Diane Jean Schemo writes a highly biased, misinformed, and irresponsible article insinuating that the Madison Wisconsin Metropolitan school district was bullied into dropping their "balanced literacy" program and adopting a phonics-based reading program, refused, and allegedly have experienced great success with their own program.
Mark Liberman, of Language Log, discussed the article here and included a letter from Mark Seidenberg,Professor, Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Wisconsin-Madison, also critical of the Schemo article.
I pointed out some of the flaws in this argument here. Basically, Wisconsin made its third grade reading test easier during the period tested and this accounted for all of Madison's gains rather than real improvement in reading ability.
Schemo responded to my criticisms in an email and I deconstructed those arguments here.
Now the big guns in early reading instruction are responding to Schemo's article.
- Reid Lyon, former Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch within the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institute of Health (NIH),
- Robert Sweet, Former Professional Staff Member Committee on Education and the Workforce U.S. House of Representatives,
- Louisa Moats, Ed.D. Formerly co-investigator of the NICHD Early Interventions Project,
- Linnea Ehri, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor Program in Educational Psychology CUNY Graduate Center and Joanna Williams, Ph.D. Professor, Program in Cognitive Studies in Education Teachers College, Columbia University, and
- Timothy Shanahan, Professor of Urban Education, University of Illinois at Chicago President, International Reading Association
A common theme emerges:
The at-risk students that Reading First aims to serve are underperforming compared to more advantaged students by Wisconsin's own measures
"However, the poor, disadvantaged children for whom RF was specifically targeted lost out. The State of Wisconsin’s own statistics tell the story. In 2005, forty five percent of African Americans in Madison schools are in the lowest two categories of reading ability. In another State assessment corroborating this fact forty six percent of third grade African American students scored below grade level compared to nine percent of white students."
Richard Allington, Schemo's "expert," is a buffoon
"Richard Allington, who was quoted in opposition to Reading First, has no credentials as a researcher or scientist. He and the "reading community" to which he refers have perpetuated myths and ineffective practices associated with Whole Language for decades – and look at what those have brought us."
There is no scientific basis for Madison's reading program
"Like the issue of global warming, there is no scientific debate about whether children benefit from direct instruction in how the alphabetic code of English represents speech. There is, in contrast, plenty of evidence that teaching children to guess at words through context and pictures is, indeed, malpractice, and that most poor readers fall by the wayside early because no one is teaching them how to read."
The National Reading Panel's meta-study has not been rejected by the reading community, only by the nutters
"The Panel's report became the basis of Reading First, and has been cited hundreds of times in scholarly research journals, endorsed by the International Reading Association, and identified as one of the most influential educational reports by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center."