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TNLI: Action Research: Curriculum Implementation: A Quiet, Well-Lighted Place with Books

Our Teacher Research: Past & Present

Helping all students achieve higher standards

Teacher preparation and new teacher induction   Ongoing teacher professional growth   Teacher networks
Teacher leadership in school change   Helping all students achieve higher standards      

A Quiet, Well-Lighted Place with Books: 

How Communications with Parents About 
the New Reading Standards Affects Student Achievement


by Lara Goldstone 

Research Question
Does communicating with parents about the English Language Arts independent reading standards, and about how they can support their children's reading, affect student achievement? How can schools help to build social capital around reading?

Rationale
I taught reading to sixth graders in Manhattan's Chinatown. In all, 99% of my students spoke English as a second language. They entered my classes reading about two years below grade level on average. The New Standards for middle school require students to read 25 challenging books or texts in a variety of genres each year and to demonstrate that they have understood, analyzed, compared and contrasted, questioned, and evaluated these texts. I found that many students were not reading outside of class, something that is necessary in order to meet the challenging reading standards. In addition, some students who were reading at home were still not questioning and analyzing the texts as much as they needed to. What, I wondered, was happening outside of school that was serving as a barrier to independent reading and to in-depth questioning of the text? Since a child's environment outside of school does indeed make such a difference in a child's achievement, how can the school help to raise the social capital of that environment?

Tools

  • Parent and student surveys about what students do in the evenings and what they perceive to get in the way of reading.
  • Interviews with five parents and their children who attended a workshop on supporting reading at home.
  • Notes from parent-teacher conferences in November and February
  • Notes from weekly reading conferences with students in my reading class
  • Student reading logs--records of their thoughts on the books they are reading independently
  • Field notes from visiting after-school programs 

Findings
Barriers to Student Achievement of the Reading Standards  Possible Solutions
Many parents were not aware of or able to monitor how their children were spending their after-school time. Work with parents on limit-setting and explain to them the technology of modems and internet software so that they can limit computer use.
Many students go to after-school programs that do not adequately support reading development. Those who go straight home after school often do not have a quiet place to read. Meet with the directors of after-school programs and explain how they can support reading development. 
Parents lack understanding of how to support their children's reading development. Hold workshops for parents to explain the reading  standards and model strategies for parents to support the reading standards in their primary language, such as how to start book talks at home.
Students do not have access to enough interesting and appropriately-leveled books or to quiet places to read. Make sure students bring appropriately-
leveled, interesting books home with them. Provide other avenues for access to books, and lobby support from the whole community for more books. Talk to parents about lighting for reading.

Policy Implications 
School budgeting: Money for translation of band-outs, workshops, and parent-teacher conferences. Funding to expanding school libraries.

School or District Collaboration with After-School Programs: Collaboration between independent after-school programs and teachers to make sure programs are supporting reading.

City budgeting: Extending library hours and increasing the pace of the renovations of neighborhood branches.

School Scheduling: Period for independent reading in a room where there is a large selection of books and an experienced literacy teacher with whom to confer.

Teacher contract: Per-session pay or need to have a contract that provides for extended parent conferences and preparation and delivery of parent workshops.

Professional development: Include discussion of cultural barriers such as lack of discussion about reading at home and tips for setting realistic expectations for homework.

Board of Education: City-wide English standards need to be translated into languages spoken by all stakeholders.

 

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