Sunday, March 29, 2009

Illiterate Adults

Forty-two million adult Americans can't read. * Source: Education Portal (September 2007) and one of the sessions that I attended had a huge impact on taking learning to read for granted. The presenters were adults who dropped out of school and never learned to read until their 30’s and 40’s (Sandra Johnson and David Clemmons). We must believe in our students and never give up on helping them learn how to read in school so they don’t end up becoming illiterate adults. I learned how people who can’t read often hide their disability by saying they don’t have their glasses or things to get them away from the pressure of someone finding out their secret. Especially as a School Literacy Coach, I feel the need to focus my energy on everything I can do to help teachers reach their students and have them be successful readers.

The Mindset of Effective Educators

Dr. Robert Brooks was a highly motivating and engaging keynote speaker. He talked about how we should be asking ourselves, “Starting today, ‘What is it that we can do differently to have a positive impact on the relationships we build with our students?’” especially those who are struggling with reading and learning. One of his suggestions was to be a charismatic adult, someone who must touch the heart as well as the mind. We can do this by making all children feel welcome in our presence.
Sometimes, we have no control over things that happen!

Oral Reading Fluency

A common theme throughout the conference was oral reading fluency. I heard speakers discuss looking at Oral Reading Fluency Assessment results with a critical eye. Studies mentioned by Joe Torgesen indicated that “helping students become more fluent readers should be a very high priority if they are very dysfluent but it is likely that many moderately dysfluent readers would do much better on comprehension assessments if they had better vocabularies and approached text more thoughtfully.” Consequently, we should focus our instruction just as importantly on the teaching of vocabulary and comprehension as we do with fluency. (Florida Center for Reading Research)

Dr. Michael Fullan describes the “Six Secrets of Change”. He discussed each of the six secrets in great detail which are more completely referenced in his book, The Six Secrets of Change. He talked about the change factor vs. change process and how change can be many different things. Secret 1 is to “love your employees”. Companies who treat their employees with respect get irrefutable results. Secret 2 is to “connect peers with purpose” –teachers working in communities supported by school leaders who focus on improvement. Secret 3 is “Capacity Building Prevails”, Secret 4 is “Learning is the work” which is the hardest of all secrets, Secret 5 is “Transparency Rules” which he quoted Gawande, as saying “to fix medicine (education) we need to do two things: measure ourselves, and be open about what we are doing.” Secret 6 is “systems learn” “continuous learning depends on developing many leaders in the school in order to enhance continuity…the schools being confident in the face of complexity and open to new ideas”.
Try to combine your enthusiasm with the change secrets!
Penguin just returned from latest workshop on Change Secrets!

How to Improve Reading Achievement

Dr. Timothy Shanahan spoke on “How to Improve Reading Achievement”. He shared his vision for improvement in reading achievement by relating it to an inverted pyramid of literacy. The pyramid can be accessed at He made a point that the school improvement process requires a coherent response from all involved, and this begins with leadership, which is the first tier of the pyramid. His second tier, which can have the biggest impact based on leadership factors from tier one, is the amount of instruction as well as an organized curricular framework. Dosage makes the difference and the important thing to note is that the 2-3 hours of reading instruction that he suggested as the Reading Czar for Chicago Public Schools was not necessarily “uninterrupted” but was totaled and used as effectively as possible across all grades K-12 (everyone). Tier 3 was made of “Assessment and Monitoring”, “Professional Development” and “Teacher Materials”. The diamond focus of the tier is professional development. The last tier is about “Special Programs, Special Kids” (students who need other programs or special interventions), “Parents”, “Quality Variables” and “Motivation”.
Other web resources for Tim Shanahan:

Whole Faculty Study Groups-PLCs

Dr. Kelvin Adams says: "Do something brave for kids!"

The implementation of “Whole Faculty Study Groups”. This particular session focused on how a high school principal, now Superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools, Kelvin Adams, implemented Whole Faculty Study Groups for the direct benefit of the students. He gave a powerful web resource that could be of reference when implementing a professional learning community . Most importantly though, he shared that there must be support from the building leadership as well as support for building capacity of teachers to provide effective teaching and learning. I found this session to be particularly engaging as I am going through doing “Critical Friends Group” in my role as a School Literacy Coach. I am thinking about how to implement this aspect of professional development as I plan for the next school year.

Literacy Coaching

One common theme during the conference was the implementation of having coached teachers. Coaching is a current trend that shows merit in the school improvement process. Factors for implication on student achievement in a coached situation depend greatly on whether school-leaders value the importance of what a coach can do for professional development of educators, how effectively a coach is able to spend time with teachers, and whether the intended professional development by a coach becomes a sustainable habit. Presenters shared studies where coaches were change agents in professional development as well as student achievement (Sharon Ramey and Patricia Mathes).

Another presenter on the topic of coaching was Jan Hasbrouck. She shared information about various models of coaching and her book, The Reading Coach, A How to Manual for Success. She discusses how her model of coaching is “student focused coaching” which is defined as “a cooperative and ideally collaborative relationship with parties mutually engaged in efforts to provide better services for students. She sites great importance in partnership training where building level coaches receive training with the building principal in attendance at the same training. This is key in coaching implementation. During the presentation, she shared evidence-based research on the topic of coaching and found common themes during the research phase for her book. More about her book and sample training manual can be accessed at: