Category Archives: Educational Research

Beware The Reading League

In 2019, Richard Allington [1] confronted the outsized influence of state chapters of Decoding Dyslexia on state legislation and classroom practices related to not only dyslexia but also teaching beginning readers.

Ultimately, despite the good intentions of this advocacy and despite the need to address any and all students struggling to read (disproportionately among marginalized and vulnerable populations), Decoding Dyslexia advocacy has caused more harm than good, Allington and others assert.

This dynamic should give all of us pause because the same pattern is now occurring with The Reading League, a national advocacy organization promoting the “science of reading” through an expanding number of state-level affiliates.

The Reading League implores people to “join the movement” and has issued a Defining Guide on the “science of reading,” available as a book or a downloadable PDF (if you fill out a form and share a good deal of your information):

The cover page of the ebook (formatted throughout like a PowerPoint presentation) sets the stage for what proves to be more advocacy that “science” despite the emphasis on “defining” and “science.”

This 40-page ebook is a disturbing but perfect illustration of the core problems among “science of reading” advocates. As other literacy scholars have noted, all across the different factions of “science of reading” advocates, the arguments and claims are riddled with contradictions, oversimplifications, cherry-picking, and casual lapses into anecdote [2].

Similar to many other advocacy organizations masquerading as a (We Don’t) Think Tank (for example, NCTQ), The Reading League uses slick PDF creation and the veneer of scholarly citation (as well as an inordinate number of brain images) to mask the many ways this ebook fails to meet the standard they themselves set for the teaching of reading.

All must beware of The Reading League and its growing influence because this “movement” fails in the exact ways confronted by Hoffman, Hikida, and Sailors (2020) in Reading Research Quarterly: “the SOR community do not employ the same standards for scientific research that they claimed as the basis for their critiques” (S259). [3]

Here I will detail a few of the essential failures of The Reading League’s “movement” in their “Defining Guide.”

The organization advocates for a “common” definition of the “science of reading” and offers one on page 6 with a note to see further justifications for the limited (and limiting) parameters of that definition on page 11. In short, The Reading League is recycling the “scientifically-based” mantra of the National Reading Panel (NRP) and limiting the “science of reading” to experimental/quasi-experimental research.

While this is a popular and politically enticing approach, that limitation has been refuted for a couple decades now. Let me share just a couple reasons (see endnotes for sources) for why excluding evidence outside that parameter is wrong for education and wrong for guiding reading instruction:

  • Problems with the reports issued by the NRP and the difficulty of implementing that evidence have been widely documented by a number of literacy scholars. [4] Repeating the errors of the NRP is bad policy, bad advocacy, and bad thinking.
  • Educational practice requires a wide range of evidence, not a limited view of what counts as science. Many scholars has addressed the tyranny of using “science” as a weapon, a distortion of both the essence of “science” and the on-going nature of inquiry (hint: the science of any field, including reading science, is not settled). [5]

Another element of the limited and limiting parameters for what counts as reading “science” is an over-reliance on brain research. The defining guide implies a diversity of disciplinary sources for defining reading “science,” but their little list suggests otherwise:

The limited parameters are grounded in psychology, and brain research.

If you dont get the focus on “brain research,” the guide is there to make it clear:

Oddly, this image has no text, no citation, leaving me to wonder what the hell this is for (except this is how my brain feels when I have to engage with “science of reading” nonsense).

Here is an extremely important point: Scholars have challenged the conclusions being drawn from brain research:

Within the neurosciences, however, serious critiques of brain-imaging methods have emerged. Many researchers in neurobiology (e.g., Elliott et al., 2020; Hickok, 2014; Lyon, 2017) have voiced alarming concerns about the validity and preciseness of brain imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to detect reliable biomarkers in processes such as reading and in the diagnosis of other mental activity….

However, Elliott et al.’s (2020) statement “that commonly used task-fMRI measures lack the minimal reliability standards” (p. 801) for identifying abnormal brain activity should raise serious caveats in interpreting any imaging study as applicable to classroom applications. [6]

Yaden, D.B., Reinking, D., & Smagorinsky, P. (2021). The trouble with binaries: A perspective on the science of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S119–S129. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.402

And Mark Seidenberg, a key neuroscientist cited by the “science of reading” movement, offers a serious caution about the value of brain research: “Our concern is that although reading science is highly relevant to learning in the classroom setting, it does not yet speak to what to teach, when, how, and for whom at a level that is useful for teachers [emphasis added].” [7]

Finally, the ultimate failure of the guide and the “science of reading” movement promoted by The Reading League is the reliance of the “simple view” of reading (SVR) and peppering the guide itself with surprisingly old sources (scroll through for cutting edge scholarship from the 1980s, for example).

About SVR, well, there are a number of problems addressed by leading scholars in the field of literacy. [8]

Notably, Duke and Cartwright explains that the filed of literacy has moved beyond SVR:

The simple view of reading is commonly presented to educators in professional development about the science of reading. The simple view is a useful tool for conveying the undeniable importance—in fact, the necessity—of both decoding and linguistic comprehension for reading. Research in the 35 years since the theory was proposed has revealed additional understandings about reading. In this article, we synthesize research documenting three of these advances: (1) Reading difficulties have a number of causes, not all of which fall under decoding and/or listening comprehension as posited in the simple view; (2) rather than influencing reading solely independently, as conceived in the simple view, decoding and listening comprehension (or in terms more commonly used in reference to the simple view today, word recognition and language comprehension) overlap in important ways; and (3) there are many contributors to reading not named in the simple view, such as active, self-regulatory processes, that play a substantial role in reading. We point to research showing that instruction aligned with these advances can improve students’ reading. We present a theory, which we call the active view of reading, that is an expansion of the simple view and can be used to convey these important advances to current and future educators. We discuss the need to lift up updated theories and models to guide practitioners’ work in supporting students’ reading development in classrooms and interventions.

Duke, N.K., & Cartwright, K.B. (2021). The science of reading progresses: Communicating advances beyond the simple view of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S25–S44. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.411

And, possibly more significantly, Filderman, et al., conclude:

Theoretical models, such as the simple view of reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986), the direct and inferential mediation (DIME) model (Cromley et al., 2010; Cromley & Azevedo, 2007), and the cognitive model (McKenna & Stahl, 2009) inform the constructs and skills that contribute to reading comprehension. The simple view of reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986) describes reading comprehension as the product of decoding and language comprehension. The simple view of reading is often used to underscore the critical importance of decoding on reading comprehension; however, evidence suggests that the relative importance of decoding and language comprehension changes based on students’ level of reading development and text complexity (Lonigan et al., 2018). Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies demonstrate that decoding has the largest influence on reading comprehension for novice readers, whereas language comprehension becomes increasingly important as students’ decoding skills develop and text becomes more complex (e.g., Catts et al., 2005; Gough et al., 1996; Hoover & Gough, 1990; Proctor et al., 2005; Tilstra et al., 2009). However, the simple view of reading does not comprehensively explain all skills that influence reading comprehension, nor does it inform what comprehension instruction requires. [emphasis added]

Filderman, M. J., Austin, C. R., Boucher, A. N., O’Donnell, K., & Swanson, E. A. (2022). A meta-analysis of the effects of reading comprehension interventions on the reading comprehension outcomes of struggling readers in third through 12th grades. Exceptional Children88(2), 163–184. https://doi.org/10.1177/00144029211050860

The Reading League “movement” is not a comprehensive view of reading and how to teach reading; it certainly isn’t settled (or even compelling) science.

Beware The Reading League because it is an advocacy movement that is too often little more than cherry-picking, oversimplification, and a thin veneer for commercial interests in the teaching of reading.


[1] Allington, R.L. (2019, Fall). The hidden push for phonics legislation. Tennessee Literacy Journal, 1(1), 7–20.

See also:

International Literacy Association. (2016). Research advisory: Dyslexia. https://www.literacyworldwide.org/docs/default-source/where-we-stand/ila-dyslexia-research-advisory.pdf

Johnston, P., & Scanlon, D. (2021). An examination of dyslexia research and instruction with policy implications. Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice70(1), 107. https://doi.org/10.1177/23813377211024625

[2] Afflerbach, P. (2022). Teaching readers (not reading): Moving beyond skills and strategies to reader-focused instruction. The Guilford Press.

Coles, G. (2019, Summer). Cryonics phonics: Inequality’s little helper. New Politics, 18(3). Retrieved June 6, 2022, from https://newpol.org/issue_post/cryonics-phonics-inequalitys-little-helper/  

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

Johnston, P., & Scanlon, D. (2021). An examination of dyslexia research and instruction with policy implications. Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice70(1), 107. https://doi.org/10.1177/23813377211024625

MacPhee, D., Handsfield, L.J., & Paugh, P. (2021). Conflict or conversation? Media portrayals of the science of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S145—S155. doi:10.1002/rrq.384

Thomas, P.L. (2022, February 15). Mississippi miracle, mirage, or political lie?: 2019 NAEP reading scores prompt questions, not answers [Web log].

[3] 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

[4] Bowers, J.S. (2020).Reconsidering the evidence that systematic phonics is more effective than alternative methods of reading instruction. Educational Psychology Review, 32(2020), 681–705. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10648-019-09515-y

Collet, V.S., Penaflorida, J., French, S., Allred, J., Greiner, A., & Chen, J. (2021). Red flags, red herrings, and common ground: An expert study in response to state reading policy. Educational Considerations, 47(1). https://doi.org/10.4148/0146-9282.2241

Garan, E. M. (2001, March). Beyond smoke and mirrors: A critique of the National Reading Panel report on phonics. Phi Delta Kappan, 82(7), 500–506. https://doi.org/10.1177/003172170108200705

Stephens, D. (2008). The federal government wants me to teach what? A teacher’s guide to the National Reading Panel report. National Council of Teachers of English. Retrieved May 18, 2023, from https://cdn.ncte.org/nctefiles/resources/newsletter/magazine/nrp_report.pdf

Seidenberg, M.S., Cooper Borkenhagen, M., & Kearns, D.M. (2020). Lost in translation? Challenges in connecting reading science and educational practice. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S119–S130. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.341

Shanahan, T. (2005). The National Reading Panel report: Practical advice for teachers. Learning Point Associates. Retrieved June 7, 2022, from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED489535.pdf Shanahan, T. (2003, April). Research-based reading instruction: Myths about the National Reading Panel report. The Reading Teacher, 56(7), 646–655.

[5] Compton-Lilly, C.F., Mitra, A., Guay, M., & Spence, L.K. (2020). A confluence of complexity: Intersections among reading theory, neuroscience, and observations of young readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S185–S195. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.348

Seidenberg, M. (2018). Language at the speed of sight: How we read, why so many can’t, and what can be done about it. Basic Books.

Seidenberg, M.S., Cooper Borkenhagen, M., & Kearns, D.M. (2020). Lost in translation? Challenges in connecting reading science and educational practice. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S119–S130. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.341

Willingham, D.T. (2017). The reading mind: A cognitive approach to understanding how the mind reads. Jossey-Bass.

Wormeli, R. (n.d.). The problem with, “show me the research thinking.” AMLE. Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.amle.org/the-problem-with-show-me-the-research-thinking/

Yaden, D.B., Reinking, D., & Smagorinsky, P. (2021). The trouble with binaries: A perspective on the science of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S119–S129. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.402

[6] Yaden, D.B., Reinking, D., & Smagorinsky, P. (2021). The trouble with binaries: A perspective on the science of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S119–S129. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.402

[7] Seidenberg, M.S., Cooper Borkenhagen, M., & Kearns, D.M. (2020). Lost in translation? Challenges in connecting reading science and educational practice. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S121. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.341

See also:

Compton-Lilly, C.F., Mitra, A., Guay, M., & Spence, L.K. (2020). A confluence of complexity: Intersections among reading theory, neuroscience, and observations of young readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S185–S195. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.348

[8] Compton-Lilly, C.F., Mitra, A., Guay, M., & Spence, L.K. (2020). A confluence of complexity: Intersections among reading theory, neuroscience, and observations of young readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S185–S195. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.348

Duke, N.K., & Cartwright, K.B. (2021). The science of reading progresses: Communicating advances beyond the simple view of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S25–S44. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.411

Filderman, M. J., Austin, C. R., Boucher, A. N., O’Donnell, K., & Swanson, E. A. (2022). A meta-analysis of the effects of reading comprehension interventions on the reading comprehension outcomes of struggling readers in third through 12th grades. Exceptional Children88(2), 163–184. https://doi.org/10.1177/00144029211050860

Rank: Having a foul or offensive smell

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from communications associate at WalletHub.com, identified in the email as “(one of the leading outlets covering the personal finance industry).” The associate wanted me to respond to a series of questions and provide a picture for an article in their “consumer education section” and (maybe?) national media.

Of course, WalletHub is the source of one of the worst and most popular practices around U.S. education—ranking states by educational quality, 2022’s States with the Best & Worst School Systems. I noticed when searching my email, I had been contacted before by WalletHub, but likely deleted without replying. This time I sent a pointed response that since I focus on equity in my work, I would not want to be associated with their harmful and misleading ranking.

The exchange was irritating and frustrating—and just business as usual in terms of how the media, politicians, and the public label education. And then I read this in the Post and Courier (Charleston, SC):

Once again, our schools are ranked 46th out of the 51 public school systems, according to the website WalletHub.

Scores from 2020-21 showed only 31% of our public school fourth graders read competently, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress.

That means 69% of our children cannot read well enough to complete work at their grade level. It would be worse without the many homes where parents teach their children to read.

Part of the responsibility rests with the South Carolina Department of Education.

Where is the accountability for student learning?

Year after year we see the same results on fourth grade reading and math.

W. Edwards Deming, an eminent scholar and teacher in American academia, says that “A bad system will beat a good person every time.”

And South Carolina has a bad system for teaching reading.

The South Carolina Department of Education has at least at least 30 people in the Office of Early Learning and Literacy.

If South Carolina’s children have been failing for the past 40 years, what have they been doing? Why do we have them? Where is their accountability?

Do they not see failing as a bad thing?

The system focuses on the curriculum rather than focusing on reading.

To get everything in, reading is integrated into other subjects rather than given its own primary focus.

In trying to teach so much, school leaders accomplish so much less.

I don’t understand why parents are not outraged over this. I certainly am.

JAMES DANIELS

Lake City

Why does South Carolina seem to care so little for its children?

There is so much wrong here—the data, the claims about teaching and reading, the influence of ranking on how the public views education, etc.—I cannot address it all, but let’s just focus on the ranking and suggesting there are valid ways to label states as “best” or “worst” in education.

The problems with ranking educational quality among states are many, and I recommend simply Googling “Gerald Bracey” and “educational rankings” if you want to explore the granular issues with statistics, etc.

The short version is that the urge to rank is itself a problem since to rank, you must create metrics that will produce a spread among whatever is being ranked. It is a sort of self-fulfilling process that necessitates that some things are labeled “best” and some “worst.”

But at the deeper level, the metrics and data used to rank are always something other than what is being ranked to begin with. In education, rankings often claim to be labeling educational quality while using metrics and data that are mostly about issues of equity—poverty, race, native language, school funding, student/teacher ratios, teacher experience and certification, etc.

Therefore, there is a great deal of overlap in WalletHub’s nonsensical “best” and “worst” rankings and the following:

At the most basic level—and the issues are far more complex than this—note the tremendous overlap of “worst” and poverty:

Here is the ugly truth: State rankings by educational quality are mostly rankings by poverty, race/racism, racial diversity/equity, etc.

Here is an even uglier truth: Schools and education systems tend to reflect, not change or overcome, the inequities of states and communities.

There are many aspects of schooling we should (must?) address, such as teaching and learning conditions and access to high-quality teachers, curriculum (such as content being banned by Republicans), and materials (such as the books being banned by Republicans).

But separate from that, we must reject rankings as, well, rank, having a foul and offensive smell.

Recommended

Brief: The Adequacy of School District Spending in the U.S.

Media and Political Misreading of Reading (Again): NYC Edition

NYC Mayor Eric Adams is proving to be an unreliable source on just about anything he mentions. Adams seems more interested in crying false “crisis” for political gain than doing the hard work of political leadership.

First, crime:

With context and data, Adams’s claim is more than “a very strange thing”; it is simply false, political fearmongering:

Next, reading and dyslexia:

Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday the details of a plan to turn around a literacy crisis in New York City and, in particular, to serve thousands of children in public schools who may have dyslexia, an issue deeply personal to the mayor, who has said his own undiagnosed dyslexia hurt his academic career.

Mayor Adams Unveils Program to Address Dyslexia in N.Y.C. Schools

Unfortunately, neither Adams nor the NYT will receive the sort of public correcting for the nonsense in this article, but Lola Fadulu’s coverage of Adams’s dyslexia program is just as much political fearmongering as Adams’s misrepresentation of crime.

In fact, media, parents, and political leaders have been following a similar and misleading playbook for several years now—one that Fadulu and Adams demonstrate so perfectly it could read as parody:

Currently, there is a well-organized and active contingent of concerned parents and educators (and others) who argue that dyslexia is a frequent cause of reading difficulties, affecting approximately 20% of the population, and that there is a widely accepted treatment for such difficulties: an instructional approach relying almost exclusively on intensive phonics instruction. Proponents argue that it is based on “settled science,” which they refer to as “the science of reading” (SOR). The approach is based on a narrow view of science and a restricted range of research focused on word learning and, more recently, neurobiology, but pays little attention to aspects of literacy like comprehension and writing or dimensions of classroom learning and teacher preparation.

An Examination of Dyslexia Research and Instruction With Policy Implications, Peter Johnston and Donna Scanlon

That misleading playbook includes the following:

  • “School officials plan to screen nearly all students for dyslexia.” Universal screening for dyslexia is a crisis response to a false crisis. Johnston and Scanlon explain: “Good first instruction and early intervention for children with a slow start in the word reading aspect of literacy reduces the likelihood they will encounter serious difficulty. Thus, early screening with assessments that can inform instruction is important. Screening for dyslexia, particularly with instructionally irrelevant assessments, offers no additional advantage [emphasis added].”
  • “School leaders are requiring school principals to pivot to a phonics-based literacy curriculum, which literacy experts say is the most effective way to teach reading to most children.” Systematic phonics for all students, and specifically for students identified with dyslexia, is an old and false solution for students struggling with reading, per Johnston and Scanlon: “Evidence does not justify the use of a heavy and near-exclusive focus on phonics instruction, either in regular classrooms or for children experiencing difficulty learning to read (including those classified as dyslexic [emphasis in original].”
  • “New York is facing a literacy crisis: Fewer than half of all third to eighth graders and just 36 percent of Black and Latino students were proficient on the state reading exams administered in 2019, the most recent year for which there is data.” The NYT helped fuel the newest round of “reading crisis” in the U.S. with an over-reaction to 2019 NAEP reading scores, but the cold hard truth is that marginalized students have never been equitably served in NYC schools or anywhere in the U.S. as any point in history. (See how the reading crisis around NAEP is misrepresented HERE.)
  • “It is difficult to say how many children have dyslexia in the city because the department hasn’t been able to systematically identify them, said Carolyne Quintana, the deputy chancellor for teaching and learning. But she noted that national figures estimate that one in five children have dyslexia.” Dyslexia advocacy and political responses to dyslexia are misrepresenting dyslexia by overstating how common dyslexia is (some credible experts suggest dyslexia isn’t even a credible label for reading, in fact), and are ignoring that no common definition for dyslexia exists. “Definitions of dyslexia vary widely, and none offer a clear foundation—biological, cognitive, behavioral, or academic—for determining whether an individual experiencing difficulty with developing word reading skill should be classified as dyslexic,” Johnston and Scanlon conclude.
  • “Naomi Peña said she has four children with dyslexia, and is one of several parents who helped launch the Literacy Academy Collective, an advocacy group.” Parental advocacy groups addressing dyslexia have had direct impact on reading and dyslexia policy across the U.S.; however, that impact has overwhelmingly prompted misguided legislation and policy. Writing about similar political responses to dyslexia in Tennessee, Allington raises a key concern: “What I find most disturbing about the recent Tennessee dyslexia law is the absence of any input from the Literacy Association of Tennessee (LAT) as well as the absence of members of the Dyslexia Advisory Council drawn from the membership of LAT.”
  • “The additional support includes more intensive instruction steeped in the Orton-Gillingham approach, which teaches reading with more hands-on methods that break down words into smaller, more digestible parts.” While the larger push for systematic phonics instruction for all students is misguided, advocates for dyslexia often focus on Orton-Gillingham specifically. Yet, as the International Literacy Association (ILA) shows: “As yet, there is no certifiably best method for teaching children who experience reading difficulty (Mathes et al., 2005). For instance, research does not support the common belief that Orton-Gillingham–based approaches are necessary for students classified as dyslexic (Ritchey & Goeke, 2007; Turner, 2008; Vaughn & Linan-Thompson, 2003).”
  • “Under the new plan, school officials will require principals, who can choose their curriculums, shift toward a reading program that is based in reading science. Many currently use one developed by Lucy Calkins, an academic at Teachers College, Columbia University, that has repeatedly come under fire.” The dyslexia movement is part of a larger “science of reading” movement that overemphasizes the role of systematic phonics but also attacks popular reading programs across the U.S. See How to Navigate Social Media Debates about the “Science of Reading” [UPDATED] for a thorough examination of the flaws with misusing the term “science.” See also A Response to EdReports’ Assessment of Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Writing and Phonics.

Media and political leaders as well as parent advocates are trapped in a false belief about reading and dyslexia—paralleling the public misunderstanding about crime rates.

Do students struggling to read, especially marginalized students, deserve to be better served in our schools? Absolutely, whether they are diagnosed with dyslexia or not.

But NYC’s plan is political fearmongering, not good policy or practice.

Political leaders would be well served to heed Johnston and Scanlon’s guidelines, including these:

Although there are likely heritable dimensions to reading and language difficulties, there is no way to translate them into implications for instructional practice….

Legislation (and district policies) aligned with the SOR perspectives on dyslexia will necessarily require tradeoffs in the allocation of resources for teacher development and among children having literacy learning difficulties. These tradeoffs have the potential to privilege students experiencing some types of literacy learning difficulties while limiting instructional resources for and attention available to students whose literacy difficulties are not due (exclusively) to word reading difficulties.

An Examination of Dyslexia Research and Instruction With Policy Implications, Peter Johnston and Donna Scanlon

Recommended

Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading” (NEPC)

Fact Checking the “Science of Reading”: A Quick Guide for Teachers

Thomas, P.L. (2020). How to end the Reading War and serve the literacy needs of all students: A primer for parents, policy makers, and people who careCharlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

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!”

Dismantling the “Science of Reading” and the Harmful Reading Policies in its Wake [UPDATED]

After emailing me about new reading legislation being proposed in North Carolina—next door to my home state of South Carolina that also has jumped on the “science of reading” bandwagon—Ann Doss Helms of WFAE (NPR, Charlotte, NC) interviewed me by phone.

I have given dozens of interviews about education over the last 15 to 20 years, and they all have a similar pattern; the journalist tosses out predictable questions and then becomes somewhat disoriented by my answers. Typically, the journalist at some point notes they didn’t know or had never heard the information I offered, the context and complications I raised about the topic.

My conversation with Helms was no different as we gradually peeled back the layers of the onion that is the “science of reading” as well as the very harmful reading policies that are being proposed and adopted in its wake.

Over the past couple years, I have blogged almost nonstop and written a book on the “science of reading” media narrative and how it is oversimplified and misleading but very compelling and harmful since state after state is adopting deeply flawed reading legislation (often, as Helms noted, to mimic Mississippi).

As I explained, the “science of reading” movement is grounded in the media and parent advocacy (specifically focusing on dyslexia)—advocates who have no expertise or background in literacy—but is essentially a thinly veiled resurrection of the tired intensive phonics versus holistic approaches to teaching reading.

Part of our conversation also confronted the contradiction in the “science of reading” movement that forefronts the debunked claim of “settled science” around how to teach reading and then supports actions and policies that have no scientific support—notably grade retention and using Mississippi as a justification for polices absent any research behind the claimed NAEP improvements by that state.

Further, the “science of reading” movement and those using the “science of reading” to promote state-level reading policy also rely on discredited (read “bad science”) sources such as NCTQ or misrepresent contested sources such as the National Reading Panel (see here).

The “science of reading” movement is deja vu all over again since the movement looks essentially like many other education reform patterns that have all failed (as many of us said they would) because they misunderstand the problem and grasp for silver-bullet solutions—all wrapped in a media and political frenzy that is almost impossible to stop. The trash heap of failure includes Teach for America, charter schools, accountability driven by standards and high-stakes testing, the NRP and Reading First, value-added methods of teacher evaluation and merit pay, and many others.

States adopting truly awful reading policy driven by the “science of reading” slogan will not change reading in the U.S., and in time, very soon, in fact, the media and political leaders will be, once again, lamenting a reading crisis.

While it may be too little, too late since states are racing to pass essentially the same reading legislation across the U.S., many scholars are carefully dismantling the “science of reading” movement in ways that support my claims over the past two years.

Here, then, are three I recommend for anyone needing further proof that the “science of reading” is yet another bandwagon we should avoid:

An Examination of Dyslexia Research and Instruction, with Policy Implications, Peter Johnston and Donna Scanlon

Currently, there is a well-organized and active contingent of concerned parents and educators (and others) who argue that dyslexia is a frequent cause of reading difficulties, affecting approximately 20 percent of the population, and that there is a widely-accepted treatment for such difficulties: an instructional approach relying almost exclusively on intensive phonics instruction. Proponents argue that it is based on “settled science” which they refer to as “the science of reading” (SOR). The approach is based on a narrow view of science, and a restricted range of research, focused on word learning and, more recently, neurobiology, but paying little attention to aspects of literacy like comprehension and writing, or dimensions of classroom learning and teacher preparation. Because the dyslexia and instructional arguments are inextricably linked, in this report, we explore both while adopting a more comprehensive perspective on relevant theory and research.

Johnston, P., & Scanlon, D. (2021). An Examination of Dyslexia Research and Instruction With Policy Implications. Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice70(1), 107–128. https://doi.org/10.1177/23813377211024625

Johnston and Scanlon answer 12 questions and then offer these important policy implications (quoted below):

  1. There is no consistent and widely accepted basis – biological, cognitive, behavioral, or academic – for determining whether an individual experiencing difficulty with developing word reading skill should be classified as dyslexic. (Questions 1 and 10).
  2. Although there are likely heritable and biological dimensions to reading and language difficulties, there is no way to translate them into implications for instructional practice. (Questions 2 and 11).
  3. Good first instruction and early intervention for children with a slow start in the word reading aspect of literacy, reduces the likelihood they will encounter serious difficulty. Thus, early screening with assessments that can inform instruction, is important. Screening for dyslexia, particularly with instructionally irrelevant assessments offers no additional advantage. (Questions 5 and 6).
  4. Research supports instruction that purposely develops children’s ability to analyze speech sounds (phonological/phonemic awareness), and to relate those sounds to patterns of print (phonics and orthographics), in combination with instruction to develop comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, and a strong positive and agentive relationship with literacy. (Questions 7 and 12).
  5. Evidence does not justify the use of a heavy and near-exclusive focus on phonics instruction, either in regular classrooms, or for children experiencing difficulty learning to read (including those classified as dyslexic). (Questions 7, 8 and 12).
  6. Legislation (and district policies) aligned with the SOR perspectives on dyslexia will necessarily require tradeoffs in the allocation of resources for teacher development and among children having literacy learning difficulties. These tradeoffs have the potential to privilege students experiencing some types of literacy learning difficulties while limiting instructional resources for and attention available to students whose literacy difficulties are not due (exclusively) to word reading difficulties. (Question 12).

The Trouble With Binaries: A Perspective on the Science of Reading, David B. Yaden Jr., David Reinking, and Peter Smagorinsky

In this article, we critique the science of reading when it is positioned within the reading wars as settling disagreements about reading and how it should be taught. We frame our argument in terms of troublesome binaries, specifically between nature and nurture. We interpret that binary in relation to Overton’s distinction between split and relational metatheories, with the latter suggesting a more integrative view of nature and nurture. Focusing on the nature side of the binary, which predominates when the science of reading is promoted in the reading wars, we argue that its singular focus limits the range of scientific inquiry, interpretation, and application to practice. Specifically, we address limitations of the science of reading as characterized by a narrow theoretical lens, an abstracted empiricism, and uncritical inductive generalizations derived from brain‐imaging and eye movement data sources. Finally, we call for a relational metatheoretical stance and offer emulative examples of that stance in the field.

Yaden, D.B., Reinking, D., & Smagorinsky, P. (2021). The Trouble With Binaries: A Perspective on the Science of Reading. Read Res Q, 56(S1), S119– S129. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.402

Note the strong conclusion to this piece:

Unfortunately, we believe that in many cases, the cloak of science has been employed to elevate the stature of SOR work and to promote the certainty and force of its advocates’ preferred explanations for what reading is and how it should be taught (e.g., Gentry & Ouellette, 2019; Schwartz & Sparks, 2019). What we suggested in this article is that the SOR, when so used in the reading wars, is not science at all in its fullest sense. It neglects an entire domain that influences and shapes human experience. It does so with an unmitigated confidence that evidence from one side of a binary can establish a final truth and that such a truth creates a single prescription for all instruction. Taking that stance, however, is outside the pale of science and dismisses work that has both merit on its own terms and a critical role in advancing the aims motivating reading research and instruction.

Where Is the Evidence? Looking Back to Jeanne Chall and Enduring Debates About the Science of Reading, Peggy Semingson and William Kerns

In this historical analysis, we examine the context of debates over the role of phonics in literacy and current debates about the science of reading, with a focus on the work and impact of the late literacy scholar Jeanne Chall. We open by briefly tracing the roots of the enduring debates from the 19th and 20th centuries, focusing on beginning reading, decoding, and phonics. Next, we explore insights drawn from the whole language movement as understood by Kenneth Goodman and Yetta Goodman, as well as a synthesis of key ideas from Chall’s critique of the whole language approach. We then analyze the shifts across the three editions of Chall’s Learning to Read: The Great Debate and summarize major ideas from her body of work, such as the stage model of reading development. We suggest that reading instruction should be informed by a broader historical lens in looking at the “science of reading” debates and should draw on a developmental stage model to teaching reading, such as the six‐stage model provided by Chall. We describe implications for educators, textbook publishers, researchers, and policymakers that address the current reading debates and provide considerations of what Chall might say about learning to read in a digital era given the pressures on teacher educators and teachers to align their practice with what is deemed to be the science of reading.

Semingson, P., & Kerns, W. (2021). Where Is the Evidence? Looking Back to Jeanne Chall and Enduring Debates About the Science of Reading. Read Res Q, 56(S1), S157– S169. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.405

UPDATE 1

From the very beginning of the “science of reading” movement, media coverage, parental advocacy, and political policy have been misleading and grounded in misunderstanding. As the examples above show, there continues to be a steady dismantling of all that even as policy has been adopted and is being considered, policy that is fundamentally not “scientific” and will prove to be ineffective and even harmful.

Below are some additional examples of the dismantling that I highly recommend:

Some NC Leaders Say Mississippi’s Model Charts The Way To Helping Kids Read, Ann Doss Helms (WFAE)

The Sciences of Reading Instruction, Rachael Gabriel (Educational Leadership)

When it comes to reading instruction, an “all or nothing” approach is actually unscientific.

Every January, my social media feeds fill with ads, free trials, and coupons from the diet and wellness industry, promising to help me with my (presumed) resolutions to be better, faster, leaner, and healthier. Every diet program claims some type of relationship to science.

The same is true with reading instruction. Most programs or approaches claim to be based on “science.” But consider the many possible meanings of this claim. Some approaches to reading instruction are developed as part of rigorous, peer-reviewed research and are continuously evaluated and refined. Others are designed by practitioners who draw on experience, and whose insights are validated by inquiry after development. Many are based on well-known principles from research or assumptions about learning in general, but haven’t themselves been tested. Some “research-based” instructional tools and practices have been shared, explained, interpreted, misinterpreted, and re-shared so many times that they bear little resemblance to the research on which they were based (Gabriel, 2020). Others rack up positive evidence no matter how many times they’re studied. Then there are practices that have no evidence behind them but are thought to be scientific—because they’ve always been assumed to be true.

The Sciences of Reading Instruction – Educational Leadership May 2021, pp. 58-64

The Science of Reading Progresses: Communicating Advances Beyond the Simple View of Reading, Nell Duke and Kelly B. Cartwright

ABSTRACT

The simple view of reading is commonly presented to educators in professional development about the science of reading. The simple view is a useful tool for conveying the undeniable importance—in fact, the necessity—of both decoding and linguistic comprehension for reading. Research in the 35 years since the theory was proposed has revealed additional understandings about reading. In this article, we synthesize research documenting three of these advances: (1) Reading difficulties have a number of causes, not all of which fall under decoding and/or listening comprehension as posited in the simple view; (2) rather than influencing reading solely independently, as conceived in the simple view, decoding and listening comprehension (or in terms more commonly used in reference to the simple view today, word recognition and language comprehension) overlap in important ways; and (3) there are many contributors to reading not named in the simple view, such as active, self-regulatory processes, that play a substantial role in reading. We point to research showing that instruction aligned with these advances can improve students’ reading. We present a theory, which we call the active view of reading, that is an expansion of the simple view and can be used to convey these important advances to current and future educators. We discuss the need to lift up updated theories and models to guide practitioners’ work in supporting students’ reading development in classrooms and interventions.

Duke, N.K., & Cartwright, K.B. (2021). The Science of Reading Progresses: Communicating Advances Beyond the Simple View of Reading. Read Res Q, 56(S1), S25– S44. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.411

NOTE: The short version of the Duke and Cartwright essay should be: The “science of reading” is not so simple and not so settled.

Science of Reading Advocates Have a Messaging Problem, Claude Goldenberg (Education Week)

What is happening in this new stage of the reading wars is there for all to see in North Carolina’s and others’ use of the phrase. Instead of spelling out what they mean, “science of reading” advocates wrap themselves in the protective mantel of science, as if invoking science is all that anyone needs to be credible and persuade others to join them. Anyone disagreeing is anti-science, i.e., ignorant.

This is not a great persuasion strategy. Not surprisingly, those from a different vantage point argue that no one has a right to define science in a way that conveniently fits their perspective.

The Politics of Phonics: How a skill becomes a law, David Waters

UPDATE 2

Making Early Literacy Policy Work: Three Considerations for Policymakers Based on Kentucky’s “Read to Succeed” Act (NEPC)

VI. Recommendations

The “Read to Succeed” Act ultimately did not pass during Kentucky’s 2021 legislative session. However, given that state legislators have introduced early literacy bills multiple times in recent years, it is likely that the state may see similar proposals in coming years. Further, given the rapid spread of these policies across states in recent decades, the considerations discussed here will be relevant to policymakers in other states interested in third-grade literacy legislation. Though many states have already enacted early literacy legislation, policymakers need not adhere to a one-size-fits-all approach to improving third-grade literacy achievement. State policymakers can learn from the research, described above, that has been conducted to this point about these policies. I offer three specific recommendations for policymakers to consider as they strive to ensure the efficacy of third-grade literacy policies moving forward:

• Instead of limiting the legislation to the “Big Five” components of reading, include a set of instructional best practices in literacy.

• Ensure initial, ongoing, and targeted professional development in literacy for K-3 teachers.

• Show educators that their expertise is valued by involving them in the development of the policy. This can be done by soliciting feedback through an open online comment period, conducting focus groups with a representative group of K-3 educators, and/or involving educators in the creation of various components of the policy.

Cummings, A.. (2021). Making early literacy policy work in Kentucky: Three considerations for policymakers on the “Read to Succeed” act. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. https://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/literacy

Red Flags, Red Herrings, and Common Ground: An Expert Study in Response to State Reading Policy

Abstract

In many U.S. states, legislation seeks to define effective instruction for beginning readers, creating an urgent need to turn to scholars who are knowledgeable about ongoing reading research. This mixed-methods study considers the extent to which recognized literacy experts agreed with recommendations about instruction that were included on a state’s reading initiative website. Our purpose was to guide implementation and inform policy-makers. In alignment with the initiative, experts agreed reading aloud, comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, phonological awareness, and phonics all deserve a place in early literacy instruction. Additionally, they agreed some components not included on the website warranted attention, such as motivation, oral language, reading volume, writing, and needs-based instruction. Further, experts cautioned against extremes in describing aspects of early reading instruction. Findings suggest that experts’ knowledge of the vast body of ongoing research about reading can be a helpful guide to policy formation and implementation.

Collet, Vicki S.; Penaflorida, Jennifer; French, Seth; Allred, Jonathan; Greiner, Angelia; and Chen, Jingshu (2021) “Red Flags, Red Herrings, and Common Ground: An Expert Study in Response to State Reading Policy,” Educational Considerations: Vol. 47: No. 1. https://doi.org/10.4148/0146-9282.2241

UPDATE 3

A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Reading Comprehension Interventions on the Reading Comprehension Outcomes of Struggling Readers in Third Through 12th Grades

Marissa J. Filderman, Christy R. Austin, Alexis N. Boucher, Katherine O’Donnell, Elizabeth A. Swanson

Abstract

Informed by theories of reading comprehension and prior reviews of reading comprehension intervention, this meta-analysis uniquely contributes to the literature because it describes the relative effects of various approaches to comprehension intervention for struggling readers in Grades 3 through 12. Findings from 64 studies demonstrate significant positive effects of reading comprehension intervention on comprehension outcomes (g = .59, p < .001, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.47, 0.74], τ2 = .31). A metaregression model indicated significantly higher effects associated with researcher-developed measures, background knowledge instruction, and strategy instruction, and significantly lower effects associated with instructional enhancements. Grade level, metacognitive approaches, and study quality did not moderate effects. Findings support the use of background knowledge instruction and strategy instruction to support comprehension of struggling readers in upper elementary and beyond.

Theoretical models, such as the simple view of reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986), the direct and inferential mediation (DIME) model (Cromley et al., 2010; Cromley & Azevedo, 2007), and the cognitive model (McKenna & Stahl, 2009) inform the constructs and skills that contribute to reading comprehension. The simple view of reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986) describes reading comprehension as the product of decoding and language comprehension. The simple view of reading is often used to underscore the critical importance of decoding on reading comprehension; however, evidence suggests that the relative importance of decoding and language comprehension changes based on students’ level of reading development and text complexity (Lonigan et al., 2018). Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies demonstrate that decoding has the largest influence on reading comprehension for novice readers, whereas language comprehension becomes increasingly important as students’ decoding skills develop and text becomes more complex (e.g., Catts et al., 2005; Gough et al., 1996; Hoover & Gough, 1990; Proctor et al., 2005; Tilstra et al., 2009). However, the simple view of reading does not comprehensively explain all skills that influence reading comprehension, nor does it inform what comprehension instruction requires.

The DIME model of reading (Cromley et al., 2011; Cromley & Azevedo, 2007) and cognitive model (McKenna & Stahl, 2009) build upon the simple view of reading as component-based models. The relationship between five variables—background knowledge, inference, strategies, vocabulary, and word reading—are hypothesized to result in reading comprehension according to the DIME model. Word reading, vocabulary, and background knowledge each have direct effects on reading comprehension. However, the effect of word reading, vocabulary, and background knowledge on reading comprehension is also mediated by other variables. Indirectly, background knowledge and vocabulary are needed to use comprehension strategies or to draw inferences (Ahmed et al., 2016). The cognitive model (McKenna & Stahl, 2009) also breaks reading comprehension into its component parts. According to the cognitive model, reading comprehension is made possible by automatic word recognition, language comprehension, and strategic knowledge. The model further delineates specific skills contributing to each of these components of reading comprehension. For successful language comprehension to occur, vocabulary, background knowledge, and knowledge of text structures are needed. General purposes for reading, specific purposes for reading, and knowledge of strategies contribute to strategic knowledge. In summary, both the DIME model and the cognitive model provide greater insight into specific constructs and skills required for reading comprehension that can be targeted instructionally in comprehension intervention.

Filderman, M. J., Austin, C. R., Boucher, A. N., O’Donnell, K., & Swanson, E. A. (2022). A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Reading Comprehension Interventions on the Reading Comprehension Outcomes of Struggling Readers in Third Through 12th Grades. Exceptional Children88(2), 163–184. https://doi.org/10.1177/00144029211050860

UPDATE 4

Focus on phonics to teach reading is ‘failing children’, says landmark study

Reading wars or reading reconciliation? A critical examination of robust research evidence, curriculum policy and teachers’ practices for teaching phonics and reading, Dominic Wyse and Alice Bradbury

Abstract

Teaching children to read is one of the most fundamental goals of early years and primary education worldwide, and as such has attracted a large amount of research from a range of academic disciplines. The aims of this paper are: (a) to provide a new critical examination of research evidence relevant to effective teaching of phonics and reading in the con-text of national curricula internationally; (b) to report new empirical findings relating to phonics teaching in England; and (c) examine some implications for policy and practice. The paper reports new empirical findings from two sources: (1) a systematic qualitative meta-synthesis of 55 experimental trials that included longitudinal designs; (2) a survey of 2205 teachers. The paper concludes that phonics and reading teach-ing in primary schools in England has changed significantly for the first time in modern history, and that compared to other English dominant regions England represents an outlier. The most robust research evidence, from randomised control trials with longitudinal designs, shows that the approach to phonics and reading teaching in England is not sufficiently under-pinned by research evidence. It is recommended that national curriculum policy is changed and that the locus of political control over curriculum, pedagogy and assessment should be re-evaluated.

Wyse, D., & Bradbury, A. (2022). Reading wars or reading reconciliation? A critical examination of robust research evidence, curriculum policy and teachers’ practices for teaching phonics and reading. Review of Education, 10, e3314. https://doi.org/10.1002/rev3.3314

Key points:

The key question that we address in this paper is whether robust research evidence sup-ports this historically significant change in reading pedagogy. Our findings from analysis of tertiary reviews, systematic reviews and from the SQMS do not support a synthetic phonics orientation to the teaching of reading: they suggest that a balanced instruction approach is most likely to be successful. They also suggest the need for a new more careful consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of whole language as an orientation to teaching reading. The reading wars have often resulted in some very dismissive attitudes to whole language, a position that is not underpinned by the research. Although there remains no doubt that phonics teaching in general is one important component in the teaching of reading, the research certainly does not suggest the complete exclusion of whole language teaching….

In addition to the importance of contextualised reading teaching as an evidence-based orientation to the teaching of reading we hypothesise the following pedagogical features that are likely to be effective. Phonics teaching is most likely to be effective for children aged five to six. Phonics teaching with children younger than this is not likely to be effective. A focus on whole texts and reading for meaning, to contextualise the teaching of other skills and knowledge, should drive pedagogy. Classroom teachers using their professional judgement to ensure coherence of the approach to teaching phonics and reading with other relevant teaching in their classroom is most likely to be effective. Insistence on particular schemes/basals, scripted lessons, and other inflexible approaches is unlikely to be optimal. Well-trained classroom assistants, working in collaboration with their class teachers, could be a very important contribution to children’s reading development. Although the most relevant studies in the SQMS showed approaches that were effective usually from between 9.1 h and 60 h of teaching time, we hypothesise that effective teaching of the alphabetic code could be delivered in 30 h or less of instruction time. If so, this would mean that greater emphasis on aspects such as reading comprehension could begin much earlier in England’s national curriculum programmes of study than in the current national curriculum of 2014.

DOI: 10.1002/rev3.3314

Is Synthetic Phonics Instruction Working in England? (Updated)

The “Science of Reading”: A Movement Anchored in the Past

One of the defining moments of my first-year writing seminar is my reading aloud the first few paragraphs from A Report from Occupied Territory by James Baldwin.

This essay in The Nation from July 11, 1966, offers students dozens of powerful examples of compelling and purposeful writing, Baldwin at his best. But the circumstances of the essay are what first strike my students.

“There was a great commotion in the streets, which, especially since it was a spring day, involved many people, including running, frightened, little boys,” Baldwin writes. “They were running from the police.”

We note that Baldwin uses “police[men]” five times in the first paragraph, which focuses on people in the Harlem “in terror of the police” because “two of the policemen were beating up a kid.”

Students immediately noted that Baldwin was addressing exactly the same racism grounded in policing that has been the source of social unrest in the U.S. throughout 2020.

In other words, racism in policing in the U.S. is not a recent crisis, but a historically systemic fact of policing.

The more things change, we noted, the more they stay the same.

The history of education in the U.S. is often fascinating and surprising, but it also is like being Phil (Bill Murray) in Groundhog Day—especially when it comes to bandwagons and political and public cries of “crisis.”

Fews aspects of education represent this pattern more than reading, suffering the “science of reading” (SoR) movement since early 2018.

The SoR movement is nothing new, a movement anchored in the past.

But as David Reinking, Victoria J. Risko and George G. Hruby note at The Answer Sheet (The Washington Post), “More worrisome, a majority of states have enacted, or are considering, new laws mandating how reading must be taught and setting narrow criteria for labeling students as reading disabled.”

Reading was declared a crisis in the 1940s because of literacy tests of WWII recruits, throughout the 1950s and 1960s because of Rudolf Flesch’s Why Johnny Can’t Read, in the 1990s because of handwringing over NAEP scores, during the George W. Bush presidency with the National Reading Panel and No Child Left Behind, and, as noted above, over the last couple years because of the SoR movement prompted by the journalism of Emily Hanford.

As my students came to recognize about racism and policing in the U.S., anyone who examines the history and current bandwagon of reading will see that schools, teachers, and students have, like Phil, lived the same day over and over—reading is in crisis and here is the silver-bullet for all students to read.

One must wonder why we never pause to confront that this formula has never resulted in anything other than the same crisis.

And one must acknowledge that something cannot be a movement if it is anchored in doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

Take for example The Science of Reading: A Defining Movement.

The Coalition Members include a strong connection to The Reading League, formed in 2016.

Both the website and the League represent the very worst of missionary zeal and good intentions; and they both fail the fact check necessary for claims about a reading crisis and the bandwagon of SoR.

First, The Reading League grounds their concerns in a misguided and false red flag about whole language, as reported on Syracuse.com: “Murray is referring to the large base of research and knowledge that proves scientifically-grounded methodology in teaching reading is more effective than the ‘whole language’ approach most curriculum takes.”

This argument has two significant flaws. First, whole language has been replaced by balanced literacy for decades. And second, the 1990s revealed a discredited assault on whole language and an ignored analysis of by Darling-Hammond that showed a positive correlation between higher NAEP scores and students being in whole language classrooms.

The website, The Science of Reading: A Defining Movement, is complicated to fact check because there seems to be a purposeful effort to appear to be different than the SoR bandwagon by rejecting the term as a “buzzword” and demanding “We must preserve the integrity of reading science.”

Further, in the Preamble to their The Science of Reading: A Defining Guide, one sentence stands out: “We know that our children can be taught to read properly the first time.”

“The first time”?

Literacy and reading are lifelong learning experiences, and this claim raises a genuine red flag about this movement.

But the biggest reveal about the so-called SoR movement is in the definition, where there is a narrow parameter set for “scientifically-based”: experimental/quasi-experimental study design, replication or refinement of findings, and peer-reviewed journal publication.

If that sounds familiar, you have simply awakened to the same day some twenty years ago when the National Reading Panel made the exact same claim—and proved to be a deeply flawed report while the policy implications not only did not improve reading but also became mired in funding corruption with Reading First.

The SoR movement is a bandwagon with its wheels mired in the same muddle arguments that have never been true and silver-bullet solutions that have never worked.

Like Phil, we find ourselves waking up to the same day in reading.

This is no crisis, but it certainly is a tired, old story that needs to be left behind through some other vehicle than a bandwagon.

See Also

Greenville News (SC): SC should not “jump on bandwagon” of “science of reading” movement

Open Letter to SC House and Senate Concerning Bill 3613 [UPDATED]

How to End the Reading War and Serve the Literacy Needs of All Students

Open Letter to SC House and Senate Concerning Bill 3613 [UPDATED]

I am contacting you with an urgent caution about Bill 3613 and the historical failures of addressing reading in South Carolina through micromanaging legislation that has not resulted in improving home, community, individual equity or learning outcomes for students living in poverty, Black students, Emergent Bilinguals, or students with special needs.

Currently, I am in year 37 of being an educator in SC, serving as a high school English teacher at Woodruff High for 18 years before moving to teacher education at Furman University for the past 19 years. I entered education in SC in 1984, the first days of the accountability movement in our state.

Despite changing standards and high-stakes testing multiple times over the past four decades, political and public perception remains convinced our schools are failing, and that our students are, specifically, failing in reading achievement.

Read To Succeed was a serious mistake at its inception since it misreads both how students learn to read and how best to teach reading. Reading growth is not simple, and test scores are a stronger measure of poverty and social inequities than the state of student learning or the quality of teaching.

Bill 3613 is making the same mistake political leaders have been making since the 1980s, tinkering with prescriptive legislation aimed at our students and teachers while ignoring the overwhelming negative impact of inequity in our students’ homes and communities as well as the harmful negative learning and teaching conditions that persist in our schools.

I am attaching a full statement and a resource list that includes powerful and valuable recommendations from important national organizations (NCTE, ILA, NEPC) who have addressed how best to reform our schools in order to serve all students and to foster literacy in effective and compelling ways.

Please read and consider the resources I have provided, notably the nearly exhaustive collection of research on grade retention and NCTE’s Position Statement strongly rejecting grade retention as reading policy; below I highlight the should not/should recommended with research support from NEPC (see the resource list below):

  • Should not fund or endorse unproven private-vendor comprehensive reading programs or materials.[i]
  • Should not adopt “ends justify the means” policies aimed at raising reading test scores in the short term that have longer-term harms (for example, third-grade retention policies).[ii]
  • Should not prescribe a narrow definition of “scientific” or “evidence-based” that elevates one part of the research base while ignoring contradictory high-quality research.[iii]
  • Should not prescribe a “one-size-fits-all” approach to teaching reading, addressing struggling readers or English language learners (Emergent Bilinguals), or identifying and serving special needs students.
  • Should not prescribe such a “one-size-fits-all” approach to preparing teachers for reading instruction, since teachers need a full set of tools to help their students.
  • Should not ignore the limited impact on measurable student outcomes (e.g., test scores) of in-school opportunities to learn, as compared to the opportunity gaps that arise outside of school tied to racism, poverty, and concentrated poverty.[iv]
  • Should not prioritize test scores measuring reading, particularly lower-level reading tasks, over a wide range of types of evidence (e.g., literacy portfolios and teacher assessments[v]), or over other equity-based targets (e.g., access to courses and access to certified, experienced teachers), always prioritizing the goal of ensuring that all students have access to high-quality reading instruction.
  • Should not teacher-proof reading instruction or de-professionalize teachers of reading or teacher educators through narrow prescriptions of how to teach reading and serve struggling readers, Emergent Bilinguals, or students with special needs.
  • Should not prioritize advocacy by a small group of non-educators over the expertise and experiences of K-12 educators and scholars of reading and literacy.
  • Should not conflate general reading instruction policy with the unique needs of struggling readers, Emergent Bilinguals, and special needs students.

And therefore:

  • Should guarantee that all students are served based on their identifiable needs in the highest quality teaching and learning conditions possible across all schools:
    • Full funding to support all students’ reading needs;
    • Low student/teacher ratios;[vi]
    • Professionally prepared teachers with expertise in supporting all students with the most beneficial reading instruction, balancing systematic skills instruction with authentic texts and activities;
    • Full and supported instructional materials for learning to read, chosen by teachers to fit the needs of their unique group of students;
    • Intensive, research-based early interventions for struggling readers; and
    • Guaranteed and extensive time to read and learn to read daily.
  • Should support the professionalism of K-12 teachers and teacher educators, and should acknowledge the teacher as the reading expert in the care of unique populations of students.
  • Should adopt a complex and robust definition of “scientific” and “evidence-based.”
  • Should embrace a philosophy of “first, do no harm,” avoiding detrimental policies like grade retention and tracking.[vii]
  • Should acknowledge that reading needs across the general population, struggling readers, Emergent Bilinguals, and special needs students are varied and complex.
  • Should adopt a wide range of types of evidence of student learning.
  • Should prioritize, when using standardized test scores, longitudinal data on reading achievement as guiding evidence among a diversity of evidence for supporting instruction and the conditions of teaching and learning.
  • Should establish equity (input) standards as a balance to accountability (output) standards, including the need to provide funding and oversight to guarantee all students access to high-quality, certified teachers; to address inequitable access to experienced teachers; and to ensure supported, challenging and engaging reading and literacy experiences regardless of student background or geographical setting.
  • Should recognize that there is no settled science of reading and that the research base and evidence base on reading and teaching reading is diverse and always in a state of change.
  • Should acknowledge and support that the greatest avenue to reading for all students is access to books and reading in their homes, their schools, and their access to libraries (school and community).[viii]

I urge political leaders in SC to think differently about our students, our teachers, and our schools; notably, I strongly recommend that we seek ways to create homes, communities, and schools that allow our students to grow and excel in the literacy development.

Continuing to tinker with prescriptive and punitive reading legislation is a dereliction of political and ethical duty; we can and must do better, by doing differently.

Resources for reconsidering Bill 3613

National Professional Organizations/ Research

National Council of Teachers of English: Resolution on Mandatory Grade Retention and High-Stakes Testing

International Literacy Association: Research Advisory: Dyslexia

National Education Policy Center: Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading”

Grade Retention Research (current listing of research on grade retention)

Recommended Reading

Is there really a ‘science of reading’ that tells us exactly how to teach kids to read? (PDF)

The Critical Story of the “Science of Reading” and Why Its Narrow Plotline Is Putting Our Children and Schools at Risk (NCTE)

Fact Checking the “Science of Reading”: A Quick Guide for Teachers

Fact-checking Phonics, NRP, and NCTQ

Beware Grade-Level Reading and the Cult of Proficiency

UPDATED 23 February 2020: Mississippi Miracle or Mirage?: 2019 NAEP Reading Scores Prompt Questions, Not Answers

SC Fails Students Still: More on Grade Retention and Misreading Literacy

“Science of Reading” Advocacy Stumbles, Falls

Confirmed: SC Implementing Retain to Impede

IAP || Book || How to End the Reading War and Serve the Literacy Needs of All Students

P.L. (Paul) Thomas

Professor, Education

Furman University

24 January 2021


[i] This is true even when the program is generally understood to be of high quality. See Gonzalez, N. (2018, November 26). When evidence-based literacy programs fail. Phi Delta Kappan, 100(4), 54-58. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from LINK

See also International Reading Association (2002). What is evidence-based reading instruction? Retrieved March 15, 2020, from LINK

Office of the Inspector General. (2006). The Reading First program’s grant application process. Final inspection report. Washington, DC: US Department of Education. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from LINK

[ii] See the sources linked at Thomas, P.L. (2014). Grade Retention Research. Radical Eyes for Equity. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from LINK

[iii] See resources linked at Thomas, P. L. (2020). Understanding the “Science of Reading”: A Reader. Radical Eyes for Equity. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from LINK

[iv] Carter, P.L. & Welner, K.G. (Eds) (2013). Closing the opportunity gap: What America must do to give all children an even chance. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Reardon, S.F., Weathers, E.S., Fahle, E.M., Jang, H., & Kalogrides, D. (2019). Is separate still unequal? New evidence on school segregation and racial academic achievement gaps (No. 19-06). CEPA Working Paper. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from LINK

[v] Valencia, S.W. (1998). Literacy Portfolios in Action. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from LINK

Strunk, K.O., Weinsten, T.L., & Makkonen, R. (2014). Sorting out the signal: Do multiple measures of teachers’ effectiveness provide consistent information to teachers and principals?. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22(100). Retrieved March 15, 2020, from LINK

Lavigne, D.A.L., & Good, D.T.L. (2020). Addressing teacher evaluation appropriately. APA Division 15 Policy Brief Series, 1(2). Retrieved March 15, 2020, from LINK

[vi] Schanzenbach, D.W. (2014). Does class size matter? Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from LINK

[vii] Atteberry, A., LaCour, S.E., Burris, C., Welner, K.G., & Murphy, J. (2019). Opening the gates: Detracking and the International Baccalaureate. Teachers College Record, 121(9), 1-63.

See also the sources linked at Thomas, P.L. (2014). Grade retention research. Radical Eyes for Equity. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from LINK

[viii] Fryer, R., & Levitt, S. (2004). Understanding the black-white test score gap in the first two years of school. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 86(2), 447-464.

Lance, K.C., & Kachel, D.E. (2018). Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us. Phi Delta Kappan, 99(7), 15-20. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from LINK

Krashen, S. (2013). Access to books and time to read versus the common core state standards and tests. English Journal, 21-29. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from LINK

Just an EdD from a State University

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Emily Dickinson

Several years ago I was on a panel for a public forum held on my university’s campus. At the Q&A ending the panel talk, a colleague from another discipline asked a detailed question grounded in their discipline.

I watched their face and eyes as I navigated not only the arcane and somewhat navel-gazing elements of the question (we academics love to hold forth with questions that are thinly veiled opportunities to hear ourselves talk) but also that this conversation between the two of us was almost entirely alienating for 75% of the audience, which included several of my students.

Referencing key scholars from my colleague’s field, I did a bit better than hold my own—although I just have an EdD from a state university.

Because of the lingering Jill Biden controversy—using “Dr.” with people holding doctorates and working as professors—the public has been exposed to the ugliness surrounding and within the academy that includes classism (one detractor of Jill Biden clearly also disrespects community college students), sexism (the original swipe at Jill Biden that isn’t even thinly veiled misogyny), and degree stigmas (even in this excellent rebuttal of all the nonsense tossed at Jill Biden, the EdD is framed as a lesser degree).

My journey to academia and an advanced, terminal degree (EdD in Curriculum and Instruction) began in junior college after I left high school an avid math/science student set on majoring in physics (one of the most prestigious disciplines in academia).

However, while in junior college where I spent an inordinate amount of time playing pick-up basketball and drinking, I was approached by a Dean who taught my British lit intro course. Dean Carter asked me to tutor English in the college’s academic assistance office.

A bit disoriented, I asked why, and he said I was the best student in the class. At that point, a first-year student who had made almost all his As in high school in math and science (although my favorite teacher was Mr. Harrill, my English teacher), I never considered myself a literary person—and certainly had never entertained any proclivity for teaching (I laughed in high school, in fact, when Mr. Harrill one day suggested I consider teaching).

That moment with Dean Carter changed my life.

I soon fell in love with tutoring, and by the spring of my first year of college, I had fallen in love with poetry (thanks to my speech class taught by Mr. Steve Brannon) and discovered that I am a writer (having written my first “real” poems that spring after immersing myself in the poetry of e.e. cummings).

From 1983 until 1998, I completed three (shitty, in seems) degrees in education—a BA in secondary English education, an MEd in secondary English education, and an EdD in Curriculum and Instruction—all from (shitty, it seems) the state system where I live.

I am well aware that K-12 teaching isn’t very highly regarded, that many people see teachers as academically weak themselves (the Urban Legend about education majors having the lowest SATs, GPAs, etc.). I am also well aware that my education degrees are viewed as pre-professional and not academically rigorous.

As I noted above, even an impassioned and detailed defense of Jill Biden using “Dr.” included a swipe at the EdD degree:

Jill Biden does not have a PhD. She has an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. It’s an applied doctorate, designed to certify rising administrators in the field of education….

At the outset I mentioned that Biden has “an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership” and not a PhD. The Department’s website provides a handy summary of the difference at Delaware.

Dan Nexon

That “handy summary,” however, is not a definition of EdDs, but of that particular degree and program, but even as there is an emphasis on being a practitioner, the summary ends with this: “The Doctor of Education represents the highest level of scholarly attainment in the professional field of education.”

Now honestly, there is a lot of coded language here that links “scholarly” with “professional field” and speaks into a cultural and disciplinary marginalizing of education as a pre-professional and not academic field.

Here is a significant distinction that many do not acknowledge about education as a discipline. Much of education in the academy is grounded in teacher certification (an area in which I work and strongly criticize), but education as a discipline is a social science, a cousin to psychology.

My graduate degrees (MEd and EdD) included many advanced courses in statistics and qualitative/quantitative research, educational philosophy, and educational psychology. I am willing to concede that education as a field is a hybrid of other disciplines, but I can hold my own among researchers regardless of the field, among complex discussions of philosophy and psychology (not just education), and among debates about the challenges of realizing theory/philosophy in day-to-day practice.

But many have also criticized Jill Biden for her dissertation, again the implication being that EdDs are less academically rigorous:

Some critics have honed in on the fact that Biden’s dissertation is not a PhD thesis but an “Executive Position Paper.”…

For that matter, we can argue, as Volokh does, that a PhD thesis “is generally a dissertation that constitutes a substantial original work of scholarship,” but it should be pretty clear that “generally” is doing a lot of work here. This is why writing a crappy thesis doesn’t mean that Gorka can’t call himself “Dr. Gorka.” It means his PhD doesn’t certify him as an expert on terrorism or in political science. Biden isn’t trying to pass herself off as a leading expert on educational reform or whatever….

For that matter, we can argue, as Volokh does, that a PhD thesis “is generally a dissertation that constitutes a substantial original work of scholarship,” but it should be pretty clear that “generally” is doing a lot of work here. This is why writing a crappy thesis doesn’t mean that Gorka can’t call himself “Dr. Gorka.” It means his PhD doesn’t certify him as an expert on terrorism or in political science. Biden isn’t trying to pass herself off as a leading expert on educational reform or whatever.

Dan Nexon

This defense, you see, of Jill Biden is grounded in the argument that she did in fact meet the requirements of her EdD, which is a doctoral degree, and therefore, assigning “Dr.” to her name while she is a professor is entirely reasonable.

This defense glides right past making any concession that EdD programs may in fact have rigorous dissertation requirements that result in a “a substantial original work of scholarship.”

My own experience with graduate school was not like my colleagues’ programs since I completed my MEd at a satellite campus (degree was based in the main campus, however) and then completed the EdD with very lenient residency requirements (I did not quit my teaching job or live on campus, meeting residency by taking a certain number of main-campus listed courses over several consecutive semesters).

And my dissertation does meet the threshold of being “a substantial original work of scholarship,” but it is an educational biography—a qualitative research paradigm and a sub-genre of history, both of which are stigmatized in academia (once again, shitty and shitty).

Tracing the life and career of Lou LaBrant through much of the twentieth century required my completing a literature review of biography/educational biography grounded in feminism and critical pedagogy (that grounding, you guessed it, shitty and shitty), reading dozens of works by LaBrant and about LaBrant that form the skeleton of my field of literacy and English education, and then writing a book-length biography (which has since been published).

I was well equipped during my years in graduate education to have written a traditional dissertation driven by a quantitative study (I found none of that compelling and chose my program specifically because it included a key figure in education biography, Craig Kridel, and because I could write a biography).

My work on LaBrant, as Kridel declared at my dissertation defense, is a unique contribution to the field of education (as a social science), rich in history as well as robust debates about philosophy, theory, and practice.

My challenge is that I wonder how many economists, political scientists, psychologists, and almost all the other disciplines awash in PhDs could have done the type of work I did, academically advanced writing (not to a dissertation temple) that grounded a prominent figure over almost a century of thought in that field.

I suspect few of the academic snobs pontificating on Jill Biden could have done the work I did, and part of their condescension is a way to avoid that fact.

It’s not, then, that my terminal degree is just an EdD from a state university; it’s all the layers of shitty I have trafficked in along the way—just the field of education, just a biography.

The Jill Biden debate is mostly about sexism and misogyny; it is unwarranted and petty.

I know from first-hand witnessing that there are plenty of charlatans in all the disciplines—small-minded and weak thinkers about even mundane topics. I have to stand in proximity to their PhDs as if I don’t count because of the simple difference in letters.

We call them “Dr.” and don’t bat an eye.

These hierarchies and professional/personal pettiness are embarrassing among people who are supposed to be well educated.

But there is no place for any of that in our public debates either. I know that despite my shitty degree.