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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Parents trust their child's reading teacher, but should they?

More than 90 percent of parents think their child's elementary school and teacher are doing a "good" or "excellent" job of teaching reading, according to a new poll. Only 13 percent say their child is reading below grade level, while 82 percent are "confident" or "very confident" their children are good readers.


Photo: Timur Weber/Pexels

Parents may be too trusting, writes Robert Pondiscio.  A lot more than 13 percent of elementary students are struggling with reading, in part because their teachers weren't trained in the most effective, research-based strategies to develop literacy.


More than 70 percent of parents with elementary-school-aged children report reading with their children “at least a few nights per week.”


Pondiscio asks: "How well informed parents need to be to advocate effectively for quality reading instruction, and how much science of reading do they need to understand themselves?"


Teachers don't always give parents the information they need to help their child at home, says Faith Borkowsky, a veteran teacher and literacy consultant. Telling parents the reading level is useless, says Borkowsky, author of the 2018 book Failing Students or Failing Schools?: A Parent’s Guide to Reading Instruction and Intervention.

"What are the skill deficits? Does the child have the background knowledge to support what he or she is reading, trouble with decoding, blending, or reading polysyllabic words? Tell me where the child struggles so there’s something I can work on."

Parents see learning to read as the priority for elementary students. They'd help if they knew how.


One of the most popular measures of early reading ability often misses reading problems, reports Christopher Peak for APM Reports. Struggling readers may be "less likely to get the help they need before they fall even further behind their classmates."


Fountas and Pinnell's Benchmark Assessment System also is more expensive than other methods of assessing students' progress and takes more teacher time.


Matthew Burns, a University of Florida special education professor who conducted the first peer-reviewed study of the BAS, said the test identified only 31 percent of poor readers, a "shocking" level of inaccuracy. "Flipping a coin" would be better, he said.


Peak talks to a mother whose child got no help for dyslexia for years because the test said he could read.

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