Education

Can Most Kindergartners Really Tackle ‘Emergent-Reader Texts?’ Coaches Say Yes

By Liana Loewus — June 12, 2015 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

There’s an ongoing debate about whether the common-core standards for kindergartners—and particularly one that requires them to read “emergent-reader texts"—are “developmentally appropriate,” as I wrote in a recent story.

Some say 5- and 6-year-olds should be focused on play, and that such a high-level reading standard will lead teachers to employ worksheets and drills. Others say the standards are compatible with play, and aren’t as restrictive as critics seem to think.

But what was interesting to me in reporting this story is a very basic question that wasn’t at the center of this argument: How many kindergartners are capable of doing this kind of work?

For the critics of the standards, developmentally appropriate is not about whether students can do this work but about whether they should. And for the proponents of the standards, there’s an underlying assumption that it’s possible for kindergartners to read emergent-reader texts—but how much of a stretch this will be, and how many students will feasibly be able to do it isn’t really a part of their defense.

What Literacy Coaches Say

I recently spoke with Donna Scanlon, a professor in the department of literacy teaching and learning at the University at Albany, about this question of ability. Scanlon has been doing research on early-literacy instruction for three decades and helped develop an approach to literacy instruction that has served as a model for response-to-intervention.

So what percentage of kindergartners should be able to read emergent-reader texts by the end of the year? “With solid instruction and intervention—all of them, I believe,” she said. “In a study where we had 1,400 kids, I can think of one child we had that just couldn’t get started with reading.”

But the “solid instruction and intervention” part is key, she explained. In the study she referred to, teachers were all trained on and implementing a structured reading-intervention program. And worksheets and drills do not count as appropriate instruction for kindergartners, Scanlon said.

The definition of emergent-reader texts is crucial as well, she said. As I wrote in my story, the common core defines emergent-reader texts as those with short sentences made up of learned sight words and consonant-vowel-consonant words. Scanlon added that these texts should also be introduced to the child before they are read.

In response to my query, Scanlon reached out to seven current and former literacy coaches as well. She asked them to estimate what percentage of students, given good instruction, could read emergent-reader texts by the end of kindergarten. Their answers ranged from 70 percent to 100 percent, with most of their estimates on the higher end of the range.

Here’s what one former literacy coach wrote:

“I would think ... given the RIGHT instruction (I’m assuming by right instruction that this includes a core program and quality responsive, tiered early-intervention support) that, at the minimum, 90 percent of the students would be reading emergent-reader texts by the end of K. I recall very few students in my career who, if they had both of these conditions, would not have been able to call themselves READERS in June of their kindergarten year.”

It would be great to hear from other early-childhood educators in the comments below. Do you agree with these estimates? And if most kindergartners can learn to read, do you think that means they should? Why or why not?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.

Events

Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Professional Development Online Summit What's Next for Professional Development: An Overview for Principals
Join fellow educators and administrators in this discussion on professional development for principals and administrators.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education 'Widespread' Racial Harassment Found at Utah School District
The federal probe found hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets, and harsher discipline for students of color.
1 min read
A CNG, compressed natural gas, school bus is shown at the Utah State Capitol, Monday, March 4, 2013, in Salt Lake City. After a winter with back-to back episodes of severe pollution in northern Utah, lawmakers and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will discuss clean air legislation and call for government and businesses to convert to clean fuel vehicles.
Federal civil rights investigators found widespread racial harassment of Black and Asian American students in the Davis school district north of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo
Education Tiny Wrists in Cuffs: How Police Use Force Against Children
An investigation finds children as young as 6 and a disproportionate amount of Black children have been handled forcibly by police officers.
15 min read
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Nam Y. Huh/AP
Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read