We’ve Been Teaching Reading Wrong for Decades. How a Massachusetts School’s Switch to Evidence-Based Instruction Changed Everything


“Teaching reading is rocket science,” Louisa Moats is well known for saying. It is something we frequently referenced during our guided reading professional development for teachers. Sadly, until we started on our Science of Reading journey two-plus years ago, we had no idea how bereft our instruction was of the benefits of that science.  

Our collective awakening started as a result of listening to Emily Hanford’s podcast, “At a Loss for Words,” in which Hanford reveals that reading instruction in America has led children to read poorly based on a flawed theory of the mechanics of reading. While the three of us had different emotional reactions to hearing it, our powerful common experience was, “We have to do something!” 

The “do something” started with a lot of reading from Google searches, Facebook groups, and blog posts. Then came reflections on our own practices as teachers — practices we’d learned in our teacher prep programs and in professional development sessions in the years that followed — much of which has now been disproven (if, indeed, it was ever actually founded in evidence). As administrators, we came to recognize that we’d passed many of these ill-founded notions on to teachers at our school — and that has produced no small amount of guilt. How could we have taught students to read this way for so many years?!

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

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

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?