To the Editor:
Re “OPINION: A name for rejecting the latest studying wars” (Nov. 18, 2022)
We’re academics who have been bought the very story that journalist Emily Hanford describes in her new podcast: a fable about how college students study to crack the alphabetic code. So, we have been dissatisfied to see the latest letter by 58 professors, authors and curriculum builders responding to Hanford’s work. As an alternative of taking the chance to adapt their message, supplies and pedagogy in response to a robust physique of proof, synthesized by Hanford for a public viewers, they supplied an empty and disingenuous name to “reject the latest studying wars.”
However a central level of the “Bought a Story” podcast is that the analysis “wars” round foundational studying abilities have been already received and misplaced a long time in the past — and that few educators have ever heard of this analysis, as a result of a complete business of schooling publishers, coaches and curriculum writers have both ignored or actively resisted it, needlessly encumbering the efforts of hundreds of academics like us, our college students, and their households alongside the way in which.
To these accountable, “Bought a Story” could really feel like an assault. But Hanford’s work is best characterised as an investigation of the harms brought on by one misguided literacy observe — three-cueing — and the curricula and leaders who proceed to perpetuate it.
A long time of cognitive analysis overwhelmingly means that college students taught to decode utilizing systematic, specific phonics outperform different strategies, equivalent to three-cueing. Three-cueing refers to a mannequin of studying instruction through which learners are prompted to guess at phrases utilizing photos (that means cues), letters (visible cues) or the context of the sentence (syntax cues) — also referred to as “utilizing a number of sources of data” or “problem-solving,” all studying behaviors typified by struggling readers. Analysis additionally signifies that the three-cueing technique disproportionately harms susceptible college students, together with these with dyslexia and any scholar who can’t afford costly non-public tutoring in decoding.
The latest letter didn’t point out the time period three-cueing as soon as, one among a number of methods through which the authors distort the information and the stakes of “Bought a Story” and the broader motion towards research-aligned foundational abilities instruction.
The letter makes a strawman of Hanford’s reporting, asserting that “it’s irresponsible to scale back the educating of studying to phonics instruction and nothing extra.” Her work does no such factor, suggesting solely that utilizing evidence-aligned decoding instruction is low-hanging fruit, a mandatory (albeit inadequate) step towards equitable entry to significant, joyful studying.
The authors mischaracterize Hanford’s evaluation of the three-cueing drawback as a “fabricated phonics debate,” saying all of them already know and agree that “systematic phonics is crucial.” But Hanford produces mounds of proof on the methods “balanced literacy” curricula like signatory Lucy Calkins’ “Items of Examine” each shortchange and contradict alphabetic code instruction.
There’s nothing fabricated about this — as academics, now we have seen it with our personal eyes. The signatories of the letter is probably not conscious of those points due to their distance from the classroom (and in lots of circumstances, from studying analysis). However we hope they’ll pay attention after we say that the instruments and steering we got have been each inadequate and deceptive. We have been handed Fountas and Pinnell’s “Literacy Continuum” textbook in our grad college packages; we got boxed units of Calkins’ “Items” upon arrival in our first lecture rooms. And we relied on them, encouraging college students to make use of photos or first letters to decode phrases, sending them off for impartial studying with out us having taught them how. That isn’t as a result of we have been “naively insufficient” however as a result of we have been taught repeatedly to make use of these three-cueing primarily based methods by so-called specialists, and since the phonics contained inside these boxed units was something however systematic.
Lastly, the letter hand-waves away Hanford’s critique by demanding “the remainder of the story,” failing to acknowledge this sort of cautious, deep-dive reporting on a selected side of educating and studying as tribute to the complexity of our craft. It’s a rarity for mainstream journalism to dig so extensively right into a single slice of classroom observe; we’re extra accustomed to superficial drive-bys with analyses of NAEP scores and coverage initiatives that keep far faraway from the chalkface. However a give attention to one side of tutorial observe on no account reductions the significance of others, or of the structural inequities at play in our faculties. Let’s have extra in-depth reporting on different components of literacy — on read-aloud of advanced textual content, on language growth and bilingual studying, on difficult the canon, on educating poetry! — and on different points, like college funding and diversifying trainer pipelines, that we all know affect our college students, too.
We, the undersigned, are academics who do certainly “care deeply about doing the actual work.” We care about equitable outcomes for our college students, throughout all domains of literacy. We don’t argue that Hanford’s work is ideal, nor that foundational abilities instruction would be the silver bullet for academic (and even literacy) justice. However by way of our personal collective efforts, now we have discovered from the analysis Hanford has amplified, altering the way in which we educate early studying and accelerating each scholar’s entry to the alphabetic code and the wonders of literacy. We invite the 58 signatories of the latest letter — and the entire literacy group — to do the identical.
Greater than 650 present and former academics signed this letter, which was written by:
Bilingual intervention trainer, District of Columbia Public Colleges
Grade 3-5 studying intervention trainer, WA
Former particular schooling trainer in elementary and center college, present administrator, New York Metropolis Division of Training
Literacy coach, Nystrom Elementary, West Contra Costa Unified Faculty District, CA, and co-founder, Proper to Learn Challenge
Highschool trainer, Penn-Delco Faculty District, PA
Grade 7-8 trainer, Ontario, Canada
Former Fifth grade trainer, Gwinnett County Public Colleges, GA
Co-state director, Decoding Dyslexia CA, former elementary trainer and literacy coach
Proprietor, Designed to Educate Tutoring Companies, GA
Former elementary college trainer and studying specialist, NJ, present Ok-8 structured literacy dyslexia specialist, Netherlands
Kindergarten trainer, Ontario, Canada
Former Baltimore Metropolis Public Colleges trainer and administrator
Govt director of multilingual companies, Aldine Impartial Faculty District, TX
Kareem J. Weaver
Oakland NAACP schooling chair-elect, Oakland Unified Faculty District 20-year trainer (4-Fifth grade, bilingual) and principal.
Maria Murray, Ph.D.
President and CEO, The Studying League
24-year veteran trainer, studying advisor and creator, Know Higher, Do Higher
Kate Peeples, Ph.D.
Former particular schooling trainer and present particular schooling professor, Illinois State College
President and CEO of Neuhaus Training Heart
(Disclosure: The Hechinger Report is an impartial unit of Lecturers School at Columbia College, the place Calkins and a number of other different signatories of the letter “A name for rejecting the latest studying wars” function professors.)