Part of the Bay Area News Group

Reading First study has a surprise ending

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, May 1st, 2008 at 11:51 pm in school reform, students, teachers.

reading.jpgReading First, a multibillion-dollar literacy program adopted in Oakland and more than 5,000 schools in the country as part of the No Child Left Behind Act, might not be superior to other reading programs, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education found.

In a study mandated by Congress, researchers found that kids in schools that participated in Reading First scored no better on comprehension tests than those at schools that didn’t take part, the Washington Post reported.

From the Post story (linked above):

“There was no statistically significant impact on reading comprehension scores in grades one, two or three,” Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the Education Department’s research arm, said in a briefing with reporters. He said students in both groups made gains.

“It’s possible that, in implementing Reading First, there is a greater emphasis on decoding skills and not enough emphasis, or maybe not correctly structured emphasis, on reading comprehension,” he said. “It’s one possibility.”

Whitehurst said there are other possible explanations. One, he said, is that the program “doesn’t end up helping children read.” He said the program’s approach could be effective in helping students learn building-block skills yet not “take children far enough along to have a significant impact on comprehension.”

Wow. I guess the Education Department’s independent research arm really is independent.

What’s your experience with Reading First, as a parent, a teacher, or a student? Is it too heavy on phonetics and light on comprehension, as critics say, or is it working?

Speaking of reading programs, the publisher of Open Court — SRA/McGraw-Hill — named Oakland the winner of the “2008 Pride of SRA Academic Recognition” award for test score gains made in the early grades after implementing its program in 1999. Read the release here.

image from Old Shoe Woman’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

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  • hills parent

    Of course SRA/McGraw gave Open Court the award. OUSD has spent large sums on this expensive program. A good question is “why aren’t many other school districts using this program? This “one size fits all” program addresses those students not meeting standards. How about those already exceeding the standards? Or is it the way that OUSD chooses to use the program?

    Teaching a child (who already knows how to read) to identify letters of the alphabet and the sounds is not challenging that child. I would be interested to hear how some elementary schools are using Open Court to address the needs of students with higher ability levels.

  • Sue

    Oh, Hills Parent, there are probably very few examples of high-ability students benefiting from Open Court. My kid has been so bored with those.

    Our solution to challenging him is that we buy books. Our whole family seems to be incapable of walking by a book store without entering it. And we’re just as incapable of walking out empty-handed. So, nearly every payday, we’re all bringing new books home. Since both our kids are allowed to pick their own books, they read – constantly! And if they run out of their own books, DH and I are more than happy to share ours with them – the age-appropriate ones, anyway.

    Unfortunately, not every family in Oakland has the disposable income we have, so not every child has the chance to pick out books to read, and to go beyond what the school provides. Our younger son’s elemtary school has a pretty good library, and I’m sure that has helped his classmates. But my understanding is that not all the OUSD schools have libraries.

    I’m not sure how we get more books, and more challenging books, into the hands of every student. It’s something I’d love to contribute to, if anyone has suggestions?

  • hills parent

    Rather than spend funds on Open Court I would suggest that OUSD look at our surrounding school districts to see what they use that has been successful at addressing the needs of ALL children, not just those that are struggling to meet the grade level standards. Otherwise more families will find their only option is to leave the public school system or to simply move from Oakland. It is a sad time when families move out of a wonderfully diverse community to get away from the school district.

  • Local Teacher

    While Open Court may be marketed as a program that supports the needs of struggling learners/readers, it is simply not true.

    Open Court is a great program for students that are exactly on grade level – the pace, content, and structure all contribute to their learning. If you are a struggling reader, the texts in Open Court are too hard for you to access, and there are not enough opportunities built into the program for you to succeed.

    OUSD implemented Open Court in the most regimented way possible – holding teachers accountable to very strict implementation of the Open Court guidelines, protocols, and procedures. Teachers frequently received poor evaluations for not adhering perfectly to the program. There is a move now, at the school level, to deviate from this strict regime because it is not helping our students learn or increase the achievement in the lowest performing schools (most of these schools are Reading First schools, btw).

    I’m surprised, though, that the researchers would come right out and say that Reading First is ineffective – I wonder how that will effect Reading First funding going forward given that it is already being cut.

  • Debora

    Last night as I was lying on the bed next to my eight year old daughter, I asked her about her day. She had a great day filled with music and dancing at her Oakland Public School. She loved her teacher’s writing assignments, they were interesting and fun.

    And she said “I hate the time we have to waste on Open Court. We spend time reviewing what we already know, having spelling tests on words we already know and wasting time we could spend on learning something. Then we have to take tests that waste time to prove that Open Court taught us something. It’s just stupid. ”

    I asked her about the kids who were struggling to read. An eight year old was astute enough to say. If we didn’t spend so much time together during Open Court time, the teacher could assign Sustained Silent Reading to the rest of us and work the kids who are having trouble.

    Sometimes the answer is nearly as plain as the nose on an eight-year-old face.

  • cranky teacher

    Debora: Excellent post.

  • jim2812

    I agree with half of Debre’s comments about one-size fits all scripted curriculum of Open Court. I certainly agree that the rigid time allocation provided to Open Court needs to be questionned.

    However, I disagree that the solution is to provide Sustained Silent Reading for the successful students while the teacher works with the less able students. Such an approach violates my concept of SSR with the teacher and students living out the value of reading by spending in-class time reading what each has selected to read.

    Some criticise this approach feeling that silent reading of self-selected books is neither teaching or learning. Furthermore, the pressure for higher test scores would mean that time is wasted in SSR.

    However, I would argue SSR is learning the value of reading in school by demonstrating that reading is valued while at school.

    I believe decisions on how best to teach reading to children are neither best made by publishers, education professors, superintendents, or boards of education but the teachers and principals working in the schools. These challenging and complex decisions are not, in my opinion, child’s play.

    Jim Mordecai

  • hills parent

    Jim: I agree with you. However, my concern is that OUSD cannot look beyond the end of their noses to see that Open Court is not what they had thought. How many more children have to be affected negatively before they make a change?

  • Debora

    Jim

    When a child takes a pretest, as my child and the children in her class do, and they pass the pretest with a set percentage (such as 80%, 85%, 90%) accuracy, they should not be made to sit through, yet another Open Court project that does not add to their learning.

    I agree with you that Sustained Silent Reading should be enjoyed by all. What I meant by my original comments, more that the actual result of what was said by an eight year old, is that there are many obvious solutions that any teacher with experience under her or his belt could implement if the structure of Open Court was not so rigid.

    Children who have mastered the current Open Court word list, for example could be given more difficult words; could use the dictionary to find synonyms and antonyms in the dictionary. They could read a book set in a similar time period and be tested on the deeper subject matter.

    My daughter had a first grade teacher who refused to use Open Court. She never said it out loud, but the books were sent home and my daughter said she could read them if she wanted to, but was not required to. My daughter started that grade reading a few words over the minimum requirement and ended the grade reading over the minimum for the end of SECOND grade. The same with the math curriculum: the “standards workbook” was sent home. Those children who need the extra practice used it at home. It was never used in the class, never assigned as homework. Again, my daughter ended first grade having completed 2/3 of her second grade math in first grade by using teacher ingenuity and experience rather than fancy colored workbooks.

    What Open Court attempts to do is level the playing field. The field will never be level. Because some children are science-loving kids, some are art-loving kids, some are auditory kids, some are kinesthetic kids, some kids parents access book stores and libraries and listen to books on tape/CD in the car, other kids learn through plays and some kids do not have the same likes, access or interested adults.

    In the classroom, children should be taught, not reviewed, gone over, talked about and tested repeatedly on the material they know. We send them to school to learn.

    We talk about SRA – What ever happened to the color coded books at different levels that children could work through? I remember learning to read and reading through my grade level books in the first two months of school, then moving on to the next grade level books, when I finished those, I could move on to the next grade level. It seemed that the SRA program allowed children to learn at their capacity for learning rather that grade level curriculum.

  • jim2812

    Hill Parent and Debra:

    I don’t disagree with either of you and appreciate how well you have put your fingers on the strait-jacket imposed on Oakland teachers in implementation of the District’s basal reader: Open Court.

    The problem with buying a program–Open Court or any other program–that will magically solve the challenges of teaching children to read and at the same time pave the way for every child gaining entrance to the college of their (or their parent’s) choice, is that it devalues the teacher, the teacher’s training, and the teacher’s experience. The teacher and common sense become subordinate to the publisher’s program. Latest research on Reading First, a program that embraces Open Court, is that its methods don’t prove superior or even as good as schools not using the Reading First approach.

    The question is now what will Oakland do with its approach being questioned by the lastest research?

    I know that some found SRA satisfying. But SRA is another example of because it fits some, it may not be an approach that should be used with students that do not do well with the independent SRA approach. Direct teaching or independent programs such as SRA are all curriculum decisions that can help students or become an abuse.

    After Oakland’s Open Court experience, I hope that one-size fits all will not be repeated because there is always a publisher ready to sell the next solution for what didn’t work.

    Jim Mordecai

  • hills parent

    Where is Ed Services/Curriculum in all of this? Where is the leadership in OUSD that can recognize the inherent problems with Open Court, admit it, and then made the decision to drop the program. The bigger question is really “who is in charge” and does OUSD care to spend the time to investigate viable reading programs that have a proven history in other school districts to address the learning needs of All students.

    Will OUSD listen to the teachers about the problems with Open Court?

    Will OUSD district office assume curriculum leadership?

    Are there so many flames to put out in OUSD that there is no time to address curriculum needs?

    How much longer can OUSD keep those teachers who want to make a difference in the lives of our children, but are strapped to a system that does not support them?

  • jim2812

    Important questions that perhaps in another time the Oakland School Board would ask.

    However, The Aspen Group training of the school board in its coherence management doctrine may not have left room in its teachings for the board being true to its training and asking such questions. The Aspen Group ideal, as I understand it, is management by requiring the Superintendent to meet performance goals and not to question the means of obtaining those goals and therefore these important question are unlikely to be asked lease they go against the training that was provided.

    The interim superintendent from FICMAT is an expert in finances but not in curriculum. Nevertheless, it is up to the community to ask these important questions of the new superintendent because as important as Oakland’s financial recovery is, so are these issues important, and need to be addressed.

    Jim Mordecai

  • advokids

    As an educator of 35+ years, 25+ of which was in a classroom, I feel compelled to finally express my thoughts on Katy’s blog. I have followed the comments with interest for the past several months but hesitated to respond as I am “Central Office” and always perceived with a certain amount of distrust. However, my perspective could be informative, useful, and serve a greater purpose than keeping my peace.

    Although I have not yet read the recent Congressional study I do keep abreast of many of the studies on reading achievement. Diane Haager was the principal investigator for the California Reading First evaluation http://www.eddata.com/resources/publications/ and those results find California’s Reading First program to be effective. In our state, Reading First schools have out-performed the non-Reading First schools in terms of substantial growth since 2002. Its findings also show that the more faithfully Reading First is applied, the greater the effect on the achievement of students. Haager’s evaluation also shows that most California schools are only implementing the program adequately! Imagine the results if we could go beyond ‘adequately’ in most of our schools! [Now, Reading First is NOT to be confused with Open Court. Open Court is the reading program that some districts have elected to use in order to meet the assurances of Reading First. The only other ‘approved program’ available for Reading First schools is Houghton Mifflin.]

    As for the Open Court program, no program can negatively affect a student or “level the playing field”. Most content areas, be it a math program, social studies, science, art etc, begin with a “base curriculum” that teachers use as a foundation upon which to build. Is it the social studies’ text that creates negativity or the math text that turns a student off to learning math? A student who scores 90% on a pretest should not be required to sit through any further instruction on those concepts. This is not an Open Court issue, but a teaching issue. We need to separate teaching issues from program issues. OUSD has actively encouraged differentiation of instruction in all classrooms so students are NOT sitting through a rehash of skills and concepts already learned. Should this be rigidly mandated for all classrooms? Should teachers be accountable for differentiating their instruction? How rigidly? How much time should a teacher be given to learn how to differentiate effectively? This is one such dilemma faced when dealing with varying levels of teacher experience and expertise.

    One problem may be the belief that there’s a “magic program” out there. This notion of magic doesn’t come from the district. Where did this notion start? Is it wishful thinking on the part of some educators? Effective teachers devote hours each week cognitively planning their instruction, whether it be through a basal program or using leveled texts. There is only the magic that each individual teacher brings to each instructional sequence. Open Court has never been touted as ‘superior” to any other program but an excellent program that provides teachers with a well-researched sequential road-map for teaching reading.
    I am one of the OUSD curriculum people who stand behind the decision to implement a program like “Open Court” as an excellent guideline for the teaching of reading. Open Court is a viable program for teaching reading. Its success, however, is dependent on the adults who use the program. Our data clearly demonstrates Open Court to be an effective tool in helping to reach our ultimate goal, but the rest is up to the talented teachers we have in Oakland. Research supports curricular continuity and coherence in the educational life of students. It doesn’t have to be Open Court, but it does need to be consistent and coherent.

    Mary Pippitt Cervantes

  • jim2812

    I believe the recent reading first study raised a deep question about the meaning of effectiveness in teaching reading. The study rejected effectiveness defined as scores on reading sub-skills and focused on the outcome of reading which the author contends is comprehension and demonstrating the ability to use what was read to write an intelligent response.

    I have not studied what was considered effective about the California study but would not be satisfied if it provided proof of effectiveness while ignoring improvement in comprehension.

    I plan to look at the study you mention by Ms. Haager.

    Although you managed to work in the Aspen word coherent I did not find anything in your comments addressing their current role in impacting the Boards voice on curriculum. And, I think that is appropriate for a Central Administrator.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Nextset

    Of course the readership is well aware of the studies that proved Head Start programs were a waste of time and money. The differences between the Head Start Students and the control groups faded over time.

  • hills parent

    Ms. Cervantes:

    My daughter entered K in OUSD this year already able to read. Through Open Court she had to relearn her letter identification and sounds. Please tell me what kind of program or OUSD curriculum administrator would consider this appropriate instruction for a student already reading?

  • advokids

    Dear Hill’s Parent,
    As a reading specialist, I would need more specific information in order to address your concern. What do you mean by “read through Open Court”? Reading is complex and there are many skills children will need as texts become more sophisticated and complex.A deep understanding of the linguistic structure of English will be needed in the upper grades and into high school. Open Court does a superb job of providing this understanding throughout the grades.This may be the information being presented.Again I would need many more specifics to truly address your concerns
    Ms.Pippitt Cervantes

  • hills parent

    Ms. Cervantes:

    What I actually said is the my daughter entered K already able to read. With the Open Court program she started the K year learning letter identification and sounds, both of which she knew. The program is so scripted that the program did not allow her needs to be addressed, as was probably true of other students in her class.

    I have also been a reading specialist and find that I need to GREATLY supplement at home what Open Court has not provided.

  • jim2812

    Hills Parent:

    Perhaps when you were studying to become a reading specialist you came across Dolores Durkin’s seminal study of early readers (Children Who Read Early: Teacher College Press, 1966).

    This study involved thousands of Oakland children and was followed up by a large sample in New York City.

    The three research questions were 1) How many children learn to read at home and as a result enter first grade already reading?; 2) What is the effect of the early this early ability on children’s future achievement in reading; 3) What kind of factors promote early reading, and do they have implications for school instruction in reading.

    Ms. Durkin identified a number of early readers and many of the characteristics of early readers found in the study were incorporated in many pre-school programs with reading to children being one of the most prominent. Other characteristics of early readers such as playing school with older brothers or sisters doesn’t easily translate to a preschool curriculum, or is a personal characteristic, such as being serious or neat and such attributes are more difficult for a preschool to promote.

    But, notice that the focus of this study was on, not those struggling in school, but those bringing personal characteristics to the school that facilitate school success.

    After the 60′s schools pay attention to the concept of readiness as there was much research on the developmental stages of children.

    However, today schools under the pressure of NCLB and the standards movement take an outcome focus. School administrations treat children now as a black box with higher test scores a function of inputs. There is an attitude of no excuses without attention to the personal characterists of children nor their developmental stages.

    In my opinion the current type of thinking makes schooling a toxic environment for students with test scores driving far too many decisions and teachers denied the opportunity to use their professional judgment.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Catherine

    Jim:

    We are seeing some of what you describe at our school. Many children enter school reading or ready to read, meaning within 3 or 4 weeks of the start of kindergarten they are reading fluently. When parents ask for more challenging texts, or more challenging work we have been told that the Open Court curriculum provides the depth and beadth when taught by tenured teachers to allow for the differences of all students at the school.

    We have found this not to be true. The vocabulary words are the speaking words at a two or three year old understanding for most of the families at our school. My son’s kindergarten teacher stated she “loves Open Court and the variety of activities available to the children because it teaches all children to read. Children arriving at school reading are sight reading and do not have the fundamental phonics training. If your child is advanced have him complete these book reports.” She then went on to say that by using the book report “ditto format” no one has ever come back to her and asked for different instruction again.

    We are a “hills school” and find that the teachers love children, but have been very used to doing as little acommodation to different levels of learning as they can get away with.

    To tell the value of the parents view of the education of Oakland Schools teaching, I think it is important to look at the trasfer rates at third, forth and fifth grades. When parents enroll their kindergartners and the children are reading parents are happy. If they entered reading and their children are happy, then they are reasonable satisfied. Then by grade one, they see some issues and try to work through them. By grade two, parents are working with teachers, the school, and the principal to add the curriculum needed. And third or fourth grade, the students in Oakland seem to leave. Or that is the way our school has operated. By fifth grade we have only 60% of our orignal students.

    In college classrooms, there is a student survey at the end of the term. This data is primarily used to improve education, move teachers up or out, etc. It would be interesting to see the outcome if parents had input to the teachers that were kept at the school.

  • advokids

    Hills Parent
    Basal reading programs by definition are meant to provide a BASE upon which a teacher builds. They were never meant to be the ALL Of reading instruction. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to meet the instructional needs of EVERY student. teachers supplement base programs for both the struggling reader as well as those needing more challenges. BTW Open Court is NOT meant to be followed as a “script”. There are a few routines but even those ‘more directed’ aspects of the program need to be ‘less directive’ as students become more proficient. How and when to do this is NOT prescribed in the teacher guide but obtained through training as well as a deep understanding of the process. Again teacher issues need to be separated from program issues. You may want to read the Program Appendix of Open Court which provides the philosophical base of the program. When teachers have a deeper understanding of this information they are better able to navigate through the manual, better able to adjust the teaching to better meet the needs of every child.
    Mary pippitt cervantes

  • Nextset

    Catherine’s post struck me because I’ve just had a conversation with friends in Los Angeles who have their 12-14 year old sons in expensive private schools. They mentioned that they have 15 private schools to choose from, and that their sons stayed in public schools only through 3rd grade at which time essentially all of their friends move their children to private school. It seems that 3rd grade is the point at which the cost of the private school and the diminishing value of the public school meet. Age 9.

    Reminds me of other reading I’ve noticed on intellect and when the deviding lines become clear.

    If the public schools only “sell” to the lowest common denominator they should expect people to leave the system. Public schools should do more to work with the different groups. Not everybody can afford $20k a year for private schools.

  • cranky teacher

    High school teacher perspective: My students can read, however they generally do not enjoy reading and only do it when forced. This greatly limits their ability to develop vocabulary, reading sophistication and a range of knowledge. I’m glad they are not illiterate, but…

    Does Open Court or Reading First get kids to like or love reading? If it doesn’t, could it be improved to do so?

    Young children are interested in pats on the head and so will follow routines. As kids get older, if they have lost the joy of successful learning, they are sunk, IMHO.

  • Muriel Ayanaba

    Here is information about getting a copy of the aforementioned Reading First report.

    Anyone interested in reading the full report can find it by going to http://www.google.com, choosing advanced search, and typing in (Institute of Education Sciences) and (Reading First).

    If you don’t want to download 200 plus pages or read the report on screen there are directions at the beginning of the document on how to get a free copy.

  • hills parent

    Ms. Cervantes:

    If it is up to each teacher to challenge students to reach their potential, in spite of Open Court, then who at the district office oversees that this is occurring. Please do not tell me that this is the role of the Principal. Clearly at two of the “hills” schools this is not occurring.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks, Muriel. You can also access the executive summary of the Reading First study by clicking the hyperlink attached to the word “study” in my original post (which I just added).

  • Public school fan

    Several years ago, my child started kindergarten at a “hills” school and was already reading. Open Court did not in any way provide a challenge or further my child’s reading abilities. When I queried the K teacher, I was told that Open Court was a great review for kids who already knew how to read and that it gave those kids confidence to pursue harder materials later on and on their own time. I don’t think that was an adequate response. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the K teacher was great and a superb teacher, but there were minimal accomodations made for those kids in the class who were already far beyond K level Open Court. My feeling is that in an overcrowded K setting — my child’s class had 25 kids in it with little extra help — it was understandably simpler to teach Open Court at one level across the board.

    This issue is one with which I have continuing frustration. I feel that even in “good” schools, the emphasis is firmly on getting everyone up to proficiency (Yes, even in “hills” schools there are kids who are not grade level proficient) and raising test scores that way. There is just little willpower, at any level, to challenge the kids who are far beyond proficiency. My child is right now reading at almost 3 times the words per minute rate that OUSD expects from that grade level. It would be great if my child could have a more creative academic challenge. In my experience and from what I hear from many of my friends with kids in other “hills” schools, this is not an isolated problem. The schools seem to think that if you have a more than proficient child, any extra challenge should be provided at home.

    If OUSD wants to keep kids in the system beyond elementary school, then this issue ought to be addressed beyond even the Open Court system. Teachers need to be given the tools (and the schools need to be given the resources and support) to challenge each child at whatever their proficiency level is. Other school districts do this, often with extra programs, why not OUSD?

    OUSD struggles with so many enormous issues to which there are no easy solutions. I just wish they would keep in mind that kids who are beyond proficiency also need some attention.

  • Catherine

    I know that my son started school gung-ho on learning in kindergarten, came home the day his weekly homework packet was given to him and sat at the table until it was complete.

    That enthusiasm died after about three months of literally not having to think at all and finishing the week’s worth of homework in 15 minutes.

    Now in second grade, he stopped caring about putting forth effort in homework. He participates in class, but instead of “learning” as his favorite activity at school as it was in kindergarten it’s “two-touch at recess.”

    I am a single mom with a hispanic son who tests well and have had several private schools state that will reduce his tuition to what we’re already donating to our public school. We are planning the move after third grade if the teachers cannot move his education a full grade beyond where he is now.

    It’s a shame if you want to support your public schools and the teachers want to teach the standard faire to all and the private schools so easily lure away the strong students.

  • hills parent

    Public school fan:

    I totally agree with you. I cannot wait around, however, for OUSD for provide the teaching that my child deserves to get. It is clearly time for me to leave the district for another school district that cares for ALL children, and not just for those that are below grade level standards. It is too easy for the district to ask that parents provide supplemental education to our children in order that they are challenged and remain interested in learning. If this does not change soon I would imagine that many more parents will leave for private schools or for other communities that believe that all children should receive an education that meets their needs.

    Catherine: At least your elementary school provides K students with homework. My child’s elementary school does not believe in it.

  • Public school fan

    Hills Parent:

    This is indeed one of the many tragedies of OUSD — they have families who support public education, who long to have their children in public schools (look at the capacity issues in the “hills” schools), but who then bump up against the limitations of OUSD’s single-minded focus on below proficiency learners. Wouldn’t you want to keep these dedicated families in the system? Wouldn’t you want to spend some small amount of money to train your teachers to challenge the brightest in the class? Wouldn’t you want to have some kind of program to challenge the kids who are way more than proficient? Apparently not. These kinds of issues are not the ones that grab headlines and admittedly OUSD has some much bigger fish to fry, but in this era of declining enrollments it seems that OUSD ought to investigate all avenues for retaining families who would really prefer to stay in this district but feel they can’t because their children’s education is being compromised by mediocrity.

  • Catherine

    At our hills school, children and their parents are literally asked to learn less than they are capable of learning so that next year won’t be difficult for the teacher with such a wide range of knowledge.

    I went the GATE Education Forum on a Saturday earlier in the year. We were told to go back to our schools and ask questions about clustering, differentiated curriculum and the GATE educated teacher at our school. Our GATE teacher does not differentiate, is a second grade teacher who is worried that differentiation is the same as tracking, which she doesn’t believe in and all 2nd grade teachers are in lock-step with homework. It’s a shame all the way around.

    We have some very bright kids, and I’m not talking about just those kids whose families enrich, I’m talking about kids who are doing high school Algebra, acting in Shakespear in the Summer and who have written books that are hundreds of pages. I see them slowly losing their spark. It’s a great thing we have creative afterschool opportunities.

  • Lynn Glick

    As a district employee (at a school site) and the parent of a first grader, I would like to make an observation. Some respones have stated that the OCR program is too easy, other responses have stated that the program is too hard. The program cannot be both.

    However, there is a place for both teacher creativity and opportunities for students to work at their level. Both reading programs currently adopted for use in California provide a time during the reading/language arts block to differentiate instruction. This time is refered to as Universal Access, Independent Worktime or Workshop Time. During this time, students are to be working by themselves or in small groups at whatever work the teacher deems independent. Also, at this time, the teacher is working with small groups of students who need extra support (those struggling readers) and also working with small groups of students who need to be challenged. The program has a variety of things for those students. In addition, the teacher could very well run literature study groups during this time as well. This Workshop time could provide an opportunity for students to pursue their own interests as well. Two examples come to mind; students could be working on writing or on researching a topic.

    My first grader learned to read this year. I am grateful to the dedicated teachers that she has had so far and I look forward to her future in OUSD.

  • Rhea Rojas

    I am an Oakland teacher and I agree with what everyone is saying. There is one important thing not said. Differentiation is important for all teachers to do so that they meet all their student’s needs but, many or most teachers, especially new teachers don’t have the skill or they lack knowledge on differentiating their instruction. Now that this has been an issue in many schools, I think that professional development in this area is very important. There are going to be PDs provided by Oakland teachers this summer offered by OUSD on Workshop and differentiation. I believe that this is an important step in the right direction for all our students.

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