Report: Minority Students Still Lag Behind In Spite of Improved Fourth-Grade Reading Lessons
The overall health of the nation’s fourth-grade reading instruction is good, however, many minority students do not share equally in educational resources, quality teachers, and smaller classes, reports a new Educational Testing Service (ETS) study.
The report called, “The Fourth-Grade Reading Classroom,” examines data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to draw a portrait of what reading instruction looks like in U.S. classrooms, how that instruction is different for students of various groups, and what the characteristics are of the teachers who deliver that instruction.
“First and foremost, there is much good news,” writes co-author Richard Coley. “In most U.S. fourth-grade reading classrooms, the teachers appear to meet typical state teacher certification requirements. Nearly all hold a bachelor’s degree and many hold graduate degrees. This population of teachers is also experienced; over half have taught for more than 10 years.
“There is also bad news,” Coley continues. “Not all students share equally in educational resources. Black students, for example, are more likely than White and Asian students to attend schools with high teacher turnover. And Hispanic fourth-graders are more likely than Black and White fourth-graders to be in larger classes.”
The report looked at teachers, schools, instructional practices, and classroom assessment practices. Researchers found the following:
• Teacher attendance and attrition do not seem to be general problems;
• Most fourth-grade teachers reported that they received all or most of the resources needed to teach their classes;
• More than half of fourth-graders receive between 45 and 90 minutes of reading instruction per day;
• Seventy percent of teachers indicated they use integrated reading and writing as a central part of their instruction;
• Fourth-graders were more likely to have teachers who focus instruction on reading to gain information than on reading to perform a task; and
• The most frequently used assessment practices were having students write paragraphs about what they had read, giving short-answer tests, and giving oral reading assignments.
“The educational progress of states, school districts, and individual schools is being measured in unprecedented ways, including disaggregating performance data to examine the progress of specific groups of students defined by gender and race and ethnicity,” says co-author Dr. Ashaki Coleman. “Progress will be determined, in large part, by what goes on in individual classrooms.”
Considering that, she says, the following findings are cause for concern:
• White students are more likely than Hispanic and Asian students to have teachers with 25 years or more experience;
• Black students are more likely than White students to be grouped by ability;
• Hispanic students are more likely than White and Black students to be in large classes;
• Title I students are less likely to have teachers who feel well-prepared in classroom management and organization; and
• Students in central city schools are less likely than other students to attend schools where no teachers left during the year.
“Literacy for all Americans is one of our national education goals — one that has yet to be achieved,” Coley says. The report can be downloaded at <www.ets.org/research/pic>.
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