Resisting Efficiency in Literacy Instruction
“Third grade reading proficiency matters — enormously,” declares Mike Schmoker in How to Make Reading Instruction Much, Much More Efficient for Education Week.
When I saw this piece from 2019 pop up on my social media feed this week, I immediately noticed the subheading: “Scaling back small-group instruction would have dramatic improvements in literacy.”
Since Schmoker’s article fell solidly in the current “science of reading” crisis rhetoric and misguided reading policy being passed across the U.S., it certainly was poised to create even more harmful classroom level decisions for students and teachers.
Two aspects of this argument are compelling and misguided — the standard but false appeal to “third grade reading proficiency” and the prioritizing of “efficiency” for making instructional decisions.
Of course there are well documented correlations between third grade reading achievement and later negative educational outcomes for students (low reading achievement correlated with dropping out and low overall academic achievement, for example), but the traditional response to those correlations has resulted in over-reactions that do far more harm than good.
One of the worst over-reactions has been states adopting grade retention based on third grade reading assessments — despite grade retention having a causal relationship with students dropping out.
Doubling down on practices that increase students dropping out to address misunderstanding the research on third grade reading achievement is a profound failure in logic.
Some of the motivation for making these policy mistakes is that U.S. cultural norms are too often grounded in punishment. Many affluent and privileged people embrace the concept of grade retention as a way to insure that children are taught lessons about achievement and effort, but they also embrace punitive measures because they suspect grade retention, for example, will only impact “other people’s children.”
There is more than a little bit of racism and classism in the urge to embrace punitive schools and aggressive policing and legal systems.
But another source of making terrible policy decisions, especially about reading, is the core of Schmoker’s argument — determining instructional practices by prioritizing efficiency.
[Please continue reading HERE.]