March 6, 2008

Kozloff on Reading First

Martin Kozloff just posted this on the DI Listserv in response to Sol Stern's article on Reading First. I think it deserves wider distribution.

There are some folks in our Great Nation who use statistics to make the case that our students are learning just fine (thank you very much), and that the criticisms of public education are therefore in error and (because of the alleged political leanings of the critics) politically motivated (a subtle form of ad hominen). [Ed: this is a not-so-subtle jab at Jerry Bracey who burdens the DI listserve from time to time.]

These same persons are often the harshest critics of the tests and the raw data (e.g., student achievement) that are the basis for the statistics.

In so doing, they betray what might be considered bad faith.

"Sure, the tests are bogus, and the 'standards' for passing are so low that nonreaders can pass, but I like what the stats say---'everything is fine in Edland.' So, I'll promote the stats as if THEY portray reality."

Personally, I couldn't care less what official statistics say---not when I can see and hear behavior.

Everything is NOT fine in Edland when I (all by my wittle self) have tested over a thousand kids in my county, and they are reading at below first grade level.

"Kite mad a bowat. She mad the bowat of thin. The noise of the bowat was real thin..."

Wow. She got 5 words right!

Oh, yeah, these kids----who have had FIVE years of school, 5 x 180 hours of reading "instruction"---can't read a simple sentence and therefore have no idea what it says---these kids are being WELL served.

And I know exactly who taught them and exactly where they learned to "teach" reading, and I know exactly HOW they taught reading....

Teacher. "So, what do you think THIS word is?"

Kid. "How the f$#@ should I know? I don't know how to read."

Teacher. "Well, what word do you think FITS here?"

Kid. "How the f%$# should I know? I can't read ANY part of the sentence. So how can I tell what FITS means, you stupid f%$#ing cow?"

Teacher. "Well, do you see pictures on the page that can help you?"

Kid. "Oh, Sweet Jesus! Is there a picture for EVERY word? Is that how I'm supposed to read? I use pictures to tell me what the WORDS say? Then why not just write books with PICTURES and forget the alphabet, you stupid f%$#ing cloth headed rump fed gas bag?"

Teacher. "Now, you don't need to cuss. Cussing is offensive."

Kid. "Right. I DON'T need to cuss. And apparently I don't NEED to read, either! You smarmy, arrogant, dumb-ass, RACIST piece of $#@*."

Teacher. [sharp intake of breath] "Racist!! How dare you accuse me of being a racist. I give annually to every minority charity there is. Okay, maybe two. AND I once heard a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr."

Kid. "You are a racist because---despite all your bull$#@! talk about serving the needs of DIVERSE learners---and I am pretty f%$@ing diverse---you INSIST on having me GUESS what the words say and you REFUSE to teach me the five main reading skills in a STRAIGHTFORWARD way, as the RESEARCH and 3000 YEARS of history shows. THAT'S why you are a skanky, airheaded, puss-bag racist piece of $*&^. And I will hate you forever for refusing to do what the simplest COMMON sense would tell anyone with a SOUL to do. But you care MORE for your precious PEDAGOGY and your PRIVILEGED social class of UNACCOUNTABLE educators, than you care for a real live human being, you duplicitous smug self-satisfied sack of crap."

Teacher. "Well, you are certainly a struggling reader. You need to be in Reading Recovery. Sadly, Reading Recovery is for FIRST grade and YOU, as you know, are in FOURTH grade. But don't take it personally. As one of my gurus used to say...

'Saying that we are determined to teach every child to read does not mean that we will teach every child to read....The best we can do ... is ... to ensure that, if not every child lives up to our hopes, there is a minimum of guilt and anguish on the part of teachers, students, and parents. (p.441) Smith, F. (1992). Learning to read: the never-ending debate. Phi Delta Kappan, 74, 432-441.

Kid. "That's what your guru used to say?"

Teacher. "Yup. He sure did. Said it often. Finally, we understood. NOT our fault. Maybe YOURS."

Kid. "Well, f%$# him, too. You people are always blabbing about social justice and revolution. If there ever WERE a revolution, you and your EXPLOITING class who, as Marx said, control the means of production----in this case, the technology for educating kids----would be hanging from the street lamps."

So, if anyone wants to know if pre-Reading First instruction worked just fine, visit a NONRF school (a school whose teachers were NOT REtrained with RF money) and see how well the DIVERSE learners are doing.

Then go across town to a RF school---where they are using Reading Mastery (not SFA)---and see.

This isn't about statistics or what works or who emailed what or who influenced whom or who feels left out or what research "really" says or...

This is nothing but plain old privilege---a class of deaducators that presumes it is some kind of aristocracy--The Best---simply because it is in a position of power and has been able to get generations of gullible teachers and administrators to dance to its progressive tunes.

And when it is challenged---its legitimacy ("You don't know as much as you think. Therefore, why are you in a position of power?"), its position, and therefore its privilege---it acts the way all ELITES act.

It tries to kill those who threaten it.

But of course it has to do the killing in a socially approved way.

So it stages a pageant. Makes it seem as if some folks in RF acted improperly.

Makes it seem as if RF didn't do much good, anyway.

The usual bull$^&* "narrative."

And this elite class has just enough useful idiots (an audience and bit players)---for ex in congress and in the ed establishment of pundits---to do its bidding and applauding.

It's all show. The entire ed establishment.

A gigantic production number almost as gaudy as a Busby Berkeley...

We need law suits.

Break their f%$#@ing backs with law suits.

Although hanging is both effective AND provides teachable moments relevant to physics.

And as for Success for All, have y'all ever compared it with Reading Mastery---which came out maybe 20 years before SFA.

Remarkable similarities.

Even wording!

And was SFA developed by persons with a long history of designing instruction and in reading?

I dunno.

Easy to find out.

Interesting that SFA hasn't claimed that ZIG ripped THEM off.


Anonymous said...

I also think Mr. Kozloff's response deserves wider distribution!

I suggest that you forward it on to the following websites:; www.PeopleWhoCan'; and

Honestly, how can anyone take this guy seriously? He's completely nuts and he makes no sense. Why would you want more people to read this?

KDeRosa said...

That's quite the cogent argument you've made.

Redkudu said...

Wow. This is some ugly stuff. At first I agreed with your anonymous commentor - why would we want more people to read this? I actually mused on it for 2 days. Then I thought it might be important, especially for teachers like me who are trying to change what little we can from within, that we do see even the ugliest of criticisms, if only to be aware of gross misrepresentations which fuel fallacious arguments and emotion-laden screeds that distract from concrete, effective debate which might actually affect change.

It is so, so difficult not to get emotional about education issues, and yet so important to keep a sense of decorum - this is not the argument that is going to help convince educators to change their ways, and that is where education critics and proponents of change can receive a great deal of support which actually directly impacts students, if the arguments are made well enough for teacher buy-in. I've seen it happen. Actually, I'm living proof. :)

Robert Sperry said...

If the kid has the vocabulary to swear with words like "smarmy" and "arrogant" then at least something about his education is going well!

Anonymous said...

I love Professor Plum. He realizes that government education has failed and that ed schools are, as Stotsky has written, the shame of the nation. Nothing can change either ed schools or government schools until the public education monopoly and the state certification monopoly for teacher certification are broken. Until then, most of us in the reading field will focus our efforts to improve students' reading skills and teachers' teaching (of reading) skills on endeavors outside of the field of education.

Spedvet said...

redkudu said...

"this is not the argument that is going to help convince educators to change their ways..."

Arguments will never persuade educators to change their ways. Why? Because educators are not the sort of "professionals" who subject their craft to peer scrutiny and scientific scrutiny. Educators are not about sifting through the valid vs. fallacious arguments; they are about what feels good and what sounds right, above all else - logic and science be damned.

Educators see themselves as people working hard within the hand of cards they are dealt. They blame any lack of outcome on social justice issues, the parents, or even the child's lack of innate ability. They never blame themselves, much less take a look at what they are doing first. However they are paradoxically the first to take credit for student success. These are the basic tenets of educatorship that most all educators learn in ed school.

There are some exceptions, certainly. But we give educators too much wholesale credit for being the "experts" on teaching children. Most educators don't know a thing about teaching -- they know what they have figured out to do as working the best for them, under the mentorship of others that have learned how to educate in the same fashion.

Anonymous said...

Spedvet says: "They [educators] blame any lack of outcome on social justice issues, the parents, or even the child's lack of innate ability. They never blame themselves, much less take a look at what they are doing first."

This reminds me of study completed several years ago by a professor at Western Michigan, Galen Alessi. Educators were asked about the causes for student failure. Answers ranged from low IQ, poor family conditions, lack of resources, etc.--everything except lack of educator skill.
It would be interesting to do the study again, but this time compare Reading First teachers with non-reading first teachers.

Anonymous said...

Alessi's study was not of teachers, but of school psychologists.

Here's an article about it:
The Blame Game

Likely teacher attitudes would be similar.