Tuesday, February 11, 2014

ALEC Misrepresents Reading Instruction to Its Own Advantage


Reading is fundamental. Reading is power; reading is knowledge. Reading is also essential for social advancement and success. BUT THE INABILITY TO READ AFTER A PUBLIC EDUCATION IS RARE! Yes, rare. No matter what else you’ve heard, remember the inability to read after a public education is rare.

The Contemporary Narrative:

Our public schools have failed. Educators fail to prepare students for reading challenges and to accomplish simple calculations necessary for entering into contracts or buying enough paint for a single room. Our poor PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scores prove it. The United States scores well below other nations in math, science, and reading. Twenty-nine other nations earned higher math scores; 22 scored above the U. S. in science, and 19 in reading. Essentially, the U. S. has flatlined or shown little change in rank since 2003.

But PISA scores do not reveal the whole truth!

ALEC’s Proposal to Help Children Learn and Achieve.

Tank, the WatchCat. Photo by Al Griffin
One way to improve PISA scores, according to conventional wisdom, is to insure that elementary school children acquire the skills necessary to progress and excel. To that end, ALEC proposes legislation, already enacted in Oklahoma and other states, to test third-grade children and retain them in the third grade until they can read according to the third grade reading sufficiency for that year’s test. The suggested and enacted laws also require teacher training and remediating students at risk or retained. An entire industry has blossomed so that states and schools can dedicate dollars to consultants and testing companies in order to implement the law, training, testing, and remediation.


The legislation is without merit simply because the reason for its existence is fundamentally flawed. While reading is indeed power, the online remediation programs, testing juggernauts, and purported benefits cannot be supported by research or scholarship. Students become better readers by reading. Programs such as Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) succeed unlike any accelerated reader, computer drill, or teaching and learning strategy. Access to books succeeds so libraries must be well-funded and accessible. Neither Pearson nor Accelerated Reader, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, and other private contractors for educational reforms have been able to produce the results that SSR has, but SSR is not one of the pedagogical changes advocated by any of these contractors or ALEC’s legislation.


Trust educators and scholarship to guide you, not those who have a vested interest, especially when your children’s self-esteem, actualization, and futures are at stake. Children retained are not more likely to succeed.