We’ve all heard the tagline, reading is fundamental.

And it’s true. All the rest of schooling depends on the mastery of reading. Show me a child who keeps falling behind the class in middle school, and chances are good I’ll show you a child whose reading instruction at the primary and elementary level was a failure. The child was not a failure. The instruction was a failure.

Last week the Washington Post told us that the “Obama administration spent billions to fix failing schools, and it didn’t work.”

One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results, according to a federal analysis.

Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not.

Why do children have to be locked in schools where the instruction fails them? Teach them to read, for pity’s sake! And don’t tell me you need more money to do it. You need more effective instruction. You need to group kids based on their level of achievement or readiness, and then TEACH THEM TO READ, using direct instruction methods. Once you’ve done this, they will truly benefit from the educational opportunities our entire society claims to value so highly.

Evidence supports the effectiveness of direct or explicit instruction over more student-centered “discovery” learning. Don’t take my word for it; watch this talk by a research fellow in Australia. Better yet, look at this video produced by a network of low-cost private schools in North Carolina called Thales Academy.

Now look at this page of testimonials from Maine “literacy” teachers who apparently had no idea how to actually teach reading, not until they took a course on using direct instruction, that is. Why wouldn’t all primary and elementary school teachers have learned this as undergrads?

Using systematic, explicit methods from this model (direct instruction) has allowed me to unlock the code for so many of my students and, because of it, they are becoming readers.  I wish that I had learned this many years ago.  There are so many teachers like me who graduated with an elementary or special education degree who did not know how to effectively teach reading.  It would be my wish that all teachers take this class either in their undergraduate programs or graduate work for literacy, special education, or educational leadership.

We don’t need to increase what we spend on schools. We need to demand more effective instruction with the gobs of money we are already spending.

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One thought on “More direct instruction, please

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