P-U-Z-Z-L-E-D, and Other Words U.S. Fourth Graders Don't Know
Friday, December 7, 2012 - 2:30pm

Five links that made us think this week.

A new Federal study reveals that students across the nation are struggling to increase their vocabulary skills. The study analyzed responses to a question in the new Common Core Standards test and found that only 51% of fourth graders test-takers were able to define the word “puzzled.”  Research shows that “low-income children tend to have far smaller vocabularies than their middle-class peers, a deficit that dooms many to an inferior education before it even begins.” Reading remains one of the most powerful ways to reverse the trend.

On that note, a New York Times article probes whether the types of books students read also matter. According to research conducted by The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education, just over 3 percent of children’s books published in 2011 were written by or about Latinos. This is a troubling disparity when you consider that 1 in 4 public elementary students are Hispanic. According to education experts, “the lack of familiar images could be an obstacle as young readers work to build stamina and deepen their understanding of story elements like character motivation.”

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric J. Cutright via WikiCommons

For a look at early education done right, look no further than the great state of Oklahoma. The “Sooner State” is bucking the national trend on dwindling pre-K  enrollment.  According to an article published in The American Prospect, “seventy-four percent of four-year-olds—more than in any other state—are in high-quality pre-K" programs in Oklahoma.  While the case for and against universal pre-K is being fought in other states, Oklahoma is pioneering a pre-K model that is  committed to a long view of pre-K payoff.  And if the research being conducted by a team at Georgetown University is any indication, it will be big: “pre-K participation could boost a child’s future annual earnings enormously—by an average of $30,548 for low-income kids and an average of $24,610 for middle-class children.”

On the other end of the education continuum, President Obama is determined to regain the world lead in the “number of 25- to 64-year-olds possessing some form of college degree” by the year 2020 (the U.S. currently ranks 5th). According to Jim Hull, the Senior Policy Analyst at the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education, the President’s goal is “within striking distance” if we focus on increasing the number of students who enroll in two-year degree programs.

Finally, a huge shout-out to the five—count 'em, FIVE—Teach For America corps members and alumni who were named Teachers of the Year in 2012. We think Tom Torlakson’s—State Superintendent of Public Instruction in California—statement about California’s Teachers of the Year is apropos: “These five wonderful teachers have shown the kind of skill, passion, and dedication that exemplify the very best of the most important, most demanding, and most rewarding profession there is: teaching."  Here, here. We salute all teachers who were recognized for their exceptional teaching practice this year and especially these five corps members and alumni:

  • Julia King, D.C., D.C. Prep Edgewood Middle Campus, seventh grade Math teacher
  • I’Asha Warfield, California, Frick Middle School, seventh grade English teacher
  • Arwem Imai Matthews, Houston, KIPP 3D Academy Middle School, eighth grade Science teacher
  • Tamika Bell, Atlanta, Therrell High School of Health Sciences and Research, High School teacher
  • Carla Daniels, Atlanta, Woodson Primary School, Elementary school teacher

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, everyone! Pura Vida.

Want to share your Friday thoughts with me? Email me at carolina.cromeyer@teachforamerica.org.

Category: The Friday Five

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