For decades, schools all over the country taught reading based on a theory cognitive scientists had debunked by the 1990s. Despite research showing it made it harder for some kids to learn, the concept was widely accepted by most educators — until recent reporting by APM Reports.
Now, state legislators and other policymakers are trying to change reading instruction, requiring it to align with cognitive science research about how children learn to read. Several of them say they were motivated by APM’s Sold a Story podcast.
Six states passed laws to change the way reading is taught since Sold a Story was released last fall. At least a dozen other states are considering similar efforts.
The surge in activity is part of a wave of “science of reading” bills that more than half the states passed into law over the last decade — as parents, teachers, researchers and other advocates pushed legislators to make changes. But since Sold a Story, lawmakers are taking a closer look at what curriculum schools are buying and, in some states, attempting to outlaw specific teaching methods.
Three states had already effectively banned cueing, the discredited practice covered in Sold a Story. The cueing theory holds that beginning readers don’t need to learn how to sound out written words because they can rely on other “cues” to figure them out, like the pictures on a page or the context of the sentence. This year another 10 states are seeking bans, three of which have already passed.
The legislative efforts come at a time when fourth-grade reading scores in the United States have declined consistently since 2015, according to a nationwide achievement measurement conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics.
“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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