Lift the Rigor, Our Students Need You [Text-Dependent Analysis]

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The results are staggering. According to ACT, Inc. (2006), only 51% of high school graduates read well enough to succeed in college. Fifty-one percent. As a nation, we are failing at preparing half of our students to be college and career ready. What’s even more frightening is the amount of work policy makers and educators have enlisted us all in to change this narrative. From No Child Left Behind, to increased standardized testing, a greater push in differentiation, more professional development, and data driven funding, our nation has made a real, honest effort in changing our collective story. 

As Educators, We Are Tired, Burnt Out, and Running for the Hills

Nearly 50% of educators leave the profession within their first five years. Each year alone, 8% of teachers leave. I honestly get it. Who wants to be bombarded with constant messages about how you’re failing while simultaneously giving this job your all?  It’s time for a plot twist. 

What the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) has found is that while 70% of students can read, it’s at basic levels. That means only 30% of students read at proficient and advanced levels. Educators everywhere are left wondering why this is happening. 

How to Engage Students with Reading

Too often, we are lowering the rigor of our questioning to ensure that students are getting the literal-level meaning of the text. Even less frequently are we engaging students in higher order thinking around texts. Rarely do we ask students to critically respond to the texts before them. Why? It’s time-consuming, difficult work. It takes years of practice and even then, we don’t always do it right. Sounds like fun, right? Sign me up! …not. 

This is why there is a newfound love amongst our education friends with text-dependent analysis. Text-dependent analysis begins with a close read of the text. Then, students need to comprehend the text at a literal and structural level. What we often miss is the next part.  Students need to engage in inferential-level and action-oriented questions around a text. We can’t simply ask students to read and regurgitate the information. We must ensure that they also participate in thoughtful dialogue with peers and are inspired to take action of some sort as a result of their reading.

Incorporating Text-Dependent Analysis

Sometimes this action is project-based, but other times it’s just engaging in a thoughtful response where they state their ideas and opinions and support it with evidence from the text.  This part can and should often come in the form of writing. But other times, it can be more informal, especially as students are learning and practicing the skill. Teachers can use Extempore to help facilitate this sort of practice. Students can respond to their reading by stating and opinion and providing evidence for the text using the app. Other students and teachers can watch and respond, lifting the level of thinking to include multiple viewpoints and an opportunity for potential discourse. 

These are hard times in education. Teachers are in a tough spot but should rest easy knowing there is a research-based solution to increasing student proficiency in literacy that will make both students and teachers relish in the success. 

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This post is courtesy of Nicole Ward who is a Literacy Teaching and Learning Coach in Muskego, WI. She works with elementary teachers to help them deliver the best instruction possible to students! In her free time she enjoys reading, spending time with her pets, and traveling. See her previous post “Conferring Made Simple: Assessing Reading Skills with Extempore.”