Teachers have enough difficulties. Sometimes you find an article so full of hubris and irony it cannot be ignored.
Several weeks ago, I criticized a series of reports about reading by journalist Emily Hanford. Hanford claimed teachers didn’t understand reading instruction and that their education schools failed to teach them what they should know.
I made the case that these reports involved poor arguments. The author cited the flawed National Reading Panel report and the National Council on Teacher Quality a think tank meant to discredit teachers.
It seemed like the underlying goal was to pit parents against teachers.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a discussion to be had about reading instruction in public schools, only that Hanford’s articles were promoting corporate reform, however nuanced.
I overlooked an Ed. Week article by Susan Pimental, an architect of Common Core English language arts. Pimental praises Hanford’s articles. She criticizes teachers for failing to do necessary reading research to effectively teach reading.
I’m struck by how strange and bold that claim is from someone tied to Common Core State Standards.
Who researched Common Core before forcing teachers to adopt the standards in their classrooms? Pimental who has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education (I don’t know if she taught) and is a lawyer, is no reading expert.
Despite Pimental’s early childhood degree, Common Core for the youngest learners are criticized as failed standards.
Here’s Pimental’s bio from Ed. Week.
Susan Pimentel is a co-founder of the StandardsWork and a founding partner of Student Achievement Partners, both nonprofits dedicated to improving K-12 student achievement through evidence-based action. She was the lead author of the Common Core State Standards for English/language arts literacy.
But let’s look specifically at her criticism of teachers and public schools.
- Children are put in reading groups. Many schools group students after assessment by Response to Intervention. Pimental doesn’t mention RTI. She is simply critical of the groups. Many worry that RTI is meant to replace special education. She doesn’t mention that either.
- There’s not enough content knowledge. Why is there not enough social studies, science, and the arts? The emphasis on reading came about with NCLB and the push to raise test scores. Common Core focused on ELA and math. They neglected the other subjects too. Now they push Next Generation Science, but how many students missed out on valuable subject matter in other areas due to Common Core’s narrowness?
- The curriculum is poor quality. She blames the lack of phonics for reading problems. How many schools do not teach any phonics? The real argument is how much phonics, for whom, and when.
What’s especially bizarre is that Common Core has been around for years. Sadly, many teachers in good faith, tried to wrap their teaching around those objectives when it came to English and language arts.
So, if students are not doing well learning how to read, maybe we should look at Pimental and her Common Core friends. If teachers aren’t measuring up when it comes to reading instruction, let’s criticize Common Core State Standards!
Why would Pimental tread into this territory? Her praise of Hanford’s articles provides further evidence that those articles were never about healthy debate surrounding reading instruction.
There’s a discussion that should take place about how reading should be taught. But that debate needs to be between teachers and parents at local school districts and within the classroom for individual children.
It would be nice to also hear more from reading professors. [What a great coincidence! NEPC just published this about the Reading Wars by Elizabeth Moje, Dean of the University of Michigan School of Education.]
Improving reading instruction is not resolved by unjustified accusations of teachers and their colleges of education by reformers far removed from the classroom.
John A Stewart says
I agree that there is a lot to be explored when it comes to how particular school districts and particular schools are implementing their reading strategy. A strategy probably sounds pretty good on paper, but it may not be carried out with fidelity. Or even more likely, the school district never had the money to carry it out with fidelity. Or the students don’t have the support at home to exploit the strategy to their advantage.
Nancy Bailey says
Great points! Thank you for sharing, John.