Reading Instruction in the Present and What's Planned for the Future

How does Federal funding benefit public schools? This post explains how Title 1 funded positions have helped many of our students and why we want to protect ESEA

Does your school offer Title 1 reading and/or math services? Do you have children who receive support through English as a Second Language (ELL)? Does your division host guest speakers or trainers for professional development or have instructional and literacy coaches to assist with best instructional practices? How about parental involvement activities such as Math, Science, Reading Nights, Poetry Jams, or Technology Trainings for Parents? If these initiatives have been a benefit to you and your school, you can thank the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA? You may not be aware, but it is through ESEA that these and many other services are provided to students and their families in high poverty communities. Instructional resources, instructional personnel including teachers and paraprofessionals who assist with daily instruction, professional development, and outreach to help parents with supporting education in the home and within schools all come from ESEA which was signed into law in 1965 by President Johnson.

Each year, school divisions apply for funding through ESEA with outlines how the division plans utilize the funds to support those in the greatest need. Allocation of funds is based on need, and schools that meet the required poverty level use these funds to help balance the playing field for kids who need it the most and who are performing in the bottom quartile academically. In today's post, I thought I'd share a few stories that highlight how ESEA has made a difference from the eyes of the anonymous recipients. The stories are real, but the names are not.

Meet Sarah

Background:

Sarah was put in foster care at age three with developmental delays. She wasn't speaking much, and she had been neglected prior to her placement. When she came to school in kindergarten, she knew a few letters and sounds and her colors. She had a very difficult time in the regular classroom due to the delays and difficulty with attention, but with the support of her foster parents, her classroom teacher, and tutoring services provided through Special Education and Title 1 reading, she made steady progress. 

Her Intervention Plan

Sarah was overwhelmed with the number of students in the regular classroom and pace of instruction, and it was difficult for her classroom teacher to adjust the curriculum demands to her instructional level. Sarah needed something a little different. She was included in tier 2 and 3 services specifically focused on building phonemic awareness, understanding of phonics, sight vocabulary, fluency, and writing in response to reading. She met with the reading specialist in a small pullout class for 45 minutes daily and had an additional 20 minute targeted tutoring time. By the end of second grade, she was near grade level which considering her start, these gains were huge! Sarah needed the classroom teacher's instruction, instruction from the reading specialist, tutoring with the paraprofessional, and support from her parents who used the suggestions from the reading specialist to make the progress she did.

Meet Roman

Background:

Roman came with his family from the Ukraine when he was in kindergarten. He did not speak English until he started school. The family included two parents and three siblings. Roman was a busy little boy who loved recess, but he wasn't very into school otherwise. These interactions were very helpful to him though as he learned a speaking vocabulary.

Roman's Services:

Roman had literacy delays and needed both English as a Second Language (ELL) services as well as support through Title 1 Reading. He received ELL primarily through the primary grades, and once his speaking language reached level 2 (or 3...now I can't remember). we gave him reading services in Title 1. In second grade he started out, and by fifth grade, his only deficit was comprehension. Vocabulary still contributed to some of his challenges which would be expected when Ukrainian was spoken as the primary language within the home, and this brings me to one very important point. No two children are alike, and there are barriers that children encounter which the classroom teacher can not change.  I worked closely with the family, and they faithfully came in for conferences. I translated notes and report cards, and the older children helped with translations too. Does this make things equal for kids like Roman? It really does not, but it helps. This is why I believe it's best to measure the child's progress from year to year versus using high stakes test results to determine the success/failure of the program.

Roman eventually moved from our community and relocated to Florida. He is now in college.

Meet Evan

Background:

Evan came to me as a crazy fourth grader who read fluently, but who missed the deeper thinking points, struggled with test taking (especially on a computer), and who needed help with writing. Evan was impulsive, but got along with everyone. In fact, he often got along with them too well. Evan needed small group instruction and intensive comprehension work. 

Evan's plan:

For Evan's group, we met 1 1/2 hours per day for the literacy block. The group began with writer's workshop followed by reading groups (2 groups of 4). Writing lessons were focused on the writing process with mentor texts for modeling. At the independent work stage, I began reading groups where skills were taught and practiced with leveled texts including plenty of close reading/text marking. In addition to time with me, the students also worked with one of our instructional assistants (with plans provided by me) for supplementary assistance. 

Receiving direct instruction for 1 1/2 hours made a huge difference for Evan. He was kept on task due to the small groups and received the thinking skills needed to help him to think like a reader and writer. He improved his test score by a large amount that year (to the middle of the proficient range), and we were able to hone in on the specific needs he had in order to increase time on task, deepen thinking, improve writing, and up the rigor.

The Lifelong Struggling Reader

Who are they?

For many students, reading is a lifelong struggle. There are some students who function between an 80 and 100 IQ who don't qualify for special education services and who learn on a different trajectory than other students. Some need more repetition, lower level texts at their reading level, and strategies to help them keep the information in long term memory. We have some children who always need Title 1 reading services just to pass on to the next grade, but they give their best as do their classroom teachers and interventionists working with them.  These kiddos are in every classroom across our country.

Plan Options:

What would happen if they didn't receive the support they currently receive through Title 1 funded reading and math interventions? Who will help them when they fall behind? How will the classroom teacher get it all done to keep struggling students from failing while on grade level and advanced students need extensions. 

Private tutoring is costly and not available to these students since many struggle financially. Often their parents are working two jobs, have other struggling students in the home, or may not have the skills to support them, so getting help at home may not work. The answer to me is clear. 

Say NO to HR 610! 

How does Federal funding benefit public schools? This post explains how Title 1 funded positions have helped many of our students and why we want to protect ESEA
As I mentioned, the U.S. House of Representatives has introduced Bill 610. This bill will start the school voucher system to be used by children ages 5 to 17, and starts the de-funding process of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) which was begun in 1965. This law provides equal opportunity in education. It is a comprehensive program that covers programs for struggling learners, AP classes, ESL classes, classes for minorities such as Native Americans, Rural Education, Education for the Homeless, School Safety (Gun-Free schools), Monitoring and Compliance and Federal Accountability Programs.

ESSA is not the only program slated for de-funding. The bill also abolishes the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch. For our most vulnerable, this may be the ONLY nutritious food they have in a day. Instead of fresh fruits and vegetables, our kids will be served meals of questionable quality.

The bill has no safeguards for protecting special needs kids, no mention of IDEA and FAPE. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) of 1965 does support children with disabilities. Here's a list of a few benefits ensured through ESSA:
-ensures access to the general education curriculum
-ensures access to accommodations on assessments
-ensures concepts of Universal Design for Learning
-includes provisions that require local education agencies to provide evidence-based interventions in schools with consistently underperforming subgroups
-requires states in Title I plans to address how they will improve conditions for learning including reducing incidents of bullying and harassment in schools, overuse of discipline practices and reduce the use of aversive behavioral interventions (such as restraints and seclusion).

What Next?

If HR 610 passes, we will see drastic changes and lose many skilled teachers. I am honestly very worried how these changes will impact kids I've worked with, and I'm honestly wondering if this might lead to the end of my career. If you are worried too, please do not stay silent. We need teachers and parents coming together to stop this from happening. There is no greater treasure than our children, and I believe the best thing we can give these treasures is an education to grow skills and wings. I know I'm not alone in this belief.  Please read up on this and do what you can. [Here is the link to read more.] If you feel passionate about this too, feel free to pin the image above, blog about how ESEA has helped your students, and comment below. I'm not against parents making decisions that are best for their children. I am truly worried about struggling kids getting left behind.

2 comments

  1. So, your feeling is that these same children won't receive the same extra support in the private/charter schools if voucher programs are approved. You're probably right. However, except for these special programs, I truly believe that many families would love to have their children attend alternative, accredited schools. I also believe that the % of children leaving public schools will be minor because of inconvenience and "change." Let's just see how it works out before panicing!

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    Replies
    1. I am definitely not questioning parents who opt to choose private school for their kids. My concern is with the loss of funding we're looking at with the end of ESEA (Title 1 funding). That will mean loss of MANY positions within my division. We also just heard yesterday of a proposed 14% budget cut to education for the 21st Century programs which are serving the same population. I'm not panicking, but rather wanting to raise awareness of the potential impact of these proposals. I look at the little children receiving services, and it pains me to think that might not be available to them if these go through. We work hard, and although not every child "passes", we do monitor progress and see growth. (Some experience more growth than others of course.) Anyway, we'll see how it plays out.

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