The Reading League, which promotes the Science of Reading and evidence-based instruction, recently had a conference sponsored by companies (listed below) selling reading programs and materials, including online instruction. Where’s evidence these companies provide authentic research indicating they work?
Some states and school districts now mandate the Science of Reading (Schwartz, 2022). They have ruled out several programs, Lucy Calkins Units of Study, Reading Recovery, and Fountas and Pinnell claiming they do not reflect science. However, it’s hard to find evidence that these other advertised programs work despite the constant demand that schools use evidence-based instruction.
Educational programs have always had a competitive welcome seat at the table. Teachers use resources, and school districts purchase these programs at a high cost for instruction. However, an overall examination should include broad peer-reviewed research of all reading programs from those not connected to the companies and not compensated for their reviews.
Here are additional concerns:
- Many reading programs are online and collect data on children, and it isn’t always clear how that data is used and whether third parties have access to it for marketing purposes. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was weakened years ago, so parents should ask questions about online instruction.
- School districts may purchase these programs at a high cost to the taxpayer due to slick marketing, despite little research, and forgo other programs that could be more beneficial.
- While some say there’s no way teachers can be replaced, school reformers have made a bi-partisan effort for years to replace teachers with screens known as anyplace, anywhere learning. Here it’s described in a report before COVID, Betsy DeVos Pushes Online Learning, written by Dora Taylor, founder of Parents Across America. While parents may not like their children to be at home online, cyber schools are increasingly a concern.
- Some programs are connected to school reformers wanting to end democratic public schools. EdReports, for example, is funded by billionaires, and they judge programs according to what they want, despite little research provided as proof.
- Many of these reading programs are praised by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), which is funded by private organizations that promote school privatization.
- Some of these reading programs have been in public school classrooms for years, so if they taught students how to read, why aren’t students doing better? Why aren’t these programs being reviewed by the same individuals who have complained about Calkins, Reading Recovery, and Fountas and Pinnell?
- Most of the studies for these programs are done in-house, or those who work for the company are included as authors. Isn’t this a conflict of interest? Will one ever find an in-house study that raises concerns over its own program?
- Quite a few of these companies began during Reading First, called scandalous and ineffective, where students came away knowing sounds but not how to comprehend what they read, and where researchers appeared more intent on reading for profit.
- Many professors and those considered literacy experts sign on to advertising programs, some of which are promoted by wealthy individuals, when they have little research other than what’s done in-house. Are they being compensated? Isn’t this a conflict of interest?
America needs a new National Reading Panel of researchers, teachers, parents, and students. Thus far, there needs to be more initiative for a new NRP. Could it be that the Science of Reading would crumble under such scrutiny?
Here are the sponsors that promoted The Reading League’s recent conference. Some simply sell decoding books. If aware of peer-reviewed studies that I may have overlooked for any of these programs or assessments, please share.
- Acadience Learning
- AIM Institute for Learning and Reading
- Benchmark Education
- Curriculum Associates iReady
- 95 Percent
- Express Readers
- Learning A-Z
- Junior Learning
- Learning Without Tears
- Great Minds
- Multi-sensory Education
- Logic of English
- Reading Horizons
- Really Great Reading
- Sadlier School
- Phonic Books
- Sylla Sense
- Voyager Sopris Learning
- Wilson Language Training
- Whole Phonics