March 25, 2007

More NYT on Reading First

Diane Jean Schemo doesn't know how to read a statute. There's no other explanation for this paragraph in this NYT article:

Reading First has come under heavy fire in Congress and elsewhere. Previous audits of the program, and some local school officials, said the department had used the law to promote reading programs with a heavy reliance on phonics, which focuses on the mechanics of sounding out syllables, rather than methods emphasizing additional strategies for making sense of texts. The House and the Senate are planning hearings.

There's a very good reason why ED forced schools to adopt reading programs "with a heavy reliance on phonics, which focuses on the mechanics of sounding out syllables." That's what the law required. Follow along closely.

Section 1202(c)(7)(A) of the Reading First statute states:

an eligible local educational agency that receives a subgrant under this subsection shall use the funds provided under the subgrant to carry out the following activities:

...

(ii) Selecting and implementing a learning system or program of reading instruction based on scientifically based reading research that— (I) includes the essential components of reading instruction

The "essential components of reading instruction" is defined in section 1208(3) as:

The term ‘essential components of reading instruction’ means explicit and systematic instruction in—
(A) phonemic awareness;
(B) phonics;
(C) vocabulary development;
(D) reading fluency, including oral reading skills; and
(E) reading comprehension strategies.

I've emphasized the word "phonics" so you don't miss it.

let me translate the legalese into English for you. In order to get a Reading First grant, a school must select and implement a reading program that includes the explicit and systematic instruction in phonics, among other things. Notice how the statute says "phonics" and not "methods emphasizing additional strategies for making sense of texts" as Schemo suggests.

It was ED's job to make sure that schools followed this law. But, according to Schemo, when ED enforced to law they "used the law to promote reading programs with a heavy reliance on phonics."

Using Schemo's twisted logic ED would have lost no matter what they did. Had ED allowed reading programs "emphasizing additional strategies for making sense of texts" it would have clearly violated the law. And, if ED only permitted phonics based programs, as it did, it was illegally promoting phonics based reading programs.

Pathetic.

6 comments:

Parentalcation said...

Can anyone explain what each of the five points mean? Specifically what are "reading comprehension strategies"?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what about the four other essential components?

Phonics makes up only 20% of the essential components in the law. Therefore, if a program heavily relies on phonics then it would not have much room left to focus on the other 80%, right?

You've decided to make phonics bold but the law only gives it a 20% share and does not suggest that it is any more important than the other 4 components.

KDeRosa said...

I've made phonics bold because that is the one essential component that many reading programs fail to get right and the reason why they got excluded under Reading First.

I've never heard anyone seriously argue that any reading program lacks the other four essential compenents or that the phonics compenent somehow gets in the way of the other four. But, if you have some real argument to make on more than conjecture go ahead and make it.

CrypticLife said...

(A) phonemic awareness;
(B) phonics;
(C) vocabulary development;
(D) reading fluency, including oral reading skills; and
(E) reading comprehension strategies.

Phonics would pretty much overlap with reading fluency, and vocabulary development would overlap with reading comprehension. So, I don't think analyzing it in terms of percentages is appropriate.

The point, however, is taken. Should students continue with phonics after they've mastered them? Probably not, but they're essential to reading well. The "heavily relies on phonics" may to the essential nature of phonics rather than a time component.

Rory, reading comprehension strategies probably refers to knowing where to look to get the point of a particular selection of text. When I taught for the Princeton Review, the strategy was to read the first line of each paragraph and ignore the rest until you needed it for specific questions. It worked beautifully as a strategy -- I brought my time for completing an SAT verbal section down to 12 minutes.

Parentalcation said...

Thanks crypticlife.

anon... after a little research, I figured out that reading comprehension strategies are used to decipher the meaning of the word and sentence in relation to the paragraph or section.

Reading comprehension strategies are not using the paragraph, sentence, or pictures to "figure out" what the word is. This is what whole language does...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_comprehension

4trogan said...

Unbelievable. Talk about irresponsible journalism -- how can anyone deem themselves a reporter of facts if they don't read the laws they are reporting about? Makes one wonder how often this goes on in other areas of news/opinion outside of Education.

Her name should be Diana Jean Schlemiel.