Standards Letter to the Editor

Thoughtful Literacy Instruction Is Crucial

June 11, 2012 1 min read

To the Editor:

David Coleman’s appointment as the president of the College Board will further drive national policy that focuses on high-stakes testing, standardization of curriculum, and scripted instruction that comes from the common-core preparation programs being marketed based on “publishers’ criteria” created by Mr. Coleman and his colleagues at Student Achievement Partners (a nonprofit organization that develops implementation strategies for the common-core standards).

Teaching to high standards based on research is imperative, but as literacy expert Catherine Snow noted in the article, while Mr. Coleman’s goals are laudatory, his instructional approach ignores the research that focuses on the importance of prereading to build the knowledge needed for understanding. Mr. Coleman also emphasized the need for all students to be able to independently read grade-level texts.

This one-size-fits all approach has been discredited because it does not enable teachers to respond to the different needs of English-language learners, students with special educational needs, students from diverse backgrounds, and students who live in poverty. As a reading specialist recently communicated to me: “I can scaffold every student to read grade-level texts, but I know that they cannot independently read these texts.”

Mr. Coleman’s approach for common-core standards and the SAT is doomed to fail just as the Institute of Education Sciences’ 2008 Reading First impact study showed no increases in reading comprehension in schools based on No Child Left Behind.

Both approaches are based on standardization and testing rather than professional development of teachers to become expert reading teachers who understand how to teach thoughtful literacy to all students.

Michael Shaw

Professor of Literacy Education

St. Thomas Aquinas College

Sparkill, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the June 13, 2012 edition of Education Week as Thoughtful Literacy Instruction Is Crucial


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