Joanne Yatvin bases her opinions on facts in this excellent letter.]
Published in Education Week
I found your article on what the U.S. Department of Education omitted from its report on the 2002 National Assessment of Educational Progress reading results very interesting for a number of reasons ("'Report Card' Lacking Usual Background Data," July 9, 2003).
If the federal government really wants to improve school reading instruction, as it says it does, why would it withhold data about what students do inside and outside of school? These are things
teachers need to know in order to better teach their students, and the public needs to know in order to appreciate the difficulties in
educating today's children.
The case you gave as an example of missing information-what materials 4th grade teachers use-is inexcusable. Shouldn't we all know that
students who are taught with trade books or a combination of trade books and basal readers score higher than those who are taught with
basal readers alone?
Moreover, Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst's dismissive comment about this result was troubling. If it is true, as he believes, that poverty districts are less likely to use trade books than affluent districts, then shouldn't the Department of Education be working to change this
situation rather than pressuring poverty schools to use basals, as it does through the Reading First Initiative of the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001?
My suspicious nature tells me that Mr. Whitehurst's explanation that the information was left out of the report because the department
wants to cover it more thoroughly in separate reports is just an excuse for hiding from the public some truths about teaching reading
that don't square with government policy.