Friday, March 25, 2011

Phonics: British chidren to identify 'non-words' in new reading test

I at first thought that the use of non-words was absurd but I can now see the point. It reminds me of an amusing episode in my own childhood when I was in grade 2. The class was asked to close their books and recite the story we had been reading. I was the only one who could not. Much to the surprise of the other pupils, I was praised for that. I was the only one who had actually been reading. The others were memorizing. The non-words mentioned below would check on that -- JR

All children will be subjected to a reading test at the age of six, it was announced today, despite huge opposition from teachers. Ministers are pressing ahead with a trial of a new-style phonics test designed to identify pupils lagging behind after a year of compulsory education.

Children in English state schools will be asked to read a list of 40 words as part of an informal assessment administered by teachers. The test will include a number of made-up words such as “koob” or “zort” in a move designed to ensure pupils can decode unfamiliar words using phonics – the system that breaks down words into individual sounds.

But the move has been criticised by the UK Literacy Association who claim non-words will leave children confused. Almost two thirds of respondents to an official Government consultation also opposed the decision.

Unions have criticised the tests, insisting the focus on phonics will straightjacket teachers and prevent them employing different methods to improve reading standards.

But ministers insisted they would press on with the assessments after a small-scale trial in 16 primary schools. A larger pilot project will be introduced in 300 schools this summer before a national roll-out in 2012.

Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, said: “Learning to read is a fundamental part of a child’s education. “The new check will ensure that children who need extra help are given the support they need to enable them to enjoy a lifetime’s love of reading.” He added: “Almost all pupils and teachers in the pre-trialling thought the test materials were appropriate.

“The 270 pupils involved did not find the non-words confusing, and so the phonics check will contain some non-words. They are already used in many schools and are the fairest way to assess phonic decoding. “Non-words show which children have the knowledge to read any new word, rather than pupils who have already developed a wide vocabulary or a good sight memory.”


Huge new layer of bureaucracy prompted by errors in Virginia school textbooks

And guess who will be paying for it? Those who buy the textbooks. This will just jack up their price. Dumb

The Board of Education today withdrew its approval of the first editions of two elementary history textbooks published by Five Ponds Press. The books, “Our Virginia: Past and Present,” a grade-4 Virginia studies text, and “Our America to 1865,” a grade-5 United States history book, were found by a panel of historians last fall to include significant factual errors.

The board also approved a revised textbook review and adoption process that requires publishers to provide documentation that their textbooks have been reviewed by qualified experts for factual accuracy before they are submitted to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) for review and the board for inclusion on the list of state-approved textbooks.

The revised process, which was proposed last month by Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright, requires publishers to submit with every book a list of authors and their qualifications and provide proof that at least three experts in the subject matter vouch for the text’s accuracy.

The new process also requires publishers to submit a corrective action plan to VDOE within 30 days if errors in a book are found. Once the corrective action plan is approved by the superintendent of public instruction – or by the board in cases of significant errors – publishers would implement the plan at their own expense.

The Board of Education also directed, in the event that Five Ponds Press submits corrected second editions of “Our Virginia: Past and Present” and “Our America to 1865” for review and approval, that the revised books be considered under the new state approval process.

The two Five Ponds books — along with grades K-3 history and social science textbooks from the Connecticut-based publisher — were originally approved by the board in March 2010. A review of the publisher’s K-3 books requested by the board in January also identified errors.

“The errors in these books do not rise to the level of those found in the fourth-grade and fifth-grade textbooks,” said Wright. “I am confident that the process approved by the board today will ensure that the inaccuracies are addressed promptly by the publisher and that students in schools using these books continue to receive accurate instruction.”

Regarding the K-3 books, the board accepted a recommendation from Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright that Five Ponds Press be required to submit a corrective action plan to address the errors.


Education Spending Has a Simple Solution

Phyllis Schlafly

As the new Republican House majority wrestles with ways to cut our unsustainable budget deficit, Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet. On March 14, he said, "We cannot cut education."
But why not? If we are going to cut programs that are proven to have failed to achieve their goals, federal spending on education should be at the top of the list.

Federal spending on public schools (which is only a small percentage of their school budgets) was given specific goals in the 2002 law called "No Child Left Behind," the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It required states to set targets to have all students proficient in reading and math by 2014, to meet an annual benchmark of progress toward this goal and in particular to demonstrate a closing or narrowing of the gap between higher-income and minority students.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan threw a cannonball into the education debate this month by admitting that 82 percent of public schools could be labeled "failing" under No Child Left Behind specifications. His solution is to stop calling them "failing," extend the target date for student proficiency to 2020 and, of course, to appropriate more money to failed programs.

For years, education spokesmen have opined that kids should be able to read by the fourth grade. Good for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is now calling for the reading goal to be third grade -- and this goal is also being advocated by the Indiana and New Mexico governors.

Obama wants to put more money into the notoriously useless program called Head Start, and he increased its annual funding in 2009 by nearly $3 billion. U.S. taxpayers have given Head Start $166 billion of taxpayers' money since 1965 despite many studies proving that it was mostly wasted, did not give poor kids a head start and any gains made while kids were in Head Start disappeared within a couple of years.

Since conservatives famously lost the battle to prevent federal spending on local public schools (which they view as unconstitutional) a half century ago, Congress has year after year increased appropriations. In recent years, Congress identified two primary purposes: to raise student achievement and to narrow the gap between high- and low-income students and between minority and white students.

We the federal taxpayers have spent roughly $2 trillion on these efforts since 1965. It's reasonable to ask, did we get our money's worth?

If we look at the class that graduated from the public schools in 2009, we find that we spent over $151,000 per student to bring him from the first to the 12th grade. That's nearly three times as much as we spent on the graduating class of 1970.

Despite that massive spending, overall achievement has stagnated or declined. The gaps between minority and white students are unchanged in science and only slightly narrowed in reading and math.

We have precious little to show for the $2 trillion in federal education spending over the past half-century, and Andrew J. Coulson of CATO has the charts to prove it. It now costs three times as much to provide essentially the same education as we provided in 1970.

Even this bad news fails to give the big picture because, as productivity was falling in public schools, it was rising everywhere else. Nearly all the products and services most of us buy have gotten better, more affordable or both over the past two generations.

The fact that there is no education improvement even while spending has skyrocketed is a disaster unparalleled in any other field. In addition to the waste, this gigantic spending slowed our economic growth by taxing trillions of dollars out of the productive sector of the economy and squandering it on worthless programs.

Knowing that learning to read is fundamental to education, the public-school lobby is yelping about proposed cuts in grants for literacy programs. Yes, literacy should be job number one, but after all these years why do we have to go to the unnecessary expense of passing out money to find a good reading program?

Children should be taught to read in the first grade by an authentic phonics system in which they learn the sounds and syllables of the English language and how to put them together to read words of more than one syllable. There is nothing expensive or mysterious about this basic task.

Instead of wasting more federal money on grant-writers and grant-readers, tell local districts to award a bonus to first-grade teachers based on how many kids they actually teach to read. Let the teacher select the phonics system she thinks will help her win the bonus.


No comments: