We heard an awful lot of nonsense from the education community in the early days of KERA. They warned us that drill would only kill the urge to learn in our students. That turned out to be bad advice for math instruction, and it was bad for reading, too.
In the specific area of reading instruction, Kentucky’s educators pushed now largely disregarded “Whole Language Reading” concepts that said kids learned to read naturally in the same way they learn to speak English. They said that kids would learn spelling, punctuation and grammar naturally, as well. Our educators asserted there was no need for a lot of drill and practice.
Flash forward to today, and all of that reading “stuff” our educators once confidently believed in is now regarded as wrong. The evidence from reading programs in Northern Kentucky that I talked about in Part 3 of this blog series confirms that.
However, many teachers from that early KERA era are still in our school systems. Still more were going through ed schools during that early KERA period and graduated with the same erroneous ideas. Some of those educators produced and helped support the testing accommodation of reading the reading assessments to our kids.
Could this tie into the current squabble about reducing readers on the state assessments?
While some teachers complain to legislators about pulling readers from learning disabled students, the Northern Kentucky experience shows a significant number of kids who have been carried for even a long time essentially as non-readers can be taught to read.
Giving up on teaching reading, even to high school students, should not be an option.
Unfortunately, the fervent push by Kentucky educators to continue extensive use of the reading accommodation for learning disabled students in Kentucky leads to concerns that not every school system is being so aggressive as those in Northern Kentucky about recovering students who in fact can be taught to read. That can lead to a lot of kids – thousands each year – who leave our schools as non-readers when in fact a better outcome for them is possible.
So, maybe it’s time to put on more pressure on our schools. And, considering the remarkable improvement being obtained in Northern Kentucky after even a single year of effective instruction for non-reading students, every year we delay putting on that pressure to move to modern methods of teaching reading could wind up dooming thousands more of our kids to a lifetime of illiteracy and all the baggage that entails.
Time is of the essence, and for kids in school now, especially in our high schools, it is running out.