19 juillet 2011

Reading Comprehension Requires Knowledge Of Words and the World

While educators have made good progress in teaching children to decode (that is, turn print into speech sounds), it’s disheartening that we still have not overcome the “fourth-grade slump” in reading comprehension. We’re finding that even though the vast majority of our youngest readers can manage simple texts, many students—particularly those from low-income families— struggle when it comes time in grade four to tackle more advanced academic texts.

To help these students, we must fully understand just where this “fourth-grade slump” comes from. The “slump” was the name that the great reading researcher Jeanne Chall used to describe the apparently sudden drop-off between third and fourth grade in the reading scores of low-income students. In her research, Chall found that low-income students in the second and third grades tended to score at (and even above) national averages in reading tests and related measures such as spelling and word meaning. But at the fourth grade, low-income students’ scores began a steady drop that grew steeper as the students moved into the higher grades.1 (For a more detailed discussion of Chall’s landmark study, see “The Fourth-Grade Slump” on page 14.) I describe this drop-off as apparently sudden because there is now good evidence that it is there, unmeasured, in earlier grades. A large language gap—not just a reading gap—between advantaged and disadvantaged students exists also in third-grade, not to mention second, first, and even earlier. 
Researchers have known about the fourth-grade slump in poor children’s reading comprehension for several decades, but it was only recently, especially in the work of Betty Hart and Todd Risley, that solid data on children’s early language development have been available.2 We now believe that reading tests make the comprehension gap seem much greater in fourth grade because the tests used in earlier grades are heavily focused on testing early reading skills (like decoding) and do not try to measure the full extent of the vocabulary differences between the groups.
Yet it would be a mistake to assume that problems with comprehension are limited to disadvantaged students. According to the most recent evidence from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, most students’ reading comprehension scores remain low despite many years of concentrated efforts to improve reading instruction.3 Effective teaching of reading comprehension to all children has turned out to be a recalcitrant problem. Now that we have good programs that teach children to decode text accurately and fluently, the task of creating programs and methods that teach students to comprehend text accurately and fluently is the new frontier in reading research.
It’s a challenging problem. The U.S. Department of Education is currently soliciting research proposals to help solve it. That’s a very good sign. With renewed scientific attention to this fundamental problem, we can expect real progress in equity and in student achievement—some day. Meanwhile, we already know things about reading comprehension that have immediate implications for teachers. I will try to summarize some of the most important findings and their implications for classroom practice.


E. D. Hirsch, Jr. is founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation and professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia. He has written several acclaimed books, including the bestseller Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, and served as editor of the seven-volume Core Knowledge Series, which ranges from What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know to What Your 6th-Grader Needs to Know. The Core Knowledge Foundation is dedicated to the idea that high-quality and equitable elementary education is based on a common core of learning. The Foundation develops curricula, conducts workshops for teachers, and supports the growing network of Core Knowledge schools.
 
Références sur E.D. HIRSCH on this blog

Le jargon de l'EducNat 2 (E.D. Hirsch Jr.) 

 

E.D. Hirsch Jr : Romancer l'enfant

 

E.D. Hirsch Jr : Le croisé inattendu

 

About The Curriculum (Core Knowledge & E.D. Hirsch, Jr.)

 

E. D. Hirsch, Jr. (Core Knowledge)

 

Core Knowledge and Common Core State Standards

 

Standards are not a Curriculum

 

Online Copies of the Core Knowledge Sequence for Preschool

 

Free Online Copies of the Core Knowledge Sequence

 

E. D. Hirsch, Jr. (Core Knowledge)

 

8 Short Chapters on E.D. Hirsch Educational Theory

 

The Religious Roots of “Child‑Centered” Education, by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.

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