If it is Tuesday, then it must be time for Eduflack to get up on his scientifically based reading soapbox. And while I am out of the country this week (down in Guatemala, preparing to bring our 13-month-old daughter home), the trip down South provided me with a great deal of time to catch up on reading and generally think.
Anyone who has read this blog or has generally been within the sound of my voice for the past decade knows that I am a passionate advocate for scientifically based reading instruction. We know what works to get kids reading. We know the instructional approaches and building blocks necessary for most kids. We know the interventions needed for the others. We know the content-focused professional development our teachers should be receiving. And we even know how to effectively measure student reading achievement and how to determine the true efficacy of a reading program, basal or otherwise.
We know what works. We know scientifically based reading works. And even if Reading First is destined for the great policy heap in the sky, we know that the core tenets of the program — the research base that was to guide instruction and evaluation — works too.
It isn’t just the rabid phonicators who are out there talking scientifically based, though. Case in point, this month’s edition of American Educator, the publication of record from the American Federation of Teachers. The Fall 2008 edition of American Educator has two terrific articles that are well worth the read. The first, authored by American Educator’s Jennifer Dubin, discusses the success of scientifically based reading in turning around performance in struggling schools in cities such as Richmond, Virginia. The second, authored by NWREL’s Teresa Deussen, Kari Nelsestuen, and Caitlin Scott, touts the initial impact Reading First is having on our schools and advocates for giving the controversial program a second chance.
Both articles can be found here: www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/issues/fall2008/dubin.pdf
I’m not going to provide my rhetorical musings on these pieces, because I think the work of the authors speaks for itself. What is important to note, however, is that AFT has long been a supporter of the notion of scientifically based reading. From their “Teaching Reading is Rocket Science” publications to their investment in classroom based reading to their support for the U.S. Department of Education’s Partnership for Reading Efforts from 2002-2005 (an effort Eduflack helped direct, at least on the communications side), AFT has long gotten it. AFT teachers know what works in the classroom, and its leadership has not been afraid to stand up and support it, even if it was unpopular with other education organizations or other teachers unions.
So a tip of the hat to AFT for publishing these two pieces, particularly in this political climate. Dubin’s piece, in particular, is an important read for those who want to understand how these recently released interim and final RF implementation studies actually relate to what’s happening in real classrooms across the country. And isn’t that what is most important?