“deeply flawed” reading curricula

By LaTonya Goffney, Sonja Santelises and Iranetta Wright:

America is finally acknowledging a harsh truth: The way many schools teach children to read doesn’t work. Educators, and indeed families, are having a long overdue conversation about how one of the nation’s most widely used curricula, “Units of Study,” is deeply flawed — and where to go from here.

The problem became a mainstream topic of conversation after parents got a closer look at their children’s lessons over Zoom during the pandemic, and journalist Emily Hanford released a podcast exposing how schools and teachers were “Sold a Story.” 

As Hanford explained, “Units” was not crafted on the science of reading — or what research shows are the best ways to build literacy. Such research-based methods focus on developing content knowledge, an understanding of letter-sound and sound-spelling relationships, word recognition, and language comprehension and fluency. Multiple, rigorous studies over 40 years prove these are the most effective ways to teach reading.

Yet “Units” instead encourages children to “cue” their thinking by looking at pictures or other words on the page to figure out what they don’t know. This approach is wholly inadequate — it does not build knowledge and skills, is especially problematic for children with a limited vocabulary, and often amounts to little more than guessing. 

But the “Units” curriculum has been popular, championed by respected voices, and too few teachers know about or study the science of reading as part of their preparation programs and professional development. Many administrators have also assumed that instructional programs peddled to their districts have a solid research base and are supported by data.

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

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”

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

“An emphasis on adult employment”

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