Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

Don't Just Complain: Do Something

by Susan Ohanian

Write the officers of NCTE, letting them know you think this LEARN bill is Reading First on steroids.

NCTE Officers

President, Kylene Beers: kBeers@prodigy.net
Past pres., Kathleen Yancey: kyancey@fsu.edu
Pres.-elect., Carol Jago: cjago@caroljago.com
Vice-pres., Yvonne Siu-Runyan: hanalei@indra.com
Incoming Vice-pres., Keith Gilyard: rkg3@PSU.EDU

Here is Stephen Krashen's letter:

The NCTE is supporting the LEARN act and asks NCTE members to support it. Look here.

I do not support the LEARN Act. As described in the Senate Bill, the LEARN Act is Reading First expanded to all levels. It is Reading First on steroids.

The methods required by LEARN are nearly identical to those promoted by NCLB and Reading First: "... systematic, and explicit instruction in phonological awareness, phonic decoding, vocabulary, reading fluency, and reading comprehension."

The Senate bill lists the same areas of instruction that were in the report of the National Reading Panel, which was heavily criticized by some of the most respected scholars in the field. These principles were used by Reading First, which failed every empirical test. LEARN assumes that direct instruction is the only way children become literate, that "The intellectual and linguistic skills necessary for writing and reading must be developed through explicit, intentional, and systematic language activities-- and assumes that there is no contrary view.

LEARN endorses excessive testing, requiring "diagnostic, formative and summative assessments-- at all levels." This is an astonishing recommendation at a time when children are already overwhelmed with tests, when schools are being turned into test-prep academies, and when education is facing severe budget cuts. It also presumes that we do not trust our teachers to evaluate their students.

There is no mention of the most important factor in developing literacy: quality school and classroom libraries, and professional librarians in all schools. The Senate bill only mentions "making available and using diverse texts at the reading, development, and interest level of students" and mentions "library media specialists" only once.

I must ask if those at NCTE who endorse this proposal have actually read it.
Here is the text of the bill. Don't you wonder who NCTE's partners are?

You will see that the bill
  • quotes NAEP proficiency figures roundly debunked by Gerald Bracey
  • accuses teachers of "low expectations"
  • supports "aligned" standards for children from birth through kindergarten
  • calls for "explicit and systematic" literacy instruction for adolescents
  • calls for keeping students "on track" in their learning.

  • And so on and so on. It looks like a call for lots of literacy consultants. And golly-gee-whiz, can you name an education organization that just happen to have lots of literacy consultants available?

    Barbara Cambridge
    Director, Washington Office
    National Council of Teachers of English
    1015 18th Street NW, Suite 1101
    Washington, DC 20036

    S2740 is the LEARN bill on which NCTE and its partners have worked so hard, in writing an original draft, working with Senator Murray's office and the Senate HELP Committee on revising. and getting the bill ready for introduction. The bill connects literacy learning from preK through 12th grade with equal attention to writing and reading across content areas. It stipulates strategies for teaching and features of professional development that are consonant with NCTE policies. Although all groups involved in the development of the bill needed to give on certain points they individually espoused, NCTE members should be pleased with the resulting bill.

    NCTE staff are currently generating a call to members to ask their Senators to cosponsor the bill. In addition, at the convention session for our new Poliicy Advocates and in a session at the NCTE Commons, we will supply specific information that our active members can use in contacting their Senators.

    Today the House version of the LEARN bill is being introduced. Having supplied many recommendations for changes in an earlier version of the bill, we will analyze the introduced bill to determine ways that NCTE members can influence the bill as it moves forward. For example, during a convention session with Congressman Fattah , Kent and I can highlight the strongest parts of the bill.

    These bills will make a difference as ESEA reauthorization is considered in 2010. Legislators will know what needs to be included across academic levels, including professional development for teachers in all content areas, in order to increase students' literacy learning. As NCTE members we will have a better opportunity next year to influence ESEA because of the introduction of these bills this year. As we build support for the LEARN bill, we will be informing legislators about what is necessary to support literacy learning, information essential for needed changes in ESEA.

    — Susan Ohanian


    This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.