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.