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Educators Speak Out to International Reading Association Board

Susan Notes: Here is a model for other educators to take to their professional organizations.

Dear Board Members of IRA

We are writing to urge the leaders of IRA to develop a position statement about the use of scripted programs in the classroom. Heavily scripted programs increasingly represent the experience of teachers and students across America today. The rigid implementation of these types of programs being adopted by district after district is creating a type of pseudo-literacy, often at the expense of genuine, deep literate behavior and learning. Increasingly, teachers are frustrated that the expertise, professional judgement, and keen knowledge they possess about their students are being tossed by the wayside in the name of scripted commercial programs that are falsely touted as scientifically based instruction.

Surprisingly your website, an incredible resource for all educators, is virtually silent about this issue. Given their prominent role in reading instruction today, scripted programs warrant in-depth commentary in your Issues in Literacy section. Teachers and administrators look to IRA as a professional organization that represents not only themselves, but the students they serve in classrooms every single day. They look to IRA for information about best practice in reading instruction while complying with the increasing, often overwhelming demands of No Child Left Behind. And yet your website is silent about this issue, as well as what alternatives to scripted programs would best serve children.

Our concern about this issue has been exacerbated by recent statements from the current President of IRA. In truth we find the direction he is taking the organization unsettling. It would appear from his most recent column that IRA supports the rigid use of scripted programs. His column suggests that students would be best served by commercial programs; that teachers should accept this as fact; and be compliant followers of the script on cue. In discussions on the IRA listserve, he suggests that teachers trust commercial programs because we can then be assured our students will get the best instruction. As evidence, he refers to the 38 studies the NRP investigated regarding phonics instruction. The limited generalizability of these studies are offered as proof that scripted programs are superior tools over literature or leveled texts. He also tells us that literature and leveled texts cannot possibly teach children the specialized skills involved with reading, and that such books cannot teach children about science, math or social studies.

We couldn't disagree more with the IRA President's perspective. It not only contradicts the recommendations of the NRP, of which he was a member; it contradicts what we know is best practice in reading instruction. The continued silence of the IRA Board will be interpreted in the mainstream as support for the president's stance on scripted programs and teacher complicity in following orders. And if that is indeed where the Board stands, IRA can no longer represent leadership in literacy for educators.

In closing, our hope is that IRA will have the courage to take a stand against the rampant misuse of scripted programs that teachers are facing and that are causing damage to students, especially diverse needs students and second language learners. Our hope is that IRA will have the courage to take a stand against the spiraling deprofessionalization of teachers that the current misuse of scripted programs foments. Our hope is that IRA will have the courage to lead the way back to sanity when it comes to reading instruction.

Yours truly,

Patricia L. Anders

Nancy Barth

David Bautista

Teresa D. Berman

Evangelina Brignoni

Kristin Brown

Brian Cambourne

Jean Casey

Terri Chappell

Laura Chavez

James Cohen

Ardith Cole

Mary Carol Combs

Nancy Commins

Cathrene Connery

Paula Costello

Alan Crawford

James Crawford

Carol Crowell

Paul Crowley

Jim Cummins

Mayra Daniel

Maria de la Luz Reyes

Brett Dillingham

Christina Dodds

Peter Duckert

Carole Edelsky

Fabiola Ehlers-Zavala

Miriam Eisenstein Ebsworth

Linda Ellis

Dolores M. Fernandez

Barbara Flores

Beth Forrester

David Freeman

Yvonne Freeman

Elaine Garan

Michael Genzuk

Rich Gibson

Gina Goble

Richard Gomez, Jr.

Ken Goodman

Yetta Goodman

Miles J.O. Gullingsrud, Jr.

Lucy Haab

Kimberlee Hannan

Susan Harman

Lynne Hebert Remson

Socorro Herrera

April Haulman

Deb Howard

Sarah Hudelson

Elizabeth Jaeger

Hugo Kerr

Marge Knox

Stephen Krashen

Ha Lam

Carmen Martinez-Eoff

Teresa L. McCarty

Cynthia McDermott

Richard Meyer

Cathy P. Miller

Robin Morales Cabral

Judi Moreillon

Susan Ohanian

Nancy Patterson

Eric Paulson

Pamela Perkins

Alex Poole

Cao Anh Quan

Lettie Ramirez

Norma Ramirez

Antonio Ramos

Luis O. Reyes

Patricia Richard Amato

LaVergne Rosow

Eliane Rubenstein-Avila

Dora Salazar

Dennis Sayers

David Schultz

Cecilia Silva

Michael Shaw

Priscilla Shannon-Gutierrez

Sheila Shannon

Yvonne Siu-Runyan

Andrea Sledge

Nancy Jean Smith

Rosina Spitzer

Bernard Spolsky

Kara Stewart

Kim Suppes

Sally Thomas

Christine Transier

Concepcion Valadez

Jane Watson

Joan Wink

Wayne Wright

Joanne Yatvin

— Letter to International Reading Association Board



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