Organizational Strategies for Kindergarten and the Primary Grades
For most children, good standard classroom instruction using the strategies, materials, and techniques reviewed in Chapter 6 constitutes an adequate measure to ensure the prevention of reading difficulties. For other children in some circumstances, however, good instruction is possible only in the context of broader institutional reformby which we mean organizational change at the school level. This kind of change may involve modifying classroom and school structure, for instance by reducing class size or restructuring the instructional program of an entire school. For other children, necessary changes may include the hiring of bilingual teachers who can provide initial literacy training in the children's native language. In still other circumstances, instruction may need to be adapted to children's cultural or linguistic characteristics, or it may need to be designed to address the consequences for children's development of living in impoverished neighborhoods.
In this chapter, we address efforts to prevent reading difficulties that involve designing instructional and institutional approaches for groups of children who share developmental or instructional needs. These efforts attempt to ensure access to good instruction for all children, including those who might otherwise not have such access
because of socioeconomic disadvantage, inadequate organization of instruction in the schools they attend, limited proficiency in English and in standard English, and cultural differences.
TEACHING READING TO CHILDREN LIVING IN POVERTY
As noted in Chapter 4, social class differences, especially measured in the aggregate, have long been recognized as creating conditions that lead to reading difficulties (Stubbs, 1980), although there is considerable variability within social strata. The conditions causing the reading difficulties are complex, however, and do not rest solely on home experiences (Baker et al., 1995; Delgado-Gaitan, 1990; Goldenberg et al., 1992). Low income level can be accompanied by other factors that place children at risk, for instance, attending a school that has chronic low academic achievement.
Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was the first major federal aid specifically for children from low-income neighborhoods. There were great expectations that Title I would not only help disadvantaged children but indeed also close the large achievement gap between poor children and others. However, the original Title I was actually a funding mechanism rather than a specific program or policy for assisting students at risk; in fact, Congress mandated that all school districts should be eligible for at least some of the Title I funds. Furthermore, because little was known about which compensatory practices or interventions were effective, these federal funds were not used to fundamentally alter the educational opportunities provided to children in poverty (Mosher and Bailey, 1970).
The results of initial evaluations of Title I were quite discouraging, and national studies suggested that there was little evidence that the program had any impact on eligible children, although state and local evaluations provided some evidence of a significant positive impact (Wargo et al., 1972). There were charges that Title I funds were being misspent. Threatened with the loss of funds, states responded by separating further the education of students eligible for these funds by pulling them from their regular classes and putting
them into small group settings, with little coordination between the general and remedial educators.
The most rigorous evaluation of Title I in the 1970s, carried out by the System Development Corporation, followed a cohort of 120,000 students for three years. The study determined that, although Title I recipients did better than matched non-Title I students, the children who were most disadvantaged, and therefore the particular focus of Title I funds, were not helped much (Carter, 1984). Despite persistent and pervasive problems with Title I, it was not until 1988 that any major legislative revision occurred that affected the program. When Title I (reauthorized as Chapter I in 1981) was reauthorized as part of the Hawkins-Stafford Elementary and Secondary School Improvement Act, the legislation mandated that the services be linked to the regular school curriculum; that schools in high-poverty areas develop school-wide programs, rather than focusing on individual students; and that curriculum reform efforts stress higher-order thinking skills.
The results of a large-scale national, longitudinal study entitled ''Prospects: The Congressionally Mandated Study of Educational Growth and Opportunity" (Puma et al., 1997) again provided discouraging evidence regarding the effectiveness of Title I in addressing the considerable gap between children in high- and low-poverty schools. However, there was an important caveat offered (Puma et al., 1997:vi): "Our inability to discern a compensatory effect of Chapter I is not necessarily an indication of program failure. Limitations of the Prospects study prevented us from observing directly whether Chapter I students would have been worse off (i.e., whether the gap would have widened over time) in the absence of the services they received; in fact, we might expect the gap to grow over time, absent a special intervention. Chapter I may have helped but [it] was too weak an intervention to bring the participating students up to par with their classmates."
Once again, in 1994, Title I was targeted for reform as part of the Improving America's School Act. The current restructured Title I calls for disadvantaged students to learn to the same challenging state standards as all other students through systemic reform consistent with Goals 2000 (McDonnell et al., 1997). The new standards-
based Title I programs are just now being developed and implemented.
The rocky history of Title I efforts highlights the challenges associated with the design, implementation, and evaluation of supplementary intervention efforts. From this history we learn the importance of determining the extent to which interventions lead to different educational experiences for childrenin terms of their opportunity to learnand whether these interventions are indeed making an educational difference in the lives of children.
TEACHING READING TO CHILDREN ATTENDING SCHOOLS WITH CHRONICALLY LOW ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT
Schools with chronically low academic achievement are those with lower rates of on-task time, less teacher preparation of new material, lower rates of teacher communication of high expectations, fewer instances of positive reinforcement, more classroom interruptions, more discipline problems, and an unfriendly classroom ambiance. We review two major organizational strategies found to be effective in schools with chronically low academic achievement: class size and school restructuring.
The abilities and opportunities of teachers to closely observe and facilitate the literacy learning of diverse groups of children are certainly influenced by the numbers of children they deal with. Although the federal government reports steady decreases in the average size of elementary school classrooms, schools in poor urban areas continue to show higher class sizes than schools in all other areas (NCES, 1994).
The relationship between class size and achievement has been of interest for many years (Smith and Glass, 1980). However, several recent developments have renewed interest in this issue, namely, systematic, state-sponsored studies of reduced class sizes in the early grades (such as those conducted in Tennessee) and the use of Title I
funds to decrease the student-to-teacher ratio in high-poverty schools. A synthesis of 11 studies of class size concluded that significantly reducing class size to 21 or fewer students with one teacher had positive effects for reading achievement at the end of first grade, although the effects were both small and short term Slavin (1989). Of the 11 studies, 7 reported positive effects on reading in first grade, 3 found no difference, and 1 determined that there was a small effect favoring the larger classes. Four studies examined the effects of reduced class size throughout the primary grades, and only one reported a sustained effect for reduced class size (also see Mosteller et al., 1996).
To understand these outcomes, it is helpful to turn to observational studies, such as those conducted by Evertson and Randolph (1989), which determined that the differences one might anticipate for reduced class size (increases in time spent on reading, lesson format, the number and nature of student-teacher interactions) generally did not come to pass. In summary, although both the quantity and quality of teacher-student interactions are necessarily limited by large class size, best instructional practices are not guaranteed by small class size. Class size reduction efforts must be accompanied by professional development and planning that supports the desired changes in curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
The recognition that school-wide poor performance is generally associated with a host of factors has motivated more comprehensive interventions, which address curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, professional development, and relationships with families and the community. Well-known school restructuring efforts include Accelerated Schools (Levin, 1991) and the Coalition of Essential Schools Project (Sizer, 1983). The school restructuring effort that has been the subject of the most research is Success For All (Slavin et al., 1992).
Success For All was designed as a prevention and early intervention for students in kindergarten through third grade who are at risk for early reading failure. Every attempt is made to serve all children, including those with special needs. The key features include indi-
vidualized tutoring, smaller student-teacher ratios for reading lessons, regroupings across grade levels to create more homogeneous reading groups, assessments and reassignments at eight week intervals, a reading curriculum facilitator on site, and a comprehensive reading program that progresses from specially designed materials to basal readers and trade books. The most helpful description of Success For All is provided by its designers (Slavin et al., 1994:76):
The idea behind Success For All is to use everything known about effective instruction for students at risk to direct all aspects of school and classroom organization toward the goal of preventing academic deficits from appearing in the first place, recognizing and intensively intervening with any deficits that do appear, and providing students with a rich and full curriculum to enable them to build on their firm foundation in basic skills. The commitment of Success For All is to do whatever it takes to see that every child makes it through third grade at or near grade level in reading and other basic skills, and then goes beyond this in the later grades.
In the reading component of the program, reading tutors are one of the most prominent features. On the basis of earlier research (e.g., Slavin et al., 1989), the designers determined that one of the most effective forms of instruction is the use of tutors. Success For All tutors are certified teachers, many of whom are specialists in reading or special education. Tutors work individually with students who are experiencing difficulty in their reading classes for 20 minutes daily, employing the same curriculum in place in the classroom but providing individually tailored, intensive teaching. The classroom reading periods are 90 minutes long and are generally conducted in groups of 15 to 20, with the classroom teachers and the tutors serving as reading teachers to allow for smaller-sized groups. Teachers and tutors communicate regularly to avoid the problems of discontinuity for the child.
The reading program at every grade level includes reading children's literature and engaging the class in a discussion to jointly construct the meaning of the story, as well as enhancing listening and speaking vocabulary and knowledge of story structure. In kindergarten and first grade, story telling and retelling, in which children retell and dramatize stories, is used to develop language skills. The kinds of big book activities described in Chapter 6 are
used as well. More instruction to promote conventional reading begins in the second semester of kindergarten, employing minibooks that contain phonetically regular words in interesting stories that are read and reread to partners as well as to the teacher. Letters and sounds are introduced in a predetermined sequence and integrated into words, sentences, and stories.
When students attain the second-grade reading level, they use a form of the Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition program, in tandem with the district's basal series or trade books (Stevens and Slavin, 1995).It includes more emphasis on comprehension strategy instruction, such as summarizing and predicting, hand in hand with vocabulary building, decoding practice, and story-related writing.
The evaluation research found significant treatment effects across grade levels and at follow-up. In first through third grades, average performance was maintained at grade level, but from fourth grade on, students in Success For All did not reach grade level, although they continued to progress significantly more rapidly than did comparison-group children. This group difference was also maintained during at least two years of middle school, after leaving the Success For All school (see Figure 7-1). The analysis provides evidence that the intervention benefits even the lowest-achieving students, as well as more able ones.
In addition, over successive years of implementation, the positive effects of the program have been observed to increase, although this trend is not entirely consistent (see Englert and Tarrant, 1995, and Chapter 8). One hypothesis is that schools become more effective with experience. Another is that the children in the second year have had the benefit of already having participated in a Success For All program for a year when they enter first grade.
Evaluations conducted at sites other than the original ones monitored by the designers have not been as strong and consistent (see Smith et al., 1996); nevertheless, close to half of the measures evaluated significantly favored the Success For All sites, and only three comparisons (all within one district) favored the control school. This is remarkable given the broad array of features to be operationalized and the complexities of introducing change into schools
with high reliability (Stringfield, 1995, 1997), but it also sounds a cautionary note about the transportability of even the most successful and well-specified programs.
TEACHING READING TO LANGUAGE-MINORITY CHILDREN
There is no doubt that it is possible to learn to read at a high level of proficiency in a second language, just as it is possible to become a proficient speaker of a second language. Furthermore, as scholars of ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Latin demonstrate, it is possible to become a high-level reader in a language one does not speak at all. These clear cases, though, are generally cases of second-language literacy acquisition after the establishment of proficiency, both oral and written, in a first language. The major question that concerns us is whether it is possible to learn to read for the first time in a second language. Disagreements concerning second-language literacy arise concerning considerably more specific questions about acquisition and ultimate attainment. Is initial literacy instruction in a second
language effective? If so, is it effective for all children? Does initial literacy instruction in a second language slow or limit ultimate literacy attainment in the second language? If initial literacy instruction in a second language is contraindicated, what level of first-language literacy should be considered prerequisite to initiation of second-language literacy teaching?
Surprisingly, given the many millions of initially non-English-speaking children who have acquired literacy in English in the United States, and given the many millions of dollars expended on efforts to evaluate bilingual education programs, straightforward, data-based answers to these questions are not available. The accumulated wisdom of research in the field of bilingualism and literacy tends to converge on the conclusion that initial literacy instruction in a second language can be successful, that it carries with it a higher risk of reading problems and of lower ultimate literacy attainment than initial literacy instruction in a first language, and that this risk may compound the risks associated with poverty, low levels of parental education, poor schooling, and other such factors.
In this section we outline sources of evidence supporting these conclusions, conceding, however, that the definitive study has not been carried out. The evidence presented here relates to findings concerning effects of language of initial literacy instruction and effects of longer-term support for first-language literacy; in many specific cases, it is impossible to tell whether positive or negative consequences for patterns of achievement relate to initial or to ongoing support or lack thereof in the native language.
1.Demographic patterns. The higher risk of reading problems associated with lack of proficiency in English on school entry is widely documented (NAEP, 1994). Also, rates of school failure, early dropout, and limited literacy attainment are very high in countries in which second-language literacy instruction is widespread, for instance, the African countries that use formerly colonial languages in schooling (Postlethwaite and Ross, 1992) and in European settings in which immigrant children are given exclusively second-language schooling (Tosi, 1979). Of course, such patterns in the
United States and elsewhere are only suggestive and do not indicate causes for reading problems.
2. Role of social class in limiting risk. Many children learn to read adequately after initial instruction in a second language, both in the United States and in other multilingual settings in which school and home languages are different. A major challenge is to determine which children manage to thrive under these circumstances and which initial reading instruction in the home language is of particular importance.
One clue in answering this question comes from accounts suggesting that English speakers in French immersion programs in Canada acquire literacy in French first with little difficulty, subsequently transferring their literacy skills successfully to English (cited in August and Hakuta, 1997). French immersion is a magnet program in Canada, generally selected by middle-class, academically motivated families for their children. These same families support literacy acquisition in English in many ways, both prior to their children's exposure to formal instruction and thereafter. It may be that for children in families with many academic and literacy resources, initial instruction in literacy in a second language is unproblematic.
3. Long-term deficits. Even Canadian children in French immersion programs, however, may perform better on literacy tasks administered in their first, stronger language (Carey and Cummins, 1983) after as many as 10 years of consistent instruction in the second language. Better performance in the first language is equivalent, of course, to worse than expected performance in the second (although it is not obvious for Canadians because native English speakers tested in French are never directly compared with native French speakers tested in French).
One large study of test scores from initially non-English-speaking children in a school district that had adopted an English-only education policy found that bilingual children caught up with monolingual English-speaking peers in all areas tested within a couple of years after arrival, on average, unless those children had entered U.S. schools in kindergarten or first grade (Collier and Thomas, 1989). In other words, children who had presumably established basic lit-
eracy skills in a native language achieved academic parity with peers as soon as they had acquired proficiency in English, but younger arrivals showed long-lasting negative effects on academic achievement associated with initial literacy instruction in English. Similar findings for Finnish speakers in Sweden have been reported by Skutnabb-Kangas and Toukomaa (1979). These results, again, are limited in that they are retrospective and somewhat speculative, but at the very least they show as perhaps questionable the widespread assumptions that earlier exposure and more exposure to the second language are advantageous.
4. Evaluations of bilingual programs. While methodologically rigorous evaluations of bilingual education programs are rare (see August and Hakuto, 1997, Chapter 2), and most such evaluations are too small or too flawed to be at all helpful, the most careful met-analysis of studies comparing bilingual to English-only educational programs for language-minority children, carried out by Willig (1985), shows better literacy outcomes in English for children who received transitional bilingual education.
5. Late-exit programs. Further support for the position that having later and less total exposure to English literacy may in fact promote achievement in English if the time is spent in developing native-language literacy skills comes from the findings of a large-scale comparison of educational programs for language-minority children (Ramirez et al., 1991). Although they could not compare early- and late-exit bilingual programs within school districts (the ideal match), they did report that children in late-exit bilingual programs had higher levels of achievement than children in early-exit bilingual or in English as a second language programs. Such a pattern of achievement is consistent with a model in which first-language literacy contributes to second language literacy.
6. Transfer. Several studies have documented the transfer of literacy skills from a first to a second language. These studies are important in that they suggest a mechanism explaining the positive effects of time spent on first-language literacy for second-language literacy. One study in the Netherlands found that word recognition and reading comprehension levels in the language in which literacy instruction had occurred correlated with the same measures in the
other language for Turkish-Dutch bilinguals (Verhoeven and Gillijns, 1994). Studies that show high interlanguage correlations on literacy and literacy-related language tasks were reviewed by Cummins (1979). Cummins carried out research demonstrating transfer even for such orthographically and typologically distant language pairs as English and Japanese and English and Vietnamese (Cummins, 1984). Researchers have consistently found stronger relationships between literacy tasks than between oral-language tasks across the bilingual person's two languages (e.g., Lanauze and Snow, 1989), again suggesting that time invested in developing first-language literacy works to the advantage of second language literacy achievement.
7. Theory. As emphasized throughout this report, the successful reader must have skills in analyzing language in order to understand how the alphabetic code represents meaningful messages. Knowledge available for analysis and access to meaning are thus two crucial factors in successful early reading (Bialystok and Ryan, 1985). Typical English-speaking children have considerable knowledge available for analysis at the time they enter schoolseveral thousand words in their vocabularies, some exposure to rhymes and alliterations, practice writing their own names and "reading" environmental print, and other sources of information about the nature of the analysis they will be expected to engage in. Non-English speakers are confronted with the task of analyzing knowledge they have not yet acquired.
Furthermore, English speakers making initial attempts at reading understand, if they are successful, the products of their efforts. They read words they know and sentences they understand. They can use context and probabilities effectively, and they can self-correct efficiently. Non-English speakers have much less basis for knowing whether their reading is correct because the crucial meaning-making process is short circuited by lack of language knowledge. Giving a child initial reading instruction in a language that he or she does not yet speak thus can undermine the child's chance to see literacy as a powerful form of communication, by knocking the support of meaning out from underneath the process of learning.
It would be highly desirable to be able to cite a study in which children had been randomly assigned to conditions of reading in-
struction that systematically varied the length of time that instruction was provided in the first language, as well as how early and how intensively instruction was provided in the second language. We lack such a study, so we must draw conclusions from studies that are flawed in design and somewhat equivocal in their findings. It is clear that initial reading instruction in the first language does no harm, and it seems likely both from research findings and from theories about literacy development that initial reading instruction in the second language can have negative consequences for immediate and long-term achievement. This conclusion leads us to urge initial literacy instruction in a child's native language whenever possible and to suggest that literacy instruction should not be introduced in any language before some reasonable level of oral proficiency in that language has been attained.
Examples of successful reading programs in Spanish for Spanish speakers in the United States can be found in Goldenberg and Gallimore (1991), Goldenberg and Sullivan (1994), and Slavin and Madden (1995). In all three cases, early elementary students in targeted schools attained higher levels of reading proficiency in Spanish than students in comparable schools. Although the programs were different, each emphasized structured phonological instruction combined with meaningful uses of print.
TEACHING READING TO CHILDREN SPEAKING NONSTANDARD DIALECTS
Users of nonstandard dialects learning to read in English face challenges analogous to those faced by speakers of other languages. In both cases, children are expected to learn to read a language (standard English) that they use in a limited way. A sizable body of findings has documented differences between mainstream and minority dialects that may bear directly on a mechanism that is central to reading developmentthe development of sound-symbol links. Learning English spelling is challenging enough for speakers of standard mainstream English; these challenges are heightened by a number of phonological and grammatical features of minority dialects that make the relation of sound to spelling even more indirect.
An important example is African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Many of the approximately 8 million African American students in U.S. schools are also speakers of AAVE. The most characteristic form of the vernacular is spoken by a majority, both youth and adults, in inner cities where there is a high concentration of African Americans. Modified forms of AAVE are spoken by others who have more extensive contact with speakers of other dialects.
For speakers of this dialect, there is a great deal of divergence between spoken and written forms of English (Labov, 1966; Wolfram, 1969). AAVE is characterized by extreme reduction of final consonants, which affects clusters (''so" for "sold," "fin"' for "find"), liquids ("so'd" for "sold," "he'p" for "help," and "fo"' for "four"), and even final stop consonants ("ba"' for "bad," "spea"' for "speak").
In addition, some phonological contrasts are absent for speakers of AAVE, such as -th versus -f at the ends of words. The lack of contrast of /i/ and /e/ before /n/, widespread throughout the South, is an identifying feature of AAVE speakers in the North. Syllable structure is also often radically different from that shown in word spellings, or orthography, that is, in translating the units of the spoken language into letters of the alphabet or letter-like forms. When the medial /r/ is deleted, for example, "parents" (a two-syllable word) might be indistinguishable from "pants," with one syllable only.
Addressing Dialect in Reading Instruction
In order to reduce the gap between what children speak and what they are expected to read, many nations use the vernacular for early reading instruction and introduce the language of wider communication only in higher grades (Feitelson, 1988). Research in regions where children speak a nonstandard dialect has shown an advantage for children who have learned to read in their home language or dialect (Bull, 1994).
As early as 1969, Stewart advocated that African American youth who speak AAVE be provided opportunities to read text that is consistent with their oral language. In his argument, he pointed to
the systematic structure of AAVE and the extensive difference (especially when compared with other American dialects) between AAVE and the standard English reflected in texts for beginning readers. He suggested that providing AAVE-speaking youth the opportunity to read AAVE versions of text would be consistent with the innovations for second-language learners proposing that children first be taught to read in their native language and then transfer these skills to whatever language was the goal of the literacy program. In the 1960s, Baratz and Stewart prepared primary text materials and provided some pilot demonstrations of their effectiveness (as cited in Baratz and Shuy, 1969). A full experimental test of these materials was not undertaken.
One outcome of Stewart's efforts with his colleagues was the production of a set of several texts for older children, entitled Bridge, that were written in AAVE. Bridge developers Simpkins and Simpkins (1981) described their program thus: "The Bridge program attempts to start where the students are and take them to where their teachers would like them to be by using the language and culture the children bring to school as a foundation upon which to build."
Materials are sequenced according to associative bridging; reading in the mainstream dialect is taught as an extension of reading in the students' familiar dialect. AAVE serves as a springboard from which to move to the presentation of standard mainstream English. Accordingly, materials are written in three dialect versions: AAVE, transition, and standard English (Simpkins and Simpkins, 1981, cited in Rickford and Rickford, 1995:113).
Simpkins and Simpkins (1981) field tested this program over a period of 4 months with 540 students from seventh through twelfth grades. They reported that the experimental students showed significantly greater gains on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in reading comprehension than did 123 comparison students who were engaged in remedial reading activities. Specifically, the Bridge students showed because of 6.2 months of growth for 4 months of instruction, compared with 1.6 months of growth for the comparison students. These reports do not indicate specific applications of dialect differences to the problems of developing phonemic awareness and decoding skills. The evaluated interventions appear to have relied
on the overall effect of a given cultural and linguistic style as reading materials rather than focusing on specific linguistic differences that affect sound-to-spelling correspondence.
Objections about the program from parents and teachers led its publishers to discontinue promotion of Bridge. Since the early 1980s, there have been no published studies of new data on the use of AAVE texts. Rickford and Rickford (1995) have recently made a strong case for reopening the issue of whether African American students' reading attainment would be enhanced by using AAVE materials. They obtained mixed results on several pilot studies, however, with some outcomes being actually negative for the AAVE readers.
Teacher Knowledge Across Reading Programs
Recent research has suggested that, across reading programs, teachers should attend to the following principles when providing instruction with dialect speakers, including children who use AAVE, Latino-influenced English, and other nonstandard dialects: (a) distinguish between mistakes in reading and mistakes in pronunciation, (b) give more attention to the ends of words (where much dialect variation is most apparent) in initial reading instruction, (c) present words to students in phonological contexts that preserve underlying forms, (d) avoid contractions, and (e) teach grammar explicitly (Labov, 1995).Clearly there is a rich research agenda represented in the thoughtful application of these principles in literacy instruction; to date, this work has not been undertaken, although research by Craig and her colleagues is providing a rich base from which to evaluate children's use of AAVE (Craig and Washington, 1995).
These principles address only the linguistic aspects of AAVE, as Labov (1995) points out. There are many opposing cultural patterns surrounding the use of language in the classroom, patterns for dealing with authority, and cultural definitions of dignity and respect that create hidden obstacles for the majority of African American children in their dealings with the school system. The linguistic principles must be embedded in a larger perspective that recognizes these children as intelligent, well-adjusted products of their own
culture, still full of aspiration and promise. It is only in such a perspective that the standard language can be presented as an avenue toward educational advancement and the improvement of economic opportunity.
TEACHING READING TO CHILDREN WITHCULTURAL DIFFERENCES
Although there is widespread agreement that minority groups differ from each other and from mainstream cultures in several respects, less certain is how and whether cultural differences contribute to reading achievement. A persistent and troubling aspect of reading difficulties is the differential in reading success between mainstream and minority childrenAfrican American, Hispanic, Native American, and some Asian and Pacific Islander groups. For example, the reading achievement gap between African American and white students increases as the students progress through school (Entwisle and Alexander, 1988; Phillips et al., in press). In Chapter 6 and earlier sections of this one, we have alluded to the role of cultural differences but have not addressed the topic directly.
Considerable work has suggested that minority groups have specific cultural perspectives on literacy and on academic learning more generally that differ from those of mainstream groups (e.g., Jacob and Jordan, 1987; Tharp, 1989). Several researchers have noted that instruction in reading skills and other informal opportunities for learning about literacy are found in the homes of African American and Hispanic families, suggesting at least one area of potential commonality between home and school. Others have found that instruction in aspects of literacy, such as letter names, simple words, and phonics, was often observed in the homes of minority families (Baker et al., 1995) . Other researchers suggest that minority groups consider direct teaching of this type to be both culturally appropriate and effective (Delpit, 1986, 1988; Goldenberg, 1995).
But even if the research was able to isolate specific cultural configurations that interfere with reading, there is the question of whether we have the ability to adjust cultural factors in the classroom. Cultural differences are entrenched in history and social insti-
tutions and are not easily amenable to educators' manipulations. One researcher, for example, argues that high rates of low performance of African American students persist even when they are equal to others on all objective measures of skill and preparation (Steele, 1992). He isolates a complex of psychological and cultural factors, which he refers to as "misidentification with school," that are the product of a long history of racial vulnerability and response to racism. The work of John Ogbu, which addresses the institutionalized racism of school systems and other institutions, also implies the need for massive social change if the minority differential is to be erased (Ogbu, 1982).
Demonstrations of the benefits of culturally accommodated instruction, whereby educators make certain accommodations to features of students' cultural backgrounds, have empirically documented direct connections between cultural accommodation and student participation (Goldenberg and Gallimore, 1989). When classrooms are compatible with students' home culturesin such areas as motivation strategies (individualistic versus group or family based) and speaking or participation styles (direct versus indirect, turn-taking rules)the students are more likely to participate more and in ways that appear to be conducive to effective learning.
A limitation of the cultural accommodation research base is that it has left largely untested the proposition that culturally accommodated instruction has beneficial effects on measured student achievement. For example, Au and Mason (1981), in one of the most widely cited studies in this area, found that when a teacher engaged Native Hawaiian children in reading lessons congruent with socio-linguistic patterns from the children's native culture ("talk-story," a Native Hawaiian discourse style), students participated more in academically productive interactions than when taught by a teacher who was unaware of these interaction styles.
This study is frequently cited as showing a direct connection between culturally accommodated instruction and student achievement, but in reality Au and Mason included no measures of student
learning, only indices of children's participation and engagement during actual lessons. That talk-story-like reading instruction produced higher rates of engagement in academic discourse is very important, but participationalthough a desirable key to learningis not the same as achievement, and the two should not be treated as synonymous (see Karweit, 1989).
It is often suggested that early school difficulties are reduced by culturally adapting instruction to children on the basis of their home cultures. For instance, one study concluded that "compatibilities between school and culture have felicitous effects on student achievement and school satisfaction" (Tharp, 1989:349-350) and that "there is evidence that when cultural differences in social organization, sociolinguistics, cognition, and motivation are reflected in compatible classroom practices, such compatibility makes for classrooms that are associated with greater child participation and enjoyment and better school achievement" (p. 355). Other scholars have reached similar conclusions (Au, 1995; California State Department of Education, 1986; Cazden, 1986; Trueba, 1988).
Kamehameha Early Education Project
The Kamehameha Early Education Project (KEEP) is often cited as support for this notion (Tharp, 1982; Tharp and Gallimore, 1988). KEEP is a 20-year research and development effort that succeeded in substantially improving the early reading achievement of Native Hawaiian children. Its researchers and teachers developed instruction guides and curricula on reading that significantly improved early reading achievement among Native Hawaiian children, at the original laboratory site on Oahu and in other sites around the state.
It is uncertain, however, what role culturally accommodated instruction played in the results (Goldenberg and Gallimore, 1989). The KEEP reading program included many components, many of which seemed to have little to do with any particular cultural group, instead illustrating more general principles of effective teaching and classroom organization. Although it is certainly plausible that culturally based factors and more general or universal factors combined to create the effectiveness of the program for Native Hawaiian chil-
dren, it is impossible to know exactly which dimensions of the program were responsible for the positive effects on student achievement. In the absence of more finely detailed comparisons and data sets on the many dimensions of the program, it is difficult to rule out competing explanations for the program's effects.
The cultural compatibility hypothesis may be an important avenue for helping to improve the early reading achievement of large numbers of children currently not well served by early reading programs. However, evidence for its robust effects on reading achievement or any other dimension of learning is still missing. Tharp is undoubtedly correct when he argues that "experimental work in actual classrooms is of the highest priority. . . . We need more systematic and evaluated classroom variation. Cultural compatibility must be put to practical use in order to test this simple, commonsensical, and humane proposition" (1989:357, emphasis in the original).
The discussion in this chapter leads to several important conclusions. First, there are circumstances that place groups of young children at risk for reading difficulties. A number of efforts have been made to provide reading instruction for these groups of children regardless of their individual status on child-based predictors of reading achievement (see Chapter 4). In addition, however, particular children may also need extra instruction based on child-based predictors of reading achievementwhich is the subject of Chapter 8.
Second, to be effective, interventions must take account of existing external factors or characteristics. Consideration should be given to improving existing instructional practices before deciding to implement any intervention.
Third, the process of determining appropriate interventions must take into account the characteristics of students who are at risk for failure. For example, if an entire school is at risk, it might be wiser to begin an intervention that includes school-wide restructuring than to devote resources to any new tutoring technique. Research has
shown the effectiveness of school-wide efforts that integrate restructuring focused on organizational issues and coherent classroom reading instruction. To date, such school-wide efforts, when they have included solid and coherent regular classroom reading instruction, have generally proven more effective than disconnected strategies or restructuring focused on organizational issues that have not included classroom-level and curricula changes.
Fourth, hurrying young non-English-speaking children into reading in English without ensuring adequate preparation is counterproductive. The abilities to hear and reflect on the sublexical structure of spoken English words, as required for learning how the alphabetic principle works, depends on oral familiarity with the words being read. Similarly, learning to read for meaning depends on understanding the language and referents of the text to be read. To the extent possible, non-English-speaking children should have opportunities to develop literacy skills in their home language as well as in English.
Fifth, a major challenge to society is the persistent disparity in reading outcomes between African American and European American youth. Although it has long been suggested that the dialect features of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) create an additional challenge to acquiring mainstream literacy for its speakers, few efforts that directly test this hypothesis have been undertaken.
Finally, the positive effects of cultural accommodation are important, as shown by Au and Mason's (1981) finding that students receiving talk-story instruction participated in academically productive interactions, but the research is not conclusive.