A recent Education Week article underscored how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the longstanding need to improve the diversity of the teacher workforce. Expanding the diversity of teachers is one route to improving the educational outcomes of students of color and reducing disparities in achievement. Studies have documented that students, especially Black students, taught by a teacher of the same race generally score higher on math and reading tests and have better educational outcomes.
District leaders in a large urban school district in central Florida wanted to examine the efficacy of a new curriculum designed to enhance the word knowledge of grade 5 students so as to improve reading achievement. The new curriculum, called Word Knowledge Instruction (WKI), consists of 15-minute lessons 4 days a week for 20 weeks. The lessons address state standards and cover 20 prefixes and suffixes. Thirty-nine schools participated in the study, with 92 English language arts (ELA) teachers in high-poverty schools randomly assigned within schools either to use WKI or to continue to use their standard ELA curriculum. Classroom observations revealed that WKI was implemented as intended. WKI had a positive effect, equivalent to an increase of 9 percentile points, on students’ ability to correctly extract and spell a base word from a derived word, one of the skills explicitly taught by WKI.
After a year of struggling with distance learning and hybrid models, parents, teachers, and policymakers across the country are concerned about “learning loss” and how to recover from the educational effects of the pandemic. While many of us resist the deficit orientation of learning loss language, these concerns are certainly legitimate: As the crisis began, millions of children, particularly those in low-income communities, lacked access to the computers and connectivity that would make in-person remote learning possible, creating even greater equity gaps than those that already existed.