Karl’s Blog 11-15-16

Dear Friends,

Here is the next installment from the book I am writing. (BONUS: picture of
me that Jean took, at my writing desk, working hard every morning.) This is
another in the “technical” chapters, which lay out parts of the argument
for how to make successful reading happen in schools. I have appreciated
your feedback on earlier chapters, and encourage you to send me your
comments on this one, too, helping me get the facts right and clear.

To set the scene: our main character, Patrick, is a musician. He has gotten
involved in trying to help the local school where his son may go to
Kindergarten next Fall. Initially, Patrick has little idea of how to help,
but he has found a somewhat mysterious former professor of his – Veronique
– who seems to know a lot about schools, instruction and literacy in
particular. In my prior installment, she told him about her “1,200 Hours”
rule for how much literacy instruction and experience students need in
order to be successful readers by the end of first grade. She then
challenged Patrick to answer how a teacher can provide all of these hours,
during the school day, if parents or other adults have provided none of the
1,200 hours.

In this installment, Patrick calls Veronique to probe further, after he has
observed and been tutoring in a classroom and been thinking about her
challenge for several weeks.

“Students need 1,200 hours, and I say teachers can be the ones to make up
any hours that individual students are missing when they get to school or
that teacher’s classroom,” Veronique says, less patiently than before.
“Every student should be getting 80 minutes of actual reading instruction
per day, just to be making the amount of progress every student should make.
80 minutes per day x 5 days per week is 400 minutes x 40 weeks per school
year is 16,000 minutes x two school years for Kindergarten and first grade
is 32,000 minutes. Divide by 60 minutes to get hours and you have 533 hours
of the 1,200 hours a child needs.”

“That’s not enough from just school then, is it?” I ask. Are we getting any
closer to answering my question about how a teacher can be expected to make
up any of the difference, during the school day?

“That’s not enough if all you do is the minimum expectation, which you have
seen is sometimes not being done by teachers, as is, like in the case of
your observation classroom,” she responds. “That’s the start of the case
for how important it is to get every teacher doing at least the 80 minutes
of solid reading instruction for every student, every day. At a minimum,
mind you. That gets us 533 hours over two years. That’s enough to move
every student ahead by one full year.”

I can hear her pacing back and forth, her heels clacking on what sound like
wooden floors in a big, empty room. She’s all wound up. “But for students
who got less beforehand and are far behind, we’ve got to play some catch-up
with them, so they make MORE than a year’s worth of progress. So, if we
give those students 20 added minutes per day of intensive small group
instruction, which I say counts as two minutes for every one minute of
instruction, because it should be at least ‘engaged learning time’ and
really fine teachers can get it to the level of ‘academic learning time’,
how much added time can we count for those students? Is it enough to catch
them up and reach 1,200 hours total?”

“Heck if I know,” I say. “I told you, math is not my thing!”

“Einstein, this is just barely math – it’s just plus, minus, multiply,
divide,” she says, impatient with me again. “I’ll humor you, though. 20
minutes per day x 2 for counting it as double equals 40 minutes. Multiply
that by 5 days per week totals 200 minutes x 40 weeks in a school year =
8,000 minutes. Divide that by 60 minutes in an hour and you get 133.33
hours. Finally, multiply that by two years, for K and first grade, and you
get 267 hours.”

I say “Got it, and thanks for doing the math! I can do the further
addition. We had 533 hours before, from regular classroom instruction for
all students, plus this 267 hours is 800 total hours. That’s not 1,200

“Right you are,” she says. “So, there are other options, to provide what
the student has not received from their environment before entering
Kindergarten, and is unlikely to receive from their non-school environment,
much as we might want them to. One is another 20 minute small group per day
for students who are far behind. That adds another 267 hours over two
years, if it’s engaging instructional level time and we count it as double
minutes like before. That gets the student to 1,067 hours. There’s also
pre-K, which some schools have. That can add, conservatively, 60 minutes
per day x 5 days per week x 40 weeks = 200 more hours. That would bring the
total to 1,267 hours. For students who are behind and getting very little
help from their environment, preschool is so important. Now you can see
why! Summer school can be 2 hours per day x 4 days a week, if you make the
instruction different than during the school year, to keep the students
engaged in new ways. That’s 8 hours per week x maybe 6 weeks is another 48
hours x two years is 96 more hours. That brings our total to 1,267 + 96 =
1,363 hours. Then there’s after school. Of course, I said you could get
this done by the regular classroom teacher, during the regular school day.
So, that would rule out summer school and after school.”

“But that adds up to at least 1,200 hours from pre-K through the end of
first grade,” I jump right in when she finally takes a breath, “all during
the school day and provided by the regular teacher, if that teacher is
making good use of all the time at her disposal. Right?”

“Yes, like I said from the beginning,” she concludes. “Not as easy as
wasting two of every three hours, but very doable.”

“I’m getting it!” I say, very excited to finally feel like I’m
understanding this, and it might be a powerful tool for our plan for next

“Good,” she says, “because that teacher you are working with needs you to
understand this, so you can help her understand it. If we want some
students to be ‘catching up’, they’ll need more instruction every day. The
day you observed in that classroom, every student got 20 minutes of actual
instruction, and seven of them got 35 minutes. Nobody got the needed 80
minutes that day. So, if that goes on day after day, they all fall farther
behind, instead of any of them even making enough progress, let alone
catching up a little bit.”

Karl Androes
On sabbatical in Paris!{CAPTION}

Posted on November 15, 2016 in Karls Blog

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