Tuesday, March 4, 2008

“Experts” Without a Clue

Americans are gradually becoming aware of how poorly our students are doing compared to those in the rest of the world. In reading English, we are at or near the bottom in every international test. Same for math and science.

For some insight into the problem, let me quote from a recent article: “She studied to be an elementary teacher, taught in New Haven, CT public schools for 10 years and got a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, but Evelyn Russo says she was missing one crucial skill. She didn’t know how to teach children to read.”

That is the first paragraph of the lead article in the Hartford Courant on May 1, 2006. Ms. Russo says, “I had no clue how to teach them to lift words off a page, to increase their vocabulary…I didn’t know anything about fluency.”

This person taught elementary grades in CT public schools for ten years and had no clue how to teach children to read. Why? Because she went to a college where people like her “study” something called “education” but do not learn how to teach children to read. In fact, they don’t learn much of anything. They come out of those places believing they are experts and professional educators, but they have very little knowledge and do not have a clue about learning. Ms. Russo must have had at least 250children in her classes over those ten years and she did not know how to teach them to read.

It gets worse. During that period, she got a doctorate degree in something called “curriculum and instruction,” and yet she still had no clue how to teach the most fundamental skill in all of schooling – how to read.

I hope you understand what this means. It is this: None of the people who teach in public elementary schools in CT know how to teach children to read. Ms Russo is just one out of thousands of CT elementary teachers who have no clue how to teach children how to read.

The State department of education doesn’t know how to teach a child to read, and if someone told them, they would not pay any attention. Some of the world’s most knowledgeable reading specialists – even Sally Shaywitz, Yale’s noted brain researcher on reading skills -- have been telling them for years, but they stick to the methods that have always failed. The same is true for math, science and history.

Do you smell the crisis now, and do you sense that this astonishing fact is at the root of the crisis? I hope so. The problem has finally floated to the top of the first page of the state’s biggest newspaper. The people in charge of our children's education do not want to know. The horror for our country is that CT pretends to have “the best” school system in the nation. Is it possible that most other states can be worse? Yes.

8 comments:

Mrs. C said...

I didn't know you needed to learn to teach a child to read a certain way!

And here I'd just been doing it. I've probably traumatized my kids with my incorrect methodology LOL!

Honestly, I thought reading was a simple process. I didn't imagine that one would need an advanced degree to teach this skill to others. What am I missing??

dorislmurray said...

And I thought that I was the only one who was seeing and listening to what was happening in the public schools! I left public education before I completed my PhD in Education. What a waste of money! Parents are deceived. Students completing a degree in education are taken from remedial classes and placed into the college education system! I then had the "pleasure" of supervising in the schools in which they were placed. We have illiterates teaching illiterates! My wake up call came 25 years ago! I now teach international students to speak, read and write English! What a joy to teach those who want to learn!

Eastern Wind Academy said...

I taught my son to read without a degree in education. I used the phonics method and it was a very simple process. It took me a couple of months to get him reading at a basic level and he's now reading at a 4th grade level at the age of 7 with very little help from me.

Ned Vare said...

Dear Mrs. C.

I understand your skepticism. However, when such a low percentage of public school kids know how to read well, there is reason to wonder why. I turns out that the teachers have no idea how to teach it.

(Ironically, it turns out that today, the only people who don't know how to teach reading are public school teachers with those "advanced degrees.")

Our son taught himself to read at age three and could read the newspaper to me when he was four -- not that he wanted to or to show off. He had figured out the key, but many do not, and that is where a little teaching can help.

English is a phonetic language. As such, the 27 letters (and combinations) refer to the 44 sounds of our speech. Knowing the connection between letters and sounds is the key to reading. IF YOU CAN READ THIS, IT IS BECAUSE YOU UNDERSTAND PHONETICS. We hear those speech sounds in our heads even when we read silently.

Public schools skip the HOW of reading (phonics) and go directly to the MEANING of the text. That is folly because unless you know what the words on the page are, you cannot understand what they say. We need phonics to translate the printed words into speech sounds. That is how the language was created.

You are right, reading is simple, but without the key (phonics), it can be impossible.

Ned Vare said...

Dear Mrs. C.

I understand your skepticism. However, when such a low percentage of public school kids know how to read well, there is reason to wonder why. I turns out that the teachers have no idea how to teach it.

(Ironically, it turns out that today, the only people who don't know how to teach reading are public school teachers with those "advanced degrees.")

Our son taught himself to read at age three and could read the newspaper to me when he was four -- not that he wanted to or to show off. He had figured out the key, but many do not, and that is where a little teaching can help.

English is a phonetic language. As such, the 27 letters (and combinations) refer to the 44 sounds of our speech. Knowing the connection between letters and sounds is the key to reading. IF YOU CAN READ THIS, IT IS BECAUSE YOU UNDERSTAND PHONETICS. We hear those speech sounds in our heads even when we read silently.

Public schools skip the HOW of reading (phonics) and go directly to the MEANING of the text. That is folly because unless you know what the words on the page are, you cannot understand what they say. We need phonics to translate the printed words into speech sounds. That is how the language was created.

You are right, reading is simple, but without the key (phonics), it can be impossible.

Pamela LaRegina said...

Of course, you all realize that learning how to write is a fundamental, also. I see no evidence that anyone is learning how to write correctly--or sometimes, even at all. I hope to be addressing this issue more fully at a later date and will let you know when I am set to invite all to the information.
Meanwhile, thanks, Ned, for all your cogent commentaries and research. Can you guide me to some specific information about the educational rankings you refer to?
thanks

Carletta said...

I agree Mrs. C that teaching a child to read is simple. My mother taught me, I taught my son - why does this simple process confound public school educators who supposedly need more money and resources to be able to do it well?

If public schools actually knew what they were doing and were doing it well, perhaps they wouldn't need to FORCE people to use their services.

Did you see the recent CA decision?
http://www.hslda.org/hs/state/ca/200803060.asp

Andriy said...

Do you by any chance know of any other experts(Like yale graduates) in the math field? My mother is being harassed by educational "experts" and is forced to waste 2 hourse listening to their mediocre policies and methods(and the school is just so much in love with these experts. After all they are UT graduates!). Do you know of any harvard/yale/standford graduates who have points in math. We want to prove them wrong.