The following passage and questions are from a book used by some Chicago Public Schools to prepare students for the 9th-grade TAP.
AT CLARK STREET Elaine L. Williams, an associate CPS attorney, has been appointed chief technology officer for the Department of Information Technology Services. She has been acting director since Richard Koeller was fired earlier this year after an unsatisfactory audit of his performance. Salary: $115,000. … CPS awarded a $65,800 security consulting contract to its retired human resources director, Thomas J. Doyle. Doyle will oversee budget and training for the Bureau of Safety and Security on a part-time basis. He also will serve as CPS liaison to the Chicago and Illinois police departments.
Third grade has assumed an exalted place in the world of reading instruction. A common dictum calls for teaching all children to read by the end of 3rd grade. A popular aphorism is that through 3rd grade, children learn to read; after 3rd grade, they read to learn. Both notions capture the need to get children off to a strong start in literacy, to pinpoint individual students’ problems before they drag them down. However, casting 3rd grade as the literacy threshold implies that the teaching of reading is a job mainly for preschool and primary teachers, not for the teachers of serious subject matter.
“Parents on our slate … represent a diverse group: Three blacks, one Hispanic and one white, which we’d like to think truly reflects what the neighborhood here in Dearborn Park is,” says community representative Larry Young, the only incumbent seeking re-election who won. Young is an Alliance member and the father of two children who attend Andrew Jackson Magnet School.
The challenges include allegations that a parent winner is not a legal guardian of a child enrolled at the school and that a parent winner no longer lives inside a school’s attendance area. In some cases, school administrators are charged with election misconduct, including electioneering and improper ballot distribution and handling.
“For us, it was important that before we added the professional development component, we build a strong, solid school where children can learn,” says Anthony Bryk, the center’s director. “And a good school is very complex. Even if you have good teachers and good classroom experiences, people need to gel. Teachers have to gel. The school has to build relationships with parents and the community. Services have to be in place. All this takes time.”
The class then begins silently reading “The Chocolate War,” an award-winning book for young adults that tells a story most teenagers can relate to: how one teen stands up to a gang of prep- school bullies who will do anything to win first place in a contest to sell chocolate. Homework for tomorrow will be to write a paragraph on one of two related themes—the individual vs. society or the end justifies the means—using an example from the book or from real life.
For the next three years, outstanding teachers with experience mentoring other teachers will serve as full-time coaches for the school’s faculty, working on instruction techniques in reading, writing and core courses. For starters, two foundations each have pledged $100,000 a year; the CPS Office of Accountability has put up $75,000 for the first year; and Manley has chipped in $125,000 from its discretionary funds.
Vocabulary expert Isabel Beck of the University of Pittsburgh embraces both approaches. For her, there are four ways to learn vocabulary: wide reading, hearing unfamiliar words in speech, direct instruction in words and “gimmicks” to boost students’ interest. Word of the Day has two of the four, direct instruction and student incentives, so she thinks it’s a good idea.
Though teachers are conducting timed readings, some aren’t happy about it. “It’s taken away from the teaching of science,” says science teacher Marge Siemieniak. “You really have a break after the timed reading. You have to start pretty much all over again to incorporate your curriculum. … At some point, the kids are turning off because you’re taking isolated passages out of context, and the relevance really isn’t there.”
Dissatisfied with the partners’ track record on high school reading scores, Accountability sold its services as an “internal external partner ” to six high schools in 1998-99. That year, the team compiled the best reading record among the partners: Three of its six schools, Calumet, Fenger and Richards, made appreciable gains on the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency. (Two of the three, Calumet and Richards, also have university partners.) The team then saw its client base nearly double, to 11 schools
COMPREHENSION Ability to understand text, both literally and inferentially
• Literal meaning: Facts stated directly in the text
• Inferential meaning: Knowledge gained by pulling together the text and one’s own knowledge to grasp ideas not stated directly. For example, understanding a character’s personality traits from her actions in a story.
• Inference-making: Various theorists have constructed hierarchies of thinking skills that divide this broad category into specific types, such as predicting outcomes, making generalizations, analyzing relationships like cause and effect.
The ingredients are small classes (8 to 10 students each), teacher training with follow-up, diagnosis of individual students’ problems and a four-semester sequence of courses based on the six stages of reading identified by the late Harvard University professor Jeanne Chall, author of “Learning to Read, the Great Debate.”
Under the School Reform Board’s accountability policies, they have little choice. Schools with less than 20 percent of their students reading at or above the national average are put on probation, which can lead to the dismissal of the principal and even teachers. While many probation schools have made significant gains in math, only 6 of the original 38 have raised their reading scores enough to shed the designation.