• Ed School,  Reading Wars,  Uncategorized,  Whole Language

    The Detachment of Literacy from Reading

    In a 2017 interview with Columbia linguistics professor John McWhorter, the cognitive scientist Mark Seidenberg (author of Language at the Speech of Sight) described the transition from discussions of “reading” to ones of “literacy” in education circles over the last few decades. I think that by now, the use of the latter term is now taken entirely for granted, but it’s not a minor point at all—it’s actually quite major, and it highlights the gap between public perception of the issues at play and the reality of them.  I suspect that when most people hear the term “literacy,” they understand it as a synonym for “reading,” in the sense that a…

  • Phonics,  Reading Instruction,  Reading Wars

    The Misunderstanding that Sparked the Reading Wars

    I just finished reading Anthony Pedriana’s Leaving Johnny Behind, an enormously important and under-appreciated book that I discovered by chance, thanks to a post on Facebook. (Social media certainly does serve a purpose other than being a black hole of procrastination from time to time!) The author is a retired teacher and principal who, quite by chance, found himself at the center of the reading wars: in an attempt to boost the reading performance of a class that was falling behind, Pedriana went against everything he had been taught and permitted one of the teachers in his school to implement a scripted reading program for a single short lesson each day.…

  • Uncategorized

    Parent-Shaming and the Print-Rich Environment

    Notes from a bookseller’s daughter Books were an integral part of my childhood. Not just because my family valued reading, but also because my dad managed bookstores. Some of my earliest memories are of my little brother and me running up and down the stacks after closing hours giggling and screaming. Of course, not everyone giggled at the sight of books, my mom often grumbled about his penchant for filling the house with them, but the book tsunami was unstoppable! To sum it up, I never wanted for books and could easily challenge you to find another person who had more of a print-rich environment than the bookseller’s daughter. Eventually,…

  • Ed School,  Science of Reading,  Teacher Training

    What Do Teachers Need to Know about the Science of Reading?

    The more time I spend trying to wrap my head around the world of early-reading instruction, the more I find myself becoming wary of the notion that teachers should devote a lot of their time to learning about the science of reading. I realize that might seem like a bizarre and contradictory statement given that so many of the problems in reading instruction stem from ed schools’ failure to provide research-backed training to pre-service teachers—not to mention the fact Richard and Ben and I are in the process of launching a training program based on, well, the science of reading—so let me explain.    I had already started writing this piece when I…

  • Decoding,  Dyslexia,  Fluency

    Orton-Gillingham Thoughts

    This column has been working itself out through my brain for months now. It starts here. Some years back I assessed a 5th-grade student, Jessica, and was very impressed with her skills. She could read seemingly effortlessly to the 12th grade level, and her math skills for all basics were at a high school level as well. She was going to prepare to take a test to enter a very competitive private school. When her mom returned to talk about the assessment told her how impressed I was with Jessica’s skills. But she shocked me by saying, “Yes, she can read to the 12th grade level, but her reading comprehension is at…

  • Common Core,  NAEP

    2019 NAEP Reading Scores vs. The Ladder of Reading: A Striking Correlation

    When the most recent set of scores from the NAEP (National Assessment for Educational Progress) were released in 2019, the results for Reading were dismal: only 35% of fourth graders were rated Proficient or Advanced, whereas a whopping 65% were rated either Basic or Below Basic (up from 63% in 2017). For eighth graders, the results were slightly worse: 34% percent Proficient/Advanced vs. 66% Basic or Below Basic (up from 64% in 2017).   Obviously, these scores do not paint a particularly  encouraging picture of American elementary and middle-school students’ reading skills. One of the major criticisms the NAEP is that the score ratings do not align—and are not intended to align—with…

  • Decoding,  Dyslexia,  Fluency,  Learning Disabilities,  Lucy Calkins,  Phonemic Awareness,  Phonics,  Precision Teaching,  Reading Instruction,  Reading Workshop,  Science of Reading,  Teacher Training,  Three Cueing System,  Whole Language

    A Child is Not a Mollusk

    In some sense, without evidence-based instruction, a child could be more like a mollusk in that they will withdraw from the learning process and build a shell to protect themselves from the emotional anguish of feeling less-than in the classroom.

  • Fluency,  Learning Disabilities,  Phonics,  Precision Teaching,  Reading Instruction

    Forget Sourdough Bread – My Pandemic Project is Precision Teaching!

    Some learned to bake sourdough bread. Some took on home improvement projects. However, when it came time for me to choose a pandemic project, I decided to be a precision teacher. Unfortunately, it is not Instagram friendly, so I will simply write about it. Let me introduce myself. I am a seasoned teacher with thirteen years in the NYC public school system with licenses in French and ESL. In fact, according to the NYC ratings system devised by the infamous Charlotte Danielson, I am even considered a highly effective teacher. I have also had skin in the game long enough to watch the DOE follow many fads, particularly the fad of big data.…