Lessons in Reading Reform, CAHSEE Success from PPIC

Two interesting reports released by the Public Policy Institute of California we’d like to share with you. The first is on the California High School Exit Examination and how student success can be determined as early as fourth grade. The report suggests a philosophy shared by California GEAR UP, that providing resources to struggling students in early grades will be a more effective way to improve achievement than the current approach of focusing on students in the last year of high school.

The report suggests the following (read report for full recommendations):

  • Develop an “early warning” system to forecast which ele- mentary or middle school students will be at risk of failing the CAHSEE.
  • After-school reading classes and related reforms of intervention.
  • Consider targeting additional tutoring funds at elementary and middle school students at risk of failing the exam.
  • Consider additional academic support directed at the many students who marginally pass the CAHSEE.

The second report released this week addressed Lessons in Reading Reform.  The report is the first evaluation of the long-term effects of a massive reform program implemented in the San Diego Unified School District—the state’s second largest and one that is similar to the demographics of other large districts. It comes at a time of national debate over efforts to improve public school accountability. These efforts include setting content standards and student testing—but offer little guidance about how to help students improve.

The key element that seems to have driven success was a significant amount of extra student time spent on reading, with a possible additional factor being widespread professional development for district teachers. The combination was not cheap to implement nor a fix-all. But in elementary and middle schools it demonstrably worked.

Suggestions from the report include:

  • Early intervention is most effective.
  • Middle school students who took extended-length English classes made big gains.
  • A longer school year at elementary schools with the weakest reading scores led to moderate gains.
  • The reforms did not cause negative side effects.

Please take the time to review the reports and let us know what you think. You can comment on the blog or visit us on our Facebook page to leave a comment.

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