If the conditions for student learning are present except for money, an infusion of funding would correct deficiencies. If conditions for student learning are not present, increased funding will have no effect on student learning outcomes.
While inflation-adjusted school spending has nearly tripled and the number of school employees has almost doubled since 1970, math and verbal skills have declined 3 percent on average. (Andrew J. Coulson, State Education Trends CATO Institute 3/18/14)
The average math student in the 65 countries/economies of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development was 11% more knowledgeable than the average United States student. The gap was just 7% in 2009. (William T. Lynch Ph.D., Wall Street Journal 12/16/13)
Effective curriculum and instruction are the key elements necessary for student achievement/mastery of content.
Literacy is the foundation for all learning. Yet teacher training is not aligned with the reading research. (National Council on Teacher Quality 2006) An insider shared with me: If teacher education schools taught phonics-based reading instruction “they would lose their money.” Meeting with deans at colleges of education revealed they receive federal funding to research phonics as a special education intervention.
Whole word and Balanced reading instruction cripples the brain in some students more than others. Those who have been crippled and are not reading by third grade enter the sphere of special education. In special education classes, students receive intensive phonics instruction in an attempt to reverse damage inflicted in the earlier grades.
Phonics-based reading instruction enables students to learn how to read in a matter of a few months. Watch this 20 minute video of Gering, Nebraska’s kindergartners’ mastery of reading by Thanksgiving.
In the early grades it is vital students are first taught the letters of the alphabet, the sounds they make and rules for pronunciation: phonics. Those skills must be learned to the point of automaticity before any other nonsense is introduced. Securing those phonics, left-brain connections protects the child against failing strategies practiced in schools (Reading in the Brain, Dehaene 2009). Phonics reading instruction creates the conditions necessary for student learning to take place.
It is fairly simple to observe and determine if your child is being reading-crippled in the early grades. Learning whole words as though they were pictures or word shapes are right- brain, reading-crippling activities.
Visit your child’s classroom. Do you observe:
- whole words prominently displayed on the walls and used in flash cards?
- children encouraged to wear headphones and watch the words as they listen to a book being read?
- children word-guessing while “reading”? This is pointless. A child taught correctly (phonics) will sound-out the unknown word letter by letter.
Tell the teacher and school you don’t want your child to be exposed to those crippling strategies until your child has first learned to read proficiently through phonics-based instruction.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress 2013 reports just 37% of Nebraska fourth graders proficient and above in reading, 45% in math.
The conditions necessary for student learning to take place are not present in our schools.
We must fix that, first.