Opinion
Reading & Literacy Letter to the Editor

Rigid Instruction Fuels Poor Reading Scores

December 05, 2011 1 min read

To the Editor:

The latest national reading-achievement results, showing no gain in 4th grade reading scores, will not surprise anyone who has followed the policy assault on reading education these last 15 years (“NAEP Results Show Math Gains, But 4th Grade Reading Still Flat,” Nov. 9, 2011). Triumphant, thanks to political power, not empirical evidence, have been the proponents of so-called scientific reading instruction, i.e., skills-heavy, lock-step, “teacher proof,” publisher-manufactured pedagogy that has dominated reading instruction. Through state and federal legislation in the 1990s, culminating with the Reading First portion of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, this instruction has damaged millions of children. Every other instructional alternative, particularly constructivist/whole language, was beaten back by legislative manipulation, all in the name of scientific evidence.

The purported gold standard for this evidence has been the 2000 report of the National Reading Panel. However, anyone looking carefully inside the report saw it was fool’s gold. For example, my analysis of the report’s research base detailed the report’s misrepresentations of the studies it reviewed, essentially forging “facts” to fit the authors’ predetermined conclusions. Moreover, where research supported employment of constructivist/whole-language instruction, the report omitted those findings.

Alongside political power and research misrepresentation has been a policy disregard of the effect of poverty on learning. All this continues as “scientific reading education” lives on in the rigid instructional imperatives of common-core standards. Pity the poor children!

Gerald Coles

Rochester, N.Y.

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A version of this article appeared in the December 07, 2011 edition of Education Week as Rigid Instruction Fuels Poor Reading Scores

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