In The Counter Example, D-Ed Reckoning describes an all-black, nearly all-poor Baltimore K-7 school with rock-bottom scores, out-of-control students and a staff of brand-new or burned-out teachers. A strong principal tried to hire better teachers — nobody wanted to teach at City Springs — while Direct Instruction specialists taught teachers and aides to use the DI script.
The coordinator worked patiently with one first-grade teacher who could scarcely read and who could not produce the sounds for the letters and combinations that she was trying to teach to the children. She wanted to learn; she worked hard; and she became much better. After one practice session with the coordinator, she gently put her hand on the coordinator’s forearm and said tearfully, â€œThank you so much. Nobody has ever worked with me before.â€ She was a certified teacher, however.
City Springs students had scored below the 10th percentile; by 2003, first graders hit the 99th percentile in reading and fifth graders were among the best in Baltimore.
Then the school decided to focus on test prep and parted ways with Direct Instruction in 2004. Scores have fallen for elementary students. As Rory points out in a comment, sixth and seventh graders, who learned to read in the DI years, are doing fairly well.