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  • Joanne Jacobs

Teaching reading should not be political


"So the anti-public school, pro-book banning crowd has latched onto the “science of reading” movement…shocked," tweets Ryan Davis (@DavisTeaching). "How we, as educators, allow conversations about school & learning to be framed really does matter."


"Fun fact: there is no Republican or Democrat way to teach reading," responds Robert Pondiscio (@rpondiscio).


A bunch of other people said, "We support the research on how kids learn to read because we want kids to learn to read.


Also on Twitter, Berrinchuda Montoya links to a position statement by Boston College's School of Education. She thinks it boils down to: “Please continue paying 50K for a Masters degree from our institution.”


There are brief nods to research (but it's "narrow"), and a mention of phonological awareness, and phonics in the long list of things that the ed school wants its graduates to teach.


In Sold a Story, a series of podcasts, Emily Hanford takes on popular ideas about teaching reading -- Reading Recovery and Lucy Calkins' Units of Study -- that were "proven wrong by cognitive scientists decades ago." She describes "how educators came to believe in something that isn't true and are now reckoning with the consequences — children harmed, money wasted, an education system upended."


Hanford's reporting has been very influential in the move to research-based reading instruction, also known as "the science of reading."


Holly Korbey reports on how Mississippi began steadily improving, building a "miracle," when it invested in training elementary teachers in the "science of reading" and providing literacy coaching. This year, training will expand to middle-school teachers.


In addition, schools are going beyond phonics to teach the five pillars of literacy, such as vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.

Jackson Public Schools, for example, implemented the knowledge-building curriculum Wit & Wisdom in 2019, to address those gaps. Their literacy units often focus on science or social studies concepts that students might not be exposed to otherwise.
. . . In Rankin County School District this year, director of curriculum, instruction and professional development Melissa McCray launched a series of trainings for principals and teachers on how to weave pieces of structured literacy like morphology into algebra, world history and earth science.

"The shift to knowledge-based curriculum, which research has shown to improve reading comprehension," was challenging for teachers, but they're making the transition, reports Korbey.


The Barksdale Reading Institute is now focusing on persuading professors at Mississippi’s public universities to teach the science of reading to future teachers. "The foundation conducted several studies showing how little time universities spent on the science of reading, then leaned heavily into training and literacy coaching aimed at university faculty," writes Korbey.

Kentucky schools are sticking with old methods that don't work very well, reports the Courier-Journal. "When other states recognized trouble with their children’s reading levels, they took action, adjusting their reading curriculum to a more phonics-heavy approach," the newspaper writes. "And they got results." But much of Kentucky "is standing firm with the method other states are dumping." They find "a tangle of entrenched beliefs fueled with a steady stream of tax dollars that is leaving many children behind."


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