“Expert” idiocy on teaching kids to read

Robert Pondiscio:

Calkins’s work mostly disregards this fundamental insight, focusing students’ attention in the mirror instead of out the window. For low-income kids who are less likely to grow up in language-rich homes and don’t have the same opportunities for enrichment as affluent kids, the opportunity costs of Calkins’s “philosophy” are incalculable. Endless hours of class time that could be building knowledge and vocabulary are squandered.

I witnessed this daily in my South Bronx elementary school, where fewer than 20 percent of students passed state reading tests. I never had a single student unable to read words printed on a page. When they were reading and writing about topics they knew—the Calkins method—students did well. But when asked to read about unfamiliar topics on state tests, they often struggled. They read it, but they didn’t get. One principal I worked under attributed our low scores to “test anxiety,” but that wasn’t the problem. Their education was all mirrors and no windows.

It is well that Calkins has finally seen the light on phonics, however begrudgingly. But her approach commits even greater sins, particularly against low-income children, that phonics alone can’t fix.

Mandates, closed schools and Dane County Madison Public Health.

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“An emphasis on adult employment”

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