kitchen table math, the sequel: Debbie Stier's 28-day critical reading intensive

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Debbie Stier's 28-day critical reading intensive

This is amazing.

Some of you may remember our discussing why charter schools do so much better raising math scores than reading scores. (Be sure to read the comments thread.)

Ever since my summer at Morningside Academy, I've suspected that, where reading comprehension is concerned, pretty much everyone is on the wrong track. (Everyone but palisadesk, of course.)

More to the point, I don't really buy the argument that good reading comprehension, or good scores on reading comprehension tests, take years and years to develop because good reading scores are a matter of background knowledge that takes years and years to develop.

Having now taught freshman composition for a few years, and having used as many Morningside techniques as I've been able to, my sense is that struggling readers can improve pretty quickly.

But that's just an impression. I don't have before-and-after scores.

Then there's the SAT, where math scores are widely perceived to be moveable, but reading scores are not. Certainly not quickly.

So guess what?

A month ago Debbie finally took the plunge and created a 28-day "intensive"* course in SAT-type reading ---- and it works!

Students are raising their scores significantly in 28 days.

It's incredible. I thought it would work, and Debbie thought it would work, but then again .... 28 days? That's not a long time, 28 days. I don't think I'm putting words in Debbie's mouth when I say that while we both thought it would work, we were also harboring a sliver of doubt.

But the first batch of scores have come out, and the kids are doing great!

It's incredibly exciting.

If I still had a teenager at home, I would definitely sign him up. (Maybe Andrew, once we get through Katie Beal's GrammarTrainer ---- boy, I would love that ---)

28-day critical reading intensive

* I love "intensive"! I would never have thought of using that word myself & nor would Debbie -- a marketing person told her to call what she was doing "intensive." Brilliant. "28-day intensive" makes me want to take the course.


SteveH said...

Is there a most effective range for CR improvement? It seems that once you get over 700 it gets much more difficult.

Anne Dwyer said...

I clicked on the link to go to the site. But there is a very, very annoying "Sign up for our newsletter" pop up that I could not close. Does everyone get that or is it just because I am on a MAC?

I would love to do something like this for Daniel. He is taking a class at a local community college to help him take the COMPASS test.

Debbie Stier said...

@Anne Dwyer ... I just emailed the tech guys who are currently handling my site to ask, why a pop up won't go away. It doesn't show up on my computer -- but I know I x'd out of it when it did show up and it never came back.

I would have assumed you could X out of it too. Did you try that? When I've seen a pop up on other sites ... I hit the X and it goes away.

And I'm on a Mac too.

@Steve H -- I had a few students go from the high 600s to the mid/high 700s.

Anonymous said...

Please don't forget that, for children from limited backgrounds, it IS the general knowledge deficiency that hinders their reading comprehension. That's probably not the case for students in a position to be tutored/coached by reading experts, and students who are starting out in the high 600's. said...

@Anne Dwyer I'm on phone with tech guys and they tested and said it's turned off ... so not sure what the issue is.

Here's [the correct] link that they are testing:

Let me know if you continue to have problems.


Anonymous said...

I teach 6th grade history at a Core Knowledge/Classical focus charter school in a high SES area and I think many Kitchen Table Math readers would be astounded at the narrowness of the students' general knowledge of the world. I suspect 99% of my students have been to Disney World but fewer than 5% have been to Washington, D.C.. Annual cruises and ski vacations are high on the list but few students have visited a history museum, an art museum or a national park in the 12 months before they start 6th grade (I poll the students at the start of every school year). Few read non-fiction books or articles of any sort and the number of families that subscribe to a major daily newspaper is extremely limited. While I don't disagree that knowledge of language structure is critical to reading comprehension, I think building background knowledge is also important for all students.

SATVerbalTutor. said...

@ Anonymous, yes, that's my experience as well. I've seen a lot of high SES kids whose cultural knowledge is extremely limited AND who have real reading (decoding) problems. I don't think there's a real shortcut to fixing that. Vocab and reading strategy practice is great for kids who have a reasonably solid foundation and who have the motivation and executive functioning skills to apply strategies when they're working independently. if the foundation is shaky and they can't even remember the strategies, there isn't going to be a quick fix. But if Catherine has any suggestions à la Morningside, I'm all ears..

Crimson Wife said...

Thank you to Catherine for mentioning the GrammarTrainer software. It was something she'd mentioned previously but my child with autism had been far too young at that point. She's 6 now and learning to read so it's something that she'll be ready for in the next year or two.

Catherine Johnson said...

Anonymous - oh yes, absolutely.

My mission in life is to push schools to return to teaching knowledge --- (and I don't think I'd be surprised by lack of knowledge, or by lack of newspapers in people's houses!)

What I don't buy is the 'strong form' of the Core Knowledge argument for why reading comprehension is so bad.

That says ***nothing*** about the absolute centrality of knowledge!

Catherine Johnson said...

Anonymous, I do disagree with this statement:

"Please don't forget that, for children from limited backgrounds, it IS the general knowledge deficiency that hinders their reading comprehension"

I teach students with limited backgrounds, and have seen that they have trouble understanding reading passages even when they have the background knowledge.

Catherine Johnson said...

Erica -- I think we talked about this -- and you put it in your book!

Morningside starts with anaphora --- they train the kids to 'fluency' in anaphora, using Robert Dixon's Reading for Success curriculum. (I think it's "Reading for Success.)

Catherine Johnson said...

Anne - boy, I think you might want to try this -- I haven't read all the lessons, but I have closely read one or two, and I've been reading the kids' I've seen the incredible progress Debbie's daughter has made. (I mentioned in the post - right? - that she had a diagnosis of dyslexia when she was little.)

Anne - what's your email? (I've got a whole Outlook problem -- I can get your email from Blogger...)

Catherine Johnson said...

Crimson Wife ---- oh, I'm feeling GUILT!

I promised myself I would finally get Andrew through GrammarTrainer, and I've fallen off the wagon now that book-writing has REALLY heated up ----

GrammarTrainer is a FANTASTIC program - you MUST do it.