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Big reading gains and no learning loss for Springboard students

By thenotebook on Dec 4, 2013 06:23 PM

by Connie Langland

​Last spring, Springboard Collaborative won a contract with the District by promising to replace learning loss over the summer with reading gains for some of its lowest-performing students.

The program included five weeks of instruction for struggling readers in grades K-3 in four District schools and workshops to train parents to teach reading at home.

The effort apparently paid off. Overall, 642 students in eight schools (four charter schools also participated) gained 3.3 months in reading skills, according to Alejandro Gac-Artigas, Springboard’s CEO. He cited research showing that low-income students experience a three-month learning loss over the summer months, not progress.

Achievement was measured using the Developmental Reading Assessment, a standardized test, administered by teachers in the participating schools.

Students participating in the program for a second summer showed 9.7 months of progress over a one-year period, which Gac-Artigas called “just about the expectation of middle-income students.”

In addition, the schools reported parent attendance at the workshops at more than 90 percent, a level that defied expectations, according to Gac-Artigas. Parent attendance at information sessions in June had been just 7 percent in District schools and 52 percent in the charter schools. “It was a remarkable transformation,” he said.

The program is for students who are not proficient in reading. In the four charter schools, summer programs reached about three-quarters of the children challenged in reading in grades K-3. Springboard does not have information about the percentage of at-risk readers to participate in the District schools.   

Springboard also ran a pilot program last summer teaching pre-reading skills to incoming kindergartners with no preschool background. After five weeks, two-thirds of the children were deemed to have suitable skills, compared with 13 percent at the start of the program.

To view the findings, go to Springboard's website.

Springboard is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit enterprise funded by grants, charitable contributions, and fees from participating schools.

This report is part of an ongoing series of stories on expanded learning time. The stories are the result of a multi-city reporting project by Catalyst Chicago and its partners: EdNews ColoradoEdSource TodayGothamSchools and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook.The collaborative effort was made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation, which has made More and Better Learning Time a priority in its philanthropy.

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Comments (15)

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on December 4, 2013 6:55 pm
It is pretty good evidence that there should reading programs in every elementary school in Philadelphia. We educators and reading teachers have always had a consensus for the last forty years that the most important developmental age for students in reading is in grades K-3. (It is also important in pre K and higher grades, too.) Class sizes in those grades should be a maximum of 22, and every student who struggles or begins to fall behind should receive the services of a certified reading specialist in very small group settings. Yeah Alejandro! Please continue to be a leader in bringing back good old fashioned school based research!
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on December 5, 2013 1:47 pm
Rich---Let's be real. As a Reading Specialist, do you REALLY believe these gains over the time span noted????
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on December 5, 2013 2:05 pm
No. Reading ability does not grow that way. It does not grow monthly at all and there is misunderstanding of what "reading level" means and what "grade level equivalent" means. The International Reading Association had come out with a policy statement that "grade level equivalents" not be given by test makers because so few people understand what they are. They are the "bell curve" statistically broken down. They do not correlate with measures of "reading grade level" at all. At best, "reading level" can only be broken down by the year, and as children grow in years, they have a wider and wider 'instructional range" in reading. In reality reading ability grows in "growth stages" like everything else in human growth. And everything in Nature for that matter. Dale Chall was the the first authority to write about stages in reading development. At a later time I will explain the stages of reading growth. However, that does not diminish my respect for Alejandro. I have personally encouraged him to get his Masters degree in the Psychology of Reading and become a certified reading specialist. After all -- Education Matters. So does making teaching and diagnostics a life long study.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on December 5, 2013 2:44 pm
Thank You, I thought it was..........well, you know what I thought. JK Lyndon Johnson, a swarthy, crude and decidedly vile lad in his personal life, had a very base expression about the difference between Chicken dishes. I thought these "gains" fell into the latter area.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on December 5, 2013 4:23 pm
Joe it works like this: Reading is not s set of isolated skills. It is a "cognitive ability" which grows just like any other human ability. The curriculum of learning to read is not large at all. Reading ability grows like a tree grows. The best analogy is little league baseball. Kids learn to play ball and then develop year to year. Some are more naturally talented than others. You, as a coach, can see their development, but it can not be measured exactly by any standardized test. All measures of reading ability are "approximations." So you have a pre test which is an approximation and post test which is an approximation. When we had our reading program at Uni, we used to give students three diagnostic assessments at the beginning of the year. The results were never exactly the same. They were all in the same range though. That is how we came understand that reading develops in stages. Remember the name Piaget? Some kids begin to learn to read at age 4 and others are not ready until age 8. There is always a wide range of ability at every grade level. That is how and why homogeneous grouping got started. There is no reading assessment which can possibly measure reading ability exactly. I was not born with that knowledge. I learned it by 20 years of intense study and experience as a teacher and very well trained diagnostician. Alejandro is just beginning to learn and gain experience. I commend him. You, too.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on December 5, 2013 5:21 pm
No. Reading ability does not grow that way. It does not grow monthly at all and there is misunderstanding of what "reading level" means and what "grade level equivalent" means. The International Reading Association had come out with a policy statement that "grade level equivalents" not be given by test makers because so few people understand what they are. They are the "bell curve" statistically broken down. They do not correlate with measures of "reading grade level" at all. At best, "reading level" can only be broken down by the year, and as children grow in years, they have a wider and wider 'instructional range" in reading. In reality reading ability grows in "growth stages" like everything else in human growth. And everything in Nature for that matter. Dale Chall was the the first authority to write about stages in reading development. At a later time I will explain the stages of reading growth. However, that does not diminish my respect for Alejandro. I have personally encouraged him to get his Masters degree in the Psychology of Reading and become a certified reading specialist. After all -- Education Matters. So does making teaching and diagnostics a life long study.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 6, 2013 6:50 am
The Springboard results and data are skewed. I worked the program at a district school this past summer and there are several things they need to change. The first thing is that Springboard accepted the DRA levels from the child's school without performing their own initial DRA assessment. Many educators at my school complained that the levels were wrong either too high or too low. We were told that due to the short length of time of the program we couldn't perform the DRA's and just go with the level listed. So some children were lower and some children higher so their "goal" reading level was false. As for parental participation, the Springboard strategy is to dangle the carrot of a laptop over their head. Springboard always has staff to allow parents to make up workshops. What disgusted me about the program was that even if a child attended every day and met their goals they didnt recieve an incentive if their parents did not attend the workshops. Mind you the Springboard model started in charter schools where parents agree to certain things. At my school in North Philly many children get themselves ready for school as was the case this summer. Springboard refused to modify their program for those children instead they were penalized for having disinterested parents. The SDP should not fund the Speingboard program again if they do not modify the program to meet the needs of SDP children & families. As for the reading gains some of its authentic & some of its not. For authentic results Springboard has to perform their own initial DRA and then perform it again at the end of the program. I had children jump levels and earn laptops which was authentic but I also had children who made improvements but their levels were too high so it looked like there wasnt any growth. I think that overall the program did help stop the summer learning loss but Springboard needs to follow up with the program participants to document if the growth was sustained & to date they have never done that.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on December 6, 2013 7:49 am
Thank you. I appreciate your perspective. Reading programs can only be properly evaluated by teachers who actually teach in the program and those who work closely with the teachers and students. The manner in which a pretest is given is very important for valid assessment. It would indeed be better to give the students the pretest at the beginning of the program and the post test at the end. I have never personally used the DRA assessment and have never evaluated it so I can not give any opinion as to its validity and reliability. We always chose assessments which had statistically "equivalent measures" (Form A and Form B) so the students were not given the exact same test with the exact same passages. Thanks again for keeping me informed, I enjoy your comment, and it is obvious that you are an excellent reading teacher.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 5, 2013 10:21 am
How much money did the District award Springboard Collaborative in the contract to administer this program? How much would that cost if implemented at all district schools? The state of Pennsylvania contributes 38% to supplement local school district budgets, whereby the national average is closer to 50% state contribution. As a result of this underfunding, local districts across the state are struggling with rising property taxes and declining services. A 2008 costing-out study commissioned by the Pennsylvania legislature determined that Philadelphia needed $5,000 more per student--nearly $1 billion more a year -- to adequately educate (high levels of special education, 80% student poverty, high levels of English language learners; high need). Statewide, the gap between what was needed and what was provided was upwards of $4 billion. So, former governor Ed Rendell set a goal of increasing the state's share of education expenses to 50% -- and set a goal of reaching the adequacy level over a seven-year period. State aid increases to districts was distributed via a formula that took into account several factors related to need, including special education, poverty, and learning English. When Gov. Corbett took office, however, the formula and the goal of increasing the state share were abandoned. The state has already done the work to know what districts need, and it knows how to implement a formula which will address the varying costs facing high need districts. What we need is for the legislature to restore the formula...and get on with the job of providing sufficient funding to all children -- no matter where they live. March with our community coalition of parents, educators, and students Monday December 9th for a Fair Funding Formula to educate Pennsylvania's children! Monday December 9th @ 4:30pm One Term Tom Corbett's Philadelphia Office 200 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia PA 19102 (S. Broad and Walnut)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 6, 2013 7:19 am
The SDP doesn't have to pay Springboard for their literacy program then pay SDP teachers to work it. Novel idea let SDP run a remedial literacy program. Go figure. There wasnt a component of the Springboard program that SDP teachers don't do already. Word Study, Phonics, Read Alouds, Shared Writing, Independant Writing, Guided Reading. Like hello its the Balanced Literacy Model not rocket science. The woman who developed the curriculum for Springboard is a current SDP teacher. There wasnt a thing innovative about it. It was just the Balanced Literacy framework. So my suggestion is that the SDP save $500,000 & just fund their own literacy remediation summer program. Its been done before. That Springboatd contract was just a waste of money.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on December 5, 2013 1:44 pm
Considering how vile One Term Tom has been to our kids, there should be an Amber Alert whenever he's within 50 miles of Philly. There should be sirens blaring alarms from all the skyscrapers warning the citizens that a decidedly disgraceful varmint is approaching.
Submitted by please (not verified) on December 6, 2013 12:37 pm
Does anyone have an answer to the previous question: how much did this cost? When was it approved by the SRC? Was it paid for by the district or through a grant? these facts should have been included in the story.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 6, 2013 8:44 pm
It was approved by the SRC in the midst of all the school closings last Spring and I'm pretty certain the award was close to $500,000. The exact figure is in the SRC resolutions. Its in the same resolution that the SRC allowed that school I forget the name to pay for 2 teachers. That's what made the news not the Springboard award.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 6, 2013 8:58 pm
The SRC past resolutions should be archived and available to the public to be accessed through the SDP website but they're not. That night so many resolutions were passed. The Springboard contract was right in the midst of it. I was there & I googled that night to find out what the program was about.
Submitted by Ashlie Forchione (not verified) on December 29, 2013 4:18 pm
While I agree with the other comments on this thread noting the importance of understanding how reading develops progressively, I have to mention that summer learning loss doesn't stop with reading. Math, science, and general cognitive skills are lost without regular practice. That doesn't mean kids have to go to school or a summer program every day; there are opportunities to learn at every turn in this world! For activities to help kids prevent summer learning loss on fronts beyond reading, check out the ThinkStretch blog. They've got tons of activities - most are free and can be done at home with just a few items. Check it out here: http://bit.ly/1btEZjp [FULL DISCLOSURE: I don't work for ThinkStretch, but I do help with some of their digital.]

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