Teach ’em, don’t just Test ’em

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Jan 022020
 

Welcome to the next decade where it is predicted that we will use sophisticated glasses to see the words on the screen, rather than walk with our heads bowed to look at a screen in the palm of our hand.

My blog topic today is about reading and the need for more teaching. It just so happens to coincide with the social promotion of third grade students

The Charlotte Observer editorial article of December 20, titled Educators, not courts, should decide reading test, had me quite intrigued. It highlighted Read to Achieve (RTA), a program adopted, or perhaps borrowed, from the Just Read Florida initiative that tests K-3 reading proficiency. The RTA program has failed to show significant improvements in NC, or anywhere else, says the article, despite $150mil spent by the NC DPI, or Department of Public Instruction.

Growing up in a family where reading was encouraged and promoted from an early age, I did not have to worry much about reading tests at elementary school. After all, I was learning (and reading) English and therefore got to hear thousands of words daily, in my native language, long before I had to take my first school test at age 6. I also grew up at a time in South Africa when TV was only introduced when I was a teen, so there were less alternatives (and distractions) like there are in 2020. 

This scenario has not played out with young students in our program like Anthony, Sneijder and Gabriela, who essentially learned their first English words on day one of kindergarten. Score 1-0. Advantage to the native English speaker. My daughters have all recently attended public school and I am privy to the heavy amount of testing they undertake, rather than the teaching they receive. And I am sure Language Arts, and reading is no exception, regardless of the subject.

The problem appears to be that NC borrowed the programs worst aspects … more testing and holding back children who fail to show proficiency by third grade. In case you missed it, only 4 out of 10 3rd grade students in CMS schools can pass the reading proficiency test, according to recent Charlotte Meck School research. And it’s not getting any better I am afraid to say …

 So, what happens to those on the cusp of repeating grade three? Glad you asked. In my experience with working with ELL students from title 1 schools in our after-school program, 3rd grade students are tested, and retested near the end of the school year. If you fail the retest, you are afforded the opportunity to come back to school for the first three weeks or so of summer, to do some intense Read to Achieve testing. Or should that be teaching? It’s really not possible to catch up on years in just a few short weeks while their more fortunate buddies are enjoying a nice summer vacay. In my experience, 4th grade looms large, whether they are ready or not. After all, what would third grade look like if some 18,000 or so were held back every June? And besides, who would want to be a third-grade reading tutor, tester or perhaps teacher?

You see, the $150mil has not been spent so much on teaching to read, as it has on testing. The Science of Reading program is getting strong reading results at less cost in Mississippi, the state with the dubious distinction of having the highest poverty levels, but where 83% of 3rd graders passed, this past school year. In NC, only 56% passed, according to the research. It was 4% higher when Read to Achieve was implemented in 2013.

Dr. Claire White, from UMass, in her recently published dissertation had it right, in my opinion. Academic literacy is the way to go. Dr. White really got me thinking. She makes a great case for teaching target words and then engaging children from a young age in debates about topics like “is it cruel (in your opinion) to have animals in a circus?” It is never too early to start, her research suggests. In my opinion, we ought to teach kids to connect with the books theme and its overall content, and worry less about force feeding the vocabulary that has little significance to a young child who is already so far behind and is no doubt going to be to fourth grade, regardless.

I am suggesting that we need to try something else in our local schools. More emphasis on teach, instead of test. Reading often comes across as an unpleasant time of struggling to figure it out by yourself. Not fun at all.

Here’s what we are doing and will continue to do at LHCC in the reading arena. We let children choose their own books, read with them and help them connect with the subject matter. We want them to see reading in a different light. Much like the beacons of hope we try and represent for all students and their families.

Brent Morris

Executive Director

Learning Help Centers of Charlotte

January 5, 2020

 Posted by at 7:58 pm

Spotting Reading Disorders in our young students

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Jan 032019
 

This week’s blog was kindly written by one of our volunteers, who received a Governor’s Award in 2018, for commitment and excellence in serving with LHCC. His comments are published here with his permission. He has chosen to remain anonymous, but we know he has a tremendous heart to serve our children! This is why we serve children who need extra help. And as you can see, our volunteers are grasping that this process of helping them is much more than just checking a box…it’s intentional, impactful and very much appreciated by the families we serve…

“I think it would be helpful to encourage our LHCC volunteers to research the signs of learning challenges, such as dyslexia and ADHD. I regret that I did not have that information earlier. There are so many resources online. Rather than providing links to specific ones, just encouraging volunteers to do research those topics would be helpful. There are probably more kids in the program with varying degrees of these. Attention deficit and hyperactive disorder are not always linked. It is possible that a child could have one and not the other. 

Once I determined that {my student} was dyslexic changed my way of tutoring her and I hope that I can do a better job with her for the rest of the school year. I confirmed my thoughts that {another student} is ADHD with {her tutor} and researching that led me to understand how similar the process of tutoring the two is, even though the problem is caused by different underlying conditions. Both benefit from multisensory learning. I am going to get some wooden alphabet tiles and some small large piece puzzles to use with them.

I am going to try to work with Jane and Sue. Since Sue is there early and Jane is usually there late, I can spend some one-on-one time with Sue at the beginning, do some reading with both of them, and then spend some one-on-one time with Jane. Not exactly a perfect solution, but until we can get a volunteer to work with the other on a consistent basis, that will at least give her some consistent attention. I will talk with Sue and find out what school she attends and if she is getting any one-on-one help at school. Then we can approach the parent and facilitate a conversation with the school to ensure we encourage and support her in the best way possible.”

Comments by a delightful retired gentleman who has been serving as a volunteer for over two years at LHCC! Names changed to protect privacy.

 Posted by at 7:11 pm
Oct 192018
 

This month, we are raising funds to provide enrichment programs for immigrant and refugee families in Charlotte. Today, we launched our first-ever campaign to “fan into flame” the spark that happens for these children in our summer programming, with the purpose of sustaining that connection through year-round enrichment. LHCC offers homework help to the kids in our community in the evenings, while their parents study English. Our organization serves the Charlotte community in a genuine and powerful way that allows kids to increase confidence in reading and speaking English.

Your gift of support helps make our programming possible. Please consider making a contribution to LHCC today. Find fundraising link here

 Posted by at 9:17 pm
Sep 152018
 

Hurricane Florence brings both devastation and opportunity. We pray daily for everyone’s safety, especially those on the coast and evacuated from their homes. Perhaps we are reminded by who really is in control. It is also an opportunity to draw close to family, as we gather together and ride out this storm. It is also encouraging to see how much good comes from events like this … helping neighbors, public schools converted to shelters and making provision for those displaced or seeking shelter.

Speaking of families drawing near, my daughter Lauren came home from college in Boone on Thursday. It’s a blessing to have time together at home, hunkering down and being a complete family again.

We are excited to see our extended families again soon. Our board is energized and ready for another year of promoting the mission and vision of LHCC. I refer of course to those we serve each week, in our various programs. We will recommence our after-school homework and reading programs again at the beginning of October. In addition, we have a community event, called a Potato Drop, on Saturday, October 6, hosted by Pineville Neighbors.  Check out our current events for more information. Until then, be safe and enjoy the things that matter most. Family. Our next blog post will feature an update from Britzia, one of our awesome students. Watch her short video as a teaser.  

Until next time …

Brent Morris

Executive Director

Learning Help Centers of Charlotte

 

May 282018
 

                                                                                                     Image result for nostalgic summer photos

School is wrapping up and children are hustling and bustling to finish the last of their schoolwork and end their year strong. The nostalgic sound of splashing pool water and the warmth of summer sun is motivating them to give their last push to reach the finish line. We have witnessed their hard work and have engaged with them through teaching and helping them with concepts in areas they have struggled with, however, we believe this period of assistance and enlightenment should not end as summer begins.

Many students suffer from the “summer slide”, and although it sounds fun, it most definitely is not. Children unfortunately slide back on their reading grades when they do not take part in reading activities during the long summer months. That’s why summer reading is critical to ensuring that our children return to school at or ahead of where they were when the summer vacation commenced.

Aside from developing literary skills we also believe it is important to develop other educational skills along with some social and character building skills as well. This helps keep the minds of the children constantly stimulated and prepared to take on new challenges their upcoming school year.

That is why here at Learning Help Centers of Charlotte we will be offering a series of summer camps that will help build character, improve literary comprehension, and go on excursions that will cross summer adventuring with mental exploration. The results of our past camps have been very encouraging and we intend to ensure every child is ready to start the new school with a great start. 

Serving this community to help children grow and advance is what fulfills all of our hearts here at LHCC. Educating a child is what helps build a bigger and brighter tomorrow where each kid is able to use their identity, uniqueness, and intelligence to build a more cohesive, healthy, and progressive society that is filled with endless potential. Educating each and every one of our children is a promise we should all keep.

We will be hosting two weeks worth of summer camps each month starting in June and continuing on until August. Our camps will occur from Monday to Thursday from 9-3:30 and will either be set at St. Andrews United Methodist Church or Central United Methodist Church!

Summer Enrichment and Literacy Camp Dates: 

·         Week 1:  June 18 – 21 (St. Andrews United MC – south)
·         Week 2:  July 9 – 12 (Central United MC – east)
·         Week 3:  July 16 – 19 (Central United MC – east)
·         Week 4:  August 6 – 9 (St. Andrews United MC – south)
·         Week 5:  August 13 – 16 (St. Andrews United MC – south)

Hooray to the end of the 2018 school year and a big whoop whoop for a beautiful, productive summer to come!

 

 Posted by at 12:02 pm