06/22/2012

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NCLB Waivers: Can they fix a “Broken” Law? In May 2012, President Obama granted waivers for some requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to an additional eight states, for a total of19 states receiving waivers so far: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. An additional 18 states and the District of Columbia have applied for “wiggle room.” But what do waivers really mean for states, and do they really provide the flexibility they seem to promise? According to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), waivers allow states to focus on students’ readiness for college and career, rather than arbitrary proficiency targets; design their own interventions for struggling students; use multiple measures for student proficiency, and not just high-stakes testing; and allow for more flexibility in the use of federal funds. Based on the number of waiver applications submitted, it appears most states long for some breathing room from NCLB’s requirements. But the waivers aren’t without their critics. Some argue that they’re being forced to allocate resources to develop waiver applications that simply provide relief from already unattainable mandates, suggesting that a blanket waiver from some of NCLB’s more onerous requirements, such as bringing all students to proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2014, is more appropriate. And though the waivers do liberate states from the 2014 proficiency requirements, compliance with NCLB still rides on standardized test scores, resulting in continued concerns around the narrowing of curriculum...
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Yes Johnny, We Expect You to Read in School Today There was a time when children went off to school expecting to read in every class, whether it was mathematics, science, or history. It simply was a given that reading in all the content areas had an impact on learning. This truth has resurfaced in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and teachers are realizing these new standards set much higher expectations for student learning than we have held in the recent past. The CCSS aim to move students toward reading more nonfiction by engaging them in increasingly complex texts as they move through school, while at the same time, helping them develop discipline-specific literacy skills. In Teaching Reading in the Content Areas, 3rd edition, there are five recommendations from research that, if implemented thoughtfully and systematically, will help improve students’ reading comprehension. With each recommendation that follows, I’ve made a suggestion for getting started. 1. Explicit instruction in effective comprehension strategies Even though science, mathematics, and social studies all demand distinctive reading and writing skills, one instructional practice that is important for all readers, and particularly adolescents, is teacher modeling. When teachers model strategies, they give students a kind of “sensory template.” The “Think-Aloud,” for example, is a strategy where teachers model the type of thinking a specific task requires. As students watch and listen to their teacher’s actions and words, they are able to visualize using the strategy. 2. Increase open, sustained discussion of reading content When teachers encourage students to brainstorm ideas together and ask each other...

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