Category Archives: Education Week

Don’t Buy It: The Marketing Scam of MSM and the “Science of Reading”

Since 2018, Education Week has published a steady stream of click-bait press-release journalism promoting the “science of reading” (SoR).

So the latest scare-article is not surprising: More Than 1 in 3 Children Who Started School in the Pandemic Need ‘Intensive’ Reading Help. Now let’s look at the details:

That’s according to a new study by the testing group Amplify, based on data from more than 400,000 students in kindergarten through 5th grades who participated in the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, which Amplify administers. The research, released late Wednesday, shows that though students have begun to recover lost academic ground in the last year, big holes remain in students’ fundamental reading skills.

Researchers compared students’ reading achievement from 2019 through 2022 on DIBELS, one of the most commonly used diagnostic assessments for reading.

More Than 1 in 3 Children Who Started School in the Pandemic Need ‘Intensive’ Reading Help

That’s right Amplify and DIBELS have found that students urgently need … their products.

Imagine a publication called Medical Week in decades long ago when the tobacco industry did “research” and found no link between smoking and cancer. Imagine MedWeek publishing pro-smoking articles grounded in the tobacco industry’s “research.”

Well, you don’t have to imagine with EdWeek.

EdWeek and mainstream media have been complicit for almost four years now in the SoR marketing scam that uses “science” like a baseball bat to disorient the public and political leaders so non-scientific products and policies are slipped into the education system.

SoR cites NCTQ, an organization that releases “reports” that are not peer-reviewed (and third-party reviews discredit all of them). [1]

SoR legislation overwhelmingly includes grade retention, a practice refuted by decades of research for being harmful to students.

And SoR is in bed with phonic-intensive programs that are not supported by science; for example, phonics-heavy training for teachers, LETRS:

A growing number of U.S. states have funded and encourage and/or require teachers to attend professional development using Moats’s commercial LETRS program, including Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Texas. This is despite the fact that an Institute of Education Sciences study of the LETRS intervention found almost no effects on teachers or student achievement (Garet et al., 2008). (p. S259)

Hoffman, J.V., Hikida, M., & Sailors, M. (2020). Contesting science that silences: Amplifying equity, agency, and design research in literacy teacher preparation. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S255-S266. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.353

DIBELS is a widely refuted screening tool that narrowly defines reading around decoding (including an emphasis on nonsense words, which are completely absent comprehension measures).

The public and political leaders must resist the marketing scam being promoted by mainstream media around reading. But there is a common thread.

EdWeek? Nonsense.

DIBELS? Nonsense.

SoR? Nonsense.

LETRS? Nonsense.

Don’t buy it.


[1] See How to Navigate Social Media Debates about the “Science of Reading” [UPDATED] for all the ways SoR is connected to policies and practices not supported by science/evidence.

NCTQ: “The data was effectively useless”

You can count on two things when the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) releases one of their “reports.”

First, media will fall all over themselves to report NCTQ’s “findings” and “conclusions” without any critical review of whether the “findings” or “conclusions” are credible (or peer-reviewed, which they aren’t).

Second, NCTQ’s “methods,” “findings,” and “conclusions” are incomplete, pre-determined (NCTQ has a predictable “conclusion” that teacher education/certification is “bad”), and increasingly cloaked in an insincere context of diversity and equity (now teacher education/certification are not just “bad” but especially “bad” for minority candidates).

So the newest NCTQ report has been immediately and uncritically amplified by Education Week (who loves to take stands for “scientific” evidence while also reporting on “findings” and “reports” that cannot pass the lowest levels of expectations for scientific research).

There is great irony in this report and EdWeek’s coverage that includes two gems:

“The data was effectively useless,” said Kate Walsh, the president of NCTQ….

Said Walsh: “We do think that states ought to be asking some hard questions of institutions that have really low first-time pass rates. … We shouldn’t be afraid of this data. This data can help programs get better.”

First-Time Pass Rates on Teacher Licensure Exams Were Secret Until Now. See the Data

Walsh, in the first comment, is referring to data on passing rates on standardized testing, used for teacher licensure, but the irony is that she would be more accurate if she were referring to the NCTQ “report” itself.

The “report” admits that a number of states refused to cooperate (NCTQ has a long history of lies and manipulation to acquire “data” and many institutions and organizations have wisely stopped complying since the outcomes of NCTQ’s are predictable); therefore, this NCTQ “report” is similar to all their other “reports” in terms of incomplete data and slipshod methodology (a review of another NCTQ “report” by a colleague and me, for example, noted that NCTQ’s methodology wouldn’t be accepted in an undergraduate course, much less as credible scholarship to drive policy).

NCTQ and EdWeek, however, are typically not challenged since their claims and coverage fit a misleading narrative that the public and political leaders believe (again ironically in the absence of the data that Walsh claims “[w]e shouldn’t be afraid of”)—everything about U.S. public education, from teacher education to teacher quality, is total garbage.

NCTQ is a hack, agenda-driven think-tank, and EdWeek has eroded its journalistic credibility by embracing NCTQ’s “reports” when it serves their need for online traffic (see EdWeek’s obsession with the misleading “science of reading” movement where EdWeek shouts “science!” and cites NCTQ reports that fail the minimum requirements of scientific methodology).

This “report” on standardized testing in the teacher licensure process shouldn’t be viewed as in any way valuable for drawing conclusions about teacher education (teacher ed is a real problem that I have criticized extensively, but NCTQ hasn’t a clue what those problems are, and frankly, they don’t care) or for making policy.

However, what is interesting to notice is that NCTQ has chosen to use a shoddy analysis of previously hidden data on standardized testing to (once again) damn teacher education and traditional certification (both of which actually do deserve criticism and re-evaluation) even though there is another position one could take when analyzing (more rigorously and using a more robust methodology and the peer-review process) this data.

What if the problem with passing rates is not the quality of teacher education, but the inherent inequity built into standardized testing throughout the entire system of formal education?

Across the educational landscape—from NAEP to state-based accountability testing to the SAT and ACT to teacher licensure exams—standardized testing remains deeply inequitable, mostly correlated with socio-economic status, race, and gender in ways that perpetuate inequity.

In the very recent past, NCTQ was fully on board with the value-added method (VAM) for determining teacher quality, recall, and that movement eventually fell apart under its own weight since narrow forms of measurement, standardized testing, are actually a lousy way to understand teaching and learning.

If we take Walsh seriously about data (and we shouldn’t), here is a simple principle of gathering and understanding data—one data point (a standardized test score) will never be as powerful of valuable (valid/reliable) as multiple data points:

“Multiple data sources give us the best understanding of something,” said Petchauer, who was not involved in NCTQ’s report. “I get worried when a single high-stakes standardized test can trump other indicators of what a teacher knows and is able to do.”

First-Time Pass Rates on Teacher Licensure Exams Were Secret Until Now. See the Data

For one example, the Holy Grail of data credibility for the SAT has always been to be as predictive as GPA (GPA is the result of dozens of data points over years, and thus, a far more robust data set that one test score). GPA is more predictive.

Teacher education, like all education, remains inadequate, especially for marginalized populations, but one of the key elements in that claim is the overused of standardized testing.

If NCTQ and EdWeek were interested in challenging the use of high-stakes testing, then there may be some value in NCTQ’s most recent “report” (although the data is incomplete and the analysis is shoddy).

NCTQ’s “report” makes a big deal out of the licensure pass rates being hidden until their “report,” but once again, NCTQ’s agenda and total lack of scientific credibility as research makes this unveiling even worse than the data being hidden.

Ultimately, NCTQ’s misinformation campaign could be averted if and when media choose to practice what they preach. EdWeek is obsessed with teachers using the “science of reading” but their journalists routinely publish articles citing “reports” that never reach the level of “scientific.”

Whether you are a journalist or a researcher/scholar, you really are no better than the data, evidence, or sources you choose to stand with.

When your data are not credible, neither are you.

Should South Carolina Ban Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project?

[UPDATE: See published version here: MY TURN: Should South Carolina cancel Critical Race Theory?]

“In total, lawmakers in at least 15 states have introduced bills that seek to restrict how teachers can discuss racism, sexism, and other social issues,” reports Sarah Schwartz for Education Week.

South Carolina (H630) has joined Republicans across the U.S. challenging Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the 1619 Project.

The key problem with this copycat legislation is CRT isn’t implemented in K-12 education and the 1619 Project is not adopted curriculum.

CRT is rare in higher education, reserved for some graduate programs (specifically among legal scholars), but CRT provides a way to examine systemic racism, not simply the actions of individual racists.

For example, CRT is an academic process for trying to understand why police kill Black people disproportionately to white people. According to CRT, the killing of Tamir Rice is rooted in systemic racism (viewing Black boys as older than their biological age) that does not require the officer being consciously a racist individual.

Ultimately, legislation aimed at CRT or the 1619 Project is misleading, a threat to academic freedom and the education of students in SC. As Eesha Pendharker reports in Education Week: “[E]xperts say the laws ultimately will unravel years of administrators’ fitful efforts to improve educational opportunities and academic outcomes for America’s children of color, who today make up the majority of the nation’s student body.”

What, then, is occurring in SC K-12 education in terms of race and racism?

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training that covers implicit bias, systemic racism and racial privilege, and microaggressions. This training is now common for educators and students, but worth monitoring because DEI training is often not effective and can serve as superficial distractions allowing schools to avoid harder diversity work.
  • Diversifying faculty and the curriculum. Public school teachers are about 80% white, less diverse than society and the population of students in public schooling (increasingly Black and brown). Also, for many years, a greater representation of Black and brown voices and history have been included in what students are taught (typically in English/ELA and history/social studies). Diversifying the curriculum has prompted controversial legislation by Republicans, however.
  • Implementing culturally relevant teaching. The work of Gloria Ladson-Billings has gained momentum in K-12 education. Culturally relevant teaching, as she defines it, is “a threefold approach to ensuring that all children are successful. That approach requires a focus on students’ learning, an attempt to develop their cultural competence, and to increase their sociopolitical or critical consciousness.” This focus seeks to honor all children while acknowledging that differences remain among students by race, gender, culture, etc.
  • Adopting responsive discipline. Decades of research have revealed racially inequitable discipline in schools, popularly known as the school-to-prison pipeline. Many schools have begun to reconsider inequitable practices such as zero-tolerance policies and expulsion/suspension, for example.
  • Expanding educational access and improving educational quality for children of color. Black and brown students are under-represented in advanced programs (such as Advanced Placement and gifted programs), and often are taught by teachers with the least experience, who are under-/un-certified, and sit in classrooms with the highest student/teacher ratios. Public schools are not the “great equalizers” politicians claim, and often reflect and perpetuate inequity.

State legislation and the Superintendent of Education targeting CRT and the 1619 Project is political theater, a solution in search of a problem. Race and racism remain a significant part of life as well as education in SC. Republicans are poised to ruin the very good and needed, but incomplete, work identified above.

It is critical that teachers and students are free to examine the truth of our past and our present so that we can create the future we believe is possible.

Chicken Little Journalism Fails Education (Again and Again): Up Next, the Science of Science?

Often education journalism is disturbing in its “deja vu all over again“: Why Other Countries Keep Outperforming Us in Education (and How to Catch Up).

Criticizing U.S. public education through international comparisons is a long-standing tradition in the U.S. media, reaching back at least into the mid-twentieth century.

This is one of many crisis approaches to covering education—Chicken Little journalism—that makes false and misleading claims about the quality of U.S. education (always framed as a failure) and that because of the low status of the U.S. in international comparisons of education, the country is doomed, economically and politically.

Oddly enough, as international rankings of education have fluctuated over 70-plus years, some countries have risen and fallen in economic and political status (even inversely proportional to their education ranking) while the U.S. has remained in most ways the or one of the most dominant countries—even as we perpetually wallow in educational mediocrity.

Yet, this isn’t even remotely surprising as Gerald Bracey (and many others) detailed repeatedly that international comparisons of educational quality are essentially hokum—the research is often flawed (apples to oranges comparisons) and the conclusions drawn are based on false assumptions (that education quality directly causes economic quality).

Media coverage, however, will not (cannot?) reach for a different playbook; U.S. public education is always in crisis and the sky is falling because schools (and teachers) are failing.

Next up? I am betting on the “science of science.”

Why? You guessed it: The Latest Science Scores Are Out. The News Isn’t Good for Schools. As Sarah D. Sparks reports:

Fewer than 1 in 4 high school seniors and a little more than a third of 4th and 8th graders performed proficiently in science in 2019, according to national test results out this week.

The results are the latest from the National Assessment of Educational Progress in science. Since the assessment, known as “the nation’s report card,” was last given in science in 2015, 4th graders’ performance has declined overall, while average scores have been flat for students in grades 8 and 12.

“The 4th grade scores were concerning,” said Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers NAEP. “Whether we’re looking at the average scores or the performance by percentiles, it is clear that many students were struggling with science.”

The Latest Science Scores Are Out. The News Isn’t Good for Schools

And it seems low tests scores mean that schools once again are failing to teach those all-important standards:

Carr said the test generally aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, on which 40 states and the District of Columbia have based their own science teaching standards. Georgia, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire are developing new science assessments under a federal pilot program.

But it is even worse than we thought: “These widening gaps between the highest- and lowest-performing students, particularly in grade 4, mirror similar trends seen in national and global reading, math, and social studies assessments.”

Yep, U.S. students suck across all the core disciplines compared to the rest of the world!

And what makes this really upsetting, it seems, is we know how to teach science (you know, the “science of science”) because there is research: Effective Science Learning Means Observing and Explaining. There’s a Curriculum for That. Not only is there research, but also there are other countries doing it better and there are, again, those standards:

Organizing instruction around phenomena is a key feature of many reforms aimed at meeting the Next Generation Science Standards, an ambitious set of standards adopted or adapted by 44 states in 2013. Phenomena are also an organizing feature of instructional reforms in countries outside the United States, like high-performing Finland. But what is phenomenon-based learning, and what evidence is there that it works?…

Our study found that students exposed to the phenomenon-based curriculum learned more based on a test aligned with the Next Generation standards than did students using the textbook. Importantly, the results were similar across students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

William R. Penuel

Up next, of course, is the media trying to understand why science scores are so abysmal (like reading and math), assigning blame (schools, teachers, teacher education), and proposing Education Reform. What should we expect?

Well, since fourth-grade scores are in the dumpster, we need high-stakes science testing of all third-grade students and to impose grade retention on all those students who do not show proficiency in that pivotal third-grade year.

We also should start universal screening of 4K students for basic science knowledge (or maybe use “science” to screen fetuses in utero).

Simultaneously, states must adopt legislation mandating that all science curricula are based on research, the “science of science.”

Of course, teachers need to be retrained in the “science of science” because, you know, all teacher education programs have failed to teach the “science of science” [insert NCTQ report not yet released].

And while we are at it, are we sure Next Generation Science Standards are cutting it? Maybe we need Post-Next Generation Science Standards just to be safe?

Finally, we must give all this a ride, wait 6-7 or even 10 years, and then start the whole process over again.

The magical thing about Chicken Little journalism is that since the sky never falls, we can always point to the heavens and shout, “The sky is falling!”

Citation and Credibility: Three Lessons

In my three courses this fall, students are now all working on scholarly essays that incorporate high-quality sources (focusing on peer-reviewed journal articles). Since the work lies primarily in the field of education, students are using APA style guides.

Often when teaching students citation, we focus our lessons on (the drudgery of) formatting and idiosyncratic citation structures (APA’s annoying lowercase/upper case peculiarities, for example, in bibliographies) as well as the challenges of finding and evaluating a reasonable amount of valid sources to support the claims of the essay.

Students often struggle with evaluating sources for bias, and honestly, they are not well equipped to recognize flawed or ideologically skewed reports that appear to be in credible journals and are themselves well cited.

Part of the problem has been well documented by Gerald Bracey; citing Paul Krugman, Bracey confronts the rise of think tanks that promote their agendas through the veneer of scholars and scholarly reports. Then, Bracey notes, “[t]he media don’t help much. By convention, they present, at best, ‘balanced’ articles, not critical investigative pieces” (p. xvi). This is what I have labeled “both sides” journalism.

While scholarly writing and citation can often slip into a circus of minutia, one lesson needing greater care is helping students (and anyone making a research-based claim) recognize that their credibility and authority is built on the validity and quality of the sources they incorporate.

Here, I want to present three lessons illuminating that dynamic—all pulled from current issues.

Lesson One: The “Science of Reading”

One of the best examples of the problems with ideological think tank reports and media coverage occurred (again) at Education Week, a major publication covering education that has abandoned “critical investigative pieces” for simply reporting (crossing the Big Foot line) and “‘balanced’ articles.”

Ideological think tanks, as Bracey warned, are well organized and very aggressive, systematically alerting media and providing press releases so detailed that journalists have to do little work (except, of course, evaluating the credibility of the report to begin with).

Media routinely cover that think tanks release reports, and journalists have argued it isn’t their job to determine if those reports are valid or not.

For example, Education Week is so invested in the “science of reading” narrative and movement, that they eagerly present reports from NCTQ because their reports reinforce that narrative—even though, NCTQ itself has been repeatedly criticized for not meeting even the basic guidelines for scientific research.

Sarah Schwartz ignores that NCTQ is not a credible source for making claims about teacher training in reading. But with just a brief Google search, anyone can find that NCTQ has had numerous reports reviewed, finding a disturbing patterns: “Although NCTQ reports have been critiqued for their limited use of research and highly questionable research methodology, this report employs the same approaches as earlier NCTQ reports,” explain Stillman and Schultz in one of the most recent reviews (also concurrent to the report cited in EdWeek).

Students, like journalists, are often not expert in the topics they are addressing, and well-formatted reports can seem credible, but often fail the basic expectations of peer-review (NCTQ releases their reports without peer review and receive media coverage while the discrediting reviews tend to receive no media coverage).

The lesson here for students (and journalists) is that any claim is only as good as the sources used to support that claim.

If the “science of reading” is a valid narrative (and, in fact, it isn’t), citing sources that fail the basic test of being scientific certainly erodes if not discredits the initial claim.

Lesson Two: Gun Violence/Control

Since school shootings are a subset of the larger pattern of mass shootings unique to the U.S., I have been researching gun violence and school safety for many years. These topics have robust research bases that tend to contradict public and media assumptions about both.

I had just recently covered school shootings and safety with my educational foundations course when the highly publicized mass shootings near Atlanta, GA and in Boulder, CO erupted. So I returned to research on gun violence in two classes, having some students challenge what I was sharing. Those comments tend to echo typical pro-gun talking points and the common, but weak, arguments supporting gun ownership found in mainstream media.

Here’s the essential problem with research on school safety and gun violence/control: Gun advocates are ideologically driven and use compelling but false arguments to promote their gun agenda.

In other words, standard arguments for school safety (armed police on campuses, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, active shooter drills, etc.) and access to and ownership of guns (Second Amendment) are dramatically different than findings in existing research. Making this dynamic worse is that gun advocates have powerful organizations such as the NRA and even high-profile scholars offering discredited but popular arguments and research.

For example, John Lott is an economist and author of a high-profile pro-gun book; he also publishes research on gun violence that in many ways looks to students, the public, and the media like high-quality research.

Again, simply reporting on Lott’s research or citing that research in academic writing proves to be misguided since his work has been widely discredited once reviewed (see above).

The lesson here for students is that not all published scholarship is credible, and, possibly even more importantly, students need to seek out a body of research, never relying on only one study or the work of one scholar.

Lott is discredited but his work is also a distinct outlier; academic and scholarly writing loses credibility when relying on cherry picking (outlier research) in order to support a claim.

Lesson Three: Identity Politics

Another aspect of academic and scholarly writing grounded in sources is the importance of terminology—using disciplinary or technical terms in valid and accurate ways.

Recently, Barbara Smith took Megan McCain to task for McCain’s misuse of “identity politics”:

As one of three Black women who coined “identity politics,” Smith offers an incredibly important lesson for students because her Twitter thread offers credible sources for her claim, How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective and What Liberals Get Wrong About Identity Politics, the latter of which leads us to the seminal text itself, Combahee River Collective Statement.

The lesson for students here is the need to clarify terms in valid ways, including finding the primary source for scholarly language.


In some frustrating ways, citation formats and structures are both tedious and powerful aspects of building a student’s or scholar’s credibility. But a far more important task for students in terms of establishing their credibility is finding bodies of evidence that are verified by the field itself, most often peer reviewed and sitting within the bounds of many similar studies.

Since the space for scholarship and evidence continues to expand, students need to be better equipped for the difficult task of determining when sources are valid and when they are mere ideological distraction.

Unfortunately, as I show above, we have ample evidence around us daily of the great divide among research, the media, and the public—a divide often manipulated by powerful organizations with ideological agendas.

Open Letter: Education Week’s Coverage of the Life, Career, and Death of Ken Goodman

The May 21, 2020 article in Education Week by Stephen Sawchuk fails to honor the remarkable life and career of Ken Goodman on the occasion of his death. Instead, the publication has used this significant loss to the field of literacy as well as the Goodman family and friends for yet another opportunity to perpetuate the misleading narrative about the “science of reading.”

While Ken Goodman spent his life and career dedicated to reading and literacy, leaving behind a legacy of wide-reaching influence through his scholarship and embodying an ethic of kindness and inquiry, the selective use of interviews and incomplete references to research in the EdWeek article construct a distorted and tarnished image of a powerful voice in the field of education.

There is ample room for scholarly debate and disagreement in the complex and still evolving understanding of how children learn to read; however, EdWeek has chosen a solemn moment to continue a single-minded and misguided refrain about the “science of reading”—at the expense of the dignity and respect many know Ken and his family deserve.

Those signed below find the EdWeek coverage both insensitive to Ken and his family, and harmful to the field of literacy and reading.

This is a new low in EdWeek’s role as a high-profile voice in education. By mis-serving Ken and the field of literacy and reading, EdWeek has further eroded the publication’s credibility.

Signed,

Shira Adler
MFA, Founder & CEO Synergy

Richard Allington
Professor Emeritus
University of Tennessee

Marcia Baxter
Literacy Coach Columbia, SC

Laurey Brevig Almirall, EdD
Third grade teacher, Port Washington School District

Delisa Alsup Ed.S
Reading and Literacy Leadership
Instructional Coach

Bess Altwerger
Professor Emerita
Towson University
Former School Board Member, Howard County, MD

Nancy Bailey, Ph.D.
Education Blogger

Kylene Beers, Ed.D.
Literacy specialist and educational consultant
Past-president National Council of Teachers of English;
Recipient of the CEL Leadership Award

Carrie Birmingham
Associate Professor of Education
Pepperdine University

Susi Bostock, Ed.D.
Elementary Education
Half Hollow Hills School District, NY

Dorey Brandt-Finell, Family Advocate and Educational Specialist
David Finell, Principal (retired)

Lois Bridges Ph.D.
VP/Publisher

C. Garth Brooks,
British Columbia Literacy Council of the ILA
Executive Director, LEADER Special Interest Group of the ILA

Sally Brown, Ph.D.
Professor of Literacy Education
Reading Program Director
Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading
Georgia Southern University

Charlotte A. Butler, MAELT
P-20 Literacy Coordinator (retired)

Lucy Calkins
Richard Robinson Professor of Children’s Literature at Teachers College, Columbia University
Founding Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project

Professor Brian Cambourne, B.A. Litt.B (Hons), Ph.D A.M
Principal Fellow University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Cecilia Candreva, Ed.D.
Retired Elementary Principal
Franklin Square School District, NY

Rose Anne Casement
Professor Emerita
University of Michigan-Flint

Erika Strauss Chavarria
Spanish Teacher, Howard County MD

Linda Christensen
Director, Oregon Writing Project
Lewis & Clark College
Editor, Rethinking Schools
Editor Rethinking School

Ruby Clayton, Teacher
Indianapolis Public Schools

Gerald Coles,
Education Researcher
Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy Legislation & Lies (Heinemann)

Nancy Creech, Ed.D.
Elementary Teacher & Reading Specialist, Retired

Caryl Crowell, M.Ed, Ed.S.
Retired, Tucson Unified School District

Paul Crowley, PhD
Professor Emeritus
Sonoma State University
Rohnert Park, CA

Joan Czapalay,
Teacher, Educator (Nova Scotia, MSVU)
Parent and Grandparent

Diane DeFord
Professor Emerita and Endowed Professor
University of South Carolina

Benjamin Doxtdator
English Teacher, Education Writer

Corydon Doyle, Ph.D.
English Teacher Mount Sinai UFSD
Adjunct Professor Long Island University

Amy J. Dray
Program Officer
Spencer Foundation

Katie Dredger
Associate Professor
James Madison University

Peter Duckett, PhD
Bahrain Bayan
Kingdom of Bahrain

Carole Edelsky, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita
Arizona State University

Eric W. Eye, M.A.
HS ELA teacher

Amy Seely Flint
Professor
University of Louisville

Barbara Flores, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita
CSU, San Bernardino

Jennifer Flores
Tucson TAWL

Susan Florio-Ruane Ed.D.
Professor Emerita
College of Education
Michigan State University

Alan Flurkey
Professor, Literacy Studies
Department Chair, Specialized Programs in Education
Hofstra University

Salli Forbes, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita and Reading Recovery Trainer
The University of Northern Iowa

David E. Freeman, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
The University of Texas Río Grande Valley

Yvonne S. Freeman, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita
The University of Texas Río Grande Valley

Peter H. Fries
Professor emeritus
Central Michigan University

Stefanie Fuhr, MEd

Janet S. Gaffney
Professor, University of Auckland
Professor Emerita, University of Illinois

Andrea Garcia, Ph.D.
Literacy Educator, Mexico

Suzanne Gespass

Carol Gilles, Associate Professor of Reading/Language Arts, Emerita
University of Missouri, Columbia

Debra Goodman
Professor, Hofstra University
President, Center for Expansion of Language and Thinking

Wendy J Trachtman Goodman, MA ED
36 year veteran classroom teacher

Vera Goodman
Teacher and Reading Expert
Creator of The Making Sense Approach to Reading
Calgary, Alberta

Yetta Goodman, Regents Professor Emerita
University of Arizona, College of Education

Helmuth Leal Guatemalan
professional in tourism and activist in improving the techniques of teaching in Guatemala

Kris Gutierrez, University of California, Berkeley

Xenia Hadjioannou, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Language and Literacy Education
Penn State Harrisburg

Sue Haynes, M.S. ed, M.ed, Literacy Specialist
Author of Creative Mavericks: Beacons of Authentic Learning

Dr. Roxanne Henkin
Professor Emeritus
The University of Texas at San Antonio
Past President
Literacies & Languages for All
Director Emeritus
San Antonio Writing Project

Kathleen A. Hinchman, Professor
School of Education
Syracuse University

Jim Horn, PhD
Professor, Cambridge College

Dr. Mary Howard
Literacy Consultant and Author

Liz Hynes-Musnisky, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor, Department of Critical Reading
Nassau Community College

Ana Christina da Silva Iddings
Professor, Vanderbilt University

Lori Jackson,
Reading Interventionist and Coach

Debra Jacobson

Rosemarie A. Jensen, M.Ed.
UF ProTeach Grad

Bobbi Jentes-Mason, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita
Teacher Education

Nancy J. Johnson, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Western Washington University
Bellingham, WA

Katie Kelly, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Education
Coordinator of Literacy Graduate Program Furman University

Gary Kilarr
Center for the Expansion of Language and Thinking

Dorothy F. King

Brian Kissel, Ph.D.

Dr. Dick Koblitz
Adjunct Professor at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri and Saint Louis University
Literacy Consultant

Alfie Kohn
author and lecturer / Belmont, MA

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Lorraine Krause
Retired teacher
Peter Krause
Retired Superintendent of Schools

Tasha Laman

Lester Laminack
Children’s Author
Professor Emeritus Western Carolina University

Christine Leland​
Professor Emerita, Indiana University, Indianapolis

Mitzi Lewison
School of Education
Indiana University

Georgia Leyden, MA in Education, Reading and Language
Retired first grade teacher
Retired lecturer, School of Education, Sonoma State University

Calvin A. Luker
Respect ABILITY Law Center
Co-founder, Our Children Left Behind

Elizabeth Lynch, Ed.D.,
retired elementary school teacher, Brentwood UFSD, NY,
former Adjunct Associate Professor, Dowling College, NY,
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Hofstra University

Gina Margiotta, NBCT
LAUSD

Prisca Martens
Ray Martens

Carmen M. Martínez-Roldán
Associate Professor & Program Director Bilingual Bicultural Education,
Teachers College, Columbia University

Stephanie L. McAndrews

Becky McCraw
Goucher Elementary
Cherokee County Schools

J. Cynthia McDermott

Dr. Theresa McGinnis
Associate Professor, Literacy Studies
Hofstra University

Jeff McQuillan
Independent Researcher

Rick Meyer
Regents’ Professor Emeritus
University of New Mexico

Alexandra Miletta
Ed Blogger

Heidi Mills
Distinguished Professor Emerita
University of South Carolina

Kathryn Mitchell Pierce
Saint Louis University

Luis Moll
Emeritus Professor, University of Arizona
Reading Hall of Fame

Maureen Arnold Morrissey, M.ED.
37 year veteran teacher

Liz Murray, Ed D.

Michele Myers
Clinical Associate Professor
University of South Carolina

Jennifer Ochoa
8th grade English Teacher

Susan Ohanian
Fellow, National Education Policy Center

Mike Oliver, principal
Zaharis Elementary, Mesa Public Schools
“Zaharis Elementary School is standing on the shoulders of Ken Goodman.”

Richard C. Owen, Publisher
Richard C. Owen Publishers, Inc.

Celia Oyler
Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University

Glennellen Pace, PhD, Associate Professor Emerita
Lewis & Clark College Graduate School of Professional Studies
Portland, OR

Karen V. Packard, Ed.D
Retired teacher educator, Title 1 director, reading/language arts specialist and classroom teacher

Johnna Paraiso, EdD
Rutherford County Schools, ESL/ Adult Literacy Educator
Education Professor, Tennessee State University

Nancy Paterson, PhD
Associate Professor (Retired) Literacy Studies
College of Education, Grand Valley State University
Former Chair Middle Section, NCTE

Patricia Paugh
Associate Professor
University of Massachusetts Boston

P. David Pearson
Evelyn Lois Corey Emeritus Professor of Instructional Science
Graduate School of Education
University of California, Berkeley

Erica Ann Pecorale

Ann Peluso
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction (Retired)
West Hempstead School District, NY

Kathleen O’Brien Ramirez, PhD
Universal Multilingual Literacy

Patricia Reed-Meehan, Ed.D.
Literacy Teacher, NYC Department of Education
Adjunct Professor, EECE Queens College

Louann Reid, PhD
Professor of English Education
Chair Department of English
Colorado State University

Lynne Hebert Remson, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-F
Speech-Language Pathologist
Small Talk Speech and Language Specialists

Victoria J. Risko
Professor Emerita
Vanderbilt University

Laura Roop, Director
Western Pennsylvania Writing Project
University of Pittsburgh

Elisabeth Costa Saliani, Ph.D.
William Floyd UFSD
20 year teacher of Elementary ENL

Lenny Sánchez
Faculty, Language and Literacy Education
co-Director, Bilingualism Matters @ UofSC
co-Editor, Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice

Sherry Sanden, Ph.D., NBCT alum
Interim Associate Director
Associate Professor, Early Childhood Literacy

Ronda Schlumbohm, M.Ed Reading
Grade 2, Salcha Elementary

Renita Schmidt
Associate Professor Emeritus
University of Iowa

Jean Schroeder

David Schultz, EdD, Retired
Long Island University Riverhead
Mattituck-Cutchogue School District

Sara H. Somerall

Louise Sweeney Shaw, Ed.D.
Associate Professor, Curriculum and Learning
Southern Connecticut State University

Nancy Rankie Shelton, PhD
Professor, UMBC, Literacy Education

Ira Shor
Professor Emeritus
City University of NY Graduate Center

Marjorie Siegel,
Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University

Flory Simon U of A Retired
Co-Director Southern Arizona Writing Project

Yvonne Siu-Runyan, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita, The University of Northern Colorado
Past President, National Council Teachers of English
Boulder, CO

Tracy L. Smiles, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita, Western Oregon University

Melinda Smith, MAEd
Elementary Teacher
Manhasset UFSD, NY

Patricia G Smith Ph.D.,retired
Federation University
Victoria, Australia

Ellen Spitler, PhD
Associate Professor
Metropolitan State University of Denver

Diane Stephens
Professor Emerita
University of South Carolina

Charlotte H. Stocek, Ph.D.

Steven L. Strauss, MD, PhD
Neurologist
Baltimore, Md

Denny Taylor
Distinguished Alumni, Columbia University
Distinguished Scholar, NCRLL
Inducted (2004) Reading Hall of Fame
Founder of Garn Press

Monica Taylor, PhD
Professor, Department of Educational Foundations
Montclair State University

P.L. Thomas, EdD
Professor of Education
Furman University
NCTE’s 2013 George Orwell Award winner

Serena Troiani Ph.D.
Elementary school teacher Port Washington UFSD, NY
Adjunct Assistant Professor Queens College, NY

Dr Jan Turbill FACE
University of Wollongong
Australia

Dr. Jesse P. Turner
Central Connecticut State University

Ruth J. Sáez Vega
Universidad de Puerto Rico
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Meghan Valerio, M.Ed.
Doctoral Student & Graduate Assistant
Curriculum and Instruction, Emphasis in Literacy
Kent State University

Elisa Waingort
Classroom Teacher
Calgary, Alberta
Canada

Judy M. Wallis, Ed.D.
Literacy Author and Consultant
Former Director of Language Arts

Russ Walsh
Adjunct Instructor, Graduate Education
Rider University

Yang Wang
Assistant Professor in Language and Literacy
University of South Carolina

Lois Weiner, Ed.D.
Professor Emerita, NJCU

Steve Wellinski
Associate Professor of Reading Education
Eastern Michigan University

Darlene Westfall, M.ED.
Special Education Teacher

Kathryn F Whitmore, PhD
Professor and Department Chair
Metropolitan State University of Denver
And PROUD student of Dr Kenneth S Goodman

Carolynn E. Wilcox, English Teacher,
Early College of Arvada and Affiliate Professor,
Department of English,
Metropolitan State University of Denver

Jeffery L Williams
Past-President of Reading Recovery Council of North America
K-12 Literacy Coach and Teacher Leader

Joan Wink, Professor Emerita
California State University, Stanislaus

Thomas DeVere Wolsey, EdD
Graduate School of Education
The American University in Cairo

Recommended

Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading”

What Every Parent Should Know about Kenneth S. Goodman

Reading Programs Put Reading Last

girl reading book
Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash

While rewatching Zombieland recently, I noticed that this version of the zombie genre was not only a blend of horror and comedy but also a slightly different take on the zombie mythology; a central character, Columbus (played by Jesse Eisenberg), embodies a motif focusing not on the zombies but on the survivors, and their survival techniques often grounded in anxiety and other compulsions that are often a burden in the so-called normal world.

Zombie narratives are enduring in popular culture throughout history because reanimation of life and the near impossibility of killing the reanimated are truly horrifying elements. But zombie narratives are also highly adaptable to many cultural perspectives.

Currently the Reading War has been reanimated around the branding of the “science of reading,” and this version seems even harder to kill than previous iterations; the effectiveness of the double tap perfected by Columbus in the film would be deeply appreciated in this circumstance.

As we wander into 2020, the “science of reading” movement has developed a few new approaches grounded in the foundational arguments that have made “science of reading” as compelling as a zombie story: discrediting popular reading programs as not scientific and reanimating Reading First (the program built on the National Reading Panel).

Central to these developments in the “science of reading” onslaught on reading are two key names: Timothy Shanahan and Lucy Calkins.

In many ways, Shanahan (a member of NRP) has emerged as a key voice in rewriting the history of both the NRP and Reading First. Calkins, as the name on a widely adopted reading program, now represents the so-called failed balanced literacy movement.

Here we have names and people superimposed onto the false war between phonics (Shanahan) and balanced literacy/whole language (Calkins).

Calkins has posted a defense of her programs, and Shanahan has recently posted a somewhat garbled defense of Reading First.

However, there is no value in mainstream media pointing fingers at Calkins, charging her with a self-serving agenda, while supporting Shanahan, who is conducting his own PR campaign for his role in the NRP. Let them without agendas cast the first stone. (Hint: There are plenty of agendas to go around on this.)

Yet, it is a negative review of Calkins’s program that has found a home in the mainstream media:

A new player has moved into the curriculum review market: Nonprofit consulting group Student Achievement Partners announced this week that it is going to start evaluating literacy curricula against reading research.

The group released its first report on Thursday: an evaluation of the Units of Study for Teaching Reading in grades K-5, a workshop style program designed by Lucy Calkins and published through the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

The seven literacy researchers who reviewed the program gave it a negative evaluation, writing that it was “unlikely to lead to literacy success for all of America’s public schoolchildren.”

This last point quoted from the review is incredibly important to unpack, as is the urgency with which the mainstream media reports this review mostly uncritically.

First, there is a serious contradiction and hypocrisy when the mainstream media commit to a term such as the “science of reading,” demanding that reading instruction is always grounded in a narrow concept of “scientific” (the so-called gold standard of cognitive psychology, specifically), but participate in press release journalism.

We must ask about the review endorsed by EdWeek: Is it scientific? Has it been blind peer-reviewed? Do the authors have any agendas that would skew the findings?

And then we must argue: If mainstream journalists are now demanding that educators implement only practices supported by high-quality scientific studies, those journalists should not report on any reviews or studies that themselves are not also high-quality scientific studies.

This contradiction in which the media have lower standards for their reporting than for the agenda they are promoting is a window, however, into what is really going on, bringing us back to the conclusion about Calkins’s reading program.

All reading programs can and should be viewed through that conclusion: “unlikely to lead to literacy success for all of America’s public schoolchildren.”

In fact, like the Orwellian named Reading First, reading programs always put reading last because reading programs are inevitably linked over the past 40 years to the accountability movement; teachers and students have been disproportionately held accountable for implementing and following the programs and not for authentic reading.

Reading First did in fact fail, despite arguments to the contrary, because the bureaucracy allowed the natural corruption inherent in the market; funding for reading became inappropriately tied to specific reading programs and textbook companies using the label of “scientifically based” (a central element of No Child Left Behind and the NRP almost twenty years ago).

Reading was last in the Reading First scandal because the focus became adopting and implementing Open Court.

The real irony here is that the market/accountability dynamic is at the heart of why it makes perfect sense to conclude that Calkins’s program is “unlikely to lead to literacy success for all of America’s public schoolchildren.”

And the bigger irony is that whole language and balanced literacy were attempts to pull back from scripted and prescriptive program approaches to teaching reading and to provide philosophical and theoretical frameworks within which teachers could use their professional autonomy to shape reading instruction to the needs of “all of America’s public schoolchildren.”

This is a much ignored truism found in John Dewey: In education, we must resist reducing philosophical and theoretical truths to fixed templates that then become not guiding principles but simplistic mandates to be fulfilled.

Children reading eagerly and critically—this is the real goal of teaching reading in our public schools; that is putting reading first, not any commercial program whether it be systematic intensive phonics or one promoted as balanced literacy.

Reanimating NRP and Reading First is, I concede, on its second round so I can hold out hope that a vigilant double tap may put these zombies back in the ground permanently.

None the less, I will remain anxious like Columbus, skeptical that we are safe.

See Also

Reading First: Hard to Live With—or Without, P. David Pearson

Pearson Reading First

Teacher Preparation and the Kafkan Nightmare of Accreditation

Over three-plus decades of teaching, I have found that students are far less likely to laugh while reading Franz Kafka than, say, while reading Kurt Vonnegut. But Kafka and Vonnegut are essentially satirists, though both traffic mainly in dark humor.

Black-and-white photograph of Kafka as a young man with dark hair in a formal suit
Franz Kafka 1923 (public domain)

The Metamorphosis is the work most people associate with Kafka, but it isn’t readily recognized, I have found, that the work is filled with slapstick humor—the scene when Gregor is revealed as a bug to his family—while also making a damning commentary on the consequences of the bureaucratic life.

You see, Gregor Samsa’s metamorphosis into a bug is merely a physical manifestation of his life as a salesman, which, Kafka illustrates, is nothing more than a bug’s life.

This, of course, was Kafka’s impression of early twentieth century Prussia as well as the corrosive nature of materialism. As I enter my eighteenth year as as a teacher educator, after eighteen years as a public school English teacher, I can attest that Kafka has pretty much nailed my career on the head as well.

So when I saw Teacher-Preparation Programs Again Have a Choice of Accreditors. But Should They? in Education Week, I immediately recognized that this was the wrong question—or at least incomplete.

Accountability, standards, and assessment have been pervasive my entire career in education, which began in 1984. Over that career, I have heard a consistent refrain about the failures of both K-12 education and teacher education.

As I have recently detailed, teacher education is, in fact, the new scapegoat for all that ails education.

I have worked through about ten combined iterations of standards and assessment expectations, include two different rounds of submitting the teacher preparation program I am solely responsible for now, the first being for NCATE and the for CAEP (mentioned prominently in the article linked above).

Through these experiences, I have witnessed that the same complaints of failure remain while each new round of standards and assessment promise to reform the system and bring great success (often for all students), only to be replaced in a few years under the blanket of the same crisis rhetoric and the same promises that never materialize.

This Kafkan nightmare is perfectly described by Gilles Deleuze, who also turns to Kafka:

In the disciplinary societies one was always starting again (from school to the barracks, from the barracks to the factory), while in the societies of control one is never finished with anything—the corporation, the educational system, the armed services being metastable states coexisting in one and the same modulation, like a universal system of deformation. In The Trial, Kafka, who had already placed himself at the pivotal point between two types of social formation, described the most fearsome of judicial forms. The apparent acquittal of the disciplinary societies (between two incarcerations); and the limitless postponements of the societies of control (in continuous variation) are two very different modes of juridicial life, and if our law is hesitant, itself in crisis, it’s because we are leaving one in order to enter the other.

In my home state of South Carolina, for example, the state adopted Common Core standards, planned to implement the assessment designed for those standards, purchased textbooks and materials aligned with the standards, trained teachers in the standards, and then dropped the standards for new SC versions of standards before Common Core could ever be fully implemented.

My first experience with accreditation of teacher education programs was early in my tenure in higher education. I was baffled both by the process (again, I am solely responsible for an entire program and all the data as well as the report submitted for that accreditation) and my colleagues’ almost complete uncritical obsession with the requirements. In short, the vast majority of my department’s time and attention was devoted to fulfilling the obligations of accreditation—not teaching, not scholarship, but standards, rubrics, and data tables mandated by the accreditation entity.

Just six or seven short years later, the process came back around again—nearly the same, but different. NCATE had been replaced by CAEP and standards were different along with the report itself and the broad expectations being both eerily different and the same.

Accreditation, I suspect, is a process that is perceived as a necessary layer of bureaucracy to insure some sort of consistency and fidelity among all teacher education programs across the U.S. This appears to be the same initial urge driving Common Core, for example.

Political leaders have used accountability, standards, and high-stakes testing for nearly four decades as a way to claim a commitment to higher expectations and better outcomes from the public education system. The public appears incapable over that time to examine closely the argument that schools are failing (the mainstream argument is both false and misleading) or the assertion that accountability, standards, and high-stakes testing will somehow address those problems.

Accreditation of teacher education is essentially a thinly veiled admission that there is no political or public trust of teacher educators, the field of education, or teachers.

Beneath that lack of trust, the accountability era for public education and the allure of accreditation are evidence that political leaders and the public fundamentally misunderstand teaching and learning.

Here is the sobering truth about teaching and learning: To teach is about offering the opportunity to learn; however, there is no way to guarantee that teaching will result in learning regardless of the quality of the teacher or the motivation of the student.

Accountability and accreditation are designed with the assumption that teaching and learning can be prescribed and clearly defined (standards) and then made visible with assessments that are valid and authentic.

Those assumptions are mostly hokum.

The standards and testing movement in K-12 education and the accreditation process for teacher education have proven to be what Oscar Wilde argued about how government addresses poverty: ““But their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease.”

Trying to meet the requirements of accreditation has made teacher educators less effective, has reduced the quality of courses and experiences for pre-service teachers, and has consumed an incredible amount of time and financial resources for teacher educators.

It is much ado about nothing.

The EdWeek question, then, is overly simplistic; the rise of AAQEP as an alternative to CAEP is the “illusion of choice” that masks the truly important choice—teacher education and education as a field need to abandon accreditation and seek instead to build a discipline.

Meeting the demands of accreditation is a waste of time and resources that should be dedicated to the things associated with disciplines such as history, psychology, sociology, etc.—reading and thinking deeply about the ideas and practices at the core of the field, conducting a wide range of research on those topics and problems, producing scholarship that informs an ongoing dialogue about teaching and learning, and engaging students in those topics in ways that allow them to become the educators they seek to be.

To reject accreditation is to embrace higher expectations for teacher education, teacher educators, and teachers.

At the end of The Metamorphosis, Gregor’s macabre demise is a distraction for many readers who miss that this is a story about such rejections and not necessarily a tale about Gregor, but his family. After Gregor dies, “Then all three [Gregor’s family] left the apartment together, something they had not done for months now, and took the electric tram into the open air outside the city. The car in which they were sitting by themselves was totally engulfed by the warm sun.”

Careful reading of the final paragraph reveals that the family’s obsession with Gregor, who himself had embraced a toxic bug life dedicated to erasing the family’s debt, has to be abandoned for their eventual happiness: “The greatest improvement in their situation at this moment, of course, had to come from a change of dwelling. Now they wanted to rent an apartment smaller and cheaper but better situated and generally more practical than the present one, which Gregor had found.”

Gregor’s sister becomes the symbol of a new, and better, possibility, a fully human life unfettered by the bug life swept into the dust bin.

See Also

The Metamorphosis at 100, Alexander Billet

Educational Accountability and the Science of Scapegoating the Powerless

Several years ago when I submitted an Op-Ed to the largest newspaper in my home state of South Carolina, the editor rejected the historical timeline I was using for state standards and testing, specifically arguing that accountability had begun in the late 1990s and not in the early 1980s as I noted.

Here’s the interesting part.

I began teaching in South Carolina in the fall of 1984, the first year of major education reform under then-governor Richard Riley. That reform included a significant teacher pay raise, extended days of working for teachers, and the standards-testing regime that would become normal for all public education across the U.S.

In fact, SC’s accountability legislation dates back to the late 1970s (I sent her links to all this).

As a beginning teacher, the only public schooling I ever knew was teaching to standards and high-stakes tests by identifying standards on my lesson plans and implementing benchmark assessments throughout the academic year to document I was teaching what was mandated as a bulwark against low student tests scores. State testing, including punitive exit exams, pervaded everything about being an English teacher.

Yet, an editor, herself a career journalist, was quick to assume my expertise as a classroom practitioner and then college professor of education was mistaken.

This is a snapshot of how mainstream media interact with education as a topic and educators as professionals.

I am reminded of that experience over and over in fact as I read media coverage of education. Take for example this from Education Week, Want Teachers to Motivate Their Students? Teach Them How, which has the thesis:

Most teachers intrinsically understand the need to motivate their students, experts say, but teaching on intuition alone can lead to missteps in student engagement.

A study released in May by the Mindset Scholars Network, a collaborative of researchers who study student motivation, found most teacher education programs nationwide do not include explicit training for teachers on the science of how to motivate students.

Two key elements of this article stand out: The new scapegoat in proclaiming education a failure is teacher education and the go-to failure is always about a lack of “science” in teacher education.

This article on motivation is following a media template well worn recently about students in the U.S. can’t read because teachers are not taught the “science of reading,” you guessed it, in their teacher education programs.

As I detailed in a Twitter thread, scapegoating teacher education has many flaws, and my experience and expertise as a teacher educator for almost two decades, following almost two decades as a classroom teacher, inform my understanding of how finding scapegoats for educational failure during the accountability era is fool’s gold.

How has the accountability era gone in terms of where the accountability and locus of power lie, then?

In the 1980s and 1990s, the accountability mechanisms focused on holding students accountable (think exit exams) and schools accountable (student test scores often translated into school rankings or grades, designating schools as “failing,” for example).

Keep in mind that students had no power in that process, and that schools were merely agents of the standards being implemented, again outside the power dynamics of those mandates being determined.

With No Child Left Behind spawned by the false claims of the Texas Miracle, the accountability era was greatly accelerated, including a creeping sense that the process wasn’t improving education but it was punishing students (lower graduation rates due to exit exams) and demonizing schools (most high-poverty and high-racial minority schools were labeled as “failing”).

By the administration of Barak Obama, with education policy under another false narrative (the Chicago Miracle) and false ambassador with no background in education other than appointments (Arne Duncan), the scapegoating took a turn—the problem, went the new message, was “bad” teachers and the solution was not holding students or schools accountable for test scores but those teachers (the era of value-added methods [VAM]).

As some have noted and documented, teacher bashing increased and then prompted a backlash (see magazine covers from Time for a great series of artifacts on this); it seems that VAM proved to be a false metric for accountability and that maybe teachers were not the problem after all.

With the scapegoat role now vacant, the media have discovered a new candidate, teacher education.

Let’s here recognize that once again the power context is way off in who is determining the accountability and who is being held accountable. For the most part, teachers and teacher educators are relatively powerless agents who are mandated to implement standards and assessments that they do not create and often do not endorse as valid.

Now consider another really important reason accountability in education is deeply flawed: The constant misguided scapegoating of powerless agents in formal teaching and learning is a distraction from the actual causal sources for educational challenges.

Fun fact: Decades of research from educators and education scholars have detailed that out-of-school factors overwhelmingly determine measurable student outcomes, some estimates as high as 80+% and most scholars agreeing on 60%. Teacher quality’s impact on measurable student achievement has been identified repeatedly as only about 10-15%.

Yet, the entire accountability era since the early 1980s has focused on in-school reforms only (scapegoating along the way), while tossing up hands and embracing harsh ideologies such as “no excuses” practices that argue teachers fail students with the “soft bigotry of low expectations” and students fail because they lack “grit” or a growth mindset.

Many of us have doggedly argued for social context reform, addressing socio-economic reform first and then reforming education along equity (not accountability) lines next, or concurrently. Many of us have also demonstrated that “grit” and growth mindset have racist and classist groundings that are harmful.

For those positions, we have been demonized and marginalized for decades.

So imagine my surprise when, first, the tide shifted on teacher bashing (I have 34 posts on my blog discrediting VAM and dozens on misunderstanding teacher quality) and then these articles: Better Schools Won’t Fix America (The Atlantic), The Harsh Discipline of No-Excuses Charter Schools: Is It Worth the Promise? (Education Week), and Unchartered territory: 2020 Democrats back away from charter schools (MSN).

My blog posts, however, on social context reform and poverty (157), “no excuses” reform (70), and the mirage of charter schools (80) have either mostly been ignored or are harshly (even angrily) rejected. Like my interaction with the editor discussed in the opening, my experience and expertise as an educator and education scholar have held almost no weight with those in power pr the media.

The media and journalists as generalists seem deeply resistant to learning a lesson they create over and over.

Take for a current example Karin Wulf’s examination of Naomi Wolff and Cokie Roberts; Wulf herself is a historian:

It’s been a tough few weeks for amateur history. First, journalist Naomi Wolf discovered on live radio that she had misinterpreted key historical terms in her new book, “Outrage,” leading her to draw the wrong conclusions. A week later, journalist Cokie Roberts, too, got a quick smackdown when she claimed on NPR that she couldn’t find any incidence of abortion advertised in 19th century newspapers, a claim quickly disproved by historians.

Wolf and Roberts fell victim to a myth widely shared with the American public: that anyone can do history. Whether it’s diving into genealogy or digging thorough the vast troves of digital archives now online, the public has an easy way into the world of the past. And why would they imagine it takes any special training? After all, the best-selling history books are almost always written by non-historians, from conservative commentators like Bill O’Reilly to journalists like Wolf and Roberts.

Wulf’s confronting “that anyone can do history” immediately prompted in me my experience when I first moved from teaching high school English (and adjuncting at several colleges, including being a lead instructor in a university-based summer institute of the National Writing Project) to higher education. My university was debating a curriculum change that included dropping traditional composition courses (popularly known as English 101 and English 102) for first-year seminars.

One of those first-year seminars was to be writing-intensive, and the argument being posed was that any professor could teach writing.

This change passed, and the English department and professors were relieved of sole responsibility for teaching writing.

Over the next eight years or so, the university learned a really disturbing lesson (one I could have shared in the beginning): “Any professor can teach writing” is false.

As Wulf argues about history, with writing and education, experience and expertise matter.

So here I sit again, writing over and over that the media are getting reading wrong, that scapegoating teacher education is missing the real problem.

How many years will it take until I see articles “discovering” these facts as if no one with experience and expertise ever raised the issue?

URGENT: Media Misreading the Reading Crisis Yet Again

Media Misreading the Reading Crisis Yet Again

By Katie Kelly and P.L. Thomas

Photo by Nathaniel Shuman on Unsplash

Several news articlesvideosreports on new state legislation, and commentaries across mainstream media have built a false narrative about a Reading Crisis. That story includes several key elements: Teachers do not know, and thus do not practice, the science of reading because teacher education has failed them.

Not only have the mainstream media offered only one narrative, but also, for example, the Education Writers Association chose one of the most prominent misleading articles for a Public Service, small staff award: Emily Hanford’s “Hard Words.”

In 2019, the Reading Wars have begun anew but with different language: Phonics advocates have simplified “the science of reading” to “all students need systematic phonics,” for example. And this round has resulted in dramatic changes in state reading policies.

As literacy educators and scholars, however, we contend that these messages are misrepresenting the Reading Crisis and the science of reading — both of which are far more complicated than being presented by much of the media, dyslexia advocates, and political leaders.

Those Who Ignore History: A Look Back at Reading Crises

The newest misdiagnosed Reading Crisis begs for a truism: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana).

For example, the November 1942 issue of The Elementary English Review(National Council of Teachers of English) included a provocative piece, What Shall We Do About Reading Today?: A Symposium, prompted by the high rate of illiteracy among men drafted into WWII.

This symposium offers answers to the titular question from leading literacy experts of the time, including Lou LaBrant (former president of NCTE). Represented by assembled experts on literacy, this Reading Crisis foreshadows these debates are misguided and driven by ideology instead of evidence.

While we recommend reading the symposium responses in full, let’s focus on LaBrant: “Nevertheless, we hear many persons saying that the present group of near-illiterates are results of ‘new methods,’ ‘progressive schools,’ or any deviation from the old mechanical procedures. They say we must return to drill and formal reciting from a text book” (p. 240).

However, LaBrant discredits that blame because the recruits identified as illiterate or semi-literate “…are drop-outs, who have not completed elementary school, come from poorly taught and poorly equipped schools, and actually represent the most conservative and backward teaching in the United States [emphasis in original]” (pp. 240–241).

Next, in the 1980s/1990s, the media announced a Reading Crisis in California blamed on whole language. Literacy scholar Stephen Krashen, and others, debunked that claim, noting although whole language was the official reading approach of the state, teachers almost never implemented whole language. Further, the reading score plummet correlated with whole language being the official policy, but the causes of those lower scores were a large influx of non-native speakers of English and reduced educational funding.

Throughout much of the 20th century, reading instruction in practice remained skills-based, perpetuating a simple view of reading. That criticism of whole language, however, prompted a call for more scientific approaches to teaching reading, which meant mandated scripted instruction with an emphasis on phonics instruction. This was also driven by the high stakes accountability era of No Child Left Behind.

Contrasting thoughtful literacy, scripted reading programs narrow curriculum focusing on skills instruction and test preparation through teacher-directed learning (Kozol, 2005; Lipman, 2004). In this context, students serve as vessels with teachers depositing knowledge. This back-to-basics model of instruction encourages replication and regurgitation of information with little emphasis on comprehension instruction, critical thinking, and rich discussion of text (Comber & Nichols, 2004Durkin, 1981Leland, Harste, & Huber, 2005Shannon, 2007Taberski, 2011).

Being a good word caller does not equate to being a good reader, but can produce a false-positive on narrow types of reading tests. This unbalanced approach to teaching literacy is not only problematic, but also dangerous.

Misreading the Reading Crisis Yet Again

Despite the value of a more student-centered curriculum that fosters critical thinking, some advocate for a return to skills-based systematic phonics instruction, framed as the “science of reading,” and claim another Reading Crisis. With a new push for phonics as a single pathway to literacy, the role of the meaning making process in reading will again be neglected.

In her seminal study, Delores Durkin found an overemphasis on testing comprehension rather than teaching comprehension. Reading is a complex cognitive process mediated by social and cultural practices requiring instruction and interaction with text and others to construct meaning. Therefore, we must shift our view of literacy beyond decoding to include constructing meaning and reading texts critically by expanding instructional practices and the ways we assess reading.

The so-called science of reading is, in fact, balanced literacy, which includes a focus on multiple components of literacy including phonics, comprehension, and writing: “A balanced approach will privilege authentic texts and tasks, a heavy emphasis on writing, literature, response, and comprehension, but it will also call for an ambitious program of explicit instruction for phonics, word identification, comprehension, spelling, and writing” (Pearson, 2004, p. 243).

While phonics is an essential component of reading instruction in the primary grades, “it should be noted that phonics is one element of a comprehensive literacy program that must also include practice in comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, writing, and thinking” (ILA, 2018).

No Crisis, But We Are Failing Our Students

Crisis rhetoric misreads not only how we currently teach and historically have taught reading, but also misrepresents the causes of low student achievement in reading while perpetuating some of the worst possible policies and legislation such as grade retention based on high-stakes testing.

This Reading Crisis ignores that focusing on narrow standards and high-stakes testing combined with the de-professionalization of teaching and under-funding education has resulted in overcrowded classrooms where teachers and students conform to mechanical reading programs privileging the wealthy and overemphasize test scores.

As teacher educators, we can attest that regardless of what we teach about reading and literacy, most teachers feel pressured to implement programs and raise test scores.

Rather than blaming students and teachers for the opportunity gap entrenched in formal schooling, consider the achievement debt due to inequitable funding, poor healthcare, and a lack of political courage. With increasingly diverse student populations, we have a responsibility to address this debt by serving all students through culturally relevant teaching practices.

We must, then, disrupt the misguided narrative of crisis that disguises the sociocultural historical and political factors that influence reading instruction as a disease that simply needs a vaccination in the form of systematic phonics.

Katie Kelly is an Associate Professor of Education at Furman University. A former elementary teacher and literacy coach, Katie teaches courses in literacy methods and assessment at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She is the coauthor of Reading to Make a Difference: Using Literature to Help Students Speak Freely, Think Deeply, and Take Action (Heinemann). Follow her work at bookbuzz.blog and @ktkelly14.

P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education (Furman University), taught high school English for 18 years in South Carolina before moving to teacher education and teaching first-year writing. He is author of Teaching Writing as Journey, Not Destination: Essays Exploring What “Teaching Writing” Means (IAP). Follow his work at https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ and @plthomasEdD.