The Joy of Learning and of Thanksgiving
In the spirit of the holiday, let me give thanks to lcloud for sharing a link (http://www.hd08.com/kids) to the children's story I wrote about Thanksgiving. I hope everyone enjoys it and, more importantly, I hope it will help draw attention to the need to redouble our efforts to improve literacy in North Carolina.
There is another story just out that I hope will be widely read as well: the Blue Ribbon Commission on Testing and Accountability’s draft report criticizing the state’s testing regime. Here is the N&O’s first take on the report:
I’ve been worried for awhile about how the combination of ever-increasing state and federally-mandated testing may be harming both students and their teachers. As I said in my announcement statement over a year ago: When I was a volunteer schoolteacher, I started off each class with a poem – words that can inspire as well as instruct. As we demand student accountability, safety, and performance, we must not overlook the goal of instilling in every child an appreciation of the joy of learning and the gift of the mind. Engaged students in small classes led by skilled and valued teachers will improve the State’s graduation and college-entrance rates, and prepare our future workers to compete and win in the global economy.
I look forward to reading the Testing Commission’s full and final report, and to leading an effort as Lt. Governor to ensure that all students are prepared for work and college and citizenship, along with life’s joys and challenges, not just for end-of-year tests. By incorporating individual projects and essays into our assessment methods, we can give teachers the freedom to help each individual student learn in the way that works best for him or her.
North Carolina lags behind in reading proficiency scores. According to U.S. Department of Education data, 36% of North Carolina 4th Graders failed to reach a basic level of reading proficiency, ranking North Carolina 36th among the states. Fixing that problem is going to require a real, long-term commitment to improving our schools and expanding the pre-kindergarten programs that give children a real head start. And we need to focus not just on achieving basic reading skills, but also on acquiring informational literacy – the ability to acquire, evaluate, and use information effectively. (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/curriculum/information/)
We all have a role to play, which is why I hope you'll all take a moment to read a story—mine or someone else's—to a child this holiday season. It's fun, and as everyone from the State Board of Education (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/schoolimprovement/effective/briefs/readaloud) to the International Reading Group (http://www.reading.org/downloads/parents/pb1019_playground.pdf) confirms, it's important.
Happy reading and happy Thanksgiving!