Roland H. Good III, Ph.D., is co-author of Acadience® Reading (also published under the name DIBELS Next®), as well as earlier versions of the DIBELS® assessment. He earned his doctorate from Pennsylvania State University in School Psychology and served two years as a school psychologist. For the past 25 years, Dr. Good has led the program of Research and Development culminating in the Acadience Reading measures. Dr. Good has provided professional development about the use of these measures to educators and administrators throughout the United States. He has served on editorial boards for School Psychology Review, School Psychology Quarterly, and the Journal of Special Education, and has presented more than 100 papers at national conferences. In 2005, Penn State awarded Dr. Good its Excellence in Education award, in recognition of his contributions to the field of education.
The Equity Gap, or differentials in race, ethnicity, income, language, and background, has become even more prominent during the pandemic. Minority students from low-income communities were among those most affected by the lockdown and the move to remote learning—where they faced social and economic stress in their families and communities. In this important podcast, assessment expert Dr. Roland Good explores the Equity Gap and how it affects assessment data. You will also learn about reporting tools educators can use to discover skill gaps and provide students with the support they need.
In this podcast, Dr. Good will discuss:
How assessment data shows the skills most affected by gaps in equity
How the pandemic affected the Equity Gap
Reporting tools that can help educators disseminate student data
How to use assessment data to provide differentiation, prepare for state testing, and close skill gaps
Next steps to closing the Equity Gap
Please join us for this informative and engaging discussion with EDVIEW360 Podcast Host and Education Leader Pam Austin.
Pam Austin: How has the pandemic affected that equity gap as it relates to the differentials, when I think about K–6 students coming through the pandemic of the last 20 months?
Dr. Roland Good: This has been a devastating experience for our schools and for our children. This is especially devastating, I think, because it appears that the impact of the pandemic and of school closures has been largest in the early grades, that kindergarten, first grade, in particular, in the second grade into third grade. And this is the time where we can make the biggest difference in outcomes.
Narrator: You just heard Dr. Roland Good of Acadience® Learning. Dr. Good is our guest today on EDVIEW360.
Pam Austin: This is Pam Austin. Welcome back to the EDVIEW360 podcast series. We are so excited to have you back with us. I'm conducting today's podcast from my native New Orleans, LA. Today, we are excited to welcome assessment expert, Dr. Roland Good III of Acadience Learning. Dr. Good is our special guest today for EDVIEW360. Welcome, Dr. Good.
Dr. Roland Good: Thank you. It's great to be here.
Pam Austin: Oh, so awesome to have you here. I have to tell you, I want to begin our conversation by channeling Dr. Anita Archer, you know, the well-known literacy expert on explicit instruction. She has spoken to the meaning of equity versus equality, and that's what I want to talk to right now. Equity means that there is quality for all, right? So, if we think about it this way, we think about providing high-quality instruction to all students. Also, I have to mention these two literacy leaders, Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey. They say that every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance, but by design. Helping educators to grow in their craft so that they become the great teachers that students deserve and equipping them with proven solutions that set the stage for instructional equity, right, instructional equality.
So, equity would be ensuring individual students’ needs are met. Think differentiation. So, now that we've got differentiation in mind, I do have a question to start our time together, Dr. Good.
Dr. Roland Good: Sure.
Pam Austin: Please explain what the equity gap is in terms of assessment.
Dr. Roland Good: Well, in starting and preparing for this, and by the way, thank you for your intro quotes. Those are just really appropriate and consistent with where I would like to go in this, as well.
But in preparing for this, I actually Googled what the equity gap is. In that way, I could infer that we're sort of all on the same page in what we're talking about. And Google actually says that the equity gap refers to disparities in educational outcomes and student success metrics across race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, physical or mental abilities, and other demographic groups. And I just really like this way of thinking about it as, at least, a beginning of our discussion, because one, it focuses on outcomes and success metrics. It's where we get to for our children. And it's a broader discussion. This is not just race and ethnicity, although that's frequently where we go when we have this discussion, but this is also socioeconomic status, gender, disability status, English Language Learner status. This is a larger discussion of which race and ethnicity is a critical and important part.
I'd also like to, sort of, frame this in a little bit different way, as well. I resonate to it starting with outcomes. And I'm just so thrilled that you brought up Anita Archer at the beginning. She is one of my heroes in this business. She has been a hero of mine for some time. And Anita Archer has these pithy little sayings that she uses as a tagline to bring home a point, to be a pneumonic, to sort of stay with you. And I actually have a page of these sayings from Anita Archer. And after one of her presentations, I went up to her as her No. 1 fanboy and said: "Would you please autograph my page of sayings?" But one of them is like a byline for me. It's a focus for me in this discussion. She says: "How well you teach equals how well they learn."
And I would add a corollary to this. I feel very humble to add to Anita Archer in this way. So, this is Roland Good corollary to an Anita Archer statement. I would say that the flip side of this is also true. How well they learn equals how well you taught.
And, so, if we have a gap in outcomes, and a gap in success, to me, this translates into a gap in our teaching. And I would really think about the equity gap primarily in terms of a gap in our teaching, because this frames it in a way that we can do something about it. If we just frame it as outcomes, it's like, well, what are you going to do? If we frame it as a gap in teaching, we know what to do. We have the skills. We have the knowledge. We have the technology. We have the science to start to do something about it.
Pam Austin: Oh, I love the way you think, Dr. Good. I have to tell you. I know that Acadience has an outcomes-driven model. And our outcomes relate to the high-quality instruction we provide for students. It doesn't matter the race, ethnicity, the socioeconomic places where students come to, if we are focusing on what we can do, which is to provide that high-quality instruction. Thank you for sharing that.
I have to focus on recent events. And we know most recently what's been most impactful to students’ educations, and that ability for teachers to provide that high-quality instruction has been the pandemic. How has the pandemic affected that equity gap as it relates to the differentials, when I think about K–6 students coming through the pandemic of the last 20 months.
Dr. Roland Good: This has been a devastating experience for our schools and for our children. This is especially devastating, I think, because it appears that the impact of the pandemic and of school closures have been largest in the early grades, that kindergarten, first grade, in particular, in the second grade into third grade. And this is the time where we can make the biggest difference in outcomes.
So, this represents to me really a lost opportunity to change the world for many of our students. We're going to have to, for those students, switch from preventing a problem to remediating a problem and the gap that is there. We know from our work and from our research that the earlier that we can intervene, the earlier that we can improve teaching and instruction, the earlier that we can get students on track for outcomes.
First, the more students we can impact, and second, the bigger that impact can be. So, we've really taken a hit, I think, and taken a hit with our most vulnerable children at the most vulnerable time for them.
Pam Austin: It's great. So, the sooner the better, especially over the last 20 months and the impact of not being able to identify the students and their needs so that we can impact that outcome and provide that high-quality instruction. Thank you, Dr. Good, for sharing that. When you mention the students that there are some who are vulnerable, right, more vulnerable than others. You mentioned certain grade groups, as well. Who has been more directly impacted? If you could expound on that, that would be great. This disruption, you know, it caused that learning to be disrupted. Students weren't able to get the type of education we expected. We weren't able to identify those who would need additional support. For these students who struggled. Could you expound on that just a little bit more?
Dr. Roland Good: Sure. And we're talking about students who are likely to learn, who are likely to be successful, because of the teaching that we provide them. Many students learn to read, they learn mathematics almost as if we don't have to teach them. Those students are likely to be impacted less by this pandemic. But many students will learn because we teach them. Those are the students that we need to impact the most.
I'd sort of like to comment on some beliefs that are sometimes prevalent. Like there might be a belief that what can we do as teachers, as a school? It's the parents, it's the family, it's the community. I don't mean to take away anything from the importance of parents, family, and community, but I want to assert that if a student comes into school, we have the knowledge and the skills to teach them to be successful in reading and writing and mathematics. Now, that may not change all of the problems in the world for that student, but that will make a big difference. And we need to make that difference as soon as we can with those students.
Pam Austin: So, what you're saying is some students learn despite the way we teach, but some teachers need to teach in an explicit manner. And despite the background that students come from, we can make a difference in their lives.
Dr. Roland Good: We can.
Pam Austin: Is that what you're saying? Dr. Good.
Dr. Roland Good: Yes.
Pam Austin: Excellent. I am loving it.
Dr. Roland Good: That's exactly it.
Pam Austin: When we think about students, what are other stressors that they might be facing? You know, you alluded to some situations. The home life might not be perfect, and other things may be a factor. Is there anything that you would highlight specifically?
Dr. Roland Good: Really it's the learning opportunities that that student has, particularly exposure to language vocabulary, oral language, are a really critical foundation that they bring with them to school. I would say, one of the other things that's really been affected by the pandemic and the school closures has really been the access to teaching, as well. Many of our schools have gone to remote instruction, and that really relies upon having a technology to be able to make a connection, using the internet, connect and interact with teachers. It implies the time to be able to do that and the coordination and the self-motivation to do that, as well. All of those things are likely to be impacted for those students who are most vulnerable.
Pam Austin: All right. So, the learning opportunities can be dependent on the infrastructure that's there, right?
Dr. Roland Good: Yes.
Pam Austin: So, it's all about setting the stage for success in learning.
Dr. Roland Good: Yes. And there's no substitute for getting back in a classroom with the talented teacher. It's really the educators that make the difference.
Pam Austin: I agree. That's where the rubber meets the road, Dr. Good. Where the rubber meets the road. All right. So, Dr. Good, as educators begin to journey to understand where the learning disruption has landed in their students. So, looking at individual students targeting what they need, how can assessment data help them to see which skills are most affected by gaps in equity?
Dr. Roland Good: We are at a remarkable time in our development, of our knowledge of teaching and learning, and how children learn to read in particular. This is also true in math. We're making great strides in knowing how children learn mathematics, as well. I'm really into reading, so I comment most on that, but there are parallels across reading and math. And we know we have a well-developed, mature science of how children learn to read. We know that there are five essential early literacy and reading skills that occur in a progression of steps. This is a rough progression of steps, or sort of a rough ordering of this, but I don't mean to imply that it's first one, then another. All of these overlap and interweave. And we have to integrate these skills in addition to teaching these skills. But these skills start with the earliest ones around vocabulary and oral language.
Then we move into phonemic awareness, the knowledge and the understanding of how our language works, about how words are made up of sounds. This is an auditory skill. We don't need letters to represent this, although letters interweave with this. From phonemic awareness, we build into phonics and the alphabetic principle. These are both discrete skills and interweaved skills. We can think about them in both ways, and we must. The basic phonics skills build on the phonemic awareness skills, and each one helps a student to understand the other. And they all rely on that vocabulary and oral language. From there, we go to accuracy and fluency with connected text. With the basic phonics and the phonemic awareness, we learn how a word is represented, we gain practice, we gain mastery in being able to read a word as a word. In connected text, we build mastery and automaticity with all of the words forming a sequence.
And when we can do that as a fluid, automatic process, then we can focus on building meaning, and that's our fifth skill. So, vocabulary, oral language, phonemic awareness, basic phonics, and the alphabetic principle, accuracy and fluency with connected text, and reading comprehension, building meaning from what we have done. Each of these skills, we have the knowledge, the science to teach. With each of these skills, we have brief assessments that can tell us where a student is on that skill, where they need to get to in order to be on track and making adequate progress on that skill, and we can track their progress toward that goal on a week-by-week basis. And we can make adjustments to that instruction depending upon whether or not the student is learning and having success.
Pam Austin: What it boils down to is teaching and learning. Right, Dr. Good?
Dr. Roland Good: It's all about teaching and learning.
Pam Austin: Right. I'm seeing a theme here. And the most important factor here is the teacher, and what the teacher understands about the process of learning. That's what I'm getting from you, Dr. Good.
Dr. Roland Good: Yes.
Pam Austin: It's so wonderful to hear you speak in those terms. And it's about teachers being able to deliver with expertise. And I'm just going to recap some of these things you said just now. That oral language is important. Vocabulary is important. Going from that phonemic awareness to phonics. Getting students to reconnect the text with fluency, and then we can get what I call the big C, getting down to that meaning that comprehension, Dr. Good. Because that goal is gaining meaning from text. I am so excited to hear you speak this way.
You know, you, you talk a little bit about these assessments and tracking student progress so that we can see where the gaps are, the holes, and that's when we get to the equity, right? Understanding the gaps and the holes. It's all about that differentiation. And when I think about administering these assessments, are there any reporting tools that educators can use to disseminate that data, right? I want to uncover those skills where there are gaps. What kind of reporting supports do we have for teachers?
Dr. Roland Good: Well, we have a lot that are available. My colleague, Ruth Kaminiski, and I have really devoted our careers, our entire professional careers, to developing a tool that can enable us to measure these skills quickly and efficiently, and allow us to track that progress in those skills. We're not the only ones. I think that we have contributed really to the science and the community of scientists who are building and developing these skills. There are many alternatives that are available, and to tell you the truth, for the most part, they're all very good. Now I would say some are better than others, but they're all very good. It doesn't matter if you're using the work of Ruth Kaminski and myself as in Acadience® Reading, if or if you're using another assessment, what matters the most is that you are getting a direct measure of these essential skills, that you have vivid information about whether or not the student is on track and making adequate progress, or is off track and not making adequate progress.
It is critical that you are monitoring progress and modifying instruction based on that progress. This shows up as a progress-monitoring graph. I think for myself, the single most important way to look at testing and results is to have a direct measure of an essential skill plotted on an individual student graph that shows time across the bottom, and it shows where the student is right now, and it shows a goal of where we want that student to be at the end of the year, and a progress line that connects those two, so we can see if that student is making adequate progress at each point.
Now there are three or four or half a dozen different approaches to doing that. Acadience Reading is one of them. But I think that's the essential piece that is as close as we come to magic in this. I say as close as we come because I really don't think there are any magic ones that can change this. But this is a powerful tool that we can use.
Pam Austin: Just awesome. And I think you answered my next question in regards to differentiation. If we are looking at the end-of-mind outcomes, the goal, and we are tracking the goal line for individual students and providing that differentiation, it's more likely that we're preparing students for these state assessments. Would you agree?
Dr. Roland Good: Oh, absolutely. We are a different approach than the state assessments, but both approaches are important and we need to have them. State assessments often occur in third grade. They talk about where are we like the NAEP assessment will say basic skills, or proficient, or advanced skills. They often occur in third grade. And very often there is a sense of panic in third-grade educators to get students to be on track for those outcomes. Ruth and I really wanted to share that feeling of panic through the early grades. I really want us to feel a sense of panic at the beginning of kindergarten. This is the time to begin making that difference. And to maintain that sense of panic across kindergarten and first grade and second grade and third grade.
All of these skills are very, very tightly predictive of the next step in the process. How we do in the beginning of kindergarten is very predictive of how we do at the end of kindergarten, is very related to how we do at the beginning of first to the end of first, to the beginning of second to the end of second, to the beginning of third to the state assessment. Step by step is how we do that. We really built this as a tool for educators to know step by step are we on track to where we want to be at that outcome time?
Pam Austin: I think Dr. Good, you are a mind reader because my next question was to ask what the next steps were. I think you just answered that for us. So, educators and administrators need to be on fire and concerned about where students are at the very beginning, beginning in kindergarten, and step by step as they provide the skills and provide the differentiation that students need. Then we are closing that equity gap.
Dr. Roland Good: Yes.
Pam Austin: By the instruction we provided. Am I saying that correctly?
Dr. Roland Good: Yeah.
Pam Austin: And can you expound on that, please, Dr. Good?
Dr. Roland Good: Oh, you bet. Well, if you give me an opportunity, I'll probably take it. This is like, if you give a mouse a cookie, he'll ask for a glass of milk.
Pam Austin: Yes.
Dr. Roland Good: So, in thinking about that, this is really a tool that educators use, and it's how educators use it and what they do with it that is important. I think Ruth and I have devoted our careers to developing a chisel. It's like a tool. And we give that tool to a talented educator who is the sculptor and they'll use that chisel, and with that they will build a remarkable outcome, a remarkable accomplishment that we want to do. I remember very early in our research, I was visiting a rural school in Michigan, and visiting with the principal who was, she was a large and intimidating woman. And I would say she was kind of a force of nature.
I don't know if you can imagine what I mean when I say that.
Pam Austin: I can.
Dr. Roland Good: And she was involved with us very, very early, and this was at the very beginning. And at the beginning, we said to her: “Here's the benchmark.” And then I came back a year later and I said: “Well, we set it too low. It's actually here.” And she would kind of go: “Well, OK Well, here we go.” So, I was visiting her toward the end of that program of research, and I was trying to act the expert, you know, and saying: “Well, how many of your students have met the kindergarten benchmark for phonemic awareness?” And she looked at me kind of surprised and burst into tears. And she said: “Why, all of them. Anything else is just not acceptable.” And, of course I was, I was already intimidated. I just sort of melted down after that. And boy, how do you follow that? But it was really that sense of urgency that she brought to it.
And if I were a teacher and she was my principal, by golly, I would teach that skill so well that all of my students could do it. One of my favorite cartoons features two boys and their dog named Spot. And the one boy says to the other: “I've been teaching Spot to whistle.” And the other boy says: “I don't hear him whistling.” And the first boy said: “I said I taught him. I didn't say he learned.”
Pam Austin: I love it.
Dr. Roland Good: And from that, it's not enough to teach the skill. We have to teach it so well that the student learns it.
Pam Austin: Going back to channeling Dr. Archer, how well you, you teach.
Dr. Roland Good: Dr. Archer. Yep.
Pam Austin: Is how well they'll learn. You know, in essence, knowledge is power. And when we have that knowledge on how students learn, and how we can use this expertise to deliver that high-quality instruction, that's where we close the equity gap.
Dr. Roland Good: Yes.
Pam Austin: That's where we close it. Thank you so much. I have to tell you, earlier you mentioned that there is no magic wand, no pixie dust that we could sprinkle to magically change and fill in those learning gaps. It's a lot of hard work. But I'm still going to ask this question because we're nearing the end of our podcast. Are there any final tips that you have for helping educators bridge the equity gap? And then if you could wave your magic wand and change anything in the world of education, what would you change and why?
Dr. Roland Good: Well, I will try to restrain myself to a shorter answer on this. I think one of the things I would really focus on is the way that we think about this equity gap. And one way that I do not recommend is to think about the average score, like the, the average score for children who are white, the average score for children who are black or African-American, and to look at the difference in the averages. I'm really not attracted to that way of thinking about the gap, in part because I'm a statistician and kind of clumsy in, in the kitchen. And I think about the time I put my hand on the stove that was really hot and it was like burning. And, so right away, I stuck my other hand in the freezer and I said: “Well, on average, I'm OK.”
And if, if we think of the averages, we're not paying attention to the children at the extremes. So, I would rather focus on that equity gap first as a difference in those children who are making adequate progress. And let's get everybody making adequate progress. I'm not saying that the difference in the averages is not at some point important. I'm saying first let's get everybody making adequate progress. Everybody, each and every individual student is a personal affront if they are not making adequate progress.
And I can tell you in one minute if that student is on track, if they're making adequate progress or not. And that's the thing we should focus on. I remember talking to an educator in inner city Cincinnati. You mentioned New Orleans, inner city Cincinnati also, challenges, rural setting, challenges, different challenges. This educator was in inner city Cincinnati.
And, of course, I'm invited in as an expert. An expert is somebody who gets off the plane carrying a suitcase or a briefcase. And, so, I said to her: “How many of your first-graders have met the oral reading fluency benchmark on accuracy and fluency reading connected text? How many of them?” And she looked at me and she said, this was about February, March of the year, and she said: “All of them but one, and we're working on that student.” You could tell she was not going to accept anything other than that student reaching the benchmark. And if we were to decide that we're going to teach this skill so well that that student learns and masters that skill, there are very few things that we can't do. Very few children we can't do it with. We need the urgency, we need the resolve to say, we are going to do this. Nothing else is acceptable.
Pam Austin: So, the urgency is focusing on the individual student and their individual needs. We differentiate accordingly.
Dr. Roland Good: Yes.
Pam Austin: I think that's what I'm hearing. Dr. Good.
Dr. Roland Good: Yes. Yep. That's it.
Pam Austin: That's how we close the equity gap. Not looking at the groups as a whole, individual students and doing what we need for those students. Thank you so much.
Dr. Roland Good: I'm not saying groups as a whole are unimportant. Yeah, yeah, they're important. But the way we do that is student by student, child by child, each and every one, getting them on track
Pam Austin: And we will then affect that group as a whole.
Dr. Roland Good: Yes.
Pam Austin: I get that, Dr. Good. That is excellent. Thank you for joining us at EDVIEW360 today, Dr. Good. It's been a pleasure visiting with you. Tell us how we can learn more about you or Acadience Learning and follow you on social media.
Dr. Roland Good: Well, actually you can go to our website at acadiencelearning.org and we have a lot of resources and information and trainings that are available. We have social media from that website, it'll show you how to connect to our various social media streams and you can follow us there as well.
Pam Austin: Excellent. Thank you. This is Pam Austin bringing the best thought leaders in education directly to you.
Narrator: This has been an EDVIEW360 podcast. For additional thought-provoking discussions, sign up for our blog, webinar, and podcast series at voyagersopris.com/podcast. If you enjoyed the show, we'd love a five-star review wherever you listen to podcasts, and to help other people like you find our show. Thank you.
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