[Susan notes: This is a fine letter--but not as fine as the one that was submitted. Portions cut from the original letter appear in bold & red below. Read it carefully, and ask yourself why the editors at Education Week would redact it the way they did.
Read Gerald Coles' Reading the Naked Truth and Misreading Reading: The Bad Science that Hurts Children. Look at the recommendations on Amazon]
Published in Education Week
The latest national reading-achievement results, showing no gain in 4th grade reading scores, will not surprise anyone who has followed the policy assault on reading education these last 15 years ("NAEP Results Show Math Gains, But 4th Grade Reading Still Flat," Nov. 9, 2011). Triumphant, thanks to political power, not empirical evidence, have been the proponents of so-called scientific reading instruction, i.e., skills-heavy, lock-step, "teacher proof," publisher-manufactured pedagogy that has dominated reading instruction. Through state and federal legislation in the 1990s, culminating with the Reading First portion of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, this instruction has damaged millions of children. Every other instructional alternative, particularly constructivist/whole language, was beaten back by legislative manipulation, all in the name of scientific evidence.
The purported gold standard for this evidence has been the 2000 report of the National Reading Panel. However, anyone looking carefully inside the report saw it was fool's gold. For example, my analysis of the report's research base detailed the report's misrepresentations of the studies it reviewed, essentially forging "facts" to fit the authors' predetermined conclusions. Moreover, where research supported employment of constructivist/whole-language instruction, the report omitted those findings.
Alongside political power and research misrepresentation has been a policy disregard of the effect of poverty on learning. Despite ample evidence of this linkage, the promoters of "scientific reading instruction" dismissed or minimized this connection, thereby supporting a right-wing ideology that branded this linkage an "excuse" educators use to explain academic underachievement.
All this continues as "scientific reading education" lives on in the rigid instructional imperatives of Common Core Standards. Moreover, the Secretary of Education, a true believer in this instruction and of greater corporate control of schools, will continue promoting the latter, certain it will produce better employment of the former. Pity the poor children!