Education Policy Term Paper

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Education Policy

Reading First is a new grant program proposed by President Bush and endorse as part of the 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The new program is part of Title I Part B, along with the Reading First program, which is focused on students in kindergarten through third grade.

Reading First provides competitive grants directly to the local level to improve the reading readiness of preschool age children. The funds are targeted to communities with high awareness of low-income families and communities in which there are high numbers of children not reading at grade level. The grants will be used to support the development of pre-reading development (including oral language skills) and professional development for teachers in research-based instructional approach. The program will support staff and children in child care, Head Start, school-based and family literacy settings.

Evidence has been gathered for a number of years that many of America's school children are not mastering essential reading skills. In 1996, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a national test that follows student learning, showed that 36% of nine-year-olds failed to reach the level of "partially developed skills and understanding" and seven percent could not accomplish simple reading tasks. Among 17-year-olds, only 29% were able to understand complex information and only six percent reached the highest level of understanding.

Two years earlier, the same national test showed that 42% of fourth graders read below basic levels. Further, these problems continue even in upper grades: 31% of eighth graders and 30% of 12th graders read below the basic levels.

Even more disturbing, the 1994 NAEP results recommended that reading problems affect students in virtually every social, cultural, and ethnic group. According to the results, 29% of whites, 69% of African-Americans, 64% of Hispanics, 22% of Asian-Americans and 52% of American Indians read below basic levels in the fourth grade. Moreover, the same test showed that 32% of fourth graders who could not read basic material were sons and daughters of college graduates.

Reading First is ambitious national initiatives to help every young child in every state become a successful reader. This effort is source on high expectations for what can and should happen for all students: that instructional decisions will be lead by the best available research.

In today's schools, too many children strive with learning to read. As many teachers and parents will attest, reading failure has obtain a tremendous long-term consequence for children's developing self-confidence and motivation to learn, as well as for their later school presentation.

While there are no simple answers or quick solutions for optimizing reading success, an extensive knowledge base now exists to show us the skill children must learn in order to read well. These skills offer the basis for sound curriculum decisions and instructional approaches that can help avoid the predictable consequences of early reading failure.

The National Reading Panel (NRP) issued a report in 2000 that responded to a Congressional mandate to help parents, teachers, and policymakers recognize key skills and methods central to reading achievement. The Panel was charged with reviewing research in reading instruction (focusing on the critical years of kindergarten through third grade) and spot methods that consistently relate to reading success.

These criteria are not new in the world of educational research; they are repeatedly used as a matter of course by researchers who set out to determine the effectiveness of any educational program or approach. The National Reading Panel hold the criteria in its review to bring balance to a field in which decisions have often been made based more on ideology than proof. These criteria offer administrators, teachers, and parent a standard for appraise critical decisions about how children will be taught to read. In addition to identifying effective practices, the work of the National Reading Panel challenges educators to consider the evidence of effectiveness whenever they make decisions about the content and structure of reading instruction programs. By operating on a "what works" basis, scientific evidence can help build a groundwork for instructional practice. Teachers can learn about and emphasize methods and approaches that have worked well and caused reading development for large numbers of children. Teachers can build their students' skills efficiently and effectively, with greater results than before. Most importantly, with targeted "what works" instruction, the incidence of reading success should increase dramatically.

Our understanding of "what works" in reading is dynamic and fluid, subject to ongoing review and assessment through quality research. This guide begins the procedure of compiling the findings from scientifically-based research in reading instruction, a body of knowledge that will persist to grow over time. We encourage all teachers to explore the research, open their minds to changes in their instructional practice, and take up the challenge of helping all children become triumphant readers.

Phonemic Awareness Instruction

Phonemic awareness is the talent to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become receptive of how the sounds in words work. They must understand that words are made up of speech sounds, or phonemes.

Children who have phonemic awareness skills are likely to have an easier time learning to read and spell than children who have few or none of these skills.

Although phonemic awareness is a widely used term in reading, it is often misinterpret. One misunderstanding is that phonemic awareness and phonics is the same thing. Phonemic awareness is not phonics. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that the sounds of spoken language work together to create words. Phonics is the understanding that is a predictable relationship between phonemes and graphemes. The letters represent those sounds in written language. If children are to benefit from phonics instruction, they need phonemic awareness.

Phonological Awareness

Phonemic awareness is only one type of phonological awareness. Broader phonological awareness Identifying and building oral rhymes Identifying and working with syllables in verbalize in words.

Narrower phonological awareness Identifying and working with onsets and rimes in spoken syllables Spot and working with individual phonemes in words spoken (phonemic awareness)

Main Features of Reading First

Provide help to States to set up reading programs for students in kindergarten through grade 3 that are based on scientifically-based reading research, to guarantee that every student can read at grade level or above not later than the end of grade 3;

Provide assistance in training teachers, with special education teachers, through professional development and other support, so the teachers can recognize particular reading barriers facing their students and so the teachers have the tools to efficiently help their students learn to read;

Give assistance in choosing or administering inspection, diagnostic, and classroom-based instructional reading assessments;

Provide assistance in selecting or developing effective instructional materials, programs, learning systems, and strategies to implement methods that have been proven to prevent or change reading failure within a State;

Strengthen organization among schools, early literacy programs, and family literacy programs to improve reading achievement for all children.

Professional development for teachers of kindergarten through grade 3, and special education teachers of kindergarten through grade 12 should prepare teachers in all essential components of reading instruction, including:

Instructional materials, programs, strategies, and approaches based on scientifically-based reading research, including early intervention, classroom materials, and remedial programs and approaches;

Instruction in the use of screening, diagnostic, and classroom-based instructional reading assessments and other procedures that effectively identify students at risk for reading failure or who are having difficulty reading;

Shall be provided by eligible providers to assist teachers in becoming highly qualified in reading instruction.

Related to teacher preparation programs in higher Ed, preserves courses for students preparing to teach K-3 are to be strengthened and enhanced. This includes:

Reviewing such courses to determine if the courses' content is consistent with findings of the most current scientifically-based reading research, including findings on the essential components of reading instruction;

Following up such reviews with recommendations to ensure that such higher ed institutions offer courses that meet the highest standards;

Preparing a report on the results of such reviews that shall be submitted to the State reading and literacy partnership and public;

Making recommendation on how the State licensure and certification standards in the area of reading might be improved.

To resolve this debate and to accomplish that there are five elements of reading that research indicates demonstrably improve students' ability to read (although it should be noted that the Panel report did not rule out other strategies as ineffective). These are:

Phonemic awareness;


Vocabulary development;

Reading fluency; and Reading comprehension skills.

No Child Left behind (NCLB) has embraced the Panel's report by allocating $975 million for literacy programs that apply the Panel's findings on "scientifically-based reading research." The major NCLB program, Reading First, will target teachers by improving teacher supports and professional development, so that all students will be reading on grade level by the end of the third grade. Reading First will also identify reading materials, assessments, and programs that have been proven to improve reading…[continue]

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