Reading at Shutesbury Elementary School

News, Commentary, and Research on Reading

Open Court & the Los Angeles Consolidated School District: Myth or Magic?

by Jim Trelease

Jim reviews the Moustafa and Land study mentioned below and writes more about the politics involved in Open Courts rise to prominence.

The Research Base of Open Court and Its Translation into Instructional Policy in California

by Margaret Moustafa and Robert Land California State University Los Angeles

This is a long detailed research study looking at the effect on reading scores in a large urban school district using Open Court.  The following is a copy of the abstract.

This study analyses the research that supports Open Court, describes its translation into instructional policy in California, and compares the average SAT 9 reading scores of English-only children in schools using Open Court against comparable schools using non-scripted programs in one large urban school district. It found no significant difference in the average second grade SAT 9 reading scores in Open Court and comparison schools. Furthermore, it found no Open Court school had positive differences of 10 or more percentile points between second and fifth grade whereas 21% of the comparison schools did. Long-term Open Court schools had negative differences of 10 or more percentile points between second and fifth grade twice as often as schools using non-scripted programs. Finally, long-term Open Court schools serving communities where 97-100% of the children receive free / reduced-price meals were significantly more likely to be in the bottom quartile of the SAT 9 reading assessment than schools using non-scripted programs serving similar children.

Bush Adviser Casts Doubt on the Benefits of Phonics Program

By Abby Goodnough

Some news describing the political minefield around adoption of reading programs in Reading First grants.

National Reading Panel titled: Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessement of the Scientific Reaserch Literature

Much of the educational underpinning for the goals and methods of the Reading First grant program come from a report issued by the National Reading Panel titled: Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessement of the Scientific Reaserch Literature. The summary version (35 p) and the full report (480 p) can be accessed here.

How the National Reading Panel Misrepresented Its Own Findings (pdf, 135 kb)

This is an excerpt from the book listed below: Resisting Reading Mandates: How to Triumph with the Truth by Elaine M. Garan.

Resisting Reading Mandates: How to Triumph with the Truth
Elaine M. Garan, California State University, Fresno

Teachers today are in a stranglehold as a glut of mandates and standards restrict our ability to make decisions in our own classrooms. In many schools, scripted, regimented commercial programs further erode our power to view our students as individuals with unique talents and needs. Even the words we use to "teach" are no longer our own as we read our way through the tightly scripted manuals. How demeaning it is to be told that the curriculum is now "teacher proofed."

In addition to district and state mandates, the federal government has joined in the attack as monies are distributed or withheld based on schools' compliance with the smoky, "scientific" research that is robbing us of our power to think and act. In this book, Elaine Garan dejargonizes the research and takes us behind the curtain, using her own research and analysis of the issues and applying them to us as real teachers in real classrooms in an easy-to-read format we can use. Garan takes on the National Reading Panel Report, specifically the research summarized in the phonics subgroup report, and robs it of its power by meticulously documenting its basic flaws. In the process, she enables us to respond to the "research says" claims with solid arguments of our own, using the NRP's very own words. Furthermore, her book reveals the true findings of the NRP's report on commercial programs and isolated phonics instruction and the strong financial links that are connected to its "science." As Dick Allington says in the foreword to this book, improving teaching and learning in the real world of schools and classrooms is difficult enough without government-sponsored misallocation of effort and funding.

Unhandcuffing Reading Education (pdf, 122 kb)
This is chapter 8 from the book listed below: Reading the the Naked Truth Literacy, Legislation, and Lies by Gerald Cole

Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy, Legislation, and Lies
Gerald Coles 

With all the talk and print about "scientifically based" reading research, what educational reformers have concealed is that these "findings" are scandalously flawed! Legislation mandating authoritarian and harmful prepackaged reading instruction does nothing but serve corporate interests and political agendas with little regard paid to actually improving reading skills. As he connotes in the title of this urgent exposé, Gerald Coles uncovers what's absent from all the claims with which teachers and the public have been assailed. He offers a scathing indictment of the National Reading Panel's "research" and other attempts to undermine reading education and the educators equipped to do it best.

Leave No Teacher Behind

by Jimmy Kilpatrick
Senior Fellow, Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

This article describes various factors affecting student reading acheivement and makes a case that the knowledge and sophistication of the teacher along with professional development are the most important.

The Whole Thing or a Piece?

How the Unscientific "Scientifically Based" Reading in BushÕs Education Bill Will Harm Our Elementary School Classrooms
By Whole Language Teachers

This article is by a group of Whole Language teachers and describes their evaluation of the effect the Reading First program will have on reading acheivement and how they integrate phonics and and other skill-based reading strategies in their classrooms.

Stephen Bannasch
106 Sand Hill Road, Shutesbury, MA 01072
413 259 9125