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Will the LEARN Act help kids learn to read?


IRA's Richard Long defends the LEARN Act: Susan Ohanian responds:

The politicos in Washington D. C, the folks who already make a colossal mess of reading instruction with Reading First, are at it again--spelling out all these details about how reading should be taught. Sadly, lobbyist Rich Long's current support of the LEARN Act is just the latest iteration of our professional organizations trying to curry favor with members of Congress. The truth of the matter is that the LEARN act will produce lots of professional development monies and our professional organizations--IRA and NCTE--will never bite the politico hand that feeds them.

We should demand that our professional organizations explain why political overreaching weighs far heavier in their decision-making than research, teacher experience, and children's needs--the things that add up to professional integrity.

It comes as no surprise that this current support of the LEARN act sounds very much like IRA lobbyist Rich Long's appeal to IRA members some years back to write members of Congress in support of Reading First. I once heard Long say, "We never tell Senator Kennedy or Representative George Miller [at the time, chairs, respectively, of the Senate and House education committees] anything they don't want to hear." I thought I must have misunderstood so I e-mailed him. He e-mailed back confirmation of the statement.

Lobbyists call this "keeping a seat at the table." It is a table where all the silverware is aligned--neat and tidy-- but children are left with empty bowls. And our professional dues are keeping these children starved of what they need.


IRA's Richard Long defends the LEARN Act, Krashen responds:

Richard M. Long, director of government relations of the International Reading Association, has posted a defense of the LEARN Act on Valerie Strauss' blog, The Answer Sheet. [see below]

I present [below] Mr. Long's arguments, and my point by point commentary:

RL = Richard Long's statements

SK = my comment

Note: Please read my detailed critique of the LEARN Act, posted on http://sdkrashen.com/index.php?cat=4

RL: "Although each has helped some students to learn, none made systemic changes at and across each grade level for each student."

SK: No. Each component of LEARN has a disappointing track record.

RL: "Like the current pre-curser program, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, LEARN takes the best elements from earlier programs, adds new knowledge about writing and reading, and requires each state to bring together professionals from a wide array of disciplines and professions to identify needs and present ideas for meeting those needs."

SK: All previous studies of the impact of Striving Readers have shown weak or no effects (Krashen, 2011, citation below). What are the "best elements"? There is no document that presents provides evidence for "the best elements of earlier programs" that I know of. What is the "new knowledge"? Does it include lots of self-selected reading and read-alouds? I hope so, but this certainly isn't new.

RL: "The resulting state literacy plans, already begun in 46 states (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico), include assessments at all levels that will help instruction and keep the programs on track. Districts then situate their requests for program funding within a coherent state plan, generating the kind of alignment needed for consistent and genuine change."

SK: In English, this means there will be lots more testing, including lots of interim testing. This is the last thing we need.

RL: "Rather than a piecemeal federal policy, LEARN establishes the centrality of instruction that is aligned across grade levels and across subjects. Extending features of the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, LEARN emphasizes smooth transitions from early childhood programs to elementary school, elementary school to middle school, and middle to high school."

SK: In English, this means a national language arts curriculum from K-12, based on a program with an unimpressive track record. (Again, see Krashen, 2011, citation below)

RL: It provides professional development about literacy and assessment of literacy for teachers in all content areas and for principals who collaborate on building instructional programs based on teacher knowledge and scientific evidence.

SK: This means make sure everybody is trained to do what LEARN says they should do.

In previous years, "scientific evidence" meant any study that concluded that heavy phonics is great. Now it will mean any study supporting phonemic awareness, phonics, direct instruction of vocabulary and direct instruction in text structure. (Read the actual LEARN Act, and also my comment on it, on www.sdkrashen.com) Studies showing that phonemic awareness, most phonics, much of vocabulary and nearly all of our competence in text structure are a result of massive reading, no matter how they are done, are not "scientific."

RL: In addition, LEARN enables schools to intervene directly when the needs of learners demand even more to make a difference.

SK: In other words, if it isn't working, do it harder.

RL: In short, LEARN is not a souped-up Reading First or Right to Read Program.

SK: LEARN extends the underlying philosophy of Reading First to all language arts instruction.
Krashen, S. 2011. A Suggestion: Dump Striving Readers Give the Money to School Libraries in High Poverty Areas


By Valerie Strauss

Last May I published a post entitled The LEARN Act: An expensive mistake, by linguist Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus at the University of Southern California and an educational researcher and activist in the fields of second language acquisition, bilingual education, and reading.

The Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation Act or LEARN ACT, was introduced in both houses of Congress earlier this year with the aim of providing federal funds to support state and local literacy programs.

Krashen argued in his post: âThere is no evidence that the LEARN Act will work, plenty of evidence that it wonât, and plenty of evidence that the $12 billion budgeted for LEARN should be invested elsewhere.â

Following is a post that takes a different position, just as the Senate Appropriations Committee is working this week on legislation that would provide $183 million for the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literary Program (which Krashen criticized in his post.).

This was written by Richard M. Long, director of government relations of the International Reading Association, which supports the LEARN ACT.

By Richard M. Long

Many students either graduate from high school not ready for the literacy demands of college and the workplace or fail to graduate. Why is that? Don't we know how to teach reading and writing?

The answer is that although we know how to teach reading and writing, we are not matching what we know to each school and to each child in a coordinated way. Federal initiatives over the past 40 years, each offered as a solution, have provided only a piece of the puzzle.

Initiatives have included the Right to Read Initiative, the Basic Skills Program, Reading Excellence, Reading First, programs in Head Start and other child care programs, Title I, job training programs, and even programs offered for new recruits in the military. Although each has helped some students to learn, none made systemic changes at and across each grade level for each student.

The introduction earlier this year of the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation Act (or the LEARN Act) in the House and in the Senate is an important step in literacy policy for our nation.

Like the current pre-curser program, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, LEARN takes the best elements from earlier programs, adds new knowledge about writing and reading, and requires each state to bring together professionals from a wide array of disciplines and professions to identify needs and present ideas for meeting those needs.

The resulting state literacy plans, already begun in 46 states (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico), include assessments at all levels that will help instruction and keep the programs on track. Districts then situate their requests for program funding within a coherent state plan, generating the kind of alignment needed for consistent and genuine change.

Rather than a piecemeal federal policy, LEARN establishes the centrality of instruction that is aligned across grade levels and across subjects. Extending features of the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, LEARN emphasizes smooth transitions from early childhood programs to elementary school, elementary school to middle school, and middle to high school.

It provides professional development about literacy and assessment of literacy for teachers in all content areas and for principals who collaborate on building instructional programs based on teacher knowledge and scientific evidence.

In addition, LEARN enables schools to intervene directly when the needs of learners demand even more to make a difference.

In short, LEARN is not a souped-up Reading First or Right to Read Program. It uses lessons from these past programs in the context of new knowledge about learning and change to build a future in which literate students graduate from high school ready for college, work, and citizenship.

— Valerie Strauss, Rich Long, with comments by Krashen & Ohanian
Washington Post Answer Sheet

2011-09-22

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/will-the-learn-act-help-kids-learn-to-read/2011/09/21/gIQA7dLTlK_blog.html

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