated summer reading
Produced as much, or more, reading
growth as attending summer school.
At 1/100th of the cost!
Summer reading…
If we provide struggling readers with a
sufficient amount of effective reading
lessons we can eliminate the rich/poor
reading achievement gap.
If we ensure all kids from low-income
families have easy summer access to
books they can read and want to read we
can simplify closing the gap.
We could, but will we?
Once we have the school day in order we
can worry about how students spend their
Worry about summers…
80% of the three-year reading achievement
gap at 9th grade comes from summer reading
loss (Alexander, et al, 2009)
Small annual losses accumulate over time.
Giving vulnerable children books they can
read and want to read was effective as
summer school (and far less expensive).
Don’t neglect the summer…