reading

John O'Connor / WLRN

The superintendents of Florida's two largest school districts say it is less likely they'll make students repeat third grade next year because of low state reading test scores.

State law requires that students earning the lowest score on the reading exam have to repeat third grade unless they are granted an exemption. About 16,000 students across the state were held back last year.

But Florida has switched to a new statewide test this year, the Florida Standards Assessments, and educators aren't sure they can trust the results.

departmentofed / Flickr

Nearly one in five Florida third graders were at risk of being held back because of low scores on the state reading test last year.

But this year the state might not hold back any third graders. That’s because a Senate committee voted to suspend those penalties this year.

The bill requires an outside group to make sure the state test results are statistically valid.

Sen. David Simmons says he wants to make sure schools and the state can depend on Florida Standards Assessments results before making big decisions using those results.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Screen shot / Florida Department of Education

We're taking this week to help parents and students understand the new Florida Standards Assessments, which students will take for the first time beginning in March.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami Northwestern High School teacher Daniel Dickey says there's no silver bullet or secret book which will spark a student's interest in reading.

Instead, he says he asks questions and listens.

"I sit down with that student and really figure out what is it that drives you?" Dickey says. "Why do you come to school? Why are you here every day?"

He asks them about their plans, their dreams.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami Northwestern High School English teacher Daniel Dickey has found a way to make his tenth graders brag about their reading skills.

Mischael Saint-Sume and Ciji Wright tease each other about who's going to read one million words first -- a contest Dickey created.

“Did you put him in his place?" Dickey asked Wright. "Because Mischael, he’s popping in my classroom every day with a new book."

“Oh don’t worry about it because I’ve got plenty of books for him,” Wright replied.

“But it ends today, by the way," Saint-Sume said. “I’m going to hit a million.”

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Holiday rerun: This story was originally published Oct. 3, 2014.

Bridget McKinney, principal at Miami's Allapattah Middle School, says her students struggle to pass the state's reading and writing tests.

So when McKinney first read the Common Core math and language arts standards used in Florida schools this year, what jumped out was the emphasis on answering questions and making arguments using examples and evidence from what students are reading.

Read to Learn Books for Free staff

A program in Miami-Dade County that gives kids and parents free books to keep and read together is in the midst of a big push for donations.

The Read to Learn Books for Free program is having trouble keeping up with demand. The program distributes 3,000 books at more than 30 locations around the county every week in an effort to increase literacy among some of the county's most vulnerable children.

cooldesign/freedigitaldownloads.net

07/02/14 - On Wednesday’s Topical Currents we’ll sit for a spell with Mitchell Kaplan, founder of Books & Books and co-founder of the Miami Book Fair International. He’ll tell us how he has become one of the country’s most successful independent booksellers and about his plans to venture into publishing. We’ll also get his recommendations for a good summer read. Join us and call in with your own suggestions on the next Topical Currents, Wednesday at 1pm.

Fast-food giant McDonald's is set to become a publishing giant as well — at least temporarily. For two weeks next month, McDonald's says it will oust the toys that usually come in its Happy Meals and replace them with books it has published itself.