Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"The Surge Against First Graders"

Gary Stager at The Huffington Post draws similarities between Iraq and Bush's Reading First.

He outlines "Faulty Intelligence, Profiteering, Enemies Everywhere, The Surge..."
Underlying Reading First is one of the religious right's favorite issues, phonics instruction. Educators have long understood that some students need help sounding out words while learning to read. However, the "reading wars" is an offensive by neoconservatives and religious fundamentalists convinced that every child learns to read in exactly the same way by being taught 43 phonemic sounds in a lockstep sequence. Some suspect that the promotion of "highly structured, systematic sequential explicit phonics" instruction is a Trojan horse for public school privatization while others suggest that phonics is embraced by religious fundamentalists happy to reduce reading to the literal interpretation of text. Either way, Reading First is the federal government's program for mandating uniform phonics instruction. Any parent who has watched a child spontaneously learn to read must question mechanistic theories of human development that oversimplify complex issues.

Check out The Reading First Study: Interim Report. Summary of outcomes:
  • "Reading First did not improve students' reading comprehension.
  • "Reading First increased total class time spent on the five essential components of reading instruction promoted by the program.
  • "Reading First increased highly explicit instruction in grades one and two and increased high quality student practice in grade two.
  • "Reading First had mixed effects on student engagement with print."

It doesn't really work, but at least we got our teachers to spend time on it!

1 comment:

narrator said...

Thank you for this connection. I've always seen America's reading instruction for "the non-elite" (actually school in general) as nothing more than imperial occupation. I feel less alone this morning.