Joseph Johnson Jr. did not begin his keynote address to the University”s Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement Summer Institute with great news.
Johnson, director of the U.S. Department of Education”s Compensatory Education Programs, reported reading comprehension among children remained static over the last few years.
What was really important to note, he said, was “although the general trend line is flat, when you look at the performance who were performing at high levels, their performance has increased,” while students who historically performed at lower levels were performing at even lower levels.
Recently appointed to his position within the department”s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education by President Bush, Johnson went on to describe strategies for improvement within the nation”s schools.
He encouraged the 350 educators gathered at the Michigan League ballroom last night to not look at Title I as a program. Title I, according to the Education Department, provides grants to schools in order to “improve the teaching and learning of children who are at risk of not meeting challenging academic standards and who reside in areas with high concentrations of children from low-income families.” Johnson stressed that it be seen as a “resource” to “improve teaching techniques.”
Johnson often stressed educators have to realize that change is possible.
He remembered visiting schools which did not even realize they were successful schools.
“We were letting them know that these were successes,” he said.
Johnson also emphasized the importance of using research to formulate better teaching techniques.
“We”ve got to fall in love with data,” he said.
When many in the audience responded with a considerable amount of laughter, he added, “For some of us, we have to get acquainted with data.”
He said whereas teachers used to teach and hope their students learned the material, successful schools have learned to verify the teaching was successful.
“We”re not done until we know that the knowledge and skills are owned by our students,” he said.
Prof. Steven Stahl of the University of Georgia”s Department of Reading Education, said he liked Johnson”s speech.
“It was inspiring, at the same time it had a lot of thought-provoking aspects,” he said.