Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What parents of dyslexic children are teaching schools about literacy

May 1, 2019


Photo from Pexels


PBS Newshour Full Transcript

Fewer than 40 percent of fourth and eighth grade students nationwide are proficient readers. Now, led by parents of children with dyslexia, a learning disability that makes reading and spelling difficult, some states are trying to change how reading is taught. Special correspondent Lisa Stark reports from Arkansas, where a group of determined advocates have upended traditional reading instruction.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The reading gap among school children in this country is disturbing. Fewer than 40 percent of fourth and eighth graders are considered proficient readers.

    There is a push to change how students are taught to read, and it is being led by parents whose children have dyslexia.

    Special correspondent Lisa Stark of our partner Education Week reports from Arkansas for our education segment, Making the Grade.


  • Lisa Stark:

    Meet the families who changed how every child in Arkansas will learn to read, because they know what it’s like for kids to struggle with reading. Here’s Kim Head:


  • Kim Head:

    My kid is crawling under the table, stomach aches, doesn’t want to go to school. We’re in tears.


  • Lisa Stark:

    Amber Jones.


  • Amber Jones:

    The psychological damage that happens to them when they cannot figure out reading.


  • Lisa Stark:

    Scott Gann.


  • Scott Gann:

    He said, “I told you I can’t read. Nobody believes me.”


  • Lisa Stark:

    These families have spent thousands of dollars on educational testing and tutoring to discover their children have dyslexia, a learning disability that makes it difficult to spell and read.

    It affects one in five individuals. Here’s Dixie Evans:


  • Dixie Evans:

    Not being able to get the help from your school, the people that are supposed to know, that are supposed to have the answers, not being able to get that help and having to go out and find it on your own.


  • Audi Alumbaugh:

    The sense of urgency with us is, while the schools are trying to figure their way, these kids, they don’t have time to wait.


  • Lisa Stark:

    Audi Alumbaugh has led the push to pass new state laws on reading instruction. She has a niece with dyslexia.


  • Audi Alumbaugh:

    She is not a strong reader still because of our delay in figuring out what was going on, but she will be a success. And I saw how it impacts every fiber of the family, which is what everybody here says. And there’s just no need.

    We have a system in place to fix this.


  • Lisa Stark:

    That system includes explicit instruction in phonics, teaching students how letters and sounds go together to help the brain process the written word.


  • Woman:

    If we have the word brush and we want to take away the buh, we are left with?


  • Children:



  • Woman:

    Very good.


  • Sarah Sayko:

    We absolutely know that this is the best way the teach children to read.


  • Lisa Stark:

    Sarah Sayko with the National Center on Improving Literacy says this approach works well for all students, not just those with dyslexia.


  • Sarah Sayko:

    We know without a doubt that reading is not a natural process. Reading has to be taught. And it needs to be taught systematically.


  • Lisa Stark:

    Here’s what that looks like at Springhill Elementary in Greenbrier, Arkansas, where students with characteristics of dyslexia get intensive reading instruction.


  • Children:



  • Woman:

    Rain. Oh, I tried to trick you all on that one. Very good.


  • Lisa Stark:

    Why are you in those groups? Do you know? What’s that for?

    Dan, do you want to say something about that?


  • Dani Fulmer:

    To help us spell better, I think.


  • Lisa Stark:

    What about you, Cord?


  • Cord Beaird:

    Read better.


  • Ace Newland:

    Write better.


  • Lisa Stark:

    Ace, Cord, and Dani are taught to use their senses of touch, feel, and movement to help imprint words into their brains.


  • Ace Newland:

    And like pounding tapping helps me like write it.


  • Lisa Stark:

    So it helps to pound the word out and tap the word out?


  • Ace Newland:



  • Lisa Stark:

    And why is that, do you think?


  • Ace Newland:

    Because you’re sounding out each letter.


  • Lisa Stark:

    And letters become words. Words become stories. Reading is no longer something to avoid.


  • Cord Beaird:

    And then now I know a lot about reading. And, when I go to a book chapter I will not get stuck on big words.


  • Dani Fulmer:

    I would like to see words. And, I would like to just see them and say, oh, I know that word and then just keep on reading.


  • Lisa Stark:

    Are you able to do that at all yet?


  • Dani Fulmer:

    Some words.


  • Lisa Stark:

    For those who can’t read well by the end of third grade, there are lifelong consequences, including higher school dropout and poverty rates. Arkansas ranks in the bottom third of states when it comes to reading, and this group is determined to change that.

    They have fought for laws to transform reading instruction, often battling an education establishment resistant to change, says Dallas Green.


  • Dallas Green:

    They didn’t want us around. They would see us at educational things, and it would be like, oh, lord, here they are.


  • Lisa Stark:

    But perseverance paid off. Seven years and at least eight bills later, Arkansas is revamping everything, from dyslexia screening, to reading instruction, to teacher take and licensing, costing the state $6 million a year.


  • Stacy Smith:

    Statewide, we have embraced this. And it’s not been easy.


  • Lisa Stark:

    Not easy, but a watershed moment, says Stacy Smith, who oversees curriculum and instruction in Arkansas.


  • Stacy Smith:

    When we saw schools who started implementing dyslexia programs, kind of more school-wide, and all of a sudden their reading literacy results were improving, it was kind of that moment of, wait a second, not all these kids are dyslexic.


  • Lisa Stark:

    This type of reading instruction is the most beneficial for early readers. That was the conclusion of the federally appointed National Reading Panel nearly two decades ago.


  • Stacy Smith:

    So, there is actual scientific evidence about how students learn to read. And it’s largely been ignored.


  • Lisa Stark:

    Ignored largely because of years of ideological fights over how to best teach reading. Should lessons be heavy with phonics or steeped in good literature?

    Smith says sure kids of course need time with good books, but from what she’s seen in Arkansas, the first step is comprehensive phonics instruction. That’s why the state is moving to teach every student this way.


  • Stacy Smith:

    Golly, you think, what have we done? What have we done for generations to kids that we didn’t really teach to read?


  • Lisa Stark:

    Arkansas is now retraining thousands of its educators who were never taught this method of teaching.


  • Miranda Mahan:

    When I first started teaching, I honestly didn’t know how to teach kids to read. I didn’t. I taught them some sight words. I taught them the letters and what sounds they make. And I hoped that they put it all together. Rush.


  • Lisa Stark:

    Teacher Miranda Mahan no longer has to hope. She knows kids are learning to read.


  • Miranda Mahan:

    I know that we’re sending better readers to first grade now than we did, and first grade’s going to send better readers to second grade. And I feel that there’s not going to be as many students who fall through the cracks.


  • Lisa Stark:

    This is happening around the country, with parents leading the way. Over 40 states have laws, pilot programs, or bills ready to be signed around reading and dyslexia.

    But the requirements and mandates vary widely. In Arkansas, by the school year 2021, all elementary and special ed teachers must show that they know how to teach reading based on the science. At Springhill, they will beat that deadline.

    For principal Stephanie Worthey, this is personal. Remember that student Ace Newland? That’s her son.


  • Stephanie Worthey:

    I was an educator. And I struggled with my own child. And had this not come out and I was able to learn about dyslexia, I wouldn’t even have been able to help my own child, rather less a whole building full of children.


  • Lisa Stark:

    So is this new approach working?

    Let’s go to the source.


  • Ace Newland:

    Reading is kind of fun for me now that I know how and stuff.


  • Lisa Stark:

    The efforts are still so new, they haven’t yet moved the needle on state tests. For those pushing for the changes, there’s little doubt they will.

    Would you say that teaching your children a different way has made a difference for your child?


  • Woman:



  • Woman:



  • Lisa Stark:

    How much of a difference?


  • Woman:

    Life-changing, completely.


  • Lisa Stark:

    Life-changing when children are truly learning to read.

    For education week and the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Stark in Greenbrier, Arkansas.

Magic of Storytelling

February 1, 2019

‘A To Zoom’ by Leonard C. Duncan

November 24, 2018


About The Author:  Leonard C. Duncan taught grades 2,3,5,6,7 and 8 as a teacher in Los Angeles for 37 years. As an educator, Mr. Duncan taught many students how to read English and taught his five daughters as well. He added the techniques of phonics to the sight reading method being used at that time, introduced his list of essential words (words that are necessary for reading at any level) and put an emphasis on spelling and grammar to teach children how to read. Today, Mr. Duncan enjoys organizing his materials into new and innovative ways to teach reading. He also enjoys his time with his family and his dog Fritz.

Washington State Works to Meet Needs of its Homeless Students

November 2, 2018



Photo from Pexels

Nov. 2, 2018, at 6:00 a.m

By Casey Leins, Staff writer and producer at U.S. News & World Report

The lack of affordable housing in Washington state continues to critically impact families and children, and it’s led to a record number of homeless students in the state’s public school system.

Wi-Fi Hot Spots Help Homeless

About 1 in every 25 Washington K-12 public school students, or about one child in every classroom, will experience homelessness this year, according to a report released in May by the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. In Seattle, that rate jumps to 1 in 13 students.


For these students who are living on the street, in shelters or moving from place to place, completing a homework assignment or studying for a test isn’t usually their most pressing concern, making it difficult for them to excel in school – or even just attend.


“If you don’t have a stable place to live, and you don’t have secure food, the learning is so minor in their priority array,” says Superintendent Chris Reykdal, who was elected in November 2016 and assumed office in early 2017.


Washington’s housing affordability crisis is fueled in part by its large population growth, according to the state’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board. Rents increased 18 percent between 2006 and 2016, while the median income for low-income households remained unchanged.


Beyond the state’s lack of affordable housing, many other factors contribute to student homelessness, such as family mental health issues and unemployment.

Reykdal says his office and others throughout Washington are working to provide homeless students with the resources to graduate. He spoke with U.S. News & World Report about these efforts and what approaches are successful. The interview has been edited for length and clarity:


What are some efforts your office has implemented to help Washington’s public schools better meet the needs of their homeless students?

What we have tried to do is engage our Legislature over the last couple years to say that there’s some federal money (designated to address student homelessness), there’s some McKinney-Vento (Homeless Assistance Act) dollars given to our state to try to help, but we don’t think that’s enough. And so our state Legislature has put additional state money into programs.


Of course, getting to the root of (student homelessness) has been very challenging because of growing income inequality, family opioid addiction, mental health issues, chronic substance abuse, and then just affordability. It just flat out is a reality that we have a housing supply shortage in our state.


So we’ve focused mostly on transportation as a system that can’t exactly solve the root causes right away, but we’ve tried, for example, regional grant programs. We said, ‘Gosh, the students are homeless and they’re moving or they’re couch surfing, or they’re mobile in communities, but we know the research says that they’re best able to perform in school if they stay in their home district.’ We’ve actually provided transportation dollars to get them to their home district.


(Washington) has identified a homeless coordinator in every one of our 295 school districts. I’d say in the early years, it was all about “who are these students and how do we create a system of accountability for identifying them,” and now we’re onto better solutions like transportation.


Homeless Students Face Additional Struggle

Besides these transportation efforts, are there any other initiatives that have proven to be successful?


I can’t say it’s consistent from one district to another, but we’ve definitely seen success in some of our districts that use what we call a “community in schools” model. So they have either taken money that they have access to from their local school levy, or they’ve received grant dollars from various sources and they’ve created networks of support within their communities.

So they’ve literally brought in dentists who put forward hours for dental care, or they have brought in their local food bank and have created a sort of consistent approach for food, particularly on weekends. So some of these students who are getting two meals a day through their school system are still getting calories over the weekend. This community in schools model is very, very powerful and it works remarkably well. We have this model in our Bellingham area near the Canadian border and down in the Vancouver area near the Oregon border. These are two really good model districts doing that work.


Beyond general funding, what else can be done at the state level?


From a reaction standpoint, we’d like to have more transportation grants, a bigger emphasis again on these community models and certainly health care at a minimum for our homeless youth, and mental health support.


The root cause issues, of course, are much bigger, and I would love to see our state take on a more significant role in trying to figure out housing affordability. The city of Seattle wants to build their way out of this with low-income housing. Other places want to use voucher systems and other models. I don’t necessarily have the right model in my mind, but I know you have to address housing affordability and income inequality if you’re going to address (student homelessness).


Homeless in Seattle

It’s also that we have to be nontraditional in our outcomes for kids, so this sort of 20-year testing obsession doesn’t work for a kid that’s highly mobile and highly food insecure, for example. So one of the other things we’re doing that’s not unique to homeless youth, but I think can help them, is we really are trying to figure out ways where they get credit for prior learning, and they get credit for service and they get credit for work.

And so if you can imagine that there’s an entire skill set that’s actually learned by survival … we want to find a way to give students some kind of credit for that as long as it meets learning outcomes. But that isn’t the standardized test, that is learning by life, and those students should get some credit for that.


Is there anything in the works for this yet?


We have a little bit of stuff already on prior learning credit for sure. Right now our governor has what we call “Career Connect Washington.” We’re trying to figure out graduation pathways for students their junior and senior years that includes getting high school credit and maybe even some college credit, when appropriate, for work. And we’ve got some businesses in our state that are already cranking it up.


Switzerland has the model everyone’s pointing to and trying to figure out for how, if traditional school isn’t the root for every student, can we get them into a workplace setting and then recognize some credit for that. So there’s little pockets of excellence around the state, and we’re sort of building that formal system right now. And the governor will put something forward to our legislature this year to try to bring that to a bigger scale.

California isn’t doing enough to teach kids how to read, lawsuit says

December 30, 2017


Shavalo Wooley, 8, uses 3-D glasses along with magnifying glasses while participating in a new program to improve children’s reading skills by addressing problems with eye movement during the reading process at La Salle Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles in March. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

By Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times, December 5, 2017

Too many California children can’t read, and the state doesn’t have an adequate plan to fix the problem, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by the advocacy law firm Public Counsel, alleges that the state is not meeting its constitutional responsibility to educate all children.

California lags behind the national average in both reading and writing for fourth- and eighth-graders, according to national education data.

California scores below average on a national reading assessment (U.S. Department of Education)

About five years ago, the state superintendent and state board of education president commissioned a report with suggestions to improve literacy in California. The state has not adopted or implemented an adequate plan based on those suggestions, the lawsuit alleges.

In recent statewide English assessments, fewer than half of California students met the state’s literacy standards for their grade. The lawsuit cites the case of Los Angeles Unified School District’s La Salle Elementary, where fewer than 10 of 179 tested pupils met state English standards this year.

“This is in full view of the state,” said Public Counsel lawyer Mark Rosenbaum. “They haven’t done anything in terms of working with the district or working with the school to address a problem that has …persisted year after year after year.”

The plaintiffs are current and former students and teachers at La Salle Elementary School; Van Buren Elementary School, in Stockton; and the charter school Children of Promise Preparatory Academy, in Inglewood. The lawsuit places the onus of responsibility on the state, rather than the districts, because the problem spans schools throughout California, Rosenbaum said.

David Moch, one of the plaintiffs and a retired teacher who taught at La Salle Elementary for 18 years until 2014, said he sometimes used kindergarten reading tools to help children as high as third and fifth grade. Some of the programs the district instituted did help older students learn to read, he said, but they were not long-term programs.

“We need citizens that can read. We need citizens that can vote,” Moch said. “Once you get behind, if there’s no intervention, there’s no catching up. The level of the work is getting more intense and multiplied at every level.”

The complaint calls for better teacher training and more resources for teachers. It also demands that once students are identified as having difficulty reading, the state help schools to implement “proven methods of literacy instruction,” said Rosenbaum, who filed the lawsuit along with law firm Morrison & Foerster.

The state does not have a current plan in place that assesses each school’s literacy instruction, Rosenbaum said. “There’s no accountability system in place to ensure that literacy is being delivered.”

California Department of Education spokesman Robert Oakes declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said in an email that the state allocates additional funding for high-needs students and makes data available for “school communities” to use in the “targeting of resources.”

The Gap In The G20 Agenda (And Why World Leaders Should Listen To Rihanna)

August 21, 2017



Photograph: Al Pereira/WireImage

Article by Julia Gillard, A Labor party politician, was prime minister of Australia from 2010 to 2013. The Guardian, Education and Opinion, Sunday 2 July 2017

Germany’s goal for the G20 meeting in Hamburg is to make globalisation work for everybody. World leaders will discuss how to achieve sustainable growth in Africa, women’s economic empowerment and how to create more jobs for a rapidly growing youth population. Investment and infrastructure are the buzzwords for the day.

It’s an excellent mission, and one I support wholeheartedly, but there is a serious gap in the agenda, which is investment in education. Without better teaching and outcomes for all children, it is hard to see how the G20’s agenda can be realised.

Such is the learning crisis that, in low-income countries across sub-Saharan Africa, only one in 10 children will gain basic secondary school skills by 2030 – the target year for achievement of the UN-agreed sustainable development goals. The vast majority, nine in 10 children, will barely complete primary school. Even in middle-income countries, home to the largest populations, only half of young people are likely to attain minimum secondary school results by 2030.

At the same time, billions of low-skilled jobs will be lost to automation all over the world, and employers will require significantly higher skills from prospective employees. And in an uncertain world, we also know that educated populations are more resilient and able to recover. Literacy and the ability to seek out and act out on information are critical to rebuilding communities affected by conflict, climate change and natural disaster.

Without increased investment for quality education for all, the G20 agenda is on shaky ground. Economic growth driven by large-scale infrastructure investments without equitable provision of education will leave hundreds of millions of people behind, exacerbating inequality, disillusion and instability.

Yet investment in education aid by key donors is falling. Recent analysis by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report says educations’s share of global aid has fallen for six years running even though total aid has grown by 24% over the same period and aid is not going to the countries and children most in need. In fact, aid for education in Africa is down substantially.

If G20 leaders are serious about sustainable growth and job creation, and want them to stem migration flows and promote long-term stability, education is an essential investment. But this has to be equitable investment which means ensuring the poorest have the same opportunities to learn as the privileged, girls are promoted to stay in school, and disabled and excluded children are served by a functioning, inclusive education system, for which government is accountable.

A literate, skilled workforce is essential for low-income countries to attract investment and fill jobs with local rather than imported labour. Middle income countries need to attend to the education of their poorest people to build their economies and ensure long term stability. Wealthy countries have an interest in building stable and prosperous partners for a sustainable future.

I do believe this is education’s time, I was delighted that pop music icon Rhianna, who is also the Global Partnership for Educations’ global ambassador, tweeted a number of world leaders at the weekend – calling on them to #Fund Education.

Rhianna’s tweets created quite a storm and community activist organisation Global Citizen will be on the case with a big concert in Hamburg in a few days time, on the eve of the G20 summit. Along with many others including Shakira, Canada’s Justin Trudeau and Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg, I will be on stage – not singing I assure you – but urging donors and developing countries alike to fund education, particularly through the Global Partnership for Education’s replenishment early next year which asks donors for $3.1bn for 2018 to 2020.

Let’s hope the G20 are listening, not only to each other, but to Rhianna and the millions of young people whose skills and talents must be nurtured through a major increase in investment in learning.