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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Vitti's magic litteracy wand

From a reader about the superintendents modest goals for literacy growth.

Although I am by no means a Vitti fan, I agree with at least the idea that literacy growth takes time. People who think an 8th grader who reads at a 2nd grade level can be brought to an 8th grade level within a year or two simply don't understand how vocabulary acquisition works. 

Learning how to read and write takes time, loads of time, and some students come to school (kindergarten) reading above level (sometimes 1st-3rd grade) because of their parents/community while others struggle with writing their names; studies have shown that more educated parents (doesn't have to be formally educated), usually produce more literate kids. 

Other kids don't have that benefit and although they can grow, the gap is almost impossible to completely close as the kids from professional families learn at an exponential rate, whereas kids from more disadvantaged backgrounds grow at a steady rate. 

Every kid can learn, but not every kid will learn at the same rate. 

What Vitti suffers from is the belief that a program like Achieve 3000 is all that is needed to produce growth, so he doesn't invest in libraries (ours doesn't have books any longer) nor does he invest in books for students to take home and read. Instead, we have class sets, and when I teach seniors who tell me that they have never been asked to read a part or whole book at home, how is that preparing kids to be successful in college???? 

Vitti doesn't want to invest the time or money into students. He is hoping that some program will work magic. It just won't, and we will be sitting here years from now lamenting the same issues, primarily because people don't understand how to promote literacy, and no district wants to teach parents how to read with their kids so they come semi-prepared to learn. 

When it comes to it, schools simply cannot do everything. They were never meant to. I learned how to read because my parents read with me, so in pre-kindergarten, I was already reading small books. There exists the disparity, and it will always exist, unfortunately, to some degree. Once again, every kid can learn and grow, but the pace cannot necessarily be dictated by a test that constantly changes. The school board needs to get it together and listen.


  1. How about investing time and money into some worthwhile professional development?

  2. So here is the issue I have with the point made above. Let's say we have a 5 year old. Who is beginning Kindergarten 3 years below grade level. They are functioning at the 2 year old level. This same child stays in DCPS until 5th grade. If a teacher would just work with this child in a small group daily they can gain 16 months for every 10 months of school. ( see the research on LLI. Otherwise known as effective intervention) the child would be on grade level by 3rd grade, but the curriculum would require the child to read, write, speak instead of just listen like the current K-2 curriculum is designed. Do you see the disconnect here? Children who begin school struggling begin with a limited understanding of how language works in the written form because they have zero exposure, so what do we do? We limit their exposure to text by adopting a read aloud curriculum. Great idea, Mason Davis! How can we expect children to close the gap between them and their peers when we handicap their opportunities by limiting their exposure to text. Wow, am I the only one who thinks this? So what if they can tell you about the systems in the body they can't read the word body.

    1. I agree. Oral literacy is simply not good enough; students need exposure to print sources, and the district doesn't want to invest in print materials. God forbid, it would cost money. Also, to some extent, a student might be able to catch up to 3rd grade, but typically, what happens is that reading levels start to decline in middle school. What causes this? We have a generation of students who are not reading advanced texts, because it requires resources and loads of scaffolding. Good teachers know how to do this, but with the demonization of teachers, many are just not staying long enough to become good teachers who understand the art of teaching reading. It is a horrible cycle, and because those in charge don't know how literacy really works, things won't change any time soon. Additionally, the only issue with relying on small group instruction is that it takes, once again, mature, experienced teachers. Try leading small groups with a bunch of struggling readers in an intensive reading class...and sure if those students show up every day in 10 months, they may gain; however, many times the students who struggle the most have issues with attendance, tardiness, and behavior. Getting on grade level by 3rd grade is only a small part of the battle. The district just simply doesn't want to invest money and time into this issue or listen to actual teachers who have more than 2 years teaching experience at 2 different schools...

  3. Please stop, an intellectual conversation about how children learn to read and what we an do about it instead of finger pointing and blame? Now you've gone too far.(Sarcasm) all good points made. Maybe a group of literacy experts ( those who have done the work and not those who think they know just because someone appointed them to be in charge) can create a think tank and develop solutions for when we get an administration willing to listen to teachers????

  4. I don't agree that the school board needs to get it together and start to listen. The school board needs to get their act together and begin advocating for children and demanding that the city and state and federal government provide the resources and programs so that children do not show up to kindergarten locked into the achievement gap. We try hard and do much in the schools, but we cannot do it alone. We advance all children in the schools, but as the top tier moves at least as much as the bottom tier from what we do, the bottom tier never closes the gap. The crucial years are 0 to 4 or 5, and that is not the responsibility of the school system. We need to stop arguing and pointing fingers. We need to close our gaps and demand that our society meet the needs of families at birth and not wait until the children show up for school.

  5. I am a K teacher and I totally agree. We need to make Literacy fun and engaging. This curriculum is anything but. It's boring and inappropriate! I loved the workshop model and it worked. If only I could go back to reading great and engaging literature to 5 year olds. And Don't tell me I can "fit" this great literature in to my daily schedule. There in NO time to teach what is demanded of us, let alone fit "it" in. My heart is broken every day by what I am expected to teach these sweet eager learning 5 year olds.