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NCLB Outrages

Pressley Offers Reading Research Agenda in Possible Final Address

Press Release

Newswise — Michael Pressley, Michigan State University distinguished professor and coauthor of Open Court Reading and Writing, a program used at many schools throughout the US, anticipated that his keynote address at the IRA Reading Research Conference on April 29 might be his last public appearance. Instead Pressley, who is being treated for cancer, sent his remarks via videotape. The medium did not change his message.

Pressley called on the government to provide the experimental evidence that No Child Left Behind will accomplish the objectives of closing the achievement gap and improving overall reading performance. Reflecting on his research into effective classrooms and schools, Pressley declared he had never encountered a classroom that was consistent with NCLB’s approach to reading instruction. Instead of the five skills focus, Pressley suggested that schools succeed when children get plenty of instruction and spend a lot of time reading. He was equally concerned about NCLB’s assessment regime, noting, “Every minute spent testing is a minute not spent instructing.”

Pressley challenged reading researchers to pursue further studies in several key areas, questioning how some studies are being implemented in classrooms. One example he offered involved fluency, the ability to read text accurately and quickly. Despite the fact that some texts require slow, careful reading to get the meaning, Pressley noted that schools are now training students to read as quickly as possible, substituting word-calling for comprehension. He also emphasized the importance of further research in differentiated instruction, citing a recent study that showed students with differing language ability responded differently to types of instruction.

Pressley also recommended that research on reading programs marketed to schools be done more like drug trials. Since producers of the programs generally do the first round of study, he suggested they submit to a refereed journal and invite further research.

Pressley’s research has appeared in more than 300 journal articles, chapters, and books. He just completed a six-year term as editor of the Journal of Educational Psychology. He has been honored with awards from the National Reading Conference, International Reading Association, and the American Psychological Association, which awarded him the 2004 E.L. Thorndike Award from Division 15, the highest award given for career research accomplishment in educational psychology.

About 700 reading professionals attended the annual reading research conference.

— Press Release


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