Update on the Achievement Gap

William Teale (University of Illinois at Chicago, Education) just uploaded a paper on Academia.edu:

Early Childhood Literacy: Policy for the Coming Decade

by William Teale et. al.


Gaps in 3 important areas:

Standards and curriculum

Capacity of educational leaders and teachers

Family involvement


Achievement Gap: Will This Work?

Extending Learning Opportunities


What Do We Know About Teaching Reading Comprehension Skills?

Maybe we don’t understand what readers really do – and why it matters

Here is an excerpt from Wiggins detailed posting.

By grantwiggins  posted Wed Feb 11 2015

“How well are we doing in comprehension of text as a nation? You know the answer. We are doing poorly when it comes to genuine comprehension:

What should we infer from the data?

Numerous causes and their implied solutions, as readers know, have been proposed for flat reading scores: poverty, low expectations, inadequate background knowledge, an anti-boy bias in schools (especially in terms of book selection), IQ links to reading ability, computer games, TV, etc. etc.

The utterly flat national trend line, over decades, says to me that none of these theories holds up well, no matter how plausible each may seem to its proponents. Perhaps it’s time to explore a more radical but common sense notion: maybe we don’t yet understand reading comprehension and how it develops over time.

Maybe we have jumped to solutions before understanding the problems of naïve and superficial comprehension. Maybe we still haven’t specified, in diagnostic detail, what real readers do when they supposedly read books and articles and try to comprehend – regardless of what “good readers” supposedly do.

At the very least: it is a good time to question the premise that we understand the problem…”


Several years ago, along with two of my colleagues, we developed a strategy-based reading comprehension program for middle school students. Although it hasn’t been updated recently, I am posting the link:


Wiggins’s posting will give me a lot to think about.

Paying Attention to Where Kids Are

For Challenged Readers, Custom-Tailored Texts

By Christina A. Samuels

This is too good to pass up! Note the range of perspectives and questions that we need to answer.

Excerpt, but I hope you will read the entire article.



“School librarian K.C. Boyd has long been a cheerleader for “street lit”—gritty urban dramas with themes such as gang life or homelessness—as a way to engage the students she works with in a Chicago high school.

Her job, she says, is to get students reading comfortably, then to lead them to more complex works. As part of that goal, she has turned to what is known in library circles as “high interest, low readability” books, such as a series of books by author P.J. Gray, written at a 2nd grade level and featuring teen protagonists and their struggles…..”





What Goes Around Comes Around…and Around…and Around

I woke up (early) this morning thinking about a program I heard on public radio yesterday. It was a rebroadcast of an interview with Governor Mario Cuomo talking about issues of justice, including poverty and opportunity. The broadcast was originally aired 20 years ago. It reminded me of another story that doesn’t seem to have changed much either in the last 20 (or 30 or 40) years—oral language, literacy, and the achievement gap.

I have been reading online and from text a great deal about the achievement gap and its relationship to oral language development and early literacy skills.   The rebroadcast prompted me to go to my library and find a book on Language in Early Childhood Education, edited by Courtney B. Cazden. It was published in 1972 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Although this book does not directly address the relationship between oral language and literacy or literacy and the achievement gap, it clearly focuses on the relationship between home (language)and school (language) and between the role of disadvantage in learning. In this text Cazden and her colleagues analyzed existing language programs used in preschool, and contrasted effective home and school practices.

Another of my favorite “old” references is a book produced by the National Council of Teachers of English written by Walter Loban: Language Development, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve, also published in the 1970’s. In that text Loban traces the language and literacy development of the same 211 children from kindergarten to grade 12. His most telling finding is that the children who start behind, those in the lowest socioeconomic groups, stay behind….unless there is specific intervention. These are not children who differ in innate intellectual ability when they start school.

Loban says: “Although various ethnic backgrounds are included in all three groups (high, low, mixed), the same is not true of socioeconomic background. The high functioning group is definitely skewed in the direction of the most favored socioeconomic conditions; the low functioning group members from the least favored background.”

Eternal optimist that I am, I don’t believe that this recycling has to continue. We know a great deal about oral language development, early literacy, and the achievement gap. We need to know how to put what we know into practice and why what we know isn’t put into practice. I hope this blog will offer insights into how to make that happen by high lighting successful programs and practices.

One of the sources I’ve mentioned before is Listening and Speaking for Preschool Through Third Grade edited by Lauren B. Resnick an Catherine E. Snow, Published by the International Reading Association in 2008.

Three other sources I’m reading now and recommend:

Assessing Preschool Literacy Development by Billie J. Enz an Lesley Mandel Morrow Oral Language and Early Literacy in Preschool: Talking, Reading, and Writing by Kathleen A. Roskos, Patton O. Tabors, and Lisa A. Lehnart

Both were also published in 2009 by The International Reading Association.

A third resource, one of the best articles I have read on early literacy is: Common Core State Standards and Early Childhood Literacy Instruction: Confusion and Conclusions by Jessica Hoffman, Katie Pagica and William Teale. I think this is an extraordinarily balanced treatment of the reading standards in relation to preschool learning. https://www.academia.edu/4622466/Common_Core_State_Standards_and_Early_Childhood_Literacy_Instruction_Confusions_and_Conclusions

Reading With Preschoolers

Parents and Teacher Reading with Preschoolers: The What’s and How’s Indicated by Research and Practice

by William Teale

Preschoolers from Disadvantaged Communities

The link below leads to a video of this paper that was delivered at the International Seminar:    Promoting Reading with Preschool Children from Disadvantaged Communities, sponsored by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute in September 2014.


Achievement Gap: Back to Work

More resources from the Text Project


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