Why Did Schools Stop Teaching Kids How To Read?

Zach Weissmueller and Nick Gillespie

Public schools have failed to teach kids to read and write because they use approaches that aren’t based on proven techniques based on phonics. Many schools have been influenced by the work of Columbia University’s Lucy Calkins, who is the subject of a new podcast series from American Public Media, Sold a Story, “an exposé of how educators came to believe in something that isn’t true and are now reckoning with the consequences—children harmed, money wasted, an education system upended.”

“The South Bronx elementary school where I taught 5th grade for several years was a proponent of Calkins’ approach,” Pondiscio wrote in a 2022 New York Post op-ed. “We adopted her teaching methods and employed her literacy coaches for years, to very little effect. Her greatest sin against literacy comes after kids learn to ‘decode’ the written word, whether or not they are taught with phonics, which is just the starting line for reading.”

How did this happen? Is the solution school choice—a system in which parents can opt out of traditional public schools and their flawed approaches to teaching reading? As Pondiscio argues, is withdrawing “concern for traditional public schools” equivalent to withdrawing “concern for our republic”?

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”

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

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.

“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.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?