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Garrison Keillor on Reading First and Teaching Reading

http://www.salon.com/opinion/keillor/2008/01/30/education/
Whoo-be-gone! Garrison certainly peeved off (obviously) a bunch of teachers. Whoooeee! Of the first 30 or so responses (letters), not one respondent actually responded to what he wrote. See, we really do need Reading First - but let's start with using it on the teachers. Garrison wrote that although NCLB has flaws - Reading First is the best part of it. Reading First actually works!

But then teachers respond with:

The NCLB test is horrible, long, requires memorization, requires teaching to the test, etc. etc etc.

Really? There is one single NCLB test? Wow, I didn't know that. I thought that each state makes its own test. So whose fault is it?

I saw one lady that posted saying balanced literacy is phonics. Hold on, I have to stop laughing.

OK, I'm back. She is clearly an idiot. Balanced literacy is an outcropping of Whole Language. See, she also needs to go back and learn to read history.

I really enjoyed the "professionals" that said they've been teaching for xyz years and phonics is only good for a small population. You see, what those people don't tell you is that they have been teaching 1 year xyz times. 1 billion dollars in federally run Project Follow Through tells us that Direct Instruction (direct, explicit, carefully sequenced phonic instruction) is the (by far!) most effective way of teaching reading. Yet Oregon doesn't use it.

I saw a couple posts saying the high stakes testing makes it horrible. Um, that is an individual state thing. There is nothing in NCLB that requires high stakes testing (ie. pass this test or you don't graduate). High stakes testing has been pushed and in existence before Bush! - not that I like him - that lousy no good SOB should be hung for treason.

Another teacher complained that NCLB testing doesn't indicate where students have problems. Now that teacher needs to go back to teacher school. There are many different kinds of tests. Standardized tests are aligned so that a teacher or parent knows where a student stands against other students. Formative tests are quizzes and essays that show how a student is progressing and where he or she might need help.

Here's a doozy:


I don't have a problem with standardized tests when they are nationally normed, like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Now there's a test that tells you something -- where your kid stands nationwide! And tests and assessments can be incredible diagnostic tools for teachers in the classroom, helping them tailor instruction to their students' needs.

NCLB tests, in contrast, are made-up tests to measure made-up standards that are used solely for political (financial) purposes. They've burned up resources from their creation to their implementation. Schools have rearranged their curricula to completely teach to tests that are designed around lowball standards set solely for the purpose of allowing the greatest number of kids to pass.

Again, the made up tests are made up by each state. The standards are made up by each state. Hello! You are complaining about your state. What, should we have no standards at all? Well hasn't that gotten us far.

Look, the answer is to have national standards and national tests - like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Make it national. Devise national standards against it.

Can't do it? Nope, we can't because apparently there is too much bickering over what should be taught and when. Cripes, you'd think educators and Ed professors would just grow up.

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