A wave of recent articles about reading trick parents and educators into thinking teachers are not teaching reading and are not being trained to teach reading correctly. The opinion pieces are written by journalist Emily Hanford.
Warning! Corporate reform fingerprints are all over these articles. Could it be about transforming classrooms to technology, where students look at screens instead of getting help from teachers?
Scientific research has shown how children learn to read and how they should be taught. But many educators don’t know the science and, in some cases, actively resist it. As a result, millions of kids are being set up to fail.
These accusations, teachers “don’t know” and teachers “actively resist it” anger parents who are critical of how their students learned or are learning to read in school.
The three Hanford articles have anti-teacher titles, and a title to run down their COEs (Colleges of Education) all meant to undermine teachers and how they teach reading.
- “Why Are We Still Teaching Reading the Wrong Way?”
- “Teachers Criticize Their Colleges of Education for Not Preparing Them to Teach Reading”
- “Why Aren’t Kids Being Taught to Read?”
Each one of these articles has set off a firestorm of comments on social media. Teachers and parents happy or unhappy about Hanford’s diatribes tell how teachers should or should not teach reading.
Who are these individuals who claim teachers are teaching reading the wrong way?
In “Misreading the Reading Wars Again (and Again)” Furman education professor P.L. Thomas disputes one of Hanford’s articles. He describes the controversy surrounding two groups that Hanford repeatedly cites.
National Reading Panel (NRP)
Thomas says, The NRP was a political sham, but it also was not an endorsement of heavy phonics.
He cites Joanne Yatvin’s “I Told You So! The Misinterpretation and Misuse of The National Reading Panel Report.” Joanne was a principal and a literacy expert, one of the only qualified individuals to sit on the panel.
I could see that the report as a whole was narrow, biased, and elitist. I was troubled by the fact that it covered so few of the important issues in teaching reading today, that the ideologies of panel members had governed the choice of most of the topics, and that teachers of beginning reading had been excluded from the entire process. Moreover, I believed that because of its weaknesses, the report was dangerous in its potential for misuse. The responses of my fellow panel members to my concerns ranged from reassurances that all problems would be ironed out before the report’s publication to “So what?”
Thomas also mentions California State University education professor Elaine Garan.
Garan studied the NRP and found an abundance of inconsistencies and omissions involving reading comprehension and how phonics skills were applied to literacy writing. She wrote “Beyond the Smoke and Mirrors—A Critique of the National Reading Panel Report on Phonics.”
The National Reading Panel admits its evaluation report on phonics is seriously flawed as to organization, methodology, appropriateness of research base, generalizability of results, reliability, validity, and accuracy of data reported. However, an influential public-relations machine is promoting the study’s favorable results as unvarnished scientific “truth.”
The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)
The other group Hanford repeatedly cites is the NCTQ.
Here’s a list of the NCTQ supporters which include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Waltons, and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.
About the NCTQ Thomas notes:
NCTQ is a partisan think tank exclusively committed to discrediting teacher education. Their reports, when reviewed, are deeply flawed in methodology and typically misread or misrepresent research in order to reach the only conclusion they ever reach—teacher education is a failure! (Like reading instruction, apparently, has always been.)
He goes on to say NCTQ lacks credibility, but the organization has learned how to manipulate the current state of press-release journalism that simply publishes whatever aggressive organizations are willing to feed journalists desperate for click bait.
Corporate reformers know reading is the subject that opens doors to school success. They also know some children have a difficult time learning to read.
If they can break parental trust in their child’s teacher, parents will be more amenable to putting their child online for their reading instruction. But there’s no research to indicate online reading programs will provide students with the reading instruction they require to be good students in other subjects.
Teachers have taught children how to read for years. It is a rare classroom that ignores the teaching of phonics.
There will always be students who need extra help, who have learning disabilities. Schools should provide those students with the added support they need.
Joanne Yatvin. “I Told You So! The Misinterpretation and Misuse of The National Reading Panel Report.” Education Week. April 30, 2003.
Elaine M. Garan. “Beyond the Smoke and Mirrors: A Critique of the National Reading Panel Report on Phonics. Phi Delta Kappan, v82 n7 p. 500-06, Mar 2001.