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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Some teachers resist 'science of reading' laws

Teachers' unions are pushing back against state laws requiring early literacy instruction to be based on the "science of reading," write Sarah Schwartz and Madeline Will in Education Week. Teachers say legislators are micromanaging instruction and limiting educators' professional autonomy.

Direct, systematic instruction in "how letters represent sounds, and then how to blend those sounds together" is the most effective way to teach early readers, according to "decades of studies," they write. "But reporting from Education Week and other outlets, along with national surveys, have shown that other, less effective methods of teaching foundational reading skills are ubiquitous in elementary schools."

Many teachers were trained to teach "three cueing," which tells students to guess words by the first letter, context and illustrations. Retraining teachers is a huge task. Many teachers seem to fear they'll be required to change their teaching before they receive any training in how to make new methods work.

"Since 2019, more than two dozen states have passed laws requiring that schools use methods for teaching reading that are aligned with research on how children learn, and lawmakers in at least 10 states have introduced similar legislation this session," Schwartz and Will write.

Ohio teachers want to remove a ban on "three cueing" in Gov. Mike DeWine's literacy bill, which mandates phonics-based “science of reading” methods, reports Patrick O'Donnell for The 74.

"You can't guess your way into reading," said Carey Wright, former state superintendent in Mississippi , at a Columbus, Ohio event. “You have to be taught explicitly how to read.”

Mississippi adopted research-backed reading instruction, among other reforms, and saw students "leap from 49th in 4th grade reading nationally in 2013 to 22nd in 2022 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)," O'Donnell reports.

New York City now requires all elementary schools to use an approved phonics curriculum, reports Alex Zimmerman in Chalkbeat. Starting in the fall, the district will begin standardizing early reading curriculum, requiring many schools to choose either Great Minds' Wit & Wisdom, Into Reading from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt or Expeditionary Learning, from EL Education.

Schools would have to drop the popular Units of Study curriculum, which is not backed by reading research, notes Zimmerman. This "would represent a dramatic change on many campuses and is likely to spark fierce resistance."

Chancellor David Banks says Units of Study "has not worked" for New York City students.

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Apr 29, 2023

I am very glad to hear that States are requiring teachers and schools to use proven methods of learning to read. It has been a 45 year frustration of mine watching students struggle to lean to read and for teachers to use phonics only if the student fails other methods. What a total waste of billions of dollars. I have seen 8 or 9 year olds teach 4 year olds to read using phonics. But now we are concerned that a teacher will become angry if required to change methods.


Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Apr 10, 2023

Schools should be able to teach synthetic phonics on their own, through a letters & sounds scheme that connects American phonology with English letters, without being ordered by any superintendent to choose among the curricula that his department may have been well paid to offer to the schools, thereby excluding better, cheaper options (including free ones).


Apr 05, 2023

Moving phonics back into the classroom means that several reading specialists will need new jobs. Perhaps those jobs will be remediation for high schoolers who have dropped far enough behind to qualify for 'extra help' or 'intervention'.

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