"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, September 17, 2018

We're All Civics Teachers - Constitution Day, 2018

Reposted and updated from 2017.

WE'RE ALL CIVICS TEACHERS

A middle school social studies teacher once commented to me that he had trouble teaching his curriculum because so many of the students in his classroom were reading "below grade level." My response was, "We're all reading teachers."

A few days ago, the Annenberg Public Policy Center released its annual Constitution Day Civics Survey. The results of the survey suggest that we're all civics teachers, as well - or we ought to be.

The survey found that Americans don't know enough about how our government works. Some highlights:
  • A quarter (27 percent) incorrectly said the Constitution allows the president to ignore a Supreme Court ruling if the president believes the ruling is wrong;
  • A plurality (41 percent) incorrectly said that both the House and Senate must approve before a nominee becomes a justice on the Supreme Court (30 percent correctly know that the Senate alone confirms);
  • Only a third of Americans (32 percent) can name all three branches of government.


BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT

It's only slightly comforting that Americans probably know that we have the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights even though they might now know which Amendment they're in. But it is very disturbing (at least to me) that only about one-third of Americans surveyed can name all three branches of the government.

Can you?

Can you name the President Pro Tempore of the Senate? Did you know that he is third in line for the presidency after the Vice President and the Speaker of the House? (It's Orrin Hatch. Are you surprised that it isn't Mitch McConnell?)

How many members of the House of Representatives are there? How was that number arrived at? What is the "System of checks and balances?" How many members are there of the Supreme Court? Why did the founders decide that the President should be chosen by Electors instead of the people themselves?


THE AMENDMENTS

(The following information is from the 2017 Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey)

While 37% of those surveyed couldn't name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment, most could name at least one. Freedom of Speech was the answer the largest group of people gave (48%), but, as the chart below illustrates, the other rights guaranteed are unrecognized at an abysmal level.

Now, my guess is that most Americans know we have freedom of religion and a free press, but just don't know that it's the First Amendment which guarantees those freedoms. Still, it's distressing that only 1 in 7 Americans know that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, especially now, considering the way the press is being treated by the current administration.


The first ten amendments to the Constitution comprise the Bill of Rights. They were written (by James Madison, with edits from various sources) to appease the Anti-Federalists who were holding up the ratification of the Constitution. They were written to give the people specific rights not listed in the body of the Constitution. It's concerning that Americans are ignorant of their content.

THE RIGHT TO BE IGNORANT

In his comments about the Annenberg Survey, blogger Ed Brayton asked
...can a democracy really function effectively when the voters are this ignorant about such basic matters of government?
WE'RE ALL CIVICS TEACHERS

On September 17, 1787, 231 years ago today, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, signed the Constitution of the United States. It was ratified nine months later and went into effect 18 months after that.

The challenge: Teach it. We all need to be civics teachers!

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Just in Case Someone's Listening

Today is the twelfth anniversary of this blog. In the last dozen years of blogging, the education world hasn't changed significantly. I started writing in the middle of the No Child Left Behind era, didn't stop during Race to the Top, and continue now in the era of Betsy the Billionaire.

The sad news is that things have gotten worse for public education since I started writing here in 2006. We're still dealing with privatization, union busting, teacher scapegoating, the overuse and misuse of tests, and the lack of funding or support for public schools. When we add to that, a teacher shortage designed and implemented by those same "reformers," the task of saving our schools seems overwhelming.

I should probably rename this blog, "The Dead Horse Blog," "Think Like Sisyphus,"  "The Wall: Beat Your Head Here," or maybe simply "Belabored."

On the other hand, my mission, when I began here, was to have a place to vent. It still works for that despite the depressing political and educational landscape. And who knows, maybe last year's "Teachers' Spring" will catch on and the teachers in Indiana will rise up. So I'll keep going...just in case someone is listening.

Here are a dozen things I wrote in the early years of this blog...mostly about things that haven't changed yet.

How to Guarantee School Improvement - September 2009
And here's another idea to guarantee that no child would be left behind...

Legislators, other politicians, and policymakers who are responsible for public education policy must send their children to the lowest performing traditional public school in their home district.

If they did that, I would bet my retirement that America's public school system would become the envy of the world.


Teaching is Doing - January 2014
Nearly half of all teachers leave the field within their first 5 years. Many find out the hard way that they aren't cut out for teaching...or that it's not as easy as they thought it would be. Many didn't realize that it's not a 6 hours a day, 9 months a year job, but one that takes hours and hours of preparation, thought and work. Many can't handle the emotional investment in the lives of children.

The old adage which states that "those who can't, teach" has it backward. Teaching is doing...and it's those who can't who must move on to some other, less important line of work.


American Schools are Not Failing - October 2014
Homeless children comprise one of the fastest growing demographics in America's public schools. We know that poverty has a negative effect on student achievement, and homeless students, like other students who live in poverty, have lower achievement levels and a higher dropout rate than children from middle-class families.

Politicians and policymakers can't solve the problem of homelessness, hunger, and poverty. They dump it on the public schools, and then blame teachers, schools, and students when the problems don't go away.

American schools are not failing...American policies towards unemployment, poverty, and homelessness are failing.


If I Could Go Back and Do It Again - March 2010

This quote names my biggest teaching frustration, written a few months before I retired. Now, eight years later, when I think about the years I spent teaching I try to remember the successes I had - and there were many - but it's hard to forget the failures. I regret 1) not being able to help all the children I wanted to help, and 2) my failure to reach all the students I should have been able to reach.
My biggest teaching frustration has been allowing myself to do things in the classroom which, while mandated by federal, state and/or local authorities, were things that I knew were not in the best interests of my students.


Where Are All the Failing Schools - August 2010

This quote refers to the PDK Poll of the Public's Attitude Toward the Public Schools. The most recent poll put the respondents who grade their school an A, B, or C, at 81%. Local schools continue to poll well, and even higher for those who know the schools best - parents of public school students.
A majority of 82% of the respondents to the poll do NOT see their local schools as failing giving them a grade of A, B or C. 49% scored their local schools as an A or a B. In other words, the school we know best we score higher than the schools we don't know. We're very negative about the quality of schools nationwide. But if such a high percentage of people are giving their own schools average to above average ratings where are all the schools that are doing so poorly?


Time For Some Therapy - March 2011
We've become a nation of cruel, angry, screamers. The national discussion has become nothing less than a national tantrum.

There's no room for compromise...no room for discussion. There's no time for sadness at the death of another human being. There's no place for cooperation...no desire to work towards a common goal or define a common good.

Find someone to blame. Lash out blindly.

This country needs some serious therapy.


The Status Quo Hasn't Changed - April 2011
When the so-called reformers -- the Gates's, the Broads, the Duncans -- rail against the status quo they're referring to nothing that exists today. The real status quo is a killing curriculum based on mindless bubbles on a test. That's today's status quo...and that's no way to educate children.


One Size Doesn't Fit All - March 2009
For the last three days, I have been administering the Indiana state standardized tests or ISTEP+ to students with learning disabilities. These tests are not valid for these students because they do not measure what they claim to measure.

The test maker, McGraw Hill, claims that the test shows what students have learned and provides diagnostic information for remediation.

However, for these students the tests in their disability area are so difficult that they have 1) no hope of passing, 2) little chance of doing well enough to get a score that would provide anything more than a generalized list of their weak areas.

Students with learning disabilities are enrolled in special education because they are not able to perform at "grade level" in their area of disability. The purpose of special education is to provide extra support for the students so that they will be able to learn as much as they are capable of.

Simply put, the standardized tests that we are giving are not appropriate for all students. There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum or test.


It's Time For an Educated Secretary of Education - January 2010
For the last 34 years, I've searched for ways to improve my teaching and for ways to reach hard to reach students. The challenge is always there and what we as teachers do affects the lives of children in ways we can't imagine. It's frustrating that the people who control what goes on in the public schools of America (in the form of standardized tests, funding, etc) don't have a clue. Am I self-righteous about my quest to improve my teaching? Yes...of course I am. I have worked hard to learn what I have learned about education and children. To have a basketball player with a degree in Sociology, who NEVER ATTENDED OR WORKED IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL and who is NOT a teacher, lead the nation's public schools is, dare I say it, irresponsible on the part of the federal government.


Follow the Money - March 2010
When you scratch the surface of the current attacks on public education you'll find big corporations (e.g. Pearson, McGraw-Hill) and wealthy businessmen (e.g. Bill Gates, Eli Broad). There's money to be made in the new education industry - charters and private schools, vouchers programs, and the re-segregating of the American public school system.

Poverty is still the main issue that WE as teachers have to deal with nationwide.


Read Aloud to Your Students Every Day - April 2010
If you don't read aloud to your students EVERY DAY you're not doing enough. Every elementary teacher...no matter what grade...should read aloud to his/her students each day. See Jim Trelease's Web Site and the Read-Aloud Handbook.


Due Process: Not Anymore - May 2010

In 2011 the Indiana General Assembly removed due process which gave teachers some job protection.
There's no doubt that there are inadequate teachers in our schools...and there's no doubt that teacher's unions protect their members (which is what unions are supposed to do). However, in Indiana, at least, unions can only guarantee that teachers receive due process. It's the responsibility of the school leaders, the administrators and school board, to prove just cause that a teacher is incompetent. Believe it or not, teachers unions do not want bad teachers teaching. Tenure in Indiana means that a teacher has to have a hearing in which their inadequacies are proven...they get their day in court to defend themselves against the accusations of those who would fire them. A fair hearing...day in court...confronting the accusers...that's how we do things in the US.


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Thursday, September 6, 2018

2018 Medley #22

Still Poisoning Our Children,
Public Education, Teachers Get Angry, Vouchers,
School Improvement,
Arne Duncan Wasn't a Good EdSec (but you knew that). 


WHO IS ACCOUNTABLE FOR POISONING OUR CHILDREN?

Still a problem and still outrageous: Too many kids can’t drink the water in their schools

History will likely reflect negatively on how we Americans have treated our children. Take their health, for example.

We know that lead causes damage, especially to young children. It causes things like developmental delay, learning difficulties, hearing loss, and seizures (It's also not that great for adults causing high blood pressure, mood disorders and reproductive problems). There is no safe level of lead in the bloodstream.

Are we doing enough to eliminate lead from the environment? Not according to this article. We spend billions on military defense, but can't afford to keep our children safe from poisoning at home. The problem is that most of those who are affected by environmental toxins like lead are poor children of color. Chances are if we had lead poisoning in areas where wealthy white people lived, it would be taken care of immediately.
...it's not just in Michigan: A new U.S. government report says millions of children were potentially exposed to unsafe drinking water at their schools, but nobody really knows how many. Why? Because many states don't bother running the tests.

A July 2018 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which surveyed school districts across the country on testing for lead in drinking water in 2017, found:

● 41 percent of districts, serving 12 million students, had not tested for lead in the 12 months before completing the survey.

● 43 percent of districts, serving 35 million students, tested for lead. Of those, 37 percent found elevated levels and reduced or eliminated exposure.

And then there was this: 16 percent of the districts replied to the nationally representative survey by saying that they did not know whether they had tested.


PUBLIC EDUCATION: A RIGHT, A PUBLIC GOOD, OR A CONSUMER PRODUCT?

Why School Reform Flounders

Is education a Right, a Public Good, an American tradition, a vehicle for fixing social inequities, an imposition on non-White/non-middle class children, or a public utility? Is it a private matter, a religious affair, a consumer product, or a national security imperative?

It would seem that the Indiana Constitution, quoted above, considers it a right.

Here is an interesting read about public education and its place in our society...
As historians like Prof. Cuban have long pointed out, the question of whether or not education is a basic right needs to take its place in line with all the other fundamental questions about education. Is it a right? Is it a public utility? Is it a tool of class domination?


TEACHERS GET ANGRY

The Teachers Movevement: Arizona Lawmakers Cut Education Budgets. Then Teachers Got Angry

It's been a long time coming, but teachers are finally standing up for themselves and their students. Read this excellent piece on the Arizona teacher uprising.
The attacks seemed only to galvanize teachers. “They called us socialists, Marxists, communists! I’m a Republican!”

ANTI-PUBLIC EDUCATION: FUNDING

Arizona Supreme Court Blocks Ballot Initiative to Fund Public Education

Years of budget slashing, tax cutting, and lack of support for the public good, has left Arizona schools underfunded and struggling.

Paying taxes for the common good? That time has, apparently, passed us by.

From Jan Resseger
Paying taxes for the common good. What a novel idea these days—and something blocked last week by the Arizona Supreme Court. Failing to connect the taxes we pay with what the money buys, many of us find it easy to object to more taxes, but the case of Arizona makes the arithmetic clear. After slashing taxes for years, Arizona doesn’t have enough money to pay for public schools and universities. Not enough for the barest essentials.


TEACHERS MUST STAY ANGRY

Standing Up

The test-and-punish, micromanagement, and belittling of teachers/public schools, has been a constant for decades. It doesn't work to help children learn, but it's apparent now that children's learning has never really been the reason for so-called "education reform." It's all been done for privatization.

Privatization is not just for better schools any more (since it's been shown that it doesn't help). Now it's for "choice." The privatizers believe that parents should get to choose where their education tax-dollars are spent, and to hell with the common good.

I wonder how many of those pro-choice parents and politicians are pro-choice when it comes to women's reproductive choice, or a parent's choice to opt out of "the test."

Public school teachers -- and those who are hoping to become public school teachers -- have to accept the fact that it is up to them (along with parents and pro-public education citizens) to fight for the survival of public schools.

Teachers, you can't just close your doors and teach anymore.
After twenty years of ed reform, teachers have arrived at a point where they cannot shut the door and teach. Every teacher has to be an advocate for her profession, her school, and the institution of public education. Every policy and directive that descends from above has to be examined for its various effects, both on education and the profession, because teachers can no longer trust the People In Charge. The people who should be helping to smooth the road are building speed bumps and brick walls instead. To shut your door and teach is to the door to your room in a burning building; you may not feel the heat yet, but if you do nothing, you will surely feel it soon.

When we talk about reasons that so many fewer people pursue or stay with a teaching career, I'm not sure we discuss this point enough. You may want to Just Teach, but that will not be an option. You will have to fight constantly just to get to do your job. It's a huge disincentive-- "I would really like to do that job, but it looks like I won't really get to do the job I want to do."


PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Ready, Fire, Aim: Vouchers Hurt Math Scores for Low Income Students

After seven years of running the nation's most expansive voucher program...

After a half billion dollars of public money diverted to private, religious, schools...

We now hear policy makers suggesting that we "study and evaluate" the concept of vouchers.

Now?
Low income students were the ostensible reason for Indiana’s aggressive voucher policy. I’ve argued for a long time that this was a pretext — the real reason was 1) subsidizing religious education; 2) hurting teachers unions; and 3) diverting money to friends and well-wishers of policymakers — but, if you take lawmakers at their word that this was being done to help low income students, then it looks like we’ve wasted a lot of money and done some harm in the process.

Says State Board of Education member, Gordon Hendry, “The conclusions are somewhat concerning. It demonstrates the need for further study and evaluation so we can have more data about the results of this program.” With all due respect (and at least Hendry responded to the South Bend Tribune), the time for study was before we jumped into the voucher pond with both feet...


SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT

Indiana officials didn’t have to go far to find a new model for improving schools

I'm all for school improvement and it's possible that this program will provide needed help, although I'm not sure that Chicago should be our role model for improving schools. You can learn about 5Essentials here and here.

My big fear with this program, and others like it, is that politicians and policy makers will impose a program on the public schools and then blame students, teachers, and schools if and when it doesn't work. They don't accept their share of the responsibility. Accountability is never taken by the policy makers, it's only imposed, along with the mandates, on those in the schools.

Politicians and Policy makers, try this program, to be sure, but accept responsibility for our state and nation's shamefully high rate of child poverty and it's impact on school achievement!
The 5 Essentials model focuses on five qualities that strong schools share — effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environment, and ambitious instruction. The Indiana Department of Education has built its own evaluation around these attributes. The state will start using its model based on the 5 Essentials at low-performing schools in their annual school quality reviews, which begin in October and are done by a team of experts, local educators, and school administrators or board members.

Arne Duncan with his boss...lest we forget that the Democrats are/were complicit in school "reform."

THE EDUCATION LIES

Duncan and DeVos Are Both Wrong, We Need Old School Reform

The education lies discussed in this article are
  • money does not matter
  • ineffective teachers are ruining public schools
  • charter schools will outperform public schools
  • federal leadership on rigorous standards will save us all
Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings may have been worse. Betsy DeVos might be the VERY worst. But Arne Duncan was no slouch when it came to running a damaging U.S. Education Department!
The “education reforms” that Duncan says worked—desegregation and more equalized school funding—preceded his tenure as Secretary. He did nothing to further those reforms. Instead, he routinely pushed through reforms that didn’t work. An honest appraisal of the past decade reveals that Duncan caused more harm than good.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Polis: No Privatization, Except for Public Schools


Millionaire U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D-Colorado), is running for Colorado Governor. He's concerned about the privatization of public land...

Polis: I'll be a governor for all
"One of the biggest potential risks to western Colorado is the privatization of public lands," Polis said. "Once our public lands are carved up, there's no going back to our heritage and our way of life in western Colorado."
Polis, a former member of Colorado's state board of education, isn't so worried about the privatization of public education. His private foundation supports the expansion of charter schools.

Charter Schools
The Jared Polis Foundation supports the New America Schools and the Academy of Urban Learning through providing monetary grants and technical assistance. The foundation believes strongly in the schools’ missions and the students the schools are serving.

The New America Schools and the Academy of Urban Learning are charter schools—they are public high schools that receive public funding and adhere to state academic standards.
Here is yet another politician who doesn't understand that public schools are just as much a part of America's infrastructure as any other public good. And, no Rep. Polis, charter schools are not public schools. They are private schools that take taxpayer dollars and skim students from real public schools.

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Sunday, August 26, 2018

2018 Medley #21

The New Segregation, "Choice," Vouchers,
Environmental Toxins: Lead,
Read-aloud to Big Kids

THE NEW SEGREGATION

The New Segregation of Schools

The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was, for all practical purposes, reversed in 1999 when a federal court ruled that forced integration was no longer necessary because "intentional" segregation no longer existed.

The result is that the U.S. has returned to separate schools for rich and poor, separate schools for black and white...and the schools are not "equal."
When some students walk through the door, they will take their first steps toward an endless potential of possibilities.

Their schools have been cleaned and polished, new textbooks and computers await them, and their long-tenured teachers will comment on how much they look like their older siblings.

Other students will walk into an entirely different setting. Students and teachers will be forced to learn in hot classrooms because the air conditioning has not been looked at since last spring. Their textbooks will have broken spines and the inscriptions of graduates from 1992.

Some of the teachers who greet them at the door are kind enough, but they are scared to death because they just received their emergency certificate last week due to the dwindling teacher pool.

Realistically, as students return to class after the summer break, they will be walking into two different public school systems.

There is the public school system for the privileged, another for the poor and powerless.


School Choice Is the Enemy of Justice

"Choice" has become the new tool of segregation.
Choice and innovation sound nice, but they also echo what happened after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, when entire white communities in the South closed down schools to avoid the dread integration.

This kind of racial avoidance has become normal, embedded in the public school experience. It seems particularly so in Los Angeles, a suburb-driven city designed for geographical separation. What looks like segregation to the rest of the world is, to many white residents, entirely neutral — simply another choice.

How America's public schools keep kids in poverty by Kandice Sumner, Boston Public School teacher.
If we really, as a country, believe that education is "the great equalizer," then it should be just that -- equal, and equitable. Until then, there's no democracy in our democratic education.



PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

More Bad News For Private School Vouchers In Florida And Indiana

The success or failure of students no longer matters to education "reformers." Now it's all about the "choice." Unfortunately, most school "choice" advocates don't mention that it is the school that makes the "choice," not the student.

Public schools accept all students.
The latest study highlighting vouchers’ poor academic results looks at Indiana’s program, the nation’s largest. Researchers studied thousands of low-income Indiana students who used a voucher to switch from public to private schools beginning in the 2011-12 school year.

Focusing on students in grades five through eight over the course of four years, the study found the voucher students consistently scored worse in math than their public school peers. The results for English proficiency were a wash; “there were no statistically significant positive effects after four years,” was how the education blog Chalkbeat described it. These study results echo those from an Indiana voucher study released last year.

So, Indiana diverts more than $150 million per year in taxpayer money away from public schools and into private schools with little to show for it. “Although school vouchers aim to provide greater educational opportunities for students, the goal of improving the academic performance of low-income students who use a voucher to move to a private school has not yet been realized in Indiana,” wrote the study’s authors.


PUBLIC EDUCATION

Improving education Across America with guest Linda Darling-Hammond

What kind of schools and teachers do we need for our children? Linda Darling-Hammond lists the top five actions we need to take to improve education in the U.S.

tl;dr More money is needed to reduce out-of-school factors which interfere with achievement.
How do countries that have built an education system that is really strong, do it? And what's the difference between what they're doing and what we see in the united states right now?

Number 1, they take care of children. They have a child welfare system. They don't allow high rates of child poverty. In the United States, one out of four children lives in poverty -- homelessness has increased astronomically, children with food insecurity and so on, raggedy early childhood system for learning in the United States. And these nations...Canada is one of them, also, by the way, that's near the top...take care of children. They have food and housing and they have early learning opportunities that are high quality.

Number 2, they fund schools equally...[in the United States] the rich get richer, the poor get poorer...

EDUCATIONAL MALPRACTICE: LEAD POISONING

Educators Demand Safe School Water as Nationwide Lead Crisis Comes to Light

Policy makers have long held public schools solely responsible for their students' achievement. The A-F school grading system in Indiana and other states places the burden on schools alone to solve the problems of low test scores -- as if tests alone were an adequate measure of student achievement...as if there were no out-of-school factors that had an impact on student achievement.

Policy makers must be held accountable as well as schools.

From John Kuhn
Educational malpractice doesn't happen in the classroom. The greatest educational malpractice in the Unites States happens in the statehouse not the school house.

If we truly cared about how our students end up, we would have shared accountability, where everyone whose fingerprints are on these students of ours, has to answer for the choices that they make.
One of the out-of-school factors having an impact on student achievement is the presence of environmental toxins in neighborhoods, like lead.

Exposure to lead has an impact on children's school achievement and behavior. Public schools in areas with high levels of lead exposure (according to the CDC any exposure to lead is too much) are labeled "failures" because of the students' low achievement. Yet, in many cases, it's public policy which allows exposure to lead.

And it's not just the children. Adults who work in schools are also exposed to high lead levels.
According to a new study by the Government Accountability Office that was also prompted by the Flint crisis, only 43 percent of school districts test for lead in drinking water. About a third of districts that do test reported elevated lead levels.

That means tens of millions of students and educators could be exposed to lead—a proven neurotoxin that is especially devastating to children’s developing brains—through water they consume at school. Educator unions are leading the charge in many communities to demand water testing and access to the results and advocating for policies to ensure future monitoring.


READ-ALOUD

Read Aloud in Middle and High School? Of Course

Russ Walsh presents the case for read-aloud after elementary school.

If we want students to value reading we need to let them know that we value reading.
Research supports the use of read aloud for motivation. Qualitative studies by Ivey and Broadus (2001) and Ivey and Johnston (2013) found that student read-aloud was an integral part of a reading engagement strategy. As the authors said in the 2001 study
For the students in our survey, it is clear that high-engagement reading and language arts classrooms would include time to read, time to listen to teachers read, and access to personally interesting materials [emphasis mine].


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