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Subject:

FW: A washingtonpost.com article from: [log in to unmask]

From:

Norman Stahl <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 10 Sep 2002 12:47:28 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (275 lines)

>FYI
>
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Kapinus, Barbara [NEA]
>Sent: Tuesday, September 10, 2002 10:47 AM
>To: Kapinus, Barbara [NEA]
>Subject: A washingtonpost.com article from: [log in to unmask]
>
>
>You have been sent this message from [log in to unmask] as a courtesy of the
>Washington Post - http://www.washingtonpost.com
>
>
>
> To view the entire article, go to
>http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59455-2002Sep9.html
>
> Phonics Pitch Irks Teachers
>
> By Valerie Strauss
> The Bush administration is making a concerted effort to promote the
>teaching of phonics in America's classrooms, and in the process, some
>educators charge, advancing specific commercial reading products.
>
> Administration officials say they want to end a national crisis in which
>almost 70 percent of low-income fourth-grade students cannot read at a
>basic level, and they deny usurping local authority by telling schools
>what specific programs to use.
>
> "We can't do that nor would we want to," said Susan B. Neuman, assistant
>secretary for elementary and secondary education at the Education
>Department. "What we want is a proliferation of excellence. We want more
>programs out there that are doing wonderful things. And we would be crazy
>to narrow the field."
>
> Some educators, however, charge that the Education Department is so
>narrowly prescribing what states can do with new federal reading funds
>that the federal government is violating the clause in the country's new
>K-12 education law that bars federal authorities from involvement in local
>curriculum and instructional content.
>
> At the heart of the controversy is the No Child Left Behind Act, which
>President Bush, who promised during the 2000 campaign to be the "Education
>President," signed in January as a signature initiative. Effective July 1,
>the law vastly increases the federal government's role in education by,
>among other things, mandating annual standardized tests for millions of
>children.
>
> It also includes a program called Reading First, which offers $5 billion
>over six years to states and local school districts to help every child
>read by the end of third grade. To qualify for the new federal funding,
>states must comply with new federal regulations that define what
>constitutes good reading instruction.
>
> For decades, educators have been embroiled in a fierce debate about the
>best way to teach reading. The tension has been between proponents of
>phonics, which teaches reading skills before moving to literature and
>comprehension, and whole language, which teaches skills through literature.
>
> Many educators now say a combination is necessary but that different
>approaches are needed for different children. Lesley Morrow, head of the
>International Reading Association, told a House subcommittee that there is
>no method of phonics instruction that is correct for all students. And a
>recent study of schools in 32 nations found the most critical element in
>building an effective reading program was the teacher.
>
> Yet some educators say the Education Department is making clear that it
>will provide new funds only for programs that explicitly teach phonics,
>and that the department views as successful certain phonics-based
>commercial programs that give teachers highly detailed instructions to
>follow each day.
>
> Prominent among these are the Open Court Reading and Direct Instruction
>programs, both published by SRA/McGraw-Hill, owned by New York-based
>McGraw-Hill Cos. Both are phonics-based reading programs. Open Court
>Reading has captured multimillion-dollar contracts in key states in recent
>years despite conflicting research about its effectiveness.
>
> "The current administration is doing two things: one, it is stripping
>teachers, schools and districts of the tools they need to teach reading,
>and two, it is promoting corporate control of the education of our
>children," said Leslie Poynor, assistant professor of reading at the
>University of New Mexico.
>
> Bush administration officials say they believe phonics is the best
>approach for teaching reading{ndash}the 2000 Republican national platform
>endorsed phonics. But officials deny they are promoting any specific
>programs.
>
> Some educators began complaining about the implementation of Reading
>First when the Department of Education held spring academies for educators
>to explain the program.
>
> Participants said examples of successful materials presented were drawn
>from Open Court and Direct Instruction. Materials distributed included two
>lists of programs, rated for different levels of effectiveness; Open Court
>topped both lists. And many presenters were authors of Direct Instruction
>materials.
>
> Participants were also told that an important document for them to know
>was a summary of a 2000 report by the congressionally mandated National
>Reading Panel. The summary was largely produced by McGraw-Hill authors who
>write phonics-based materials, and critics say it does not represent the
>complete report. The controversy about the academies became so intense
>that the apolitical International Reading Association -- which last year
>gave a warm welcome to Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige when he
>attended its annual conference -- sent a letter to Paige saying it was
>"gravely concerned."
>
> The letter said many teams seeking federal reading funds had been led to
>believe by Education Department officials that approval of their
>application would be speeded if they indicated a preference for particular
>commercial programs.
>
> Paige did not respond, but Neuman and other education officials suddenly
>canceled their long-scheduled appearances at IRA's annual convention,
>citing scheduling conflicts.
>
> "Within the profession, there is quite a bit of controversy of Reading
>First," said IRA Executive Director Alan Farstrup. "We thought IRA would
>be a good place for these different points of view to come to the surface."
>
> The Association of American Publishers Inc. also sent a letter to Paige
>expressing concern that department officials were signaling preferences.
>Paige denied there was any approved list and said the department was
>trying to promote flexibility.
>
> Experts say few states have reading programs that meet the law's new
>standards. Some states, such as Florida, are revamping their programs, and
>this summer Florida became one of the first three states to win Reading
>First funds.
>
> This happened a few months after Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother,
>announced an unprecedented agreement with several major publishers to
>provide as much as 100 hours of free training to Florida's teachers. The
>offer is available to those districts that purchase the publishers'
>products; Florida districts have $100 million to spend this year on
>"research-based" instructional materials.
>
> The five publishers are Harcourt School Publishers, Houghton Mifflin
>Co., MacMillan/McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education and SRA/McGraw Hill.
>
> Some educators also note that the companies publishing the reading
>programs also publish the standardized tests commonly used around the
>country. For example, McGraw-Hill is one of three major test publishers in
>the country.
>
> "What they want is to have the publishers making teacher-proof
>materials, and of course it is big business," said Lucy M. Calkins,
>founding director of the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia Teachers
>College. "The thing that is really is scary is how do you prove that your
>reading program is a success? It's by kids doing well on the standardized
>tests made by the same publishers that wrote the teacher-proof programs."
>
> McGraw-Hill has in recent years hailed the success of its education
>division in improving profits, citing repeated victories in Texas as being
>important in those gains. For example, company documents say that profits
>for the division in 2000 increased by 12.5 percent, to $307.8 million,
>from the year before. The company said in a 2001 statement that SRA/McGraw
>Hill had "a stellar year" in 2000, with its phonics-based reading programs
>capturing 37 percent of the $100 million spent on textbooks in Texas --
>when Bush was governor.
>
> The company has ties with Bush. Bush tapped company officials to sit on
>his transition team before he took office: Harold McGraw III, who is
>chairman, president and chief executive officer of McGraw-Hill Cos., and
>company board member Edward Rust Jr. Company spokeswoman April Hattori
>said McGraw-Hill offers many reading programs and that neither the new
>education law nor the Department of Education endorse specific programs.
>
> Even educators who do not believe the administration is deliberately
>dictating programs say it is inadvertently sending messages about
>preferences.
>
> "I think there are a lot of very new people running this effort," said
>Bob Slavin, founder of Success for All, a nonprofit reform program. "I
>think they thought they could say, for example, 'This is something that
>works,' and not have everybody think that 'for example' is what they
>favor.' "
>
> Some educators in New York say state officials may have thought they
>were pleasing the federal government when dissension over Reading First
>erupted in late July at a conference in White Plains. Educators from
>schools across the state gathered to discuss grant proposals they had
>spent thousands of hours developing for new professional development
>programs for teachers -- to be funded with Reading First money.
>
> School officials said they had been told by state officials that they
>could establish relationships with professional development providers and
>assess their own needs. But at the conference, state officials said all
>schools had to use an online program being developed by a Texas-based
>company, Voyager Expanded Learning, which markets school curriculum and
>professional development programs.
>
> Some participants questioned the choice of Voyager, a company with
>virtually no track record in New York and one that offers a 100 percent
>guarantee that children who enter the program in kindergarten will read on
>grade level by the end of third grade -- something few educators do.
>
> Several Texas educators have taken positions in the company during the
>past few years, including Jim Nelson, who resigned earlier this year as
>Texas education commissioner to become Voyager's senior vice president for
>state and federal relations. He now works to improve teacher quality
>through training and certification programs with states.
>
> Nelson was appointed in 1999 as head of the Texas Education Agency by
>then-Gov. Bush. Three years before that, Bush had named Nelson head of the
>Texas State Board for Educator Certification. While commissioner, Nelson
>served as chair of the D.C.-based Education Leaders Council, an education
>reform group that supported the No Child Left Behind legislation.
>
> Nelson said he had nothing to do with the New York contract. He said his
>job is to contact education commissioners and other state officials to try
>to sell Voyager now that there is "a lot of new federal money out there."
>
> Many conference participants were furious and issued a "statement of
>protest" that said, in part: "We are very distressed that you expect us to
>mandate a one-size-fits-all prescribed program of scripted professional
>development."
>
> State officials said they are following the federal government's
>guidelines. Sheila Evans-Tranumn, associate commissioner of education in
>New York, said she did not know why schools did not know about the Voyager
>contract before devising their own grant proposals but that the company
>was picked in a competitive bid.
>
> "Washington is prescribing, but people still have the opportunity and
>freedom to choose a prescribed way they feel comfortable with," she said.
>
> Dick Allington, the Irving and Rose Fien Distinguished Professor of
>Education at the University of Florida, is less sanguine. He said the
>administration is going further than any other in telling teachers how to
>teach.
>
> "The administration is trying to make it look like they are not
>violating the 'local control' clause of the No Child Left Behind bill, but
>the profession isn't buying it," he said.
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>*******************************************************************
>Only the individual sender is responsible for the content of the
>message, and the message does not necessarily reflect the position
>or policy of the National Education Association or its affiliates.
>



Norman A. Stahl
Professor and Chair
Literacy Education
GH 223
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

Phone: (815) 753-9032
FAX: (815) 753-8563
[log in to unmask]

******************************************************
Universities are institutions run by amateurs to train professionals.
Derek Bok----Harvard University
******************************************************
In examinations, the man who succeeds is not the man who can write well
about something that he knows, but the man who can write brilliantly about
something of which he knows nothing. D.B. Jackson----the Royal Air Force
******************************************************

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