Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

YWCA Minneapolis generously supports MinnPost’s Education coverage. Learn why.

Minnesota’s persistent literacy gap has lawmakers looking for ways to push evidence-based reading instruction

MinnPost photo by Erin Hinrichs
A first-grade student at Prodeo Acadmey's St. Paul campus tapping out a word he's been asked to write during a routine literacy assessment.

Schools across the state closed down at the start of this week because of the extreme cold. It’s the right thing to do, so that kids aren’t being put at risk, said Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood. But he thinks there’s another issue affecting Minnesota students that deserves the same level of urgency and decisive action: reading proficiency rates that have remained stagnant for years, and have even decreased for some student groups.

“Minnesota has a state of emergency regarding literacy. I’m very disappointed with where we’re at right now with the persistent reading success gap between white students and students of color,” he said Wednesday. “We are not making adequate progress, and the future of tens of thousands of our students is seriously at risk if we don’t address this.”

Third-grade reading skills are a critical benchmark for students’ future success. By the end of third grade, they should have the literacy skills they need to transition from learning to read to reading to learn.

Yet according to the latest state assessments, only 56 percent of fourth-graders tested proficient in reading. That number has remained relatively flat for years. Broken down by race and special status, the proficiency rates are even more alarming: Minnesota now has the widest gap in reading scores between white and nonwhite students in the nation. Only 32 percent of black fourth-graders and 34 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders are proficient in reading, compared to 66 percent of white fourth-graders.

State Sen. Chuck Wiger

Serving as the ranking minority member of the Senate E-12 Finance and Policy Committee, Wiger says there is strong bipartisan interest in looking at which evidence-based reading strategies are needed to move the needle. And progress on this front, he suspects, will require some legislative action this session. 

“Frankly, I think the governor should call a summit soon on this,” he said. “At least, through the legislative process, we can direct some action, for coming up with a plan to address this.”

Experts call for reforms

Earlier this week, members of the Senate E-12 Finance and Policy Committee, chaired by Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, heard from a number of Minnesota-based reading experts  — many of whom called for widespread early literacy instruction reforms needed at the district and school level.  

During this information gathering session, the importance of implementing evidence-based reading instruction came up often. But even something as seemingly basic as reading instruction comes with political baggage.

At the peak of the so-called nationwide “reading war,” educators often fell into one of two camps: one that prioritized explicit phonics-based instruction; or another that prioritized exposure to good books and reading practice.

State Sen. Carla Nelson
State Sen. Carla Nelson
A bounty of scientific research, however, has shown that kids cannot simply learn to read through exposure to books and story time. Rather, they need to be taught how to decode words, a skill that requires a strong foundation in phonics — being able to connect sounds with letters.

Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a Minnesota educator who’d deny the importance of embedding some phonics-based instruction into reading lessons and curriculum. But there’s still no consensus on how much focus should be devoted to building students’ phonics skills — a variable that results in literacy instruction inconsistencies across districts, and even across grade levels within the same school.

Many of the experts convened to present on Monday support a more explicit phonics-based instruction approach to teaching reading. That includes leaders with The Reading Center and the Minnesota Reading Corps — two organizations that specialize in targeting reading interventions to students who struggle most with reading, including students with dyslexia.

Kathy Howe, a local reading expert called in to testify, raised concern over the “balanced literacy” approach used in most schools today.

What we see in observing balanced literacy classrooms is that sounding out words is de-emphasized. Rather students are encouraged to guess words based on pictures, context … this is not phonics, at all,” she said. “Balanced literacy has been the preferred reading instructional philosophy in most Minnesota K-3 classrooms, for several decades.”

Second graders doing a phonics-based literacy activitiy in Susie Hiemenz's classroom at Holy Spirit Catholic School in St. Paul.
MinnPost photo by Erin Hinrichs
Second-graders doing a phonics-based literacy activity in Susie Hiemenz's classroom at Holy Spirit Catholic School in St. Paul.
Howe talked about her work with the St. Croix River Education District, in which she helped restructure the elementary school’s approach to teaching reading to ensure phonics-based instruction sat at the core of each lesson. In many cases, it’s a commitment that requires a radical restructuring that involves buying new curriculum materials, leadership from the school board and principal, a new school schedule and staffing plan and additional professional development for educators. But it’s a reform that she insists needs to take place in schools across the state.

“It’s hard work. But there are people who have done it. Some of them are sitting here behind me,” she said, pointing out John Alexander, executive director of Groves Academy, which works with school districts to better implement phonics-based reading instruction.

Given the success in students’ reading scores in the districts his staff currently collaborate with, Alexander told committee members he hopes that the Minneapolis Public Schools district, the St. Paul Public Schools district and the Anoka-Hennepin Public School District “will take notice and do the restructuring necessary” to boost literacy scores through more explicit phonics-based instruction as well.

Legislators weigh in

During the hearing on Monday, Nelson voiced her own frustrations with reading proficiency rates in Minnesota.

“Why is it that we’ve been talking about the importance of early reading since I came to the Senate in 2011?” she said. “We’ve had years now, yet we’re not seeing the return on investment. Most importantly, we are turning out students who — 20 percent of them — do go to college needing remedial work. We’re turning out students who don’t have the necessary reading skills to get the further education, career training that they need.”

In an interview after the hearing, she expressed an interest in possibly taking legislative action to ensure all reading instructors are employing evidence-based practices. One has to wonder if, in fact, our persistent and rather stagnant reading gap might possibly be because we haven’t been laser focused on these evidence-based, scientific strategies that really encompass the strategy of learning to read,” she said.

Reflecting on her own experience as a reading specialist in a Minnesota school, she recalled working with a group of first-graders who were taught in phonics-based reading. The next year, that same group of kids had a whole-language teacher. And for their third-grade year, reading instruction included a mix of strategies.

“I thought, ‘It’s really hard for these kids,’” she said. “Where is the scope and sequence?”

In terms of teacher licensure, Nelson indicated she’s interested in revisiting a gap that currently exists in licensure criteria. Nearly a decade ago, based on recommendations that came out of a Minnesota reading task force, licensure requirements for teachers were better synced with evidence-based best practices in reading instruction.

But as Alexander pointed out during his testimony, the new criteria only impacted new teachers — those with little ability to enter a school system and create change. Teachers who already held their licensure were exempt from the new requirements.

Nelson said she’s interested in revisiting this, to ensure all teachers are on the same page with scientifically based reading instruction, when it comes to meeting licensure requirements.

Meanwhile, Wiger has drafted a bill (S.F. 81) that would create a Minnesota Reads task force. The 15-member task force would be appointed by the commissioner of education and include a mix of educators, literacy researchers, parents and business representatives. They would be tasked with advising the commissioner on strategies to reach 100 percent reading proficiency rates for both third-graders and adults by 2025. Additionally, by Feb. 15 of each year, they would be tasked with supplying state legislators with a report that includes recommendations for legislative action to improve literacy programs and outcomes.

In particular, Wiger says he’d like to see a task force like this spearhead a statewide campaign, promoting literacy.

People are not mad enough about how we are failing their students,” he said. “There should be a great deal of outrage right now that we are not making adequate progress.”

Comments (34)

  1. Submitted by Andrew Kearney on 01/31/2019 - 10:28 am.

    Well it’s about time! Balanced Literacy is a plan perfectly designed to ensure that students with challenges do NOT learn to read and it is used by almost all MN schools. Most schools have incorporated some phonics and consider that they have have a rigorous reading program. What is needed as Kathy Howe says is a whole package that involved staffing, curriculum, scheduling etc. There are people who know how to do this and have done it.

  2. Submitted by John Poupart on 01/31/2019 - 11:00 am.

    The “experts” tend to not do well with American Indians. Moreover, “evidence-based” practices have failed American Indians because there is little if any Indian evidence in the expert research and planning methods; not only of educators but many social service providers as well. American Indians see the world through a holistic lens while Western thought and practice use linear methods. I am not sure if this is lacking in other ethnic communities, but it’s worth a look. I suggest that educators become more relational with Indian parents and community to learn more about how to teach Indian students.

    • Submitted by Andrew Kearney on 01/31/2019 - 01:12 pm.

      It’s not correct to say that “evidence based practices have failed American Indians because there is little if any Indian evidence in the expert research”. There is no evidence that effective reading instruction varies by race/ethnicity. Like this there is much that has not been studied in education. The effect of using an evidence based approach with a particular student can be measured and that should be the standard for using or discontinuing any method.

      Education is a discipline that has a substantial research base although the quality of much of it is not good. Still, while research continues we ought to use what we do have evidence for and use best judgment to fill the gaps. Education is notable for not using the evidence it does have thus making it a ‘soft’ profession. In Minnesota reading instruction is at the heart of this anti-science approach. Like climate change deniers many educators don’t want to be confused by the facts because they do not jive with their educational ideology. In Minnesota education the more educated you are the more likely you are to be a science denier.

      • Submitted by Patrick Tice on 02/01/2019 - 08:18 am.

        “In Minnesota education the more educated you are the more likely you are to be a science denier.” I call BS on this. It is a blanket assumption for which you have no proof, and insulting to those of us who have not only earned postgraduate degrees but who have kept on learned throughout our lives.

  3. Submitted by Mike Schumann on 01/31/2019 - 11:21 am.

    Maybe the reading gap has something to do with whether or not parents are reading to their kids at home? Not just when they are in school, but when they are babies.

    Another approach would be to start rewarding teachers based on their student’s achievements. If your students do well, you get a big bonus. If they don’t, you loose your teacher license. If we had a system like this in place, teachers would figure out pretty fast what works and what doesn’t. The ones that don’t wouldn’t be around any more.

    • Submitted by Joe Schantz on 01/31/2019 - 12:21 pm.

      As the article said no amount of story time is going to teach every kid to read, that’s simply not enough. Affluent parents are able to supplement reading instruction (Hooked on Phonics?) but that’s not an option for everyone. It’s going to have to happen in the classroom.

      Also we can’t afford to fire teachers whose students struggle. It’s hard enough to convince people to take the job in an atmosphere where people make comments like this.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 01/31/2019 - 01:19 pm.

      Punishing teachers for poor student performance is a terrible idea.

      Student performance largely correlates with wealth – children from affluent families (and the schools in neighborhoods where affluent families live) perform better than children from less affluent families. So if you punish teachers for poor student performance, you create a huge disincentive for teachers to go to those schools. You’ll get weaker teachers and more teacher turnover – exactly the opposite effect of what you are trying to do.

    • Submitted by Sonia Walters on 02/01/2019 - 05:22 pm.

      20% of children have dyslexia and these kids need explicit instruction. These kids don’t learn to read through osmosis of having books or being read to. They need explicit instruction. I know plenty of children from affluent homes who were read to from birth and went to preschool who still did not learn to read with the popular curriculum and instructional models. These are bright kids with parents who are well educated doctors, orthodontist, engineers, etc. The difference is that these parents send their children to private schools and tutors to get the right instruction.
      All children deserve the opportunity to learn to read. We need to supply our schools and teachers the money and training to do their jobs so all kids get to read.

    • Submitted by Michele Faherty on 02/14/2019 - 05:17 am.

      I read to my children every single night and they both struggled to learn to read and still do. They both have dyslexia and need explicit instruction on how to decode words. We need to have a system that captures all students and reading to kids from birth is certainly a good practice but it in now way ensures literacy. I’ve had to spend $10,000 year to help my kids learn to read b/c the schools weren’t able to do it. How many parents can afford to do this (I can’t either but I don’t have a choice).

  4. Submitted by Pat Hagerty on 01/31/2019 - 11:25 am.

    Andrew is absolutely right. Research is clear that phonics is essential for all but the most unusually adept students. Insist that reading instruction follow research, retrain your teachers, and student s will improve.

  5. Submitted by Phyllis Kahn on 01/31/2019 - 11:25 am.

    One issue I would like to see pursued is language literacy, that is requiring all kids to be fluent in 2 languages. this would give kids who enter school speaking a 2nd language a leg up. And maybe they could learn to read more easily in that language. My kids in school in Montreal are expected to be fluent in 3 languages (French, English and 1 other). obviously a big advantage in an internationalizing world.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/02/2019 - 11:28 am.

      It’s a great idea but let’s stay focused. When our students are fluent in English and can read and comprehend a single language… then we can add more languages to the mix.

  6. Submitted by Ted Benson on 01/31/2019 - 12:30 pm.

    The outrage is there among parents, but gets dissipated in trying to advocate with teachers and administrations for your kid, and finding appropriate outside tutoring when help in school is mostly more hours of what’s already not working.

  7. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/31/2019 - 12:48 pm.

    Phyllis Kahn makes an excellent point, but I doubt it’ll happen in my lifetime (I’m 74). I’m not opposed to “whole language” and/or a “balanced” approach, but phonics should get more emphasis. English is a quirky, difficult language to learn, especially if it’s not the family’s native tongue. It’s hard for me to imagine an elementary (or secondary, for that matter) teacher who doesn’t understand the value of phonics as an instructional tool, but to the degree that that particular void exists, it absolutely has to be addressed, and if retraining is the remedy, then by all means, those teachers need to be retrained.

    Mike Schumann’s “solution” not only won’t work, but is punishing the wrong people – unless he has evidence that substantial numbers of Minnesota teachers are themselves illiterate. Holding teachers hostage to student performance is both easy and intellectually backward. If anyone needs some sort of artificial incentive to learn to read English, it would be the children, and my observations of elementary kids in school, at least in the primary grades, suggest that most are eager to please their teachers, even without some sort of artificial incentive. Those that aren’t, or that somehow can’t meet expectations, typically have other issues or problems that need to be addressed.

    What consequences would Mr. Schumann assign to a child who doesn’t learn to read? Neither firing her 3rd grade teacher nor telling her to wait 10 years, when she discovers she’s unemployable, seem very useful if the goal is that she learn to read. Even phonics isn’t 100% effective without presenting it in the context of some of the other methods of figuring out words and meaning. Unless Schumann knows a foolproof method to teach children to read (and if he does, he should be sharing it), punishing me because his daughter hasn’t learned to read doesn’t really solve her problem, or Minnesota’s problems, but it does create additional problems for me if his daughter is in my class..

    • Submitted by Mike Schumann on 02/03/2019 - 07:34 am.

      I think that paying kids to do well in school is an excellent idea. Not only does it incentive kids to do well, whether or not they have good teachers, but it also teaches them the basic concept of getting paid to work, which in and of itself is a skill and mindset that is sadly lacking in a lot of kids these days.

  8. Submitted by Alan Straka on 01/31/2019 - 01:37 pm.

    I think most would agree that using the best methods for teaching is worthwhile but that won’t guarantee a significant reduction in the achievement gap. That gap is there in more than just reading (admittedly the reading gap exacerbates those in other subjects) which suggests it is more than just teaching methodology. We need to work on reducing the wealth gap which I believe is the biggest driver of the disparity. Also, minority parents seem to be much less engaged in their children’s education. It is partly cultural but more likely that minority and immigrant parents themselves lack the skills (and the means) necessary to aid in their child’s education. Some way of enriching the out of school learning environment is needed for those children who lack in home support. I don’t have any answers but changing teaching methods, as laudable as that may be, is not going to eliminate that gap.

    • Submitted by Brent Stahl on 01/31/2019 - 03:00 pm.

      You are making the perfect the enemy of the good. Of course there are many contributing factors causing the reading gap. Teaching practice is one that can be changed if the will is there by educators and politicians. Changing wealth inequalities or long-held cultural practices are, shall we say, a much longer project and really intractable by comparison. Proper evidence-based instruction applied rigorously yields remarkable success.

  9. Submitted by john alexander on 01/31/2019 - 03:12 pm.

    Given a great deal of third-party, objective research, it is very clear what needs to be taught in the early grades (kindergarten through third grade) so that students read fluently–with proper rate and accuracy. There is no debating that students require systematic, explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency and in vocabulary acquisition and in learning comprehension strategies. Unfortunately, “balanced literacy,” a euphemism for whole language, is not balanced in the vast majority of curricula; instead, it focuses on vocabulary development and comprehensions strategies using rich literature, which is uncontrolled and forces students to guess at a word’s identity. In fact, guessing based on pictures on the page, the shape of the word, and its use in the context of the sentence are word identification strategies embraced and taught by teachers of balanced literacy.

    Currently in Minneapolis and St. Paul, many classrooms have 70%+ of the students not making adequate progress in their balanced literacy classrooms. Only 15% of these students are dyslexic and have a neurological reason for their reading difficulty; the other 85% are instructional casualties, students who have not been taught properly.

    Schools and districts do not have the resources to address the needs of this many students. This is why it is imperative that we are correctly teaching reading in the general education classrooms. If we do so properly and are consistently monitoring students’ progress, research shows that 80% of the students will make adequate progress. If we don’t address reading correctly, as is the case now, we are literally failing the system is literally failing the students in whom adults have been entrusted.

    Some people make the argument that the achievement gap exists primarily due to economic conditions. While economic conditions exacerbate many school issues, overcoming poverty by breaking the cycle becomes even more important. This cycle will be broken with education, and reading should be the center piece of education in elementary school.

    Again, the research is clear that even children from the lowest income homes can be taught to read. Let’s not continue to fail them.

    John Alexander
    Literacy Consultant

    • Submitted by Patricia James on 02/02/2019 - 09:12 am.

      I think only 55% of students would be considered instructional casualties given your example. Still, way too many! Just a clarification.

  10. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 01/31/2019 - 05:03 pm.

    Many (most?) people have little faith that any thing will get better for public school students.

    We have, and continue to pour oceans of cash into the public system, and have reaped nothing appreciably better for more than 30 years.

    There are many reasons; feckless parents; a focus on socio-economic experimentation; teachers union interference; politically motivated school boards. They all have an impact, and there’s not enough money in the country to fix it.

    You can put some kids into a cardboard box with some books, and Rhodes scholars will come out. There are other kids who are simply not higher ed material.

    When the schools decide to focus on academics ahead of all the other activities they’ve decided to engage in, we might graduate kids that can read write and do basic math as a minimum.

    But they won’t.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/02/2019 - 11:31 am.

      Dude, we have more charter schools than any other State… the gap persists and the charters are doing no better.

  11. Submitted by Sheila Kihne on 01/31/2019 - 05:09 pm.

    I read these articles and I think to myself: “what a mess.” The government-school system is a web of constantly changing curriculum, teaching methods, and standardized testing with a bunch of bureaucrats holding meetings to analyze results and sending down more edicts. Nothing will change.

    Why can’t Minnesota be a leader and try some radical changes like letting parents choose private school for their kids with some sort of tax credit? Educational freedom, no mandates, and a system that allows those closest to the kids– the teachers– decide how to best teach.

    I don’t get it. I really don’t. What do we have to lose? We haven’t moved the needle at all in childhood literacy? Inexcusable.

    Also, some of the comments that say “minority parents” are less engaged in their children’s education are terrible and untrue. The elitism is a big part of the achievement gap here.

    Look to the results of schools like Cristo Rey and Harvest Prep. It’s not “minority parents”– it’s government-run education.

    • Submitted by Andrew Kearney on 02/01/2019 - 12:47 pm.

      It is unfortunate that comments like these enter the debate. I am not referring to the essence but the offensive language used; “government schools”, “bunch of bureaucrats” are code words for anti-public education. Using them actually hurts the argument because it prevents reasonable non-Republican, right wingers from entering into dialogue. Nevertheless I’ll join in.

      We already have what the writer advocates. Letting parents choose is in place with “school choice”; “tax credits” are in place in that school funding follows children (but not to private schools); “allowing teachers to decide” is in place in teacher/parent controlled charter schools.

      No mandates-like freedom from special education? Private schools exist so that parents ensure that their children are not exposed to those from another class or race-more often the former than the latter. it is the very definition of elitism. Other than that the writer has some good points.

      • Submitted by Sheila Kihne on 02/04/2019 - 08:38 am.

        “it’s unfortunate that comments like these enter the debate”– That comment perfectly comments the left’s way of thinking. Translation: Don’t enter the debate.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/07/2019 - 09:46 am.

          Ms. Kihne,

          You might want to look all data telling us that private schools actually tend to under-perform when compared to public schools. I don’t know why you would want to use public tax revenue to send kids to private schools that do no better and in many cases worse than public schools.

    • Submitted by Mike Schumann on 02/03/2019 - 07:43 am.

      The big problem with school choice, whether it is charter or private schools, is that the parents who value education and/or have the time to get involved in their children’s education, choose the best schools, and their kids due well. The parents who don’t care, or don’t have the time and energy to focus on their kid’s education, end up with their kids in the schools that no one else wants to go to. These dumping ground schools then also no longer have involved parents putting pressure on the teachers and administrators to do a decent job, and you have a terrible mess.

      While school choice has its upsides, it also has very significant unintended consequences. All this wouldn’t be an issue, if the public schools were doing a decent job and parents would be satisfied with the old neighborhood school model.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/07/2019 - 09:54 am.

        I think another problem with “choice” is it’s consumer mentality. The problem consumerism is that it organizes itself around brand loyalty and marketing rather than actual performance or success. Parents acting as “consumers” are NOT parents thinking rationally and looking at outcomes and quality. So parents will put their kids in a charter or wherever, and then be amazed at how well their kids do, but the data tells us that most of those kids would as well or better in the “traditional” public school. Meanwhile we create schools that compete for funding and parents via more marketing and brand loyalty and the system become progressively botched up.

  12. Submitted by Joe Smith on 02/01/2019 - 08:45 pm.

    Reading has nothing to do with either skin color or money. It has to do with proper teaching (phonics based) and time spent reading. Anyone can learn to read and making excuses as to why children don’t learn to read in our tax funded public schools is not helping the problem.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/02/2019 - 12:26 pm.

    I can only add one additional observation that seems to have emerged in the last few decades. Our entire approach to public education has been warped by market ideology. The notion of opening charter schools to “compete” with public schools, open enrollment, endless attempts to break the teacher’s unions and restrain their pay, and many more policies are all consumer based attempts that are primarily directed at offering parents a satisfied consumer experience rather than teaching students how to think.

    The public school system in the US was invented because we decided that education is an essential and imperative human right and social and civic necessity. Accordingly the mission was to educate every student sitting in the classroom, it wasn’t about branding or marketing.

    Over the last few decades we’ve converted education into a market experiment designed to compete for parental satisfaction. I recently voted against one of the school levies in St. Louis Park for the first time in my life because it’s become clear that our system is devoting more and more resources towards “branding” our schools to attract more affluent students. Instead of competing for affluent students outside of our the city I want the school to close the education gaps that exist in our classrooms. We know how to do this, we’re just not doing it because obviously the REAL focus is/has been elsewhere.

    I don’t think it’s any serious mystery why a school systems devoted to competing for affluent students are failing to teach resident students basic reading skills. I know a couple who moved to MN and ended up in Edina because MPLS couldn’t guarantee them a slot in their public schools. When the educational mission doesn’t recognize the responsibility to provide an education to all of the children living within it’s boarders… the problem goes well beyond phonics.

    • Submitted by Joe Smith on 02/04/2019 - 09:01 am.

      Paul, completely disagree. Learning to read is about proper teaching and time spent reading. Bringing in money or skin color as an excuse helps nobody.

      As far as money goes, inner city schools spend way more per student than rural school districts. So it is not about money!

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/04/2019 - 10:45 am.

        Joe, you don’t appear to have read my comment. I didn’t say anything about skin color or money other than that I voted AGAINST one of the levy’s to raise more money.

  14. Submitted by Maria L.G. Johnson on 02/03/2019 - 12:13 pm.

    “Stop this insanity!” Reading many of these comments is disheartening. Stop blaming teachers, districts, parents, and others.The reality is our culture in our school systems are changing and we have not moved forward. We are moving rapidly backwards. This is a nationwide problem, not just MN.

    We need to focus on the topic of how to best serve our children in reading proficiency. We need to focus on the best teaching method to teach our children how to read in our schools (public, charter, etc.) The reading gap is not racial, social economics, minority, or immigrant children. It has to do with how students are taught. Children are not given the right tools to become confident readers. You cannot ask a student to adequately comprehend a story when they cannot understand the words.

    Children are not taught how to differentiate phonemic strategies, phonetical awareness, fluency, and vocabulary understanding. John Alexander eloquently stated this fact in his first paragraph.
    Comprehension comes with the ability to understand the words they are reading. Comprehending the meaning of what they just read or decoding comes after they can differentiate and recognize letters and sounds…not before.

    The reality is, the educational system are not serving our children’s ability to read at a proficient level. Nor, are the schools allowing the tools that have been available to teach teachers in grades K-3. Why do we not want our children to succeed?

    I am an educator who has been trained in the Orton Gillingham Reading strategy. This program focuses on phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency before comprehension. I taught K-2 grades for ten years. I was given the choice to teach the standard reading program of our school or stay with Orton Gillingham. I chose to stay with this reading program for all of my students. It did not matter if they were lower, proficient, or higher readers. This reading strategy allowed them to become higher readers at all levels. The higher readers advanced, the proficient readers became higher readers, and most importantly, the lower readers became proficient or higher readers.

    Reading is building confidence, confidence to learn, confidence to express themselves, and confidence to become problem solvers. You cannot teach a child unless you build their confidence first and that is through reading and understanding.

    • Submitted by Joe Smith on 02/03/2019 - 07:29 pm.

      Amen, Maria. It is harmful to society using skin color or money as an excuse not to teach children how to read. Devote more time to teaching reading per day in K-3, add in phonics and you will increase reading.

  15. Submitted by Jerilyn Jackson on 02/05/2019 - 08:27 am.

    When people insist that the amount of money poured into public education is evidence that a lack of resources is not the problem, they ignore the crisis facing school districts as special education needs are soaring while the federal government special education mandate continues to be enormously underfunded. Schools are forced to pull resources out of the general education fund to meet the special education mandate.…special-education…/504601631/

Leave a Reply