Phonics Gains Traction As State Education Authority Takes Stand On Reading Instruction

Elizabeth Dohms:

Late last month, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction took a stand on a long-debated method of teaching reading to students, ruling that phonics has a place in literacy education after all.

An approach that teaches students how written language represents spoken words, phonics got its endorsement from state schools Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor during the 2020 Wisconsin State Education Convention in Milwaukee. Stanford Taylor said reading outcomes are “not where we want them to be,” and that DPI will make efforts to support schools in delivering phonics-based materials.

This announcement has some in the world of education rejoicing, saying this is a step in the right direction. John Humphries is one of them.

Humphries is superintendent of the School District of Thorp, which is about an hour west of Wausau, and educates about 650 students in grades K-12. The district has spent thousands of dollars on new programs, professional development and consultants to steer staff at toward this type of research-based teaching, he said. 

And by the district’s own measurements, it’s working.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.