Senate Resolution No. 70 created the Task Force on Reading Curriculum and Instruction to conduct a study to gain data on the teaching of reading and the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA).
Based upon its findings, the task force recommended that the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, in conjunction with higher education institutions, offer an annual reading conference for school teachers, administrators and higher education faculty that is focused on substantive reading professional development and curriculum alignment, effecting emergent and conventional reading.Past conference literacy topics have included literacy development, technology, culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms, tools and practices.
2015 Conference Agenda
Agenda (PDF, 114k)
2015 Conference Overview: Focusing on Potential Over Poverty
Focusing to redirect and move the trajectory from low- to high-achieving reading outcomes for Oklahoma’s struggling readers will require a change of viewpoint.
Mountains of research confirm that the achievement gap starts early on, beginning at birth through third grade for poor children. Unfortunately, this trend could continue to impact the disadvantaged for the rest of their lives.
Leading researchers contend that when low-income children continue to undergo what the medical community calls adverse childhood experiences (ACES), these experiences impair a child’s physical and mental health and slow a child’s social and emotional development and cognitive growth – all due to daily doses of extreme or toxic stress.
Changes in policy help modify the practice and will drive intervention for the poor. To successfully reach and teach reading to low-income students, instructional leaders, teachers, counselors, social workers and other support staff – all noble advocates – are propelled to build a positive environment and culture to fuel persistent high expectations.
Within this framework of resilience, educators will transfer this mindset to the parents, communities and other support mechanisms to integrate solutions to identify, undo and work toward preventing children, their parents and future generations of poverty.
The school, the home and the community are all interrelated, integrated and entangled.
Oklahoma’s Poverty Rate – Facing the Challenge
The May 15, 2015, issue of The Oklahoman reported that Oklahoma is a poor state, with the nation’s 16th-highest poverty rate, and 31 percent are children age five and under. The Sooner State’s poverty rate is much higher for African Americans, at 30 percent, and the Hispanic population is running a close second with 29 percent.
The United States Poverty Rate
A 2014 CNN article, "The Silent Crisis: 1 and 5 American Kids is Poor," revealed that 20 percent of American children live in poverty, according to the latest Census Bureau data. The article also reported that a 2013 UNICEF report stated the United States has the second-highest rate of child poverty in a rich world.
Data and news headlines, locally as well as nationally, read: Poor Children, Particularly Kids of Color Are Falling Further Behind.
National Reading Scores
Sixty-six percent of all U.S. fourth graders scored "below proficient" on the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), and of that percentage, a staggering 80 percent of low-income students scored below grade level in reading, according to NAEP.
Oklahoma’s Reading Scores
Since implementing the 2013-14 Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA), Oklahoma’s reading outcomes have improved unsatisfactory scores, showing roughly a 2 percent reduction in students scoring at unsatisfactory levels, but more progress is needed.
Last year, 16 percent of students – nearly 7,900 – received an "unsatisfactory." However, this year, 14.6 percent or about 7,300 students scored "unsatisfactory," The Oklahoman reported.
In 2015, 16 percent – or almost 8,000 students – received a "limited knowledge" score, which also indicates below-grade level results; however, students scoring "limited knowledge" are not subject to retention.
This year, approximately two-thirds of English Language Learners scored "unsatisfactory," and that same designation also applied to about 39 percent of test-takers who scored “limited knowledge,” according to the State Department of Education, The Oklahoman reported.
Blind spots in our educational systems have temporarily blurred the visionary outlook to ensure impoverished students receive enhanced opportunities to learn to read and achieve.
Stakeholders must keep in mind that impeding the academic progress of the poor will eventually make a full circle and will ultimately negatively affect the majority of those earning a livable wage if the challenges are left untreated and/or ignored.
A child’s well-being is in direct correlation with enhancing the self-efficacy of disadvantaged readers.
Anti-Poverty Efforts to Improve Literacy
There is altruistic value in helping the poor.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., from a letter he wrote in a Birmingham jail, "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together in a single garment of destiny. Whatever effects one, directly affects all indirectly."
Constructing a network and a foundational framework of intervention, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, in collaboration with Cameron University, Langston University, Northeastern State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Arts and Science of Oklahoma, and the University of Central Oklahoma will host the eighth annual Reading Conference, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015.
Participants will peer through a magnified lens and observe this year’s theme, Focusing on Potential Over Poverty. The Reading Conference will be held at the Moore Norman Technology Center/Conference Center, South Penn Campus, 13301 S. Pennsylvania Ave., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Parking is free.
Campus/Conference Center Map (external link, opens in new window)
Dr. James Rosenbaum, professor of education and social policy and faculty fellow for the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, will provide a clear and close-up panoramic view of poverty-stricken children and their learning challenges from a lens of a nationally recognized poverty research scholar.
Bringing a third-world perspective, Northeastern State University’s Eddings endowed chair for urban education, outreach and research, Dr. Allyson Watson, will roll out the afternoon breakout simulations she learned from serving children in Haiti, who live and thrive despite extreme poverty.
Focusing on Potential Over Poverty – The cornea is the transparent part of the eye that sees past visible obstacles to infuse optical power. Likewise, we must be proactive and look beyond obstacles to elevate the reading potential of marginalized learners.
2015 Conference Speaker Information
Keynote: Dr. James E. Rosenbaum
Professor of Education and Social Policy
Institute for Policy Research
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
Education researcher Dr. James Rosenbaum is a professor of education and social policy, as well as the chair of the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) Program on Poverty, Race and Inequality at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
For 20 years, Rosenbaum conducted extensive research known as a quasi-natural experiment, entitled the Gautreaux Program, which relocated poor inner-city black families from public housing to subsidized housing in the white, middle-class suburbs of Chicago.
This research enabled Rosenbaum to study how these moves affected children’s educational outcomes, as well as the job opportunities and social and economic effects on the mothers. As a result of his work, the federal government created the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) program, which was implemented by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to improve the academic and economic success of the underserved.
Rosenbaum holds a bachelor’s degree in culture and behavior from Yale University and master’s and doctorate degrees in sociology from Harvard University.
He has testified before congressional committees on many occasions as one of the nation’s leading experts on how poverty affects young learners, matriculating from elementary to postsecondary education.
He is the recipient of an impressive lineup of awards and honors, celebrating his professional activities and associations, community outreach, and his 30 years of committed research service.
Rosenbaum is the author of numerous articles and books, and he continues to carry out research with IPR. To date, he has secured over $4 million in research grants that continuously broaden the knowledge and scope of how to best serve America’s poorest learners.
Afternoon Keynote: Dr. Allyson Watson
Eddings Endowed Chair for Urban Education, Outreach and Research
Northeastern State University, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Dr. Allyson Watson’s name and noteworthy research are synonymous with social justice and educational equity, advocating for the underserved nationally and internationally, and her efforts are not going unnoticed.
Watson, stands out as a trailblazer and prominent analyst in urban education.
As NSU’s first endowed chair, Watson previously served as the institution’s assistant dean for the college of education and as an associate professor of education in the department of educational foundations and leadership.
At age 25, she was the youngest African American to graduate with a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Oklahoma. In addition, she was awarded a master’s degree in educational administration, curriculum and supervision from OU. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Bethune Cookman University.
Watson is the visionary founder of the Teaching and Urban Reform Network, better known as TURN, a program to prepare preservice teachers in urban education and encourage effective pedagogical practices. Grounded in service, TURN plays a pivotal role and is the platform for successful acquisition of grants, research presentations, journal articles and a book chapter, while creating collaborative research-based school and university partnerships within urban schools. Her life’s work focuses on urban education, faculty of color in higher education and university partnerships.
A catalyst for change and a favored voice for effective teaching and learning, Watson has presented at more than 40 state, national and international research conferences, written two research grants, and has been published and recognized for broad inventory of articles.
The National Historically Black College and University Digest named Watson the 2014 Inaugural Genesis Scholar. In 2012-13, she was honored with the College of Education Outstanding Faculty in Service award and has also been nominated for the NSU Circle of Excellence in all three areas of research, teaching and service. She is the 2009 recipient of the Oklahoma Magazine "40 under 40" Most Influential Oklahomans and was esteemed with NSU’s Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award.
Watson was voted by her peers to serve as the first president for the Gates Millennium Scholars Alumni Association, a position she held for three years. She continues to yield leadership within the Gates inaugural alumnus programs, the Gates past presidents and the Gates Millennium Scholars Alumni Advisory Council.
Conference Podcasts and Material Archives
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2014 Conference Information
Essential Elements of Fostering and Teaching Reading Comprehension (external PDF)
Comprehension Assessment Simulation (PDF, 82k)
Qualitative Analyses of Text Complexity (PDF, 302k)
Readability Presentation (PDF, 549k)
Science and Literacy (external link)
Tools for Improving Reading Comprehension (PPT, 3.9m)
Dr. Richard Allington's Conference Materials:
Ten Principles for Looking at Reading Lessons (PDF, 44k)
Summer Reading – Some are reading, some are not (PDF, 206k)
Evaluating Reading Interventions Using Research-Based Features Analysis (PDF, 24k)
Dr. Michael McKenna's Conference Materials:
Assessment in an RTI Environment (PPTX, 3.5m)