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Reading Faster, Reading Better: A Goal Worth Fighting For? Prepared by Colette Chabbott George Washington University

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Presentation on theme: "Reading Faster, Reading Better: A Goal Worth Fighting For? Prepared by Colette Chabbott George Washington University"— Presentation transcript:

1 Reading Faster, Reading Better: A Goal Worth Fighting For? Prepared by Colette Chabbott George Washington University

2 Presentation purpose  Place current interest in early grades reading in the larger context of EFA and the Millennium Development Goals  Highlight a few findings from Accelerating Early Grades Reading, a desk review now available on  Discuss a few of the likely hurdles to undertaking international work focused on early grades reading

3 Audience “We” = Policy wonks + The education experts who advise them. = People who are in a position to affect both policy and activities of at least one major funder of education activities in countries where EFA is yet to be achieved.

4 Why should USAID care about early grades reading?  Americans have consistently played a leading role in promoting EFA. Whether the Agency’s ultimate goal is meeting basic human needs or promoting democracy, we find either hard to imagine without literate citizens.  Despite dramatic increases in access to basic education in many countries, the central goal of EFA—a quality basic and education—is not within reach for most children in many countries  Systemic approaches to improving the quality of education in these countries are necessary but they will not a significant difference for many children in several high priority countries for 5-10 years  Innovations promising to spur the expansion of high quality basic education thusfar have proved disappointing.

5 The problem of current global goals  The MDG for education we currently have--all children will complete primary education by was chosen in a somewhat ad hoc manner  Primary school completion is a default in the absence of a consensus in the education community around a minimum learning outcome for primary schooling.  In some high priority countries, such as Bangladesh, the current MDG has resulted in too many children being pushed into too few classrooms, with little regard for learning outcomes.

6 What would make a better goal? Former UNICEF Executive Director’s four point criteria for creating do-able global initiatives:  Simple interventions with the consensus among a significant part of the scientific community  Potential for significant impact and simple indicators to measure that impact  Relatively low cost production and delivery systems that actually reach the grass roots  Interventions and indicators which are appealing to the general public and with which political leaders want to be associated.

7 Ideal global goal for education  Something critical to lifelong learning (Significant)  Something critical to achievement in more than one subject (Significant)  Something that could be measured in fairly small increments, so that even countries starting at fairly low levels of performance could show progress. (Political commitment)  Something that the minimally educated people available in remote areas of high priority EFA countries could teach. (Available delivery agents)  Something that appeals to decision-makers and parents at an intuitive level. (Political commitment)  Something that has emerged from technological advances in learning sciences over the last 20 years (Scientific consensus)  Something the existing education system could deliver or tolerate. (Low- cost delivery system)

8 What makes us think early grades reading might constitute a do-able global goal for education?  No other single subject appears to have the potential to have as big an influence on learning achievement.  Improving reading instruction offers a way to improve achievement until such time some countries can a complete overhaul of existing curricula and teacher education.  It may take rocket science to develop good reading curricula and reading teacher education, but it doesn’t take a PhD to deliver it.

9 What did we learn from the desk review?  Most children can learn to read independently in most languages by the end of Grade 3, the point at which many children in less-industrialized schools are dropping out.  A quality early grades reading curricula should be able to produce “independent readers”, ie, children who.  read quickly and accurately enough to enable fluid comprehension,  are able to express themselves and communicate with others using writing, and  have developed a range of strategies for addressing new and complex reading material.

10 …and more…  If we want to produce independent learners, we must teach more than phonics, spelling and the alphabet.  There are at least nine dimensions of reading that children need to learn in the early grades  More complex reasoning skills and later ability to decode more complex texts are associated with oral language and comprehension skills that should be part of any balanced approach to teaching reading.

11 …and more….  Where disadvantaged children have not had preschool, schools will have to do more work with oral language in the early grades of primary school than they currently do.  Reading skills learned in ECE but not reinforced in primary school are not likely to be retained.  Many reading interventions favored in the U.S. and U.K. assume a school system staffed by professional teachers, functioning at some minimal level that can make some of its own curricular decisions. This is not realistic in many high priority EFA countries.  Simple quantitative targets, such as reading 60 wpm, are not the final goal of reading instruction, but they can serve as leading indicators of progress towards the goal of independent reading.

12 Is that it? No. For more on EGR see: Chabbott, C. (2006). Accelerating early grades reading in high priority EFA countries: a desk review (USAID/EQUIP1). Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. EGRinEFACountriesDeskStudy.pdf And for lots more, see: Abadzi, H. (2006). Efficient learning for the poor: insights from the frontier of cognitive neuroscience (Operations Evaluation Division). Washington, DC: World Bank.

13 How does EGR line up with the “do- able” criteria for international development organizations?  Significant impact that can be simply measured: Yes  Appealing to general public and attractive to political leaders: Yes  Low cost production & delivery methods: ??  Scientific consensus: Yes & No

14 Low-cost delivery systems?  By definition, many unindustrialized countries do not have the means to deliver minimal human services in remote areas, either through government or non-government organizations.  Curricula and texbooks in many of these countries do not teach several components of reading & ministries cannot change them overnight.  Quality education for poor communities has never been self-financing. Funds outside those communities must be marshaled to establish reading programs within them.  Similarly, international funds are the only way to achieve any MDGs in some very poor countries, i.e., international funds must be used to support and build up the formal education system for a decade or more. Reading interventions may involve developing alternative, stop-gap delivery systems in the mean time.

15 Scientific consensus? On a large scale, efforts to use what we know about reading to create challenging standards for early grades reading in the US and the UK have tended to reduce balanced, individualized instruction in all components of reading to drill and practice on phonics, alphabet knowledge, and spelling. Efforts to use reading as a means to improving overall school quality have, in many cases, led to the development and enforcement of achievement standards without the development and enforcement of resource standards.  Reading experts therefore tend to be leary of the current enthusiasm of international development policy wonks, of any attempt to “simplify” or codify reading instruction or to focus on one component or “leading indicators” rather than a wholistic approach.

16 So are we ready to change the education MDG? Not quite yet. International development professionals need to:  Curb their enthusiasm while working the kinks out of some model early grades reading interventions in several countries.  Draw local school systems and teachers into the process and focus on interventions those systems and teachers are capable of implementing  Support the development of locally appropriate tests of oral reading fluency and other leading indicators.  Support comparisons of different reading interventions.

17 More to do…  Engage EGR experts in IRA, SIL and universities in this process  Fight with development funders and contractors, not the reading experts, to ensure reading interventions do not get reduced to a few components

18 Current EGR Initiatives in Bangladesh

19 For more information on EQUIP1 Please contact: John Hatch Jane Benbow


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