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Page 277 9 The Agents of Change Families and other community members are clearly important in the effort to prevent children's reading difficulties, and many of the strategies described in Chapters 5 and 8 are pursued outside schooling. But to reach the important national goal of preventing reading difficulties among young children, the professionals who have daily interactions with the children in day care centers, preschools, kindergarten, and the early elementary grades are the most essential audience for the information in this report. We therefore give teachers and teacher education the most detailed treatment in this chapter on agents of change. We also consider the ways that federal, state, and local education agencies, publishers, and mass media have an impact on the issues. Each of these groups needs knowledge about reading and a commitment to improvement in order to develop and implement policies and practices that will help prevent reading difficulties among young children. In this chapter, we describe the current situation; in the next, we present our recommendations for change. In broad outline, the prevention of reading difficulties is not exotic. In school and out, young children can profit from a wide range of experiences. In classrooms in which teachers use effective teaching and organizational strategies and appropriate materials,
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Page 278 most children make progress. Throughout their early years, children can consolidate their knowledge and skills as they recite songs and rhymes, play with the sounds of words, interact with the meaning and the print while people read to them and take them to the library, play at reading and writing, and get engaged with activities through television programs such as Sesame Street. To prevent reading difficulties, children should be provided with: · Opportunities to explore the various uses and functions of written language and to develop appreciation and command of them. · Opportunities to grasp and master the use of the alphabetic principle for reading and writing. · Opportunities to develop and enhance language and metacognitive skills to meet the demands of understanding printed texts. · Opportunities to experience contexts that promote enthusiasm and success in learning to read and write, as well as learning by reading and writing. · Opportunities for children likely to experience difficulties in becoming fluent readers to be identified and to participate in effective prevention programs. · Opportunities for children experiencing difficulties in becoming fluent readers to be identified and to participate in effective intervention and remediation programs, well integrated with ongoing good classroom instruction. Children need the full variety of opportunities and enough of each so that they are successful readers. Adults in different roles in society have different opportunities and obligations to make changes so that reading difficulties can be prevented. TEACHER PREPARATION Teacher preparation is fundamental in order to prevent difficulties in reading among young children. A recent study of more than 1,000 school districts concluded that every additional dollar spent on more highly qualified teachers netted greater improvements in
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Page 279 student achievement than did any other use of school resources (Ferguson, 1991). Today's teachers must understand a great deal about how children develop and learn, what they know, and what they can do. Teachers must know and be able to apply a variety of teaching techniques to meet the individual needs of students. They must be able to identify students' strengths and weaknesses and plan instructional programs that help students make progress. In addition to this expertise in pedagogy, teachers must master and integrate content knowledge that underlies the various subjects in the children's curriculum. Pre-service and in-service teacher education is intended to develop teacher expertise for teaching reading and preventing reading difficulties, but it encounters many obstacles. Programs for teachers' professional development often flounder, lacking a strong apprenticeship system and hobbled by the course-by-course approach in college education. They cannot meet the challenge inherent in trying to prepare teachers for highly complex and increasingly diverse schools and classrooms; the challenge of keeping abreast of current developments in research and practice once teachers begin to teach; the complexity of the knowledge base itself, which often appears to support conflicting positions and recommendations; and the difficulty of learning many of the skills required to enact the knowledge base, particularly to work with those children having the most difficulties. Early Childhood Education The field of early childhood education has traditionally offered professional training at prebaccalaureate levels in both pre-service and in-service programs. Some colleges of education have baccalaureate and master's degrees for early childhood teacher education programs, but often they are add-on programs to an elementary teaching certification. Sometimes training in early childhood education is divorced from the schools of education, housed instead in departments of home economics, for example. Given the cognitive complexity and practical importance of development in early child-
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Page 280 hood, preschool education could be a very demanding and interesting major course of study, but it is seldom presented as such. In many states, certification requirements for early childhood education are nonexistent. Preschool teachers have a generally low rate of pay (compared, for example, with elementary school teachers); they are generally seen to have lower status than elementary school teachers both in practice settings and in universities and other practitioner preparation settings. Little systematic attention has been paid to in-service education and other options for professional development for preschool teachers. There are, however, some thought-provoking programs for preparing people to focus on literacy with preschool children, and they raise interesting problems. Box 9-1 is an example of one such program. Preschool teachers are an important resource in promoting literacy. In view of the power with which language and literacy skills at elementary school entry predict children's responsiveness to early reading instruction, the ability and commitment of early childhood professionals to support the skills that provide a foundation for reading need to be taken seriously. Programs that educate early childhood professionals should include in their curricula information about: · how to provide rich conceptual experiences that promote growth in vocabulary and reasoning skills; · lexical development, from early referential (naming) abilities to relational and abstract terms and finer-shaded meanings; · the early development of listening comprehension skills, and the kinds of syntactic and prose structures that preschool children may not yet have mastered; · young children's sense of story; · young children's sensitivity to the sounds of language; · developmental conceptions of written language (print awareness); · development of concepts of space, including directionality; · fine motor development; and · means for inspiring motivation to read.
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Page 281 BOX 9-1 Preparing Preschool Teachers to Promote Literacy A 15-year partnership between the Erikson Institute and Head Start staff in Chicago has evolved into professional development that spans 10 months of the year and includes seminars as well as work in preschool centers. Preschool practitioners have durable preconceptions of what activities are appropriate and productive for the children they work with, as McLane and McNamee (1990, 1997) point out. When the Institute staff introduces the Head Start teachers to new activities, strategies, or concepts that can foster literacy. the effort can be undermined unless attention is paid to the adaptations practitioners make to the new activities, strategies, and concepts when they take them into their classrooms. The institute researchers found it especially important to grapple with Head Start teachers' preference for oral over written communication. When the in-service curriculum focused on shared storybook reading, it tended to be realized as storytelling by the Head Start teachers in their work with the children; emergent group writing tended also to turn into storytelling; dramatic play that once had a literacy focus would turn into play devoid of reference to written language (McLane and McNarnee. 1997). When the teachers transformed the activities, the results might be enjoyable and valuable for the children, but the part of the activity that was intended to foster literacy often disappeared. Only given more extended collaborative work between the institute staff and the Head Start teachers were such problems ironed out and the new approaches refined for maximum value for literacy support. McLane and McNamee came to recognize that the teachers valued oral language artistry and creatively provided occasions for children to develop it. Some of the teachers, though, as they grew up in the same communities that the children currently in their care are being reared in, had developed no fondness for reading and writing. It was easy, then. for the teachers to de-emphasize and eventually lose the literacy aspect of new activities when doing them with the children. With continued effort to address the literacy purpose of the new activities in seminars and in the context of the specific preschool classrooms, the in-service education was more complete and the literacy aspects of the new activities appeared more reliably. A critical component in the preparation of preschool teachers is supervised, relevant, clinical experience in which pre-service teachers receive ongoing guidance and feedback. A principal goal of this experience is the ability to integrate and apply the knowledge base in
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Page 282 practice. Collaborative support by both the teacher preparation institution and the field placement is essential. Each state has developed and published minimal standards for group child care settings (public or private), addressing such issues as adult-child ratio, safety, and health. In general, however, these standards do not adequately address cognitive, linguistic, and literacy supports. Professional standards for early childhood classrooms have been elaborated by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Head Start has identified performance standards, which are reviewed and evaluated every three years during site visits to every Head Start program. It is notable that relatively few of the evaluation items are related to issues of the quality of the language or literacy environment. Although public education does not extend to preschools, movements in many states have given children access to preschool regardless of their parents' ability to pay. The National Governors Association has adopted the following objective: ''All disadvantaged and disabled children will have access to high-quality and developmentally appropriate preschool programs that help prepare children for school" (National Governors Association, 1992). Subgoals are listed for states to use to assess progress toward this objective. One subgoal is to track the percentage of programs that are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children or the National Association of Family Day Care and the programs that employ a majority of staff with a child development associate credential. The governors' programs have a good track record with elementary school systemic reforms. Given this record and the interest in early childhood programs stimulated by publicity about brain and behavior developments in the early years, activism by the National Governors Association about preschools can serve as leverage points for change in preschool programs and the preparation of adults working in them. There is a widespread lack of specificity about literacy and language development in preschool reform efforts. In contrast, in a position paper on teacher preparation the Orton Dyslexia Society takes the following position on requirements for preschool teachers (1997:16):
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Page 283 In addition to stimulating oral expressive language, language comprehension, and print awareness, nursery school and kindergarten teachers should know how best to foster phonological awareness and to link recognition of sounds with letters. Teachers of young children should know how to identify the language problems of children at risk for reading difficulty. Elementary School Education In the typical pre-service course of study, very little time is allocated to preparing to teach reading. Virtually all states require that K-3 teacher credential candidates do at least some course work inthe teaching of reading (National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education, 1996). In some cases, reading is embedded in a course for teaching English language arts, diluting the focus on reading. The amount of time is insufficient to provide beginning teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to enable them to help all children become successful readers. As Goodlad (1997:36) notes: Most teachers of the primary grades take one course in the teaching of reading. Some take two, so that the average is about 1.3 courses per teacher. This is about enough to enable teachers to accelerate a little the reading prowess of children who learn to read quite readily. It is enough to enable teachers to become quite facile in sorting the children into three groupsone of good, one of fair, and the other of poor readers. . . . Diagnosis and remediation of the nonreaders lie largely outside the repertoire of teachers whose brief pedagogical preparation provided little more than an overview. . . . [M]any first grade children are taught by successive waves of neophytes, large numbers of whom drop out after three or four years of teaching. Given the severe constraints on the amount of time that can be dedicated to any one topic in a teacher education program, teacher preparation must be seen as a career-long continuum of development. In other words, learning to become a successful teacherof reading or any other subjectcannot be seen as the consummate function of an undergraduate program or a fifth-year credential program. Indeed, what needs to be learned cannot be learned in the limited time available in formal education. Instead, teacher preparation must be seen as a long-term developmental process, beginning with undergraduate preparation, continuing with professional
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Page 284 schooling in upper-division and fifth-year courses and field practica, and continuing further once teachers are technically credentialed or licensed and working in classrooms but are still serving apprenticeships before becoming fully expert teachers. Beginning teachers, particularly for children who are learning to read, cannot be expected to rely on the little preparation their preservice courses provide; no teachers, beginning or experienced, can be expected to grow professionally if isolated. Professional development includes not only formal meetings and courses but also opportunities for teachers to work with each other and to visit classrooms. The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (1996) has called for support for beginning and for more experienced teachers. Beginning teachers must be successfully inducted into the profession and be provided with additional support, opportunities, and incentives for further education to ensure their early and continued success. More experienced teachers must continue receiving substantive and effective in-service education opportunities, with highly effective teachers receiving rewards and acknowledgments for their skills and demonstrated effectiveness. What Elementary Teachers Need to Know In Table 9-1, we align teacher preparation with the opportunities that should be provided to young children in order to best prevent reading difficulties, listing what teachers need to know to be able to provide adequately for their students. Some of the knowledge base can be acquired in general college education, before a concentration in teacher preparation. Other aspects are the more specific knowledge and skills that should be organized as course work and practicum experiences for teacher education. Take, for example, the first set of studies in Table 9-1, related to giving children the opportunity to explore the various uses and functions of written language and to develop appreciation and command of them. Teachers must have a deep understanding of the what, the how, and the why of language and literacy. To know enough to teach children, they must acquire an understanding of the nature of language that is firmly based on linguistic research about phonologi-
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Page 285 TABLE 9-1 Teacher Preparation Needed to Provide Opportunities for Children to Become Readers Teacher Study For Child Opportunity Linguistic and psycholinguistic studies: (1) to explore the various uses and functions of written language and to develop appreciation and command of them. · distinctive and contrasting features of written and oral language, the relation between phonological units and alphabetic writing · ontogeny of oral and written language including bilingual development Rhetorical, sociological, sociolinguistic, and anthropological studies: · genres, registers, and functions of texts, social and cultural contexts of texts, and literacy activities, varied theoretical accounts of processing meaning, social and regional dialect variations Pedagogy of reading (teaching and assessing): (2) to grasp and master use of the alphabetic principle in reading and writing. · activities with a variety of texts for young children · integration of school experience with written language out of school Psychology of reading: · studies of oral language, phoneme identity and manipulation, letter-sound association, working memory · ontogeny of alphabetic reading and writing Pedagogy of reading (teaching and assessing): · activities with sublexical structure of spoken language · activities associating letters with sounds · activities to automate word identification processes Table continued on next page
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Page 286 Table continued from previous page TABLE 9-1 Teacher Preparation Needed to Provide Opportunities for Children to Become Readers Teacher Study For Child Opportunity Linguistic and psychological studies: (3) to develop and enhance language and meta-cognitive skills to meet the demands of understanding printed texts. · ontogeny of oral and written language abilities, including relations among meta-cognitive abilities, print processing abilities, and comprehension abilities Pedagogy of reading (teaching and assessing): · activities to develop and practice comprehension and meta-cognition strategies on oral language, on written text read aloud, and as the child reads independently · activities to develop concepts and words (oral and written) Psychological, sociological, and anthropological studies: (4) to experience contexts that promote enthusiasm and success in learning to read and write and in learning by reading and writing. · variations in social and cultural contexts associated with print and oral language and achievement motivation Pedagogy of reading (teaching and assessing): · activities to serve and expand the literacy goals of the learner, cultivate a variety of interests, and access the affective aspects of written and oral language · activities to enlist the active cooperation of families and community institutions to support the child learning to read Psychological and sociological studies: (5) for children likely to experience difficulties to be identified and to participate in effective prevention programs. · studies of risk factors for reading difficulties, assessment procedures, diagnostic measures and systems for monitoring progress in reading · studies of prevention programs in schools and out Pedagogy of reading: · coordination with school and community resources for preventing difficulties · assessing child's needs and matching to prevention strategies · activities to build on prevention strategies Psychological and sociological studies: (6) for children experiencing difficulties to be identified and to participate in effective intervention and remediation programs, well- integrated with classroom instruction. · studies of assessment procedures and diagnostic measures · studies of intervention programs in schools and out Pedagogy of reading: · identifying intervention strategies available in school and community · assessing child's needs in reading and matching with intervention strategy · managing continuous assessment and placement cycles, and two-way information flow with school and community resources, including reading specialists, tutors, and family · activities that intervene for children in need, including explicit instruction and enrichment experiences that will provide the context for self-teaching, and instruction to complement and build on intervention strategies that take place out of the classroom.
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Page 287 Table is on previous page
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Page 302 BOX 9-5 California's Language Arts Framework In the late 1980s, California promulgated its English language arts framework advocating literacy instruction that was heavily literature based while de-emphasizing basic, discrete skillsincluding phonics and decoding (California State Department of Education, 1987a and b). Dissatisfaction with the literature-based framework began to surface in the early 1990s, but the move away from literature-based programs became a stampede following publication of the 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress results in reading. California's performance was among the lowest in the nation, and it was one of a handful of states that had significantly declined in the reading proficiency of its students. Although there continues to be disagreement over the role played by the 1987 language arts framework in California's reading score decline, public and political pressure to change the direction of reading instruction mounted. In 1996, the California state legislature passed a bill (AB 3075) which required that teachers be prepared to undertake . . . comprehensive reading instruction that is research-based and includes all of the following: (i) The study of organized, systematic, explicit skills including phonemic awareness, direct, systematic, explicit phonics, and decoding skills. (ii) A strong literature, language, and comprehension component with a balance of oral and written language. (iii) Ongoing diagnostic techniques that inform teaching and assessment. (iv) Early intervention techniques. (v) Guided practice in a clinical setting. encourage teachers to apply for the board certificate by paying the fee and/or providing some released time for preparation and examination. Some states (North Carolina, Ohio, Mississippi) provide salary increases or bonuses for teachers who become board certified. The current California reading reform effort is notable for its very detailed legislation involving teacher preparation (see Box 9-5). Textbook Purchasing Books used in elementary schools are provided free to students in most states; a few require a rental fee. In about half the states,
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Page 303 textbook choice is controlled at the state level. In many cases, the state approves a list of alternatives, and districts or schools or teachers must choose among them. There is usually a cycle of five to seven years before a new approved textbook list is drawn up. Laws and customs vary about the process of textbook approval, its accountability to public scrutiny, selector ethics, safeguards, the composition of selection committees, and the provision of training for selectors. In some cases, there are special cycles or special selection committees for subject matter for which the recency and accuracy of information is seen as particularly important, for instance mathematics, science, and computer science. Books for the teaching of reading are too seldom given the special attention that the developments in understanding about it require. Without special provisions, a reform curriculum for children or teacher preparation can flounder in the face of inappropriate books in classrooms. State approval or failure to approve books influences their production as well. Textbook publishers produce a product for a profit and are driven by market factors. One enormous influence is the texts approved by the most populous states engaged in statewide adoptionCalifornia, Texas, and Florida. These are critical markets for the textbook industry, and a reading series that is not on the approved list in these states is unlikely to be sufficiently profitable for the publisher to maintain it. Guidance for selection committees needs to be well thought out and carefully carried out. Many "scoring rubrics" are not useful or are out of date; also, the information publishers are required to provide is often an inadequate base for rational choice; sometimes members of selection committees lack the expertise to judge content beyond the labels used in promotional materials. There is no denying the level of difficulty, amount of time, and cost of adequate procedures for approving books for use in early reading classes. The burden is on states to conduct full appraisal of programs for early reading based on more than the main textbooks. Most series have optional parts and, especially recently, add-on kits. It is very important that such supplementary material be tied into the teacher guides and that the guides give assistance about scheduling to ensure
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Page 304 that there is ample opportunity for children to explore and practice the content covered in the supplementary and basic materials. States can play a critical role in making sure that effective and useful information and practices are made available to teachers by insisting that books and materials adhere to the principles about preventing reading difficulties identified in this report. Ideally, state curriculum standards and textbook adoption would be synchronized. Texas recently required publishers to develop textbooks that meet the state standards if they wish to have their materials adopted by the state, and this requirement will apply to its reading language arts standards. Most important, however, complete appraisal requires examination of the texts in use in ordinary school settings. At a minimum, states should acquire and use efficacy data. This can be done prospectively by requiring textbook publishers to provide evidence of effectiveness based on controlled third-party studies of prototype materials. It can be done retrospectively by querying about curriculum when gathering assessment data. Either approach is rare at present. In New Jersey, local districts choose their own books, but the state is charged with evaluating the effectiveness of what they have used and indicating approval or disapproval, after the fact. Only one state, Nevada, mandates classroom testing of the textbook materials (with mandated evaluation criteria) prior to adoption. Efficacy testing related to textbook adoption procedures requires different technical expertise than currently used by state adoption committees and publishing houses. But it could contribute to eliminating the periodic politically and ideologically driven convulsions in reading education and thus to preventing reading difficulties among children. Local Education Agencies State initiatives do not fully determine district and school changes in curriculum and instruction. Local districts provide the structures and resources that interpret policy initiatives for school and classroom practice (Spillane, 1996). Thus, the local district-level involvement in school reform efforts is key to their progress. The 25 local
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Page 305 school districts that Massell et al. (1997) studied have been persistent in their drive to school reform. Local districts must provide teachers with sufficient support and assistance to ensure effective teaching of reading. Districts need to monitor the implementation of changes in instruction, not assume that once a policy is adopted it will appear intact in the complexity of schools and classrooms. Once a policy is implemented, the district must continue to monitor to ensure that the results are as expected and to support changes needed to ensure continuous improvement. Unless elected and professional district personnel adopt sound policies and practices consistent with the principles in this report, the chances of large-scale prevention of reading difficulties among young children are small. The Federal Government The federal government's role in making the kind of changes needed to prevent reading difficulties is complex. Each of its functions needs to be informed by the principles in this report. First, federal authority and laws that provide for equitable educational opportunities for young citizens in need throughout the country are well knownHead Start, Title I, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Continuing assessment of the results of these policies by the U.S. Department of Education and the design of necessary changes are important government roles. Second, the federal government coordinates with education reform initiatives among the states, as in the education summits and the recent America Reads/Reading Excellence challenge. Special programs in the U.S. Department of Education undergird these efforts. The various state standards and benchmarks related to reading, for example, can each be available for other states to learn from because of the coordinating efforts of a regional education laboratory. A third role of the federal government, with respect to preventing reading difficulties, is the stimulation and support of research not only by the U.S. Department of Education through its institutes and programs and the centers, laboratories, and institutes that it works with throughout the country but also by such agencies as the
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Page 306 National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. There is a clear need for the design of research agendas for basic and applied research in long-term federal research centers and institutes as well as for the support of promising ideas from field-initiated studies. A fourth important role is the action initiatives of the U.S. Department of Education, which disseminate information and reward good practices. National clearinghouses provide an infrastructure for researchers; the research summaries and the ASK ERIC service provided through the clearinghouses make the information accessible to practitioners and policy makers. Programs that identify and reward outstanding teachers, schools, and districts provide motivation for the excellence to continue and models for others to follow. Government-sponsored projects that produce brochures, posters, and public service announcements make information about reading available in a variety of venues. Recent notable efforts include Learning to Read/Reading to Learn (Office of Special Education Programs and the National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators) and Ready Set Read (U.S. Department of Education, the Corporation for National Service, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). These are sophisticated campaigns. Take, for example, the Learning to Read/Reading to Learn campaign. After developing a research synthesis, the producers made the results accessible in a series of tip sheets for parents and teachers. The sheets included specific teaching strategies as well as ways to take advantage of games and ordinary daily activities to promote reading development. The campaign also produced a bibliography and a resource book of professionals who could help communities to address the improvement of reading teaching in their schools. Distribution was facilitated by partnerships with government and private groups and endorsements from influential people. PUBLISHERS Publishers are an influential part of the educational enterprise in any domain of elementary education; the instructional materials they produce and market strongly influence how reading is taught in
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Page 307 schools (Anderson et al., 1989:35). Some innovations that could help to prevent reading difficulties may suffer because they lack a strategy for wide-scale implementation, but classroom textbooks are one of the few already ''scaled-up" parts of educational activities. States can influence what publishers will include in their reading textbooks through the textbook adoption processes (discussed above), but the influence also works the other way. Researchers have pointed out that published materials are so embedded in the concrete and daily aspects of teaching that they can influence teachers more than state standards or frameworks (Ball and Cohen, 1996). Publishers therefore have a serious responsibility, but the question of interest is how published materials can contribute to needed improvements in instruction. Having the right principles embodied in the textbooks is not sufficient. Education reforms that rely on innovative materials as the main component can fade or fail to achieve wide-scale impact. On one hand, teachers may not know or have adequate opportunity to learn what they need to know to use the materials adequately; on the other hand, curriculum designers may not know or have the opportunity to learn about the ways that curriculum materials fit into the complex concrete situation that teachers face every day. It is the interplay between professional development and materials development that holds the key. "Developers' designs thus turn out to be ingredients innot determinants ofthe actual curriculum," Ball and Cohen (1996:6-7) argue. They continue: When the gap between the materials and teaching is very wideleaving to each practitioner to figure out how to deal with student thinking, how to probe the content at hand, and how to map the instruction against the temporal rhythms of classroom lifeteachers must invent or ignore a great deal. If they do try to invent and thus learn, they must often learn alone with few resources to help them. Curriculum guides could offer some help in depth while still being humble about the complexities they cannot address. . . . A teacher's guide cannot judge whether a teacher should meet with an individual student or move on, but it can offer concrete illustrations of the nature of student understanding important at a given point, and how other teachers have reached this level.
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Page 308 Research on the effectiveness of an educational program often includes complaints that the classrooms observed are not faithful replications of the designer's ideal or an original experimental version of the program. Taking Ball and Cohen's perspective lets us reframe the issue. Think of the teacher as a customer of innovative research and materials, rather than a patient who may or may not "take as directed" the medicine prescribed. Industries other than textbook publishing design their products with complicated theories of the user in mind. One study describes different approaches to mass customization embodied in successful cases from various industries Gilmore and Pine (1997). These strategies depend on making changes in the production and marketing process as well as considerable research and experimentation. "Collaborative customization," for example, requires a reanalysis of the parts that make up a product as well as the technology, personnel, and delivery system that allow coconstruction by the customer and the business of the actual product that is bought and used effectively by the customer. There is a striking resemblance between collaborative customization and the use of research partnerships in professional development (discussed above). Currently, in many cases for elementary education, state or local systems, intending to ensure that public monies are spent on effective materials, offer incentives that make mass production, not mass customization, a sufficient strategy for publishers to pursue. In some states, a state book depository is the end of the delivery system for publishers; contact with the teacher-user of the materials is via a representative on a state or district book adoption committee and perhaps one or two one-shot workshops on a minimal in-service education schedule. Under such circumstances, mass customization of education materials is unlikely to develop naturally and needs an impetus from policy makers, practitioners, and researchers. Publishers making a productive connection between materials development and professional development would have to do research on teachers and students (i.e., support or at least use it), as Ball and Cohen (1996) point out. They particularly indicate the "vast unprobed areas" in students' thinking about language, but
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Page 309 also note the need for research on teacher knowledge and teacher learning, especially how materials can support teacher learning and better contribute to the enacted curriculum. The development process for materials would have as a by-product something analogous to the clinical trials run by producers of products that make claims about effectiveness for health. Technical reports on the process of developing and evaluating educational materials should be available, describing research methods, results, and so forth. Ball and Cohen (1996) provide pointers to the content of published material that should be customized: · Assistance with expected student approaches to the materialexamples of common sequences of approximations to attaining concepts and skills and common misunderstandings, as well as information about what other teachers have done to make progress in the face of obstacles. · Support for developing the teacher's knowledge of the content and the pedagogical strategiesrevealing alternative representations and strategies considered during development and pilot testing of the materials and explaining the relations among them and the rationale for final choice. · Support for decisions the teacher makes to fit the material into the practical context of schoolsthe intellectual, social, and political processes; the rhythm of the day and the year; the connection to concurrent academic and nonacademic activities. Materials developed with attention to these issues would produce a closer correspondence between the designers' understanding of what goes on in the classroom and the reality of what actually takes place there. By giving up the fiction that the published materials are the only influence on the curriculum actually delivered in classrooms, published materials could have a more productive effect on it. If states and districts insist that the content of reading textbooks for children correspond to standards based on the principles in this report, and if publishers develop materials with more interaction with the customers, the fact that the text materials influence the
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Page 310 classroom activities more than state frameworks would be no problem; in fact, there would be a partnership for improvement. MEDIA There are many ways that the media can be harnessed in the prevention of reading difficulties. We focus on four areas as illustrations: news, public service announcements, special activities for educators, and special activities for children. News about reading and preventing reading difficulties can contribute to the public dialogue that is an important part of restructuring schools for high-quality student learning (Newmann and Wehlage, 1995). Public dialogue about specific contents of high standards is a crucial part of sustaining school reform. The news media have a social responsibility to provide information about the ways that literacy develops among children and the ways that reading difficulties can be prevented. Recently, differences among experts about beginning reading have been widely covered by print and broadcast media. Continuing the coverage to inform the public about the processes and what it can do to help is the next challenge. Information on strategies and methods that are useful for caretakers of very young children can take the form of public service announcements, a kind of video or audio brochure. Some public service announcements have appeared advising that parents read to young children, for example; that may be enough for a family that just needs a reminder, but a sample of the kind of interactions that are productive might be more useful for caretakers who are less experienced or who have a limited or unproductive style when they read to children. There is a broad range of other informal activities that can be undertaken that could fit the public service announcement formatfrom play with internal sound structure of spoken words to the ways a family can encourage a child's emergent writing. Risk factors, too, could be explained in public service announcements (see Chapter 4). Television directed specifically toward teachers can be found on commercial cable networks (e.g., Teacher TV on the Discovery channel) as well as on stations operated by school districts. The current
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Page 311 offerings go far beyond the low production value programs of "distance learning" a decade ago. Now lively debates, discussions of concepts, and extensive demonstrations of live classroom experiences are offered, sometimes even with a call-in segment. The information in this report could inform such programming. Television designed for children is often seen as a competition for the kind of reading practice that helps to prevent reading difficulties or as a source of values incompatible with success at learning. Parents have been advised to watch along with their children to limit the problems that might otherwise arise. In fact, it is also important for children and adults to watch television programs like Sesame Street together, even though they may not be a source of worry. Parents and day care teachers who play along with the activities and highlight the productive practices make the most of the good programs for the children's benefit. Sesame Street is among the most well-known television programs for children. For 25 years preschoolers have watched it in homes and in preschools. Early studies of the impact of Sesame Street viewing on academic outcomes were criticized because of the confounding effects of parent education and other home characteristics. Recent studies, however, have controlled for these factors. A large national survey showed that 4-year-olds who are frequent viewers are more likely than less frequent viewers to identify colors, count to 20, recognize letters, and tell connected stories when pretending to read (Zill et al., 1994). Longitudinal studies confirm the positive effects of viewing television programs like Sesame Street that are designed with specific principles of child learning in mind. One study, for example, showed that vocabulary gains at age 5 are related to more frequent viewing of Sesame Street at age 3 (Huston et al., 1990). Another study followed children for three years and found that those who viewed Sesame Street frequently at an early age had an advantage in vocabulary, letter and word recognition, and school readiness, even when the child's language skill and home background factors were controlled for; furthermore, 6- and 7-year-olds who had viewed Sesame Street more frequently when they were younger had better reading comprehension scores in first or second grade
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Page 312 than children who had been less frequent viewers when they were younger (Wright and Huston, 1995). CONCLUSION Central among the implementation issues we raise is teacher preparation and continuing professional development, but we cannot ignore the fact that many parts of society, from parents and community to the federal government, publishers, and the media should also take responsibility for bringing about change in the state of reading education. Many aspects of the existing situation call for researchers in fields that can contribute to the prevention of reading difficulties among young children to be active and aware. If there is variation and change, there is opportunity and need for involvement and analysis by those who know the specifics of literacy learning and development. From choices about teacher preparation and in-service development, to the development of curriculum guidelines and standards, to relations with publishers and media, researchers need to contribute their expertise to understanding what is, developing what can be, analyzing the consequences of the innovations, and trying for improvement again, as needed. Professional and government leaders concerned about the reading problems in our society need to develop campaigns to help decrease their incidence and prevalence. Previous experiences, both successful and not, to disseminate knowledge and change behaviorssuch as smoking cessation, the use of seat belts, childhood immunization, promoting healthy eatingprovide starting points for thinking about how we could bring about broad-based changes in literacy practices with young children. "Dissemination tends to be nobody's job," Weiss (1978) observed somewhat pessimistically. Our view is that, in matters of urgent national importance, such as the prevention of reading difficulties, dissemination of what we know and, more important still, implementation of effective practices and policies based on what we know, are everybody's obligation.
Representative terms from entire chapter: