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Language and Literacy
Jeanne S. Chall was born in Poland on January 1, 1921. She moved to New York at a tender age of seven with her family. Jeanne S. Chall was one of the chief educators and researchers in the field of literacy during the past century. The Harvard Reading/Literacy Lab has recently been renamed in accolade of Dr. Chall.
What follows is an account of Dr. Chall's life and work. Chall grew up in New York City, taught there, and received her bachelor's degree from City College in 1941. Due to a dearth of teaching posts open during the early 1940's, Chall took an assistantship at Teacher's College, Columbia University, subordinate to Irving Lorge, an intelligence-test researcher. It was there at Teacher's College that Chall first advanced a fascination and liking for educational research.
Chall then went on to seek her master's and doctoral degrees at Ohio State University under the teaching of Edgar Dale. Chall was a fellow of the American Psychological Association, a member of the National Academy of Education and the Reading Hall of Fame, and had worked on the Board of Directors of the International Reading Association and the National Society for the Study of Education. She has received numerous awards, including the Edward L. Thorndike award from the American Psychological Association for remarkable psychological offering to education, the American Educational Research Association's award for notable contributions to educational research, and the Samuel T. Orton Award from the Orton Dyslexia Society. She is also a member of Ohio State University College of Education Hall of Fame. Jeanne S. Chall was called upon by a succession of U.S. presidents and secretaries of education to bring her understanding to national literacy efforts. She was an advisor to projects organized by the Office of Education, the National Institute of Education, the National Academy of Education, and many others. She made herself accessible and helpful to the many students, teachers, and researchers who liked her advice and wise instructions.
Though Chall retired from teaching in 1991, she still continued to be a principal contributor to the field of Reading Research as a writer, advisor, and mentor until she passed away in the fall of 1999. Fortunately, Chall served as an inspiration to some of the most prominent researchers and practitioners currently working to improve literacy instruction. Benita Blachman, Steve Stahl, and Maryanne Wolfe are just a few of Chall's most well-known successors.
Accomplishments of Jeanne S. Chall:
Jeanne Chall has had two dominant roles in the field of reading. She has been an earnest researcher and has been the inspiration behind the work of others. Literacy instruction, classroom organization and literacy assessment were the principles that guided her work.
In this remarkable volume...Jeanne Chall made a tremendous contribution to American education, a contribution that could revolutionize the way we approach teaching and learning....Any school board really concerned about how to improve student learning should consider buying this book in volume...to make certain it reaches all who direct instruction....It is a highly readable book, numbering under 200 pages, but each page is chock-full of information, provocative questions, and ideas that should stir the heart of anyone from a policy worker to a classroom teacher in P.S. 100 trying to do his or her best to teach children. Chall's mastery of the past century and more of research on the issue of what works is truly remarkable.... Public education is under almost constant attack from one quarter or another. The 2000 presidential campaign promises to elevate the issue to epic proportions. Rather than resort to a score of new programs, a thousand new ideas, perhaps we should simply require that every candidate, local, state or national, read this treasure of a book before they engage in debate. Then we might actually focus our energy and resources where it belongs - on improving teaching and learning."
Jeanne S. Chall was the most concentrated and single-minded individual in the literary circles of United States. She was beyond doubt dedicated to assisting every child in the U.S. get to read not only fluently but for the true joy of it as well. Her great book, 'Learning to Read: The Great Debate', published in 1967, was the first to enunciate clearly the essential elements of reading.
The greatest hallmark of the work of Jeanne S. Chall has been her consideration for poor children and the necessity to guarantee that they receive the same teaching and access to literary challenges that more rich children have. She spent several years unraveling the link between early reading and later academic achievement. In her 1983 book, 'Stages of Reading Development' Chall characterized how readers advance from maturing elementary skills through the most complex reading, arguing that unless students are fluent in decoding they seldom progress academically.
Chall explained that children who lack family support for reading rely on teachers for their literacy education and prospective academic achievement. She urged teachers and policymakers not to belittle the worth of teachers and schooling. Chall was intensely absorbed in efforts to use television to help children learn to read. She contributed her expertise as an advisor to the creators of famous programs like 'Sesame Street' and 'The Electric Company'. She advised the developers of a new show, entitled 'Between the Lions' which plans to reinforce children's literacy.
The field of adult literacy suffers from a lack of precise and methodologically sound studies. Researchers have not determined the learning processes of adults nearly as completely as those of children have and adolescents have. Therefore, very little is known about the reading process of low literate adults. An adult literacy student may be yesterday's poor-reading child whose underlying difficulties went either unacknowledged or unremediated. According to Chall, these deficiencies continue in adult poor readers, who keep on lacking necessary decoding and fluency expertise.
Chall's anxiety for readers accounted for adults too, and in 1986 she supervised a survey of adult literacy centers at the request of Harvard President Derek Bok. This study laid the foundation for the Harvard Adult Literacy Initiative, a university-wide program to educate literacy volunteers. While working with Dale on forming and distributing easy-to-read tuberculosis pamphlets to adults with little academic education, Chall became increasingly engaged in the cognitive processes concerned in reading. The Dale-Chall readability formula that the pair of researchers soon developed as a way to tailor materials to specific readers is still one of the most widely used pathfinder for matching texts to readers.
Thus began a professional career in the field of reading and literacy development. After working at City University in New York City with Florence Roswell, Chall finally moved to Cambridge, MA in 1965 where she taught graduate students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She was the motivating strength behind the beginning of the Harvard Reading Laboratory as well as the Harvard Adult Literacy Lab. It was at Harvard that Chall finished her most celebrated work, 'Stages of Reading Development'. This book became a priceless resource for teachers struggling to grasp how readers progress from mastering the essential skills of decoding texts to making complex conclusion. It was also during these years that she produced 'Learning to Read: the Great Debate', a book that examined the research encompassing the discussion over the significance of phonics-based vs. meaning-based reading instruction.
This book assisted researchers and practitioners alike that instruction should be grounded on research evidence disclosing how students really learn to decode and comprehend text, and not merely constructing educational fads and trends.
Jeanne S. Chall emphasized that teachers need to know the subjects they teach. This simple truth is a powerful antidote to a century of education reforms of academic achievement in American schools. Jeanne Chall used history to depict how education reformers created schools in which teachers became social reformers, judges of mental capabilities, and agents of transformation, instead of educators. She urged readers to study empirical evidence from the 20th century to decide what worked and what didn't work, and why, before charging forward.
In 'The Academic Achievement Challenge', the last book before her death in 1999, Jeanne S. Chall looked into the relationship between teaching and learning to ascertain what influences educational diversity might have on academic achievement. Reviewing quantitative, qualitative, and historical evidence on the effectiveness of educational reforms throughout the 20th Century. Chall found two ideal types that distinguish educational access in the United States. She conferred student achievement in the traditional, teacher-centered approaches with those following from successive, student-centered methods. The book looks at the research behind this century's movement from teacher-directed to student-centered learning.
The major conclusion of her study in this book is that a traditional, teacher-centered approach to education generally results in higher academic achievement than a progressive, student-centered approach. This is particularly so among students who are less prepared for academic learning, poor children and those with learning difficulties at all social and economic levels. She concluded that a traditional, teacher-centered approach usually results in higher academic achievement among students, notably during…[continue]
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