| Education Research and News

5 Things We’re Reading Right Now

by UnboundEd

Welcome to the first edition of UnboundEd’s “5 Things We’re Reading Right Now,” in which we share insightful pieces with diverse points of view. We know how challenging (and time consuming!) it can be to find the good stuff, and we look forward to curating the best of the best in this ongoing series. We hope these pieces inspire our community and encourage conversation that helps us improve our practice. If you have any thoughts, insights, or comments you’d like to share, send us a tweet @UnboundEdu.

1. How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit Students

In this new report from The Century Foundation, the authors discuss how school integration is “getting a second look as an educational reform strategy.” They write that research may be moving policymakers and education scholars toward consensus, writing that “policymakers and scholars across the political spectrum are beginning to realize that ignoring the social science research on the negative effects of concentrated school poverty is not working to close large achievement gaps between races and economic groups.” In the report, the authors ask “why now?” and examine “the research and reasons why … policymakers should listen to the growing demand for more diverse public schools.” They conclude by providing policy recommendations to support more diversity in schools and write, “If reams of social science evidence is correct in arguing that diversity makes us smarter, and if higher education researchers are correct about their findings related to college students, our elementary and secondary education students have much to learn and gain from public schools that are diverse and in which professional educators know how to build on that diversity to help all students learn deeper, better, and more creatively about themselves and others.”

2. Three Myths About Reading Levels

In this Psychology Today article, the authors propose that “reading levels can be a generally useful guide to whether a particular text is going to be far too difficult for a particular reader.” They caution, however, that “the ubiquity and precision with which these reading levels are now being tested and reported has led to their increasingly inappropriate use, especially in schools.” Why is this happening? The authors argue that this approach in classrooms, even when teachers are using standards-aligned materials, is based on three myths. Myth #1: Each text has a discrete, accurately measurable reading level; Myth #2: Each reader has a discrete, accurately measurable level of reading skill; Myth #3: Readers should (almost always) read texts very near their reading level. In dismantling these myths, the authors write that reading levels should not be too prescriptive in limiting the texts that students can access and that “passion, curiosity, and knowledge are at least as important as reading levels in helping children find good things to read.” The authors also argue that “children should not be required/expected to independently read and learn from texts that are considerably above their reading levels.”

3. Why Spatial Reasoning is Crucial for Early Math Education

In this Mindshift piece, Katrina Schwartz tells the story of Nicole Thompson, an educator who recently embraced research showing the value of teaching spatial reasoning and geometry for her kindergarteners. Schwartz writes, “The lessons focus on specific spatial reasoning skills like mental rotation, visual spatial reasoning, and spatial vocabulary all done in a playful, exploratory style that is developmentally appropriate for students ages four to eight.” In Thompson’s classroom, she moved away from focusing on patterning and numeracy in favor of focusing “almost exclusively” on spatial reasoning, encouraging challenging exploratory activities for her kindergarteners. The result? “She was surprised and delighted when her students still performed well on those more traditional math concepts by the end of the year.” Thompson’s experience in looking to the research and implementing those concepts in the classroom is just one story shared in this Mindshift article, which looks specifically at research and research-aligned lessons by Math for Young Children.

4. John King on His Year as Ed Secretary, the Trump Administration, His New Role at Ed Trust

In this interview, Mark Keierleber at The 74 sits down with John King Jr. to chat about “his tenure as education secretary, Obama’s education legacy, what the Trump administration could mean for American schools, and how he plans to continue fighting for educational opportunities for all children.” The interview toggles between King’s personal history as a lens for his work and his unfaltering commitment to equity for all students, whether in public office or championing that work at the Ed Trust. King says, “Today in our public schools we have a majority of our students who are students of color; we have 10 percent or more of our students who are English learners. We can’t afford not to provide quality educational opportunities for all those students. Our communities will be stronger if we close achievement gaps and ensure equitable access to opportunity.”

5. Want to Fix Schools? Go the Principal’s Office

New York Times’ columnist David Leonhardt writes about the city of Chicago’s emphasis on the development of principals, writing “There is no better place to see the difference that principals can make than Chicago.” Leonhardt cites progress in Chicago’s schools, noting that the city’s high school graduation rate has increased faster than the national rate, that “younger children have made big gains in reading and math, larger than in every other major city except Washington,” and that students in Chicago are also spending more time studying art, music, and theater. He writes that while there are many reasons for this progress, “the first thing many people talk about here is principals.” The column details the city’s approach to principals’ development and its impact on teachers and schools. While Chicago, like districts all across the country, faces many hurdles and is not without major challenges or problems, the story points to the possibility of progress when we commit to doing what we know works.

Want more? Stay tuned for next month’s edition. For more frequent shared articles, check out @UnboundEdu on Twitter, or follow our Managing Partner, Kate Gerson.

*Opinions stated above are those of the authors and their inclusion in this piece is not an  endorsement from UnboundEd. We encourage open, productive discussion and share diverse perspectives on topics that matter to all of us.