Zig Engelmann, the father of Direct Instruction and Reading Mastery, is posting a chapter of his new book on his web site every two weeks. The Outrage of Project Follow Through: 5 Million Failed Kids Later deals with a big, long-term federal study of reading programs for poor children that found Direct Instruction helped disadvantaged children achieve at or near the 50th percentile; their scores were strong on higher-order thinking and self-esteem as well. None of the other models tested produced positive results in all three measures; in most, children lost ground. The results were ignored and some of the worst models became fashionable.
A distinguished white-haired man on the main floor stood up and gave a long, dramatic oration. He ended by saying in rising volume, â€œI hear talk of skills and sub-skills and sub-skills of sub-skills, but why is there nowhere in Mr. Engelmannâ€™s presentation one word about [pause and dramatic point toward the ceiling] learn by doing and do by doing!â€
Explosion of cheers, shouts, applause, which lasted probably more than 10 seconds.
When the place calmed down, I said, â€œWell, I promised Bob Egbert that I wouldnâ€™t say bullshit, but Iâ€™ll try to answer your question anyhow.â€ I went on to explain that not only was the originator of slogans about learning, John Dewey, dead but that there was nothing to suggest that his slogans had much relevance to the problems facing disadvantaged kids.
Later, Engelmann was told the white-haired man was director of math instruction in New York City.