Rainbow over Galileo Lane, Tucson

Saturday, December 7, 2013

How about a class action suit against Nctq and Fordham Fondation

I've heard of one college of education where faculty have been told they must follow the NCTQ guidelines for their reading courses.
 See my August post above for a description of this power grab by the Thomas B Fordham Foundation.

I've asked people involved to let me know if they are told they can't use reading texts listed as unacceptable by NCTQ. If you know of any attempt to use the NCTQ ratings to limit or eliminate any texts please let me know.

Ironically we can't go to court to restrain use of NCTQ guidleines because they are bad. But we can sue if they are causing loss of income. Furthermore any authors of a  text rated unacceptable could join such s auit because they have legal standing for the same reason.

Who would join me in such a suit? This is a way to change the conversation and prhaps turn the tide,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Amazing insight into how the brain and eye work in reading

My grand daughter Rachel is married to a young man with rather severe palsy. Last night at dinner he was recalling a school incident from when he was five years old. He remembers being presented a page with lines of letters. As he put it the letters jumped out at him and instead of naming the letters he responded with the names of school friends.

He could already read- make sense of print. This at a time when he had great trouble being understood in speech. I recalled some popular magazine story years ago about a disease called hyperlexia. Speech therapists discovered young patients reading all the waiting room magazines while waiting for therapy. I remember thinking that’s pretty predictable – kids turning to reading when speech is less accessible.
As we talked I had an amazing insight.

Here is a five year old with palsy whose head jerks around . How does he learn to make sense of print if he can’t control involuntary movements of his head and eyes? Since he did learn to read, we have to assume that he was able to get sufficient input from the eyes to make sense of the print . He had to do so in spite of the jerky movements of head and eyes
So that means his cortex could get the input it needed from these uncontrolled eye movements.  That’s pretty remarkable but it shows how much the brain can perceive from jumbled visual input.

So now put yourself in this then five year old head. He doesn’t perceive lines of letters. He sees print to make sense of. What he describes as the letters jumping out at him is patterns that his cortex is trying to make sense of. So he perceives bits of names not names of letters.

Put this now into a broader context. His family were post World War II Russian immigrants to Canada and then to the US. From birth on, he is desperate to connect with those around him but loud, garbled boisterpus speech leads to violent fits of frustration which puts off those who he needs to connect with and often leads to punishment and constraint. Eventually he learns both Russian and English. And he learns to read. But it is some time before anyone appreciates any of this.

His competence goes unrecognized.
I see two lessons in this:
1.The mind is even more flexible than I thought in its ability to tolerate ambiguity and variation in language.

2. The universal ability of humans to invent and use language in a community of language users is also much stronger than I had previously believed.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Connecting through language

In my most recent work I've been using the term connecting rather than communicating as a more inclusive term for what language does for children.

Babies begin connecting from the very moment of birth with that first cry. Then they begin to be aware that people make noise when they come together and they participate in the noise making- sometimes quite loudly. They know that language is social before they know that it is meaning making.

Much of the early  language between parent and child is more interpersonal than ideational  if you think about it. I would guess babies hear "I love you" a lot more often than any attempt to actually tell the child something. They hear lullabies and soothing sounds directed at them , though the other forms of language surround them. So they come fairly early to the sense that language is the way people connect with each other.

Eventually the connection begins to differentiate into other functions- understanding and following directions,, expressing their needs, commenting on their environment, and eventually engaging in conversation.

As I find myself saying often what makes language possible is our ability to think symbolically and what makes  it necessary is the need to connect. And the connection is in the fullest sense: emotionally, physically, expressively, and comunicationally.

And this generation of digital natives has new ways of connecting. and by adolescence by far the most important form is texting. So important that it happens when walking, driving, and almost any other times. And I would guess that much of the content is more just being together- connecting= than communicating.

And here I am connecting with you through the ether.

Isn't it amazing?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Response to Learning

In working on the final chapter of  Reading: The Grand Illusion I worked through what I believe is the fundamental issue in literacy education:
 Reading and Writing are being taught as school subjects   They should be taught in the context of their use.
Yesterday in working through this issue with Yetta I finally realized why I reject RTI (Response to  Instruction)
   RTI assumes that literacy learning is the result of instruction. So research in reading is trying various instructional methods, materials or hypotheses to see how much learning is produced.  And the best method is the direct teaching of most effective instruction. Then  the curriculum is the sequential organisation of the elements of literacy as defined by the instruction.    And the proof that the instruction is successful-            is a test of how well the learners respond to the instruction.

But learning is no sense limited to instruction. Human beings have the universal ability  to create, learn and use languag in the process of connecting with a community of language users and  participating in the language use.

Effective in instruction is a response to learning. In Re:spnse to Learning (RTL)

Research in reading is studying the language learning children achieve  and the conditions that most facilitate the learning which is occurring. The best method is creating  the conditions in the classroom which most facilitate the learning
  The curriculum starts where the learner is and responds to the learning in the context of  its use in all the rest of the curriculoum,. And Inliteracy education the proof  that  the instructions is successful is the quality of the reading and writing the students achieve.

So Yetta and I drafted a challenge to promote
Rsponse to Learning
Framing a Responsive Curriculum that is built on teaching as response to learning.

Ken and Yetta have been involved in a lot of reflection on their work recently. By the end of this year (2013) we will  have published three coauthored books and some articles.  Ken is also working on a popular book on the reading process with Peter Fries, Steve Strauss and Eric Paulson.   Yetta is beginning to write again about her research on early literacy development. 

One of the coauthored books, we’ve just completed is a book of selected readings as part of Routledge International Educationalist Series which has provided focus to look at our work with greater depth than before.  As graduate students and colleagues have been responding to these works and given the present political realities in terms of learning, teaching and instruction in reading, we have been thinking of framing the teaching of reading and writing in a somewhat new way but in keeping with our established theoretical frames.
We’ve written about the problems with the concepts of readiness that has been prevalent in reading and writing instruction over the years although during the 1980’s – 1990’s that focus diminished to some degree.  However, at the present time under No Children Left Behind, Reading First and Race to the Top, we are seeing a strong focus of readiness in terms of phonics, phonemic awareness, syllabication, etc. taking a strong hold on schools and shifting down into kindergarten programs and even preschools. We just read today about the work teachers in early grades are doing to teach keyboarding skills so that children can write without looking at their fingers.  What they haven’t understood that these kids have learned to text with their thumbs on tiny cell phones faster than most people can type.  So now we’re going to tell kids that there is a sequence they have follow to become writers and they must stop doing what they already know how to do and be instructed.
       This led us to consider framing a view that would place the teaching of reading and writing as tools of the curriculum rather than subject matter.  Instead of thinking about the learning to read and reading to learn dichotomy, we suggest that schools should not set aside separate times in the curriculum for the direct teaching of reading and writing as school subjects.  The idea is that every teacher is a teacher of reading and writing responding to the natural language learning capacity of students.
 The focus especially in elementary school would be subject matter areas such as physical and social sciences or math, science, social studies and the arts.   Projects, theme studies, units of inquiry, critical thinking would be the focus of elementary curriculum and reading and writing involved as important tools to be learned in the context of their use across the curriculum. The hope is if we can frame curriculum in this way that schools will highlight the engagement of learners with inquiry about world issues that are important in their ever growing communities (from close to home to ever expanding horizons).  In this way children will learn to read and write as they use literacy opportunities to extend and expand on their language and thinking.
We thought we would put this out to  if this is interesting and engaging enough to take time for some serious discussion and action on how we can build the framing around these ideas.  We don’t expect this to occur very quickly but without effort on the part of many strong  voices, this may never occur. 
       The basic understanding that children learn language easily in the context of using it as participants has been voiced before by Vygotsky, Dewey, Piaget, Emilia Ferreiro, Frank Smith, Margaret Spencer and supported and written about by many members of our own CELT thought collective.  What’s needed now is to flesh out how this can come about.  

This is particularly important at this point because of the increasing emphasis in so many schools in stopping everything else and teaching reading and writing as autonomous skills.so that the serious and important work being done by colleagues in inquiry, reflection, reclaiming literacies, conditions of learning, critical thinking etc. is being marginalized and not considered important aspects of school learning.
Ken has become aware as he’s been writing his chapter on reading instruction in his latest book that every attempt to teach reading as a subject requires the establishment of sequence including elements, skills, vocabulary, fluency, narrow aspects of comprehension, etc.  We know that there is no sequence to learning language, it is learned in the context of its dynamic use and children learn it easily when it needed to connect and participate in its social and personal uses.
In a sense the phrase response to instruction (RTI) makes learning the result of and dependent on instruction. Rather we want to frame the idea that learning is always taking place and particularly in language development, effective instruction is a response to learning hence the possibility of a responsive curriculum.     
 So what do you think?

Yetta and Ken 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

After viewing the Crucible

 On seeing the Crucible once again. 
There is evil in the world. Some of it is the result of warped and demented minds. Some of it the result of greed- not just for money- though that is productive of much evil,  but there is also the greed for power.  And some of it is the result of amorality : people who follow orders but take no responsibility for the result.  But , as  Arthur Miller made clear in his Salem witchcraft play- some of it is the result of people so righteous and sure of their own beliefs that they would impose them on others regardless of the suffering it might cause. Fundamentalism is not just confined to religion.

The evil I speak of is what is happening in schools to children in the name of teaching them to read. All of the forces of evil are involved: Greed of publishers and profiteers, greed of politicians who use literacy  to attack schools and stir up fear among their constituents, amorality of school board members and administrators. But especially evil are those whose fundamentalist views of literacy, learning, and schooling are being enacted into laws that are designed to root out heresy- anyone who does not share their  fundamentalist belief- and create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation  for any who challenge their doctrine.

What has happened in American schools in last 15 years has devastated schools where they are most needed in the urban ghettos: the schools of New Orleans, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Oakland, and our nation’s capital are wounded beyond repair. Schools are closed where they are most needed and any semblance of self-government of local education is gone.

And schools everywhere are  being turned  into sweat shops in which five year olds can be failing in the first week of kindergarten and the primary day  is spent almost entirely on fundamentalist literacy programs. Like the good people of Salem, professional teachers are being rooted out or forced into submission, and blamed for the failure of their programs to work, turned away from the truth by the Satans in the teacher’s colleges.
Education is not the only aspect of American life in which this is happening- see the parallel in the attack on modest attempts to provide health care to millions without it.

But what  is more evil, or more dangerous to democracy than what is happening to the education of a generation of our youth?

Pervading all this evil is an anti-intellectualism which serves well those greedy for money and power. If you can’t trust yourself to tell truth from fiction, sense from nonsense, science from myth then you are prey to voting against your own best interests.

It is not the fundamentalists who have brought this situation about. By themselves they could not have the power. But they are being used by those who  have power to minimize the tax burden of supporting public schools while limiting the access to  knowledge and literacy.

Those with power have the clever minds in the neo-conservative think tank to do their evil for them. They know how to use the institutions of democracy to subvert democracy.

How do we fight this evil? With the only tools we have.
Knowledge  and  the same political process they are using against us.
Save Our Schools is a national coalition organized  to resist  this evil.
If you are parents exercise your rights as parents to  protest bad tests and curriculum. Defend your children from the sweat shops. You can join with other parents  and the professionals in defending your schools or taking them back from the fundamentalists. Get on school boards.
And educate yourself and others.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ezrial, my 5 year old grandaughter
Is now complaining that school is boring
Because it is.
All day boring
Worksheets all day plus boring homework
More worksheets.

So I wrote this book for her

Then I sent it to her with this message.
Dear Ezrial,
I wrote this book for you .
When you can read it yourself ,
Take it to school and
Say," Teacher, may I read my book to you?"

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Whose Knowledge Counts in Government Literacy Policies

Our new Book is available from Taylot and Francis.
at 20% discount.It will give you insights into how
widespread the marginalization of expert kowledge
is'in favor of pseudoscience  and absurdity.
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Professor Maryann Manning

Maryann Manning died yesterday  morning.  Those who knew her well were not surprised that she died in Bali. She was always seeking new horizons, new places , new ideas. And she would then incorporate her new insights into her own teaching.
              It seems like I’ve known Maryann all of my professional life. Shortly after Yetta and I moved to the University of Arizona in 1976 we began to offer  Winter Workshops in Psycholinguistics and Miscue Analysis. These went on over a twenty year period. I don’t think Maryann missed one. And she didn’t come alone. She would bring colleagues and graduate students (often at her own expense). She was an educator who never stopped considering herself a learner.
              Her own summer conferences at the University of Alabama ,  Birmingham developed a large following across the Southeast and brought  enlightened views of literacy education to bible belt educators. She brought us and many other prominent educators to her conferences and she also brought outstanding teachers, among them my daughter Wendy Goodman.
               Her writing was largely aimed at bringing ideas to teachers particularly her regular contributions in teacher magazines. In her very personal and at times self –deprecating way she reached a wide range of teachers who adored her. She was a staunch advocate for her graduate students.
                Retirement for Maryann was just a new opportunity for more travel, more conferences. She was taking on even more commitments as IRA board member , visiting many IRA affiliates around the world. She took her election as Vice President elect for IRA very seriously and was planning for the year she would be President. She had so looked forward to that and spoke often to me about her goals as President.
                Maryann contributed so much to teachers, to reading education and to her colleagues and professional friends. She cared so much for public education and for the young people it served. She had strong beliefs about the value of teachers, about sensible research, about valuing all learners. We owe it to Maryann to renew our own commitment to carry on where she has left off. The best tribute we can give her is to try to fill the void she has left with our own hard work. Yetta and I will be dedicating the forthcoming collection of our work in the Routledge World Educationalist series to Maryann.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ezrial starts school

I've been tellling the joke for years about the 5 year old who goes off eagerly to kindergarten the first day and comes home that afternoon and goes right into his room, When his Mom says. "How was school?" he says "I'm not going back . I can't read and write and they won't let me talk so there's nothing for me  to do there".

Yesterday was the first day of kindergarten for Ezrial Pearson my five year old great-granddaughter. And to my dismay on her second day of school she said they can't talk in class and theycan;t "talk or act silly" in the cafetorium while eating lunch either. Today the class was punished for talking- and they had to put their heads down on their arms. They had no recess and they had to march around the playground as a group.

There has been no play in this kindergarten- nor is there any play area attached to the classroom. I own a home in this Houston area district which I rent to Shoshana my granddaughter and her husband Justin and there soon to be four children. And I pay taxes to the Klein ISD and the Klenk school.

I have only Ezrial's description of the curriculum. It's all day 8:15 to 3 with no provision for nap. Ezzrial said the teacher scolded some kids who fell asleep. There's only PR on the district website and the principal has not responded to requests for an appointment. Parents are not permitted in the classroom or the cafetorium where all children are required to eat breakfast. She ate her lunch when she came home.

Ezrial is not saying she doesn't want to go to school - yet. She was so looking forward to making new friends but how can she if there is no chance to talk with them.
What do I advise her parents?
Are there any alternatives available to them in the Houston area?
The name of the district is Klein ISD and the school is really Klenk.
Has nothing been learned in three generations?

Monday, August 12, 2013

In a world where millions are being spent by US AID and the World Bank  to include EGRA an admitted knockoff of DIBELS on African Asian and Latin Anerican children comes this wonderful announcement
We just returned from Guatemala. I am thrilled to report that the Ministry of Education purchased and distributed mini-libraries to EVERY public school in Guatemala. Non-fiction and fiction  books were obtained.
We should be  proud as the government has asked the Consejo de Lectura de Guatemala , which all of us supported, to educate the  teachers on how to  use the books.
Thank you  for all you have done.
Marcie Mondschein
Some history: Many years ago Marcie Mondschein went to Guatemala with her husband Jerry Monschein, a pediatrician, who was there with a medical aid group. Marcie is a reading professional
from Long Island (with a strong g please Longg Island).

Marcie made contacts with educators there and she and Jerry began a continuous connection and commitment to promoting literacy and literacy education in Guatemala.

She solicited the long term support of her local IRA affiliate and anyone else she could convince to join her effort. There have been three main thrusts to her work there:
1.  She assisted local educators in forming the  Consejo de Lectura de Guatemala  the national affiliate of the International Reading Association. This organization will hold its 10th bienniel International Reading Conference which regularly draws over two thousand teachers from all over Guatemala and groups who come by bus from other Central Amrican countries.
2. Marcie has brought other reading educators to work with her and her local colleagues in conducting teacher workshops all over the country. She has literally taken the best professional knowledge to the rural corners of the country.
3. With Jerry she sold crafts she buys in Guatemala at Reading conferences at US reading conferences and usedthe proceeds to put paper back libraries in rural and urban schools all over
the country. They go there at least twice a year, at their own expense. She has brought groups
of Guatemalan educators to the states for confernces.
Yetta and I are proud of having been invited to and attended almost all of the nine conferences of the Consejo,

And what a crowning achievment: to have the govenrment acknowledge this effort with commitment to extending their work.
It has been honor for us to be a part of this wonderful achievement.

Thsnks to Marcie and Jerry for their great contribution to Guatemala and the world of literacy
Bravo, Bravo, Bravo Bravissimo Bravo!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Members of the Reading Hall of Fame issued this  statement calling the "National Council on Teacher Quality an attempt to take control of teacher education, deprofeeionalize teaching and  impose the same discredited reading program that failed and caused a scandal inReading First, Se this statment also in Valerie Strauss's Blog,

A statement from members of the Reading Hall of Fame on the report of the
National Council on Teacher Quality*
As elected members of the Reading Hall of Fame with broad and diverse perspectives on reading and reading instruction we want to raise strong objections to key aspects of the NCTQ report on teacher preparation programs.

 1. NCTQ was founded by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundationi to “provide an alternative national voice to existing teacher organizations and to build the case for a comprehensive reform agenda that would challenge the current structure and regulation of the profession.” NCTQ would control the education of teachers by asserting its authority to rate teacher education.ii Teacher education programs are now regulated by state certification and state education agencies and by their university administrators. They also comply with standards of their professional associations. NCTQ seeks to insert itself above these authorities.

 2. To achieve that end they frame “existing teacher organizations” as vested interests opposed to reform.

3. This attempt to control teacher education follows the attempt to control schools through NCLB and Reading First. Reading first, a major part of NCLB mandated a narrow direct instruction phonics curriculum and method. And it banned whole language. That has been the law since 2001 and it has not improved reading comprehension and it has certainly not improved schools.iii .(Gamse, et al., 2008),

4. NCTQ, with the advice or Reid Lyon and Lousia Moats, key players in Reading First, asserts that the National Reading Panel provided the answers to, “many fundamental educational questions” establishing a single scientific reading method.

5. So with one stroke NCTQ limits the teaching of reading to teaching the “scientific “ reading program, the same one which failed for 13 years in NCLB and it limits teacher education programs to training teachers in this one true method.
And who needs reading research if the fundamental questions are already answered?

6. NCTQ has rated teacher education programs through rating their courses in teaching beginning reading repeating the tactic used in NCLB’s Reading First mandates that there are two approaches to teaching reading: the scientific approach (direct instruction phonics) and everything else.

7. NCTQ’S assertion that “teacher educators choose to train candidates in “whole language” methods rather than scientifically-based reading instruction” indicates that NCTQ’s evaluators had so broad a definition of whole language that it is
anything other than what NCTQ would mandate. After thirteen years they are still claiming that schools are failing because of whole language.

8. NCTQ would deskill teachers: they would be “trained” as technicians with limited knowledge and authority by teacher educators constrained to a single “scientific” method of reading instruction.

9. The texts authored by over 60 members of the Reading Hall of Fame were listed as unacceptable by NCTQ. Few were rated acceptable. The issue is not our texts. It is that anyone or any group can impose their judgment and become arbiters of books or methods.

10. NCTQ ridicules the view that prospective teachers should confront their attitudes toward “race, class, language and culture” in their teacher education programs. This is but one example of the NCTQ view that reading is an autonomous skill that can be taught out of context without regard for who the learners are and what they are asked to read.

11. NCTQ sees “Academic Freedom run amok” in teacher education. Yet the concept was created to protect teachers and other academics from just the sort of political interference in their teaching and research NCTQ is attempting. As professionals in the field of literacy education, we understand, appreciate, and accept the responsibility for improving teacher education. Our teachers need to know much more about the processes and practices of reading, writing, and thinking. To that end, we commit ourselves individually and collectively to promoting broader and deeper knowledge of literacy processes and practices. In contrast, however, to the message of NCTQ, we will accomplish these improvements not by tearing down, but respecting dedicated teachers and by building with them, on the rich knowledge base for literacy that has taken so long to develop.

*This statement represents those members signed below and should not be construed as an official position of the Reading Hall of Fame

Members signing this statement (Affiliation for identification only)
Kenneth S Goodman**     Professor emeritus University of Arizona
James Hoffman Professor     University of Texas
Jane Hanson      Professor Emerita University of Virginia,
         Team member, Central Virginia Writing project
Richard Vacca Professor Emeritus Kent State University
Richard Allington** Professor University of Tennessee
Yetta M Goodman*** Regents Professor emerita University of Arizona
Brian Cambourne Professor Wollongong University Austrailia
David Olson University Professor Emeritus OISE/University of Toronto
Dorothy Watson Professor Emeriita University of Missouri , Columbia
Carl Braun** Professor emeritus University of Calgary, Alberta Canada
Denny Taylor Professor Emerita, Hofstra University
Donald Leu Professor University of Connecticut
Patrick Shannon Professor Pennsylvania Sate University
P. David Pearson Professor University of California, Berkeley
Robert Calfee Professor Emeritus on Recall, Stanford University
Roger Farr ** Chancellors Professor Emeritus, Indiana University
Victoria Rizko** Professor Emerita Vanderbilt University
Victoria Purcell-Gates Professor Emerita, University of British Columbia
Robert Tierney Honorary Professor Sydney University Australia,
                        Professor University of British Columbia
Linda B. Gambrell** Distinguished Professor Clemson University
                                Co-editor, Reading Research Quarterly
Patricia L Anders     Professor University of Arizona
Donna Ogle**         Professor, Natonal Lewis University
Jerome Harste***    Professor Emeritus Indiana University
Taffy Rafael      University Scholar University of Illinois Chicago
Tim Razinski      Professor Kent State University
Peter Johnston     Professor State University of New York at Albany
** Past Presidents of the International Reading association
*** Past President of the National Council of Teachers of English.

i Ravich, Diane says: “NCTQ was created by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in 2000. I was on the board of TBF at the time. Conservatives, and I was one, did not like teacher training institutions. We thought they were too touchy-feely, too concerned about self-esteem and social justice and not concerned enough with basic skills and academics. In 1997… TBF established NCTQ as a new entity to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the hated ed schools.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/ravitch-what-is-nctq-and-why-you-should-know/2012/05/23
ii Teacher Prep Review (2003)P 93
iii Calfee,R (In press)Knowledge, Evidence, and Faith: How the Federal Government Used Science to Take Over Public Schools in Goodman,K, R.Calfee and Y Goodman Whose Knowledge Counts in Government Literacy Policies (Routledge 2014)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chutzpah (revised )

The National Council on Teacher Quality’s plan to take control of teacher education by rating colleges of education unacceptable and then dictating who, how, and what they can teach  in order to become acceptable may be the greatest act of Chutzpah the world has yet know.

Chutzpah is of course the Yiddish for_ how  you say in English- “the nerve” doesn’t quite carry the force of chutzpah -and no, congresswoman- hutz not chutz.

NCTQ  created by Checker Finn’s Thomas Fordham Institute (a right wing think tank) has undertaken to create an "alternative national voice to existing teacher organizations (Unions? Professional Associations?) which is more chutzpah because::One- those groups haven’t had much of a voice and two- NCTQ is itself only the voice of its parent organization. Who exactly does this misbegotten offspring speak for?

And their goal is true chutzpah- nothing less than to change the structure and regulation of teacher education.

Let’s go back a bit for some background on this attempt to control teacher education. Beginning about 1978 a grass roots movement began among teachers, first in Canada and then in a few states. The Canadians began calling it whole language as a contrast to the part language of tests and text books coming across their border. Canadian teachers are relatively well paid and well educated. Their unions do staff development and get involved in curriculum not just working conditions and pay.

By the mid-nineties the whole language movement was starting to get serious.   Enough so that text book publishers began to use real literature and some whole language teachers were moving into middle management in school districts. Educators from New Zealand and Australia were bringing their applications to American teachers.

Starting after the 1996  US election something new happened. War was declared. I don’t mean two sides declared war. I mean suddenly the press was full of something called “The reading Wars.”  And whole language was proclaimed (by who knows? Could it have the Thomas B Fordham Foundation) one side and  phonics its challenger. My personal connection began with an article in Harpers attacking me.

Then I got a call from a Toronto reporter about a science conference in Seattle where a small study in a suburb of Houston was being presented which showed that phonics worked and whole language didn’t? Would I like to comment? Huh? What was going on? Well that study I was to learn was never completed – they got kicked out of the district. It was never peer reviewed but it gained much media attention and it was proclaimed proof of phonics over whole language. And that was an indication of how this strange war was fought.

In California a crisis in reading was declared and whole language was accused of being the cause and a little old lady in tennis shoes somehow got the power to call people into her garage to examine the proposals for state funding for signs of whole language. (I kid you not- Her name was Marian Joseph – could I make that up?)

In Texas saving his state’s children from whole language was part of the George Bush (the younger) move from the governorship of Texas to the White House.

 How wide was the influence if whole language at its peak? Well one little book of mine (What’s whole in whole language) sold a lot of copies. And whole language conferences were getting thousands of teachers. Academic publishers were selling more individual copies of books to teachers than class room orders. And the sale of children’s literature and young adult books was booming. As my Aussie friends put it, it’s the tall poppies that get cut down and whole language was the tall poppy. Hey, I was getting calls from national media regularly back in the late “90s. I even had a chapter in a book about the Bush (2) White House devoted to me based on a phone interview I’d long forgotten. Gertrude Stein was wrong; it does matter what they say about you.
When the Elementary and Secondary education act was reinvented as No Child Left Behind a central component was Reading First which mandated that henceforth all schools that wanted federal money (in other words all schools) had to change the way they taught reading to be based on Scientifically Based Reading Research. That’s a clever phrase because it implies that there is some reading research which is not scientifically based. In Reading First a rather obscure and extreme version of phonics was proclaimed scientific and – the tall poppy- whole language thus become unscientific.

This scientific method was claimed to be scientific because it was claimed to be conformed to the recommendations of the National Reading Panel (under the guidance of Reid Lyon, President Bush’s Reading guru.) And under no circumstances was any trace of that abomination- whole language to be permitted to enter into the reading insruction . In fact Reading First was more easily defined as anti-whole language.

Then in 2000 the war was declared over as mysteriously as it was declared. The National Reading Panel has reviewed the research literature all the way from A to B and proclaimed its decision. Direct instruction phonics was anointed scientific and given the force of law. And the only true believers, principally at the University of Oregon, were essentially put in charge of NCLB funding. And of course in reviewing state proposals they insisted only their books and tests be included.

No one approach to teaching reading had ever been given the force of law before. And it remained ever so until this13th year of NCLB even after the Inspector General charged massive conflicts of interest He recommended the department of Justice investigate. Congress got mad and defunded reading first. But the mandates stayed in the law even after the evaluation commissioned by the DOE found it had failed to improve reading comprehension.

After Obama was elected he didn’t want  to rehash old stuff.   NCLB and Reading First have been carried forward in limbo since Congess has yet to determine its future. And so states are still mandated to teach  the scientifically and legally established method.

Thirteen years after the reading wars were declared over we have a clearly failed  program.  Hundreds of schools have been closed. Whole city systems of education have collapsed. And there is no evidence that the promise that all students would be reading proficiently has been achieved. In fact the situation is far worse than it was when this absurdity began. And surely they can’t still blame whole language?

I just attended the Whole Language Umbrella’s  national conference on Long Island and there were less than 200 there. Really good people, though a number had taken early retirement. There are a few schools out there still carrying themselves whole language, quietly. And there are a whole lot of aging teachers who quietly keep on keeping on.

Now when this all began remember it was needed because that awful whole language was in wide use and was keeping kids from learning to read.

And so here is the ultimate Chutzpah – the reason for this colossal failure was that teacher educators where really PUSHING WHOLE LANGUAGE. Those incompetent teacher educators are more concerned with “issues of race, class, language and culture” and they think their job is to prepare teachersfor each candidate to develop his or her own unique philosophy of teaching, no matter how thin the ground is underneath” rather than to ‘train’ them.’But now these and many other questions are largely settled. Leaving the practice of teaching up to individual discretion denies novices access to what is actually known about how children learn best.” What is actually known about how children learn best is when they have a knowledgeable teacher who is a professional “kid-watcher”and can tailor instruction to the learner.

After all  that, NCTQ still has the chutzpah to blame their lack of success on whole language. Here’s what they say:
“Nowhere has this approach proved more damaging than in the coursework elementary teacher candidates must take in reading instruction. It is commonly assumed that teacher educators choose to train candidates in “whole language” methods rather than scientifically-based reading instruction.  Actually, little such training occurs, as whole language is not an instructional method that a teacher might be trained to apply, but merely a theory (flawed at that) based on the premise that learning to read is a “natural” process. The whole-language approach tracks nicely with a philosophy of teacher education in which technical training is disparaged.”(NCTQ p 93)

NCTQ spent  a few years on trial runs and now they are ready for their main event  And what an event. They have bullied teacher education programs to send their course syllabi to their reviewers. And with a little resistance many public programs had to comply (a Missouri Judge just ruled the President of the University of Missouri was right in saying they were not being sent because they are the intellectual property of their writers.)

NCTQ raters took special interest in the syllabi used in beginning reading courses and the text books their student were required  to read. And guess what? They hired Reid Lyon and Louisa Moats as consultants. And on their advice they found five true elements of reading as determined by  the National Reading panel( as interpreted by these consultants) could be used to rate reading courses on whether they taught (correctly) the five truths about reading. They were fair. Programs got 20% for each one. And then Louisa Moats was kind enough to recommend three highly qualified associates of hers to do the ratings.  One of them has been in charge of delivering EGRA the knock off of DIBELS to Liberia. Of course any mention of whole language was an automatic disqualifier.

The raters went to work rating the books the course syllabi required- what a mess and almost none were using books written by the real authorities.(Guess who?) Imagine over 60 of the book authors were members of the Reading Hall of Fame and only a few of them had written acceptable books.
And of course the raters found that although phonics gets the most time in the reading syllabi they looked at – it isn’t the right phonics .

Despite having inflicted untold harm on schools, teachers and a generation of American children the same discredited “scientific reading program” would be the only training students preparing to be teachers would get if NCTQ has its way.

What chutzpah!

It’s taken me a while to figure out though, why they still are blaming ’whole language’ for the failure of their own program. It’s because no one could teach reading through the absurd decodable books they mandated and the DIBLES test which makes school failures out of five year olds their first week of kindergarten. Everybody smuggled in a few good kids books, let the kids write in journals, or recognized when a kid in their class was being mislabeled by the DIBELS nonsense test. To those who chose to control what teachers could teach this was a lack of fidelity to the program and due to their whole language teacher education programs.

The answer to this Chutzpah is to realize that it is really them against us. They are the advocates of “true  scientifically based anti whole language.” And we are the researchers who built a base of knowledge, the teacher educators who have devoted their lives to preparing professional teachers, and the courageous teachers who have taught the researchers and teacher educators as they were being taught. And of course the children who would be deprived of their right to literacy and learning if those who seek to “ regulate” teacher education and deprofessionalize teachers are successful. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

More proof of whose knowleldge counts

Welcome all!
Thanks to the self-anointed evaluators of teacher quality many of the widest range of authorities on beginning reading instruction have now joined the list of authors of unacceptable texts on reading for teachers. We were a somewhat exclusive club for a while- those banned in California and Texas. But membership is now open and those who are newly finding themselves on this growing list will find they aare among a fine group of knowledgable educators. Many are members the Reading Hall of Fame. Past presidents of IRA, NCRLL, NCTE are also now included.
And for those out there who actually found one or more of their works found “acceptable” don’t give up. You stand a good chance of being on the next expanding list.
In press is a book sponsored by te Reading Hallof Fame, : Whose Knowledge counts in Government Literacy Policies. Editor Goodman, Calfee, and Goodman. AWatch for announcements from Routledge.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Digital native
Above is a picture of Levi Jackson Pearson, my great grandson.  He’s holding what he is pretending (at 17 months) is a cell phone. Levi is part of the generation of digital natives. It’s likely he’ll be texting before he starts kindergarten, easily handling an ipad- or whatever new thing replaces it in the next few years.
Yetta and I were at the Consejo de Lecto-escritura de Guatemala’s Ninth International Literacy Conference last week. Cell phones are cheap there and even poor kids seem to have access to them, by hook or by crook.
Human beings need to connect – we’re social animals that cannot survive by ourselves. And modern technology makes it possible to connect easily over small or great distances.  While we were in Guatemala we skyped  (new verb) with family in Edmonton Alberta and Houston Texas. Levi, now 19 months looked at our screen images and said distinctly “Who’s that?” And it didn’t cost us anything to connect.
I draw two major lessons from all this.
1.       The distinctions between oral and written language are now completely blurred
2.       With access to connecting  digital devices kids will learn to read and write as easily as they now learn to speak and listen. Many are already doing so. What will be important in the future is access. In the United States access is controlled and expensive.
What that means is that those with access will be ahead of those without access. So the gap between rich and poor will widen.
We need to begin a campaign to level the playing field.
1.       We need to make cell phones non-proprietary as they are in most of the world.
2.       There needs to be universal access to hi-fi. The ether should be as available as air and water
3.       Schools need to recognize the digital natives and support and further their new competence.
We need to fight even harder to against 19th century curriculum and medieval methodology.
Power to the little people!