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Planting the roots of reading sophistication. (Language Arts).

It's probably not an accident that most writing for the general public has a middle school reading level. "Reading instruction gets a great deal of attention in elementary schools, [but] it seems to be overlooked for students in the middle grades. A good start is critical, but not sufficient," says Debby Kasak, president of the National Middle School Association.

That's why educators, policy makers and the community are being urged to place greater priority on reading instruction in middle schools. Middle school is when "most students extend their reading abilities, become sophisticated readers of informational texts and lay the groundwork for using reading in their professional and civic lives," says Donna Ogle, president of the International Reading Association, which has teamed with the NMSA in this mission.

A position paper adopted by both groups calls on schools to provide:

* Continuous reading instruction for all young adolescents. This requires a school, or district-wide, literacy learning plan

* Individual instruction. Because students arrive at middle school with a range of backgrounds, teachers must be prepared to offer individualized reading instruction. Reading specialists should provide intervention programs for struggling readers

* Adequate assessments. Large-scale assessment programs focusing on comparisons of student groups across districts, states and nations are not enough. These measures must be supported by strong informal, classroom-based reading assessments

* Ready access to a wide variety of print and non-print resources. In addition to offering opportunities for students to choose engaging reading materials, educators should model reading in various forms

Districts and policymakers are urged to provide the funding needed for schools to act on these guidelines, specifically for literacy programs, reading materials, staff development and new teacher mentoring activities. supporting_young_adolesc.html

When asked about curriculum and instructional decision-making, both science and math teachers in all grade ranges say they have strong control over selecting teaching techniques (56 percent to 80 percent) and determining the amount of homework to be assigned (67 percent to 83 percent). Many teachers also report autonomy in choosing tests for assessment, choosing grading criteria and selecting the sequence and pace for covering topics. Perceived autonomy is generally highest among high school teachers.

Fewer science and math teachers, especially in the elementary and middle grades, say they have strong control over these activities: determining goals of their courses, selecting content and skills to be taught and selecting textbooks.

Regarding professional development, teachers were most likely to report that they need training related to instructional uses of technology. They were generally least likely to perceive a need for deepening their own content knowledge. About six in 10 teachers reported needing at least moderate help in learning to teach students with special needs.

Many teachers have served as a resource for their school or district. When asked about leadership activities during the previous year, high school teachers were most likely and elementary teachers were least likely to have participated. For example, while about one in seven high school science teachers led in-service workshops for other teachers, only about one in 50 elementary level teachers did the same.

Other sections of the survey include teacher background, instructional resources, instructional objectives and activities, and science and math course offerings.
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Author:Ezarik, Melissa
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Previous Article:Teachers as learners and leaders. (Mathematics & Science).
Next Article:Calculating the gender gap. (Mathematics).

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