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[Susan notes: The U. S. Department of Education was quick to credit NCLB with NAEP gains. Good for Stephen Krashen for providing research evidence to the contrary.]

Submitted to Christian Science Monitor but not published

To the editor

Re: US Report Card: Young readers make big gains, July 15

It is not yet clear why NAEP test scores improved, but No Child Left Behind (NCLB) does not deserve the credit.

First, NCLB pushes intensive systematic phonics and downplays recreational reading. But Elaine Garan’s research shows that intensive systematic phonics has no significant impact on tests of reading comprehension given after grade 1, and research consistently shows that the amount of free reading done is a powerful predictor of reading test scores.

In the last major international study of reading (PISA 2000), “reading engagement” was a much stronger predictor of reading scores among 15-year-olds than amount of homework done, and Jeff McQuillan’s analysis shows that access to books in libraries and at home is a strong predictor of NAEP scores.

Second, in 1992 California’s fourth graders were last in the US on NAEP reading. California then introduced intensive systematic phonics. NAEP scores for California’s fourth graders have remained stagnant since 1992. California had then and still has the worst school libraries in the US, is near the bottom in quality of public libraries, and has a high percentage of children in poverty, which means fewer books in the home. The NCLB solution has not helped California.

Stephen Krashen

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