Reading debate

Ken DeRosa of D-Ed Reckoning, a phonics advocate, and Nancy Creech, a whole language teacher, are debating reading instruction this week on Edspresso. Actually, the debate will be about comprehensive reading instruction, DeRosa writes. Should reading instruction for beginners emphasize decoding or meaning? Nobody advocates no phonics or nothing but phonics.

Creech argues that it’s important to have very good teachers. Well, sure. But how should they teach?

Update: Children of the Code has released 13 videos with more than “100 interviews with leading neuroscientists, psychologists, reading researchers, educators, historians, economists, technologists and policy leaders.” It’s all part of chapter 1, “We Have a Problem.”

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Comments

  1. Kirk Parker says:

    Creech argues that it’s important to have very good teachers.

    That’s not a recipe for success. Outside Lake Woebegon, on average our teacher will be, well, average. How they teach will matter much more than what the few standouts do.

  2. but with good training, feedback and focus on skills, one can make that average quite high.

  3. wayne martin says:

    > but with good training, feedback and focus on
    > skills, one can make that average quite high.

    Then why are the reading scores of US kids so low?

  4. because there haven’t been good training, feedback and focus on skills for teachers. Solid assessment, professional development and merit pay will shine a spotlight like no other, just like every other sector, public and private.

  5. wayne martin says:

    > because there haven’t been good training,
    > feedback and focus on skills for teachers.

    And all of the money and capital investment in Ed Schools does not
    provide “good training”? Why not?

    > Solid assessment,

    Teachers, and Teachers’ Unions routinely balk at assessment.

    > professional development

    Most teachers have BS/MS (equivalents). How much more “professional
    development” does it take to teach a child to read?

    > and merit pay will shine a spotlight like no
    > other, just like every other sector, public and private.

    Many Teachers’ Unions have balked at this also.

    The nation is currently spending about 7.5% of its GDP (about $1T yearly). How much more do we have to spend just to teach our kids to read?

  6. How much more do we have to spend just to teach our kids to read?

    About $20.

    That will get you the book you need from B&N or Amazon. I taught all three of my children to read at age 5 and one of them has a language disability. No training or in-service needed, you just open the book and follow instructions.

    If this isn’t happening in schools then there is some underlying issue going on other than with the teachers. And if that is the case all the inservice training in the world isn’t going to address the real issue.

  7. Nicksmama says:

    “How much more do we have to spend just to teach our kids to read?

    About $20.

    That will get you the book you need from B&N or Amazon. I taught all three of my children to read at age 5 and one of them has a language disability. No training or in-service needed, you just open the book and follow instructions.”

    In my case, $50. I’ve only taught 2 kids to read and I used the Explode the Code series of workbooks ($6.50 each)and a set of those little letter tiles you can by at the special teacher’s store…..Walmart.

    Funny thing. I purposefully covered the pictures up in their books so they would stop guessing at words and decode. They both above grade level readers and score well on reading comprehension.

    All this debate just fascinates me.

  8. Nicksmama says:

    Editing my own post.

    by should be “buy”

    Forgot “read” and “tests” in the following sentence: “They both READ above grade level readers and score well on reading comprehension TESTS.”

    Note to self: do not post before having second cup of coffee.

    😉

  9. Myrtle wrote:

    If this isn’t happening in schools then there is some underlying issue going on other than with the teachers. And if that is the case all the inservice training in the world isn’t going to address the real issue.

    Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

    We have a winna!

    Yes indeed Myrtle, there is an underlying cause. It’s that there isn’t any penalty for failure. Good methods, bad methods. Who cares?

    Nobody takes it in the chops for having the responsibility for illiteracy so why not just suit yourself? Select methodologies that are avant-garde, cutting edge, relevant.

    Merely teaching kids to read is not nearly as exciting as imbuing them with a life-long love of reading, whether they learn to read or not. After all, it’s not like you have to worry about the illiterates. What are they going to do? Send a letter to the editor?

  10. “And all of the money and capital investment in Ed Schools does not
    provide “good training”? Why not?”

    Because rather than scientifically researching what works and what doesn’t in the classroom and passing this information along to future teachers, the Ed schools spin politically-correct theories, couch them in impenetrable jargon, and teach that to the future teachers. If there are no penalties for teachers who can’t teach and entire schools where the children don’t learn, there are certainly no penalties for those who mis-taught the teachers.

  11. and what about the role of the parents in literacy?

    If the parents don’t/won’t model reading skills, how do you expect students to appreciate it at school?

  12. Wayne wrote:

    Then why are the reading scores of US kids so low?

    What proof do you have that this is true? If you want to bring up NAEP scores I’ll be happy to direct you to the page in the report that explains the National Academy of Science studied the results of the NAEP and concluded the reading level results were worthless. It’s actually part of the report itself, though no one ever bothers to read it.

  13. joycem, give me a break.

  14. Reality Czech says:

    Meta to the issue, but would you folks please learn to use the <blockquote> and </blockquote> tags so that your quotes

    look like this

    instead of being nearly indistinguishable from your original text?

    Thanks.

  15. wayne martin says:

    > What proof do you have that this is true?

    Yes, the NAEP is part of my “proof:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2004-12-15-reading-usat_x.htm

    Additionally, I have downloaded all of the performance records from the California Department of Education WEB-site, built Relational Databases and looked at performance of the California school system over the past several years. The reading schools here in California (based on the subjective metric of “proficiency”) show about the same data as the NAEP scores for California.

    California also uses a NORM-referenced reading test (NRT), which includes the scores of other states. The California Standards-based test results (CST) for English Language Arts (ELA) track the NRT very closely.

    In California, about 60% of the students post reading scores of BASIC, BELOW-BASIC or FAR-BELOW-BASIC, with about 40% posting scores of PROFICIENT or ADVANCED.

    Without national standards, the scores of state tests can not only be compared against the NAEP at the moment. Other tests, like ACT or SAT only test those that actually take the test, so a full comparison can only be imputed.

  16. Wayne,

    Here is what the nation’s report card says about itself:

    The most recent congressionally mandated evaluation conducted by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) relied on prior studies of achievement levels, rather than carrying out new evaluations, on the grounds that the process has not changed substantially since the initial problems were identified. Instead, the NAS Panel studied the development of the 1996 science achievement levels. The NAS Panel basically concurred with earlier congressionally mandated studies. The Panel concluded that “NAEP’s current achievement level setting procedures remain fundamentally flawed. The judgment tasks are difficult and confusing; raters’ judgments of different item types are internally inconsistent; appropriate validity evidence for the cut scores is lacking; and the process has produced unreasonable results.”

    You can find it for yourself at:
    http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/achlevdev.asp

  17. Kirk Parker says:

    Reality Czech,

    Blockquote is my preferred method of quoting. However, in light of the gratuitious, distracting quote-mark graphic that’s currently part of the style sheet here, I generally prefer not to.

  18. wayne martin says:

    > the National Academy of Science studied the results
    > of the NAEP and concluded the reading level results
    > were worthless.

    Worthless is pretty strong language? Worthless means different things to different people. I came across this WEB-site some time back that discusses (what appear to be) the issues associated with educator complaints with the NAEP:


    http://www.susanohanian.org/show_research.html?id=12

    But beginning in 1988, though, NAEP shifted towards being prescriptive, to specifying what students should know. To this end, it developed what it called achievement levels: below basic, basic, proficient and advanced. These levels are a disaster. They were initially tinged with an ideological bent that sought to sustain the sense of crisis produced by “A Nation At Risk.” They have never been accepted by testing professionals as valid or meaningful, but school critics often use them to bash public education.”
    …
    NAS had this to say: “NAEP’s current achievement level setting procedures remain fundamentally flawed. The judgment tasks are difficult and confusing; raters’ judgments of different item types are internally inconsistent; appropriate validity evidence for the cut scores is lacking; and the process has produced unreasonable results.”
    …
    One can’t. How can a group of kids only 29% of whom are proficient in science rank third in the world in science? They can’t, but it is the NAEP achievement levels that are off. Although NAEP can’t be sued, the U. S. Department of Education should be ashamed to report the NAEP achievement levels. For the media to then slavishly parrot the Department’s flawed statistics is equally reprehensible.

    The following page provides a high-level description of the achievement levels for the English NAEP:
    The NAEP Reading Achievement Levels by Grade:
    http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/reading/achieveall.asp

    Looking through them, they don’t seem all that “worthless”. Of course, by the time that these generic levels become actual test questions, I suppose that things cold go wrong.

    Here’s the test results for the NAEP for the decade identified–
    Percentage of students, by reading achievement level results, grade 12: 1992–2002:
    http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/reading/results2002/natachieve-g12.asp

    The following abstract for a panel study of NAEP achievement levels looks like that the panel isn’t recommending dumping this test—


    ED380777 – NAEP Reading Revisit: An Evaluation of the 1992 Achievement Levels Descriptions:

    http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/Home.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=RecordDetails&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED380777&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=eric_accno&objectId=0900000b8013c829

    Reports – Evaluative Abstract:A study was designed to provide recommendations regarding the use of the achievement levels set in 1992 for reporting National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading results in 1994 and in future NAEP reading assessments. Two procedures were used: the Item Difficulty Categorization (IDC) procedure involved an evaluation of the achievement levels descriptions (ALDs) via a statistical categorization of items; and the Judgmental Item Categorization (JIC) evaluated the ALDs via a judgmental item mapping. A total of 56 panelists were trained in the reading framework and achievement levels set in 1992. The high correspondence between the judgmental classification and the statistical classification provided compelling evidence that the achievement levels descriptions communicate clearly and accurately with respect to student performance. Further, the recommendations developed by the panelists involved in the two evaluation methods were quite similar. The fact that the recommendations made by the two sets of panelists were similar and confirming of the achievement levels seemed a sufficiently positive outcome to support the use of the achievement levels for reporting the 1994 results. To the extent that panelists recommended changes in the achievement levels descriptions, it was to increase the requirements for the Basic level descriptions, based on actual student performance. Contains nine tables of data. Appendixes present a list of observers, panelists, and staff; nomination material; achievement levels descriptions and procedures for evaluating; the agenda; examples of IDC and JIC lists; grade-level organizational and format suggestions for ALDs; and an alternative method of computing “hits.” (RS) Abstractor:N/A Reference Count:N/A
    —-

    So .. I’m going to go with the NAEP test results until someone comes up with a replacement test that demonstrates that NAEP scores are too low, and that the those being judged as “proficient” on the new test are actually proficient in their reading skills.

  19. Wayne,

    I have written on the subject of the flawed NAEP tests but I will mention some again.

    Take the time to find the 4th grade reading sample about the Mir space station. Copy and paste the sample into MSWord and have it do a readability analysis on it and you will find it is written at an 8th grade reading level. I fail to see how this adequately tests 4th grade reading skills.

    To continue to go with the NAEP results seems to indicate you don’t understand the meaning of “fundamentally flawed”.

  20. wayne martin says:

    > you don’t understand the meaning of “fundamentally flawed”.

    Saying that something is “fundamentally flawed” is one thing .. proving that it is is another.

  21. Allen writes:

    —–Merely teaching kids to read is not nearly as exciting as imbuing them with a life-long love of reading, whether they learn to read or not.—-

    I get the irony of the statement, Allen, but it still doesn’t make sense to me… Are you implying that someone somewhere believes it is possible to make children love to read without teaching them how to read? Have you not created some rhetorical moronic straw man (or woman) for your own amusement?

    Perhaps not.

    19th Century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once wrote that “much reading robs the mind of all elasticity… If a man does not want to think, the safest plan is to take up a book directly he has a spare moment. This practice accounts for the fact that learning makes most men more stupid and foolish than they are by nature…” What he meant, I think, was that a passive approach to literacy might do more harm than good, that learning to read without a critical eye might only enlarge one’s ignorance.

    A love of reading, according to this, could be harmful if not accompanied by the skill not only to decode symbols but to detect subtext, logical fallacies (such as the straw man), faulty appeals, unsupported and unsupportable claims, melodrama.

    If that is your implication then I think I agree….

  22. Wayne,

    Remember, “fundamentally flawed” are not my words, they are from the NAEP report itself!

  23. Larry Straus wrote:

    Are you implying that someone somewhere believes it is possible to make children love to read without teaching them how to read?

    In effect although the situation’s a bit more complex then that.

    To be blunt, whole language is an appeal to conceit. That’s the attraction of the methodology and that’s why the ongoing battle has been so rancorous. Criticism of whole language is personal because the value of whole language lies not in its educational efficacy but in the promise of being in a position to claim responsibility for much more gratifying educational outcomes then merely learning to read. If whole language isn’t effective then there can be no claim to teaching a life-long joy of reading and superior comprehension. Defend whole language and you defend your belief that you do more then merely teach reading.

    Mike in Texas wrote:

    Remember, “fundamentally flawed” are not my words, they are from the NAEP report itself!

    But the implication that the NEAP is fundamentally flawed is yours and that’s not what the report says.

  24. Allen,

    I see you STILL don’t understand what fundamentally flawed, judgment tasks are difficult and confusing, and unreasonable results mean.

    I don’t have to imply it, the report itself says it.

  25. wayne martin says:

    From this year’s EdTrust’s analysis, 02.22.07–


    Education Trust Statement on 12th Grade NAEP Results:
    http://www2.edtrust.org/EdTrust/Press+Room/NAEP+Grade+12.htm

    Over a quarter of the nation’s high school seniors lack even basic reading skills. Over forty percent lack even basic mathematics skills. Almost half are below the basic level in science. As bad as these numbers are, the data on the achievement of low-income students and students of color is even more painful and alarming.

    “These low levels of high school achievement would be easier to bear if the trend line was moving upward, as it is for our younger students,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust. “Sadly, though, this is not the case. Every data source over the last several years tells the same story: gains in elementary and middle schools are not translating into better prepared high school graduates.”

    OK .. here are the NAEP sample Questions/Results:


    http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/ITMRLS/searchresults.asp?NumSearchResults=1&SearchSubject=Reading&SearchIndex=1&SearchStartIndex=1&QuestionsPerPage=20&SearchQuestionSet=0&amp;

    Mir Space Station Test Question Sample:
    http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/ITMRLS/itemdisplay.asp

    > fundamentally flawed ..

    OK .. prove your point.

  26. Mike, Mike, Mike….sigh.

    I don’t think there’s much doubt that my reading comprehension is up to the task of understanding “The Status of Achievement Levels”. But since we’ve been here before, I’ll just quote from the same report, from the paragraph immediately following the one you quote:

    A proven alternative to the current process has not yet been identified.

    So whatever the shortcomings of the extant achievement level setting process no other recommends itself as superior or even equal. That’s not a criticism of the NAEP, just of the method used to select the scores at which the various categories start and end. In fact, the report doesn’t even criticize the current achievement levels, just the process by which they were set.

    But you knew that.

  27. Thanks for that explanation, Allen.
    Yes, I believe you have articulated a common educational philosophy, perhaps justified — at least in some cases.

    As for whether it is meaningful to get students to love reading, from my vantage point — teaching 11th and 12th grade English — I’d have to say yes.

    There are quite a few students who CAN read but DON’T read. They struggle with reading assignments more than a few pages long, lacking, I believe, the mental muscle, that ability to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time. They don’t read enough to develop the muscle. Those who do not struggle tend to be those who enjoy reading. Even if they don’t enjoy a book they are assigned they can read effectively.

    On the other hand, students with limited reading ability aren’t likely to enjoy reading….

  28. And I’ll repeat what I said before (and was told to give said person a break).

    If the parents don’t read, how can we expect students to read for pleasure? Fluency comes from repetition. If students only see parents who watch TV but do not read newspapers, magazines or books, what does that say to the student about the value of reading?

    Yes, there are exceptions. Yes, we can model interest and enthusiasm about reading in the schools. But you can only go so far in the school. If parents do not support school reading programs by supporting reading at home, how are these kids going to learn to read? I have capable readers in my general ed classes who would sooner do anything else than read for pleasure. Then I have my kids in special ed (I primarily teach special ed in middle school) who not only read for pleasure, but who struggle to read material above their independent reading level because they get a certain degree of pleasure out of what they do comprehend.

  29. Children have their own minds, they don’t just mindlessly repeat what their parents do (how many children do you know who copy their parents in sitting quietly in airplane seats). So if a child finds pleasure in reading, they will read regardless of whether their parents model it or not. For decades children have been finding pleasure in running in and out of sprinklers, playing tag, hopscotch, banging pans with wooden spoons, all things that parents don’t often do.

    If you think that kids reading is dependent on their parents, how do you explain the rise in literacy over the last couple of centuries? The children of illiterate parents obviously cannot be seeing their parents engaged in reading at home, yet many countries have seen dramatic increases in literacy levels when they introduced schooling for all children. Your concern is a red herring.

  30. Allen wrote:

    the report doesn’t even criticize the current achievement levels, just the process by which they were set.

    And yet, these same achievement levels are used to justify the bashing of American schools and turning them into test prep factories.

    The test is useless and its results are not meaningful. Here’s another little jewel from the report itself.

    NCES agrees with the National Academy’s recommendation that caution needs to be exercised in the use of the current achievement levels

    A polite way of saying they are useless.

  31. wayne martin says:

    > The test is useless and its results are not meaningful.

    Come on, MIT, walk us through how YOU came to this conclusion. I’ve posted links to more than enough material for you to use to make your point. Now, do it!