Term Paper: Oldest and Largest Federal Aid

Pages: 10 (2981 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Teaching  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] Teachers work with students from kindergarten through 3rd grade, utilizing "Literacy Teams" and small-group dynamics - instruction which is offered in addition to regular classroom literacy instruction. Literacy Teams meet three times a week for half an hour, during which time 3 to 5 adults instruct large and small groups, outside the traditional classroom. Assessment of student achievement is based on actual student reading growth, not standardized testing.

For the lowest achieving students in first grade, for example, a program has been established called "Reading Recovery." Teachers trained in the Literacy Team skills work individually with four 1st grade students who are struggling with reading. Once students are "functioning independently at an average first-grade level" (MacKenzie, 2001) they are released from Reading Recovery (RR) - a process that takes 12 to 20 weeks, on average. To be released from RR, students "must show that they control directional movement over text without lapse." They also "must control one-to-one matching of spoken to written word" in order to check responses, and need to notice "discrepancies by cross-checking one cue source (e.g., meaning) against another (e.g., structural or visual) and be quite adept at using a combination of these cue sources at the point of error." Meantime, "Literacy Booster Groups" - of up to 8 first and second grade students - meet weekly for 30 to 45 minutes. These students are "graduates" of RR groups and use the weekly sessions to "boost" and reinforce their skills in reading. Two literacy teachers lead the sessions: as one teacher meets with each student on an individual basis - to discuss journal entries - the other teacher assists the remaining students with "appropriate book selections."

Every student "continuously maintains 4 books in a take-home book bag, two familiar books from the previous week, and two new books chosen during the lesson." All this takes place in the "Literacy Lodge," and those students who are not meeting with teachers are involved in independent reading, or writing, within the lodge. Once all students have had their one-on-one, and have selected their new books for their take-home bag, a mini-lesson is given on reading and writing.

Clearly, Landon Elementary has used Title 1 funding not just to supplement existing programs, but to establish and build upon an impressive, ongoing, dynamic approach to literacy. As their evaluation - employing the Full Observation Survey and Burns and Roe Informal Reading Inventory - shows, teachers at Landon have achieved laudable gains in literacy. For example, over three years (1998-2000), 43-59% of all first graders met "grade level expectations at the beginning of the year; and by the end of each year, it was 98-100% for "all students" and 78-94% for Booster Group students. For each of the three years, the rate of student progress for all students (in literacy) increased between 41-55%, while the rate of Booster Group students increased between 78-81%. For 1st graders during the first 3-year period prior to Literacy Booster Groups, students increased an average of 2.6 text levels from the end of their RR program to the time of spring testing. But in the last 3 years during which students participated in Literacy Booster Groups, the average 1st grader text-level increase has been 3.4 text levels.

On the issue of self-correction rates (e.g., a self-correction rate of 1:5 means that for every 5 errors made, the child fixed one; an "adequate" rate would be 1:5), Title 1 literacy teachers recorded dramatic gains at Landon. The average self-correcting rate after 3 years of Literacy Booster Group lessons - for 1st grade students who complete the RR program - was 1:3.5.

The bottom line, according to an essay-style survey of literacy teachers at Landon, is that "Students who were once functioning at the bottom of their class are now becoming lifelong learners and lovers of literacy" (MacKenzie, 2001).

3) Title 1 utilizes computer technology

In reading / language arts classes at Marshall Elementary School, in Lewisburg, Tennessee, 1st and 2nd graders employ the use of 12 Macintosh computers, a large-screen TV, a VCR, two scanners, a CD-Recordable drive, a QuickTake digital camera, ISDN Web access on all computers and Connectix QuickCam video cameras (Holzberg, 1997). Teacher Hazel Jobe says, "I work with children who are slightly below grade level, to improve their reading and language skills. We don't teach these subjects as a remedial course. We take it a little slower and do...things...that we do with students who aren't below grade level." Those "things" include having students type in their own stories on the Mac; they bring a picture (which is scanned) to go with their story, or find it on the Web. Then they use a microphone to read aloud and record what they have written. Beyond creating stories, Jobe's students have been emailing back and forth with other students around the globe - and as of the writing of the article, they had communicated with kids in 21 countries and 20 states. They log onto International E-mail Classroom Connections (www.stolaf.edu/network/iecc/),or Classroom Connect (www.classroom.net/)and Jobe remarks: "When they get to class, they can't wait to find out who we had heard from that day...students learned a little geography [too] because they had to locate these places."

But, one has to ask, this is no doubt an exciting learning experience for the children, but is it the best use of Title 1 funding? The technology in Jobe's classroom has a high price tag - too high a price for literacy training?

What is the most effective way Title 1 funds should be used?

Title 1 funds, according to an article in the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development magazine, "can [help] to narrow the achievement gap by focusing on early intervention, summer learning experiences, class size, and comprehensive school reform" (Borman, 2003). But of course, to do those things requires "significant investments in preschool, summer school, and school-year programs," the article continues. And this huge investment can produce "long-term economic returns and benefits to our society that considerably outweigh their substantial costs." From the point-of-view of this paper, the Landon school program reflects the most effective use of the Title 1 resources; small groups, one-on-one tutoring, intense teacher training, all make sense.

What will Title 1 look like in 5 years?

Since there are no reliable crystal balls available, the best and most optimistic projection for what Title 1 funds will / may / should produce in five years is probably to be found in the "Success for All" (SFA) program. Pivotal points in SFA's include: Emphasis on prevention, intensive intervention and tutoring; state-of-the-art curriculum; emphasis on integration of phonics, cooperative learning, curriculum-based assessment; writing & language arts instruction through writer's workshops; pre-school / kindergarten instruction; adaptation for Spanish & English as a 2nd language; greater family / community involvement in schools.

Conclusion: Yes, Title 1 can and does make a difference, but there is a looming potential defect regarding Title 1 assessment procedures?

As the bar is raised higher and higher (NCLB) for schools, teachers, and students - and this paper sees no problem in holding schools and teachers accountable - standardized test publishers are going to be entering a dramatic growth cycle, with huge profits in their forecast. But, placing more and more emphasis on standardized tests set up a whole new can of worms for schools, in that teachers are going to be increasingly tempted to "teach to the test" - "increasing test familiarity and preparation" for students - lest schools lose funding when their students don't meet the stiffer NCLB requirements. Though it seems anti-intellectual and mercenary, some California schools and teachers now receive bonuses based on increased test scores (Thompson, DiCerbo, Mahoney, & MacSwan, 2002). According to an analysis by Arizona State University, "...each of the 1,000 certificated staff in underachieving schools with the largest growth [in test score enhancement] in California receives $25,000." The bad news is that schools that do not meet test score goals can be taken over by the state. Is it any wonder test scores rise when teachers know they will be punished if their students do not succeed in standardized tests? Teaching to the test is not a new concept (ask teachers who worked in Texas when George W. Bush was governor), but with the extremely high goals set by NCLB, it doesn't take a genius to figure out what teachers (and administrators) will do, to avoid failure. And will teaching to the test really help children learn to read, write, and think? In the short run - and the long run - the answer has to be "no."

References

Borman, Geoffrey D. (2002). "How Can Title 1 Improve Achievement?" Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Cardman, Michael (2003). "Bush: all state plans now approved; funding ample (implementing NCLB)." Education Daily.

Education Program for Gifted Youth (2002). "A Brief History of Title 1 and its Applicability… [END OF PREVIEW]

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