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English Language Arts
How I Teach
April 8, 2019
‘I’m the adult’: Why this Colorado English teacher never gives up on her students
This Colorado teacher talks about what mantra she repeats daily, how she helped students rethink stereotypes, and why she sometimes has to “walk around the trash can.”
April 3, 2019
Computer-based state testing to resume in New York but concerns about glitches remain
Tuesday’s problems did not allow some students to log into the system or submit a completed test.
Race to Reading
August 28, 2018
With Michigan’s third-grade reading law looming, parents fear majority of Detroit youth will be held back
Educators and advocates are warning that too many parents don’t know their children can be held back in third grade if they can't read, because of a new law.
How I Teach
December 5, 2017
After a mother’s surprising request, this Colorado debate coach realized the value of her work
A Colorado Springs English teacher talks about what students value most about the speech and debate program and which technology tools she loves most.
November 2, 2017
A harder English curriculum arrives in Memphis elementary schools next week. Here’s how teachers are preparing.
Shelby County Schools is adding Expeditionary Learning to its curriculum mix as the district seeks to expose its students to more complex reading content.
How I Teach
October 23, 2017
‘They are world-changers.’ A sixth-grade teacher wants stifled voices to be heard
A finalist for Colorado's Teacher of the Year award talked about what she learned from an angry mother who revealed her sixth-grade son couldn't read.
Updated August 22, 2017
New York City’s math and English test scores increased slightly. Here’s the breakdown.
Unlike last year, state officials said this year's scores show real growth in student learning.
August 18, 2014
With all of this year’s test-takers included, city’s top 10s shift slightly
Last week, when the state released last year’s state test results, we published lists of the top and bottom 10 schools in math and reading proficiency.
August 9, 2013
Close-reading one seventh-grade state English test question
This year's state English language arts exams required more "close-reading" than ever before, in keeping with the priorities of the Common Core learning standards. Back in April, when the exams were administered to students in third through eighth grades, educators said the length of the reading passages and what students were asked to do with them made the tests too onerous for the time allowed. This week, the state released scores showing that only 31 percent of students met the state's proficiency standards, including just 26.4 percent in New York City. We asked three English teachers to apply the same reading strategies that they teach their students to questions that appeared on the state's reading exams. (Breaking from recent past practice, the state released about a quarter of the test questions that students saw. We highlighted math questions on Wednesday.) Zeroing in on the "Earth and Water and Sky" passage on the seventh-grade exam, the educators — Victoria Dedaj, Mark Anderson, and Jen Murtha — said some questions required more than literacy skills, used complex language, and sometimes had no clear answer. Dedaj and Anderson — whom you might remember from our Common Core literacy event last fall — teach at M.S. 228 in the Bronx, where Murtha was a Teaching Matters' consultant before becoming the nonprofit's director of educational services. Here's the passage and what they said about it:
July 15, 2013
Reading Closely For Connection In The Common Core
The Common Core’s reverence for the text as “the master class,” as chief creator David Coleman said in a 2011 speech, means that students’ personal interpretations are deemphasized — and even denounced. That particular pendulum swing has me concerned because, in my experience, students must also bring their own perspectives and experiences to the text if they are to read critically.
Anatomy of a lesson
July 1, 2013
In a third-grade class, students use a script to lead discussions
In a thick Russian accent, Sasha Growick imitated the voice of Rifka, the main character in "Letters from Rifka." The book, which Growick is incorporating into a unit on immigration, tells the story of a young Jewish girl's journey from Russia to the United States in the 1900s. Her 23 students sit cross-legged on a blue rug with colorful dots, completely enthralled by the story. Every day during the last weeks of the school year, Growick spent about 40 to 50 minutes reading aloud and getting students to discuss the reading. The teacher has worked at Success Academy Bronx 2 for the last three years, where her students routinely post the highest test scores in the entire charter network. Growick's record recently earned her finalist status for the Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice, awarded annually by the nonprofit TNTP. GothamSchools sat in on her daily read-aloud lesson last month as students discussed Rifka's reaction to her new country. As when we have chronicled other classes in the past, we've included both a description of what we saw, and in block quotes, a description of what the teacher said she was thinking. 9:28 a.m. Growick is finishing up the end of a chapter about Rifka arriving at Ellis Island and experiencing life in America for the first time. Rifka finds her younger brother wasting toilet paper and scolds him and says they will be sent back to Russia. Rifka tells another character in the book, Nurse Bowen, what happened and Nurse Bowen laughs at her. Growick pauses and asks her students why she thinks Nurse Bowen is laughing at Rifka. She snaps her fingers and each student immediately turns to another and begin discussing the question. Growick bounces from group to group for about 45 seconds and then quickly comes back to the front of the classroom and raises her hand. The students stop talking.
April 17, 2013
On second day of new tests, time crunch seen as major issue
If students post low scores on the sections of the state reading test administered today, it might be in part because many could not finish in the allotted time. According to teachers who proctored today's English language arts exams, the time allowed — 70 minutes in third and fourth grades and 90 minutes in fifth through eighth grades – simply wasn't enough for many students, especially given the critical thinking that the tests required. The year's tests are the first to be tied to tougher new standards known as the Common Core, and today's sections were the first to include essays. (Tuesday's test section was all multiple-choice.) "When such a great increase in complexity — of questions and texts — is being implemented for the first time, AND we are tying results to students' permission to graduate — 90 minute is IN NO WAY sufficient," wrote Michele Hamilton, an eighth-grade teacher in the Bronx, in a comment on GothamSchools. "Today was a very hurtful experience for many of my students."
April 16, 2013
Difficulty of new state tests apparent on first day, teachers say
As the first day of this year's state testing period came to a close this afternoon, teachers from across the city took to Twitter to share their takes on whether the exam is shaping up to be as tough as officials have warned. State education officials caution that discussing the contents of the tests, the first to be tied to the new Common Core standards, could be grounds for termination for teachers. But teachers offered a thorough review without getting into specifics. Many said students struggled to complete the reading test in the allotted time. Others, in multiple grades, said some questions seemed to have multiple correct answers. Valerie Leak tweeted, "7th[-grade] texts were manageable but Qs were v difficult. kids left guessing w 5 min left. Close reading required w not enough time." "Close reading" is a skill that the Common Core emphasizes, and students across the city have been practicing with it all year. But Binh Thai, an eighth-grade English teacher at University Neighborhood Middle School on the Lower East Side, told GothamSchools that the technique and others that the Common Core calls for worked against some students today.
March 6, 2013
Common Core has teachers rethinking text, swapping strategies
Sixth graders at KIPP Infinity Middle School discuss a poem. On Tuesday, educators visited the charter school to learn about how it is adjusting…
July 18, 2012
Seven takeaways from a closer look at the state test scores
The state released the results of this year's third through eighth grade tests yesterday, and officials from City Hall to the charter sector lept to celebrate students' gains. Some changes were the focal point of the Department of Education's Tuesday afternoon press conference—like the drop among English Language Learners and the boosts charter schools saw. But they avoided nuances in the results for the city's new schools, which have been at the center of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's education reform policies. Beyond first impressions, here are seven interesting takeaways we parsed from the trove of data: Like last year, English Language Learners took a step back. Students who are identified as English Language Learners improved slightly in math, but took another step back from the statistical gains they made on the literacy test (ELA) earlier in the decade, before the state made the exams tougher in 2010. While just under half of the city’s non-ELL students met the state’s ELA standards, just 11.6 percent of ELL students did so. But in math, the percentage of ELL students scoring proficient rose by 2.5 points, to 37 percent. But students in other categories that typically struggle showed improvements. The percentage of students with disabilities who are proficient in math and literacy went up again this year, to 30.2 percent in math and 15.8 percent in English. And although Black and Hispanic students are still lagging behind their white peers by close to thirty percentage points in literacy and math, they also saw small bumps in both subjects. Officials said that new initiatives targeting struggling students, particularly students of color, contributed to the gains.
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