To the Editor:
Members of Congress need to take a magnifying glass to your recent article “Out-of-Favor Reading Plan Rated Highly” (March 28, 2007). Then, our representatives need to find answers to these questions:
(1.) Why were former National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and U.S. Department of Education officials overzealous in their need to steer federal funding away from teacher training to address emerging reading problems and toward largely phonics-oriented “products” (whether testing products or textbooks)?
(2.) What would it mean to the former NICHD and Education Department officials (and children everywhere) if the answer to the first question is that training of teachers in “other strategies” is more effective for reading development than intensive phonics instruction?
(3.) What motivated these NICHD and Education Department officials to place a virtual chokehold on the definition of “scientifically based” reading programs by narrowing the view to nearly-impossible-to-meet phonics-related criteria? And, what effect has this narrowness had on new, cutting-edge nonphonics-related solutions to reading problems?
From top to bottom, the whole thing smacks of “high jinks” (a term used by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation-funded report written by Louisa Moats to reprimand educators who support a broader view of literacy; is it a coincidence that President Bush’s former education secretary, Rod Paige, sits on the Fordham board of trustees?).
Congress: Please investigate. Every single day, more children in this country are harmed by policies put in place to support nothing but intensive phonics instruction. From day one, this policy approach has been narrow and negligent.
A version of this article appeared in the April 11, 2007 edition of Education Week as Questions for Congress On Reading Plan