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Accelerated Reader: The Good, the Bad, and the Future of the Program

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The Accelerated Reader Program has been a widely used reading program in elementary schools in the United States. However, even with its popularity, there have been controversies on if and how it should be used in the classroom. Arguments in

The Accelerated Reader Program has been a widely used reading program in elementary schools in the United States. However, even with its popularity, there have been controversies on if and how it should be used in the classroom. Arguments in support say the program gets children to read and that it is a helpful tool for teachers to keep track of each students reading abilities. Arguments against suggest that book choice is decreased, book levels are askew, the quizzes do not promote higher level thinking, and the use of incentives may send the wrong signals to students. Schools have started to abandon the program in the recent years, but maybe it will come back bigger and stronger. In the meantime, schools need to make sure that enriching books fill the schools and classrooms to promote reading for their students.

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2013-12

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English language learners in Arizona public schools: challenges and opportunities for achieving quality language development

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Arizona's English Language Development Model (ELD Model) is intended to increase and accelerate the learning of English by English Language Learners (ELLs), so that the students can then be ready, when they know the English language, to learn the other

Arizona's English Language Development Model (ELD Model) is intended to increase and accelerate the learning of English by English Language Learners (ELLs), so that the students can then be ready, when they know the English language, to learn the other academic subjects together with their English speaking peers. This model is part of a response to comply with the Flores Consent Order to improve services for ELLs in Arizona public schools. Whether or not it actually has improved instruction for ELLs has been the subject of much debate and, in 2012, after four years of the requirement to use Arizona's ELD Model, the ELL students who were identified as reclassified for the six districts in the study did not pass the Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test. The model's requirement to separate students who are not proficient from students who are proficient, the assessment used for identification of ELLs, and the Structured English Immersion four hours of English only instruction are at the nexus of the controversy, as the courts accepted the separate four hour SEI portion of the model for instruction as sufficient to meet the needs of ELLs in Arizona (Garcia, 2011, Martinez, 2012, Lawton, 2012, Lillie, 2012). This study examines student achievement in Reading and Math as measured by AIMS standards-based tests in six urban K-8 public school districts between 2007-2012. This period was selected to cover two years before and four years after the ELD model was required. Although the numbers of ELLs have decreased for the State and for the six urban elementary districts since the advent of the Arizona ELD Model, the reclassified ELL subgroup in the studied districts did not pass the AIMS for all the years in the study. Based on those results, this study concludes with the following recommendations. First, to study the coming changes in the language assessments and their impact on ELLs' student achievement in broad and comprehensive ways; second, to implement a model change allowing school districts to support their ELLs in their first language; and, finally, to establish programs that will allow ELLs full access to study with their English speaking peers.

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2012

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Surveying Arizona's third through fifth grade teachers about their confidence in teaching the cognitive demands of the Common Core State Standards to all students

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ABSTRACT

The purpose of this descriptive study was to gain an understanding of the confidence level held by third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers as to their preparedness for teaching the cognitive demands of the Common Core State Standards (Arizona's College

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this descriptive study was to gain an understanding of the confidence level held by third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers as to their preparedness for teaching the cognitive demands of the Common Core State Standards (Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards) to all students, in particular Hispanic students living in poverty, who occupy close to a third of all classroom seats in Arizona. The achievement gap between Hispanic students living in poverty and non-Hispanic students of non-poverty status is one of the largest achievement gaps in Arizona, which has existed with minimal change for more than 12 years. By gaining an understanding of the teachers' confidence in teaching critical thinking skills, further support and professional development is suggested to link a teacher's knowledge to instructional practice that in turn increases the academic achievement of Arizona's poor Hispanic students.

The process of gaining this understanding was by using a multi-dimensional survey with 500 third through fifth grade teachers in two uniquely different, but representative, Arizona school districts. Approximately one-third of those teachers responded to the multi-dimensional survey about teaching the critical thinking (CT) skills of Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards for English Language Arts. The survey asked teachers to rate their levels of preparedness for teaching CT to several types of students, to choose a CT definition, describe the relationship of CT and reading, explain how they teach CT to students who are reading below grade level, express the support they need to teach CT to those students, and rate the effectiveness of several CT classroom vignettes for different types of students. Although the questions involved several types of students, the primary focus was on exploring the teachers' position with teaching CT to Low SES Hispanic students.

A disconnect was revealed between the teachers' perception that they had the ability and knowledge necessary to teach critical thinking skills and their ability to identify ineffective critical thinking instructional practices. This disconnect may be interfering with the link between the professional development teachers are currently receiving to implement Common Core State Standards and teachers actively engaging in learning what is needed to effectively teach critical thinking skills to their students.

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2014