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Bridging the School Readiness Gap Through Play

The Huffington Post – Sarah Walzer

“For those of us who have been leading the rallying cry to commit greater resources to early childhood education, we are living in encouraging times. The national focus on the word “gap” and the push for universal pre-K, in particular, should be celebrated and supported. Now, we also need to focus on those who are already behind before they start pre-K. We need to ensure that all of our children are truly ready to be in a classroom and able to take advantage of all educational opportunities. A key aspect of bridging this “pre-pre-K” gap is supporting the infusion of play into every child’s early years. Play has long been regarded by early childhood development experts as a critical element in early learning. It is valuable for building a whole array of skills from language to social-emotional behaviors to creativity. As Dr. Alison Gopnick, a well-known early childhood researcher, has noted, “children learn by playing with everyday objects and by pretending.”(more)

How NGSS transforms science class with hands-on learning

E-School News – Pat Dickerson

“Imagine 30 sixth-graders racing to your classroom every day, so excited about learning that they are willing to think critically and problem-solve for the next 49 minutes. This is my world every day. I’ve been teaching for more than 30 years, and this is the most excited I’ve ever seen students. What’s changed? Simply put: We integrated the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) into our curriculum. My students and I are now so engaged in learning and actively participating in science that we often end up rushing to clean up at the bell. Parents tell me their dinnertime conversations are about science and what their kids are doing and learning. When we have our STEM Fair each year, parents are amazed by what they see and hear from the students. “Doing science” makes for a messy, noisy classroom –- but the students are engaged and thinking critically, guided by the NGSS.”(more)

Why Johnny (still) can’t multiply: Experts weigh in

The Christian Science Monitor – Lucy Schouten

“You don’t need a math expert to know this doesn’t add up: despite every effort, the math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress fell overall for the first time in years. Some blame the test, especially in light of President Obama’s statement Saturday that too much testing occurs in schools, but most experts agree that the NAEP is a good one. Math scores on this test have not dropped in 25 years, and a random sampling of fourth- and eighth-grade students take the short test without any chance for prep or stress, which has given the NAEP a reputation as “the nation’s report card,” USA Today reported. It may be too soon to worry. “One downturn does not a trend make,” said Peggy Carr, the federal official in charge of the tests, to USA Today.”(more)

How Do States Really Stack Up on the 2015 NAEP?

Education Next – Matthew M. Chingos and Kristin Blagg

“Yesterday’s release of the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) means that pundits, politicians, and, yes, even some researchers, will soon begin the biennial exercise of making unwarranted inferences from the NAEP results. We draw on a new Urban Institute report to show, first, how to make more responsible comparisons across states and, second, that the declines in NAEP scores from 2013 to 2015 are unlikely to be explained by shifts in student demographics. NAEP, often called the “nation’s report card,” is the only standardized test regularly administered to a nationally representative sample of U.S. students. Unfortunately, “misNAEPery” has become common practice, with education stakeholders touting high-scoring states that have adopted their preferred policies, or low-scoring states that have done the opposite. The fundamental problem is that there’s no widely accepted way to factor student demographics into state NAEP scores. The Urban Institute’s new report, Breaking the Curve: Promises and Pitfalls of Using NAEP Data to Assess the State Role in Student Achievement, proposes better ways to compare NAEP scores across states and over time.”(more)

Who Helps Kids With Dyslexia Gain Reading Fluency?

KQED News Mind/Shift – Holly Korbey

“When Martha Youman was starting out as a second-grade teacher, every Friday she would stay late after school to make what she called “seat work” for her 30 students— packets to help differentiate instruction for the three levels of learners in her classroom. “My high-level [students] would get lots of reading passages with reading comprehension questions,” she said. “My medium level would get the same thing, but shorter. And my students at the low level would get things like coloring pages, connect the dots — just things to keep them busy so they wouldn’t act out.” She said that some students at the lowest learning level couldn’t even write the alphabet yet, so she’d even put kindergarten-style trace-the-letter pages into their seat work.”(more)