Wednesday, January 09, 2019

It's the Phonics, Stupid

Studying why kids can't read, some teachers have rediscovered a tried-and-true method

Nothing imperils our nation’s future more than our education system. A reasonably educated populace would have little use for orchestrated polarization, gutter-mouth politics, the cultural sewage that passes for popular entertainment, and the complete abandonment of decency, decorum, and common sense that is now the norm.

Nothing reinforces that norm more effectively than raising a nation of American students who cannot read.

The numbers are stark: 32% of fourth-graders and 24% of eighth-graders aren’t reading at a basic level, while 37% are proficient or advanced, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress’s (NAEP) 2017 assessment. Remarkably — or is that pathetically — 37% represents the high-water mark for proficiency. When the NAEP began assessing literacy stats in 1992, only 29% of students had proficient or advanced reading skills.

A recent article written by Emily Hanford is a real eye-opener because it inadvertently reveals an astounding level of denial on the part of the Educational Establishment. An Establishment so enamored with “cutting edge” educational theories they have been willing to sacrifice the futures of millions of students to validate them.

It tells the story of Jack Silva, chief academic officer for public schools in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In 2015, Silva was deeply concerned that only 56% of third-graders were proficient in reading, according to state tests. In beginning his journey toward improving that outcome, he hit his first ideological roadblock. “One excuse that educators have long offered to explain poor reading performance is poverty,” Hanford writes. “In Bethlehem, a small city in Eastern Pennsylvania that was once a booming steel town, there are plenty of poor families. But there are fancy homes in Bethlehem, too, and when Silva examined the reading scores he saw that many students at the wealthier schools weren’t reading very well either.”

It seems neither Silva nor Hanford are familiar with Thomas Sowell. In an article published several years ago, Sowell not only debunks the poverty myth, he reveals that the now-infamous minority achievement gap in reading and other academics didn’t exist until the 1950s. And he explains exactly what happened. “The quest for esoteric methods of trying to educate these children proceeds as if such children had never been successfully educated before,” he writes, “when in fact there are concrete examples, both from history and from our own times, of schools that have been successful in educating children from low-income families and from minority families.”

Silva was apparently unfamiliar with those concrete examples, so he tasked his new director of literacy, Kim Harper, with discovering the roots of the ongoing failure.

What she discovered should surprise no one. Attending a professional-development day at one of the district’s lowest-performing elementary schools, Harper learned that actual reading was largely irrelevant. For example, if a child was reading a picture-book story about a “horse” and said “house,” the child was corrected. However, if the child said “pony” that was considered correct — because horse and pony mean the same thing.

Except that they don’t. Moreover, Harper wondered what a child would do if there were no pictures to aid their reading efforts. “The contextual guessing approach is what a lot of teachers in Bethlehem had learned in their teacher preparation programs,” writes Hanford in an updated article for NPR. “What they hadn’t learned is the science that shows how kids actually learn to read.”

That article ultimately gets to the “radical” scientific method that proved successful. At Bethlehem’s Calypso Elementary School in March 2018, veteran teacher Lyn Venable promised six children she was going to teach them something “brand spanking new.” Using a story about pets and what they do, she taught a student how to associate sounds with the various letters that made up the word “bark.”

In other words, this “brand spanking new” approach to reading was phonics. And in a testament to the current state of education, many of the teachers referenced in the article has never heard of phonics, which was presented to them as a “new, science-based” approach to reading.

New? “In 1955, Rudolf Flesch published a book titled Why Johnny Can’t Read, and What You Can Do About It,” wrote Laurie Endicott Thomas in a 2012 column. “Flesch explained that the only sensible way to teach anyone to read English, or any alphabetic language, is to teach them the relationships between letters and sounds, then teach them how to combine those sounds into words. He called it intensive phonics.”

Both Thomas and Flesch insist ideology had nothing to do with the Education Establishment abandoning what worked. “I am not one of those people who call them un-American or left-wingers or Communist fellow travelers,” Flesch stated. Thomas agreed. “The people who led the anti-phonics crusade were the ones getting the big royalty checks from the publishing companies and who were depending on wealthy philanthropists for their jobs and for the funding for the colleges where they worked,” she insisted, further stating that people who serve the upper middle class at the expense of the working class “are being bourgeois, not left-wing.”

Nonsense. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) respectively contribute 100% and 98.6% of their campaign donations to Democrats. That would be the same NEA that stated the following policy standard — in 1936: “We stand for socializing the individual.”

At the college level, a study by the National Association of Scholars reveals 39% of surveyed schools did not have a single Republican faculty member, and among the 8,688 full-time professors with Ph.D.s taken from a sample of 51 of the 60 top-ranked liberal arts colleges, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 10 to one.

That’s as left-wing as it gets.

Their ultimate goal? Fundamental transformation. “Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity,” stated the late Harvard University Professor and psychiatrist Dr. Chester Pierce at the International Education Seminar — held in 1973. “It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well by creating the international child of the future.”

Educational Establishment icon — and avowed socialist — Thomas Dewey was even clearer. “You can’t make socialists out of individualists,” he declared. “Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society, which is coming, where everyone is interdependent.”

International, interdependent, children of the future who can’t think for themselves, lest they spoil societal harmony? Children who must eschew American exceptionalism and faith in a higher power, lest they be deemed mentally ill? Most Americans are still inclined to see the failure of our Education Establishment, or more accurately, our Democrat Education Complex, as some combination of incompetence and ineptitude.

When six in 10 school kids remain well on their way toward functional illiteracy — and the dumbing-down of curriculums that accommodate it — nothing could be further from the truth.


Parents File Suit Against School District That Wants To Allow Teachers To Carry Guns

Parents and a grandparent filed a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania school district on Thursday over a policy allowing teachers to carry guns in school.

Tamaqua Area School District in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, approved the policy in September 2018, according The Associated Press reported Friday. The policy allows teachers, staff and administration to carry district-issued guns after going through the appropriate training.

The lawsuit claims approving the policy “endangered their community” and broke state law.

“It’s uncharted territory, but there is no law that says we can’t have legally trained armed staff,” school board member Nicholas Boyle said, WHYY reported.

State law allows campuses to have trained school resource officers or school police, The AP reported.

Executive director for gun control group CeaseFirePA, Shira Goodman, said she found the district’s interpretation of the law questionable, WHYY reported.

“I would say it’s not at all clear that they can be doing this,” Goodman said, according to WHYY.

Boyle said that the initiative would make the rural school district less vulnerable against an attacker, according to WHYY.

“The rationale for the policy is to prevent the apocalypse,” Boyle said, The AP reported. “When we have a shooter in the building, how are we going to stop that shooter from killing more and more and more people? We have to have an armed presence there.”

The school district, which is nearly 90 miles away from Philadelphia, is believed to be the first in the state to pass a policy where teachers could be armed in school, The AP reported. Boyle said the district has not received push back from the state.

Teachers in Missouri, Texas and Ohio are allowed to be armed in school, according to The AP. Other states are considering the option.

The debate around guns in school was amplified after President Donald Trump called on arming teachers following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, 2018.

The Parkland, Florida, shooting left 17 students and staff members dead. A state commission’s report on the deadly shooting recently recommended arming teachers.

Tamaqua Area School District did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.


Australia: Brisbane private schools raise tuition fees up to three times inflation rate

Note that these are tuition fees, not boarding fees.  And they are getting close to the average wage.  There is a strong belief in private schools in Queensland, however, so those who can afford it will.  News of low discipline levels in government schools will help the committment to private schools.  If all Catholic schools are included, 40% of Australian teenagers go private.  Families save up for it.

The expensive private schools do ensure that there will be a relatively impenetrable economic elite in Australia -- which is generally deplored -- but while the government schools are so chaotic, that will continue.  No Queenslander with financial options would be likely to send his kids to a government school.  But while  Leftist ideas of educational methodology rule government schools they will reinforce a two-speed educational system.  Left-run schools are the enemy of social mobility.  Despite being "free", they provide very little competition to the private schools

PRIVATE schools across Brisbane will raise tuition fees this year by two to three times the rate of inflation.

Brisbane Boys’ College, which is owned by the scandal-stricken Presbyterian and Methodist Schools Association, will increase fees by 6.3 per cent in 2019 – more than three times the inflation rate of 1.9 per cent.

The school will charge $23,300 for high school students this year – $1384 more than last year’s tuition costs.

Its sister school, Clayfield College, will increase its Year 12 fees to $18,330, a 3.5 per cent increase.

Somerville House, another PMSA school, will increase fees by 3 per cent to $22,680.

The increases follow controversies over PMSA finances, a data security breach, lewd texts and the dismissal of Somerville House principal Flo Kearney last year.

Elite Catholic girls’ school Stuartholme will increase fees by $1092 to $19,176.

Queensland’s most expensive private school, Brisbane Grammar – which charged senior students $25,900 last year after making a $7.9 million surplus – has not published its 2019 fees.

But its sister school, Brisbane Girls’ Grammar, will increase fees for senior students by 3.2 per cent to $24,910 in 2019. The elite girls’ school made a $2.1 million surplus in 2017 and paid principal Jacinda Euler a $476,483 salary package.

Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said governing bodies tried to keep fees down, but rising costs, including increasing teacher wages, forced them up.

“Queensland independent school governing bodies are responsible for setting school fees each year, with fee levels varying from school to school depending on a range of factors such as their curriculum offerings, size of their teaching and non-teaching workforce, student needs and future plans,” Mr Robertson said.

“Boards strive to main affordable fee levels for their communities. They carefully consider the circumstances of their parent communities, their school’s level of public funding and the broader economic environment...

“Independent school boards are very conscious of the investment and sacrifice many families make for their children’s education, and endeavour to set tuition fees that are affordable for their communities, while at the same time balancing increasing staff wages, technology and other costs.

“Continuing increases in enrolments in the independent sector confirm that parents value the education provided by independent schools.

“Staff salaries, which account for about 70 per cent of school costs — and have been growing at rates above CPI, depending on the school’s enterprise bargaining arrangements — are a significant factor in school fee levels.

“Many independent schools offer scholarships or bursaries, sibling discounts and all-inclusive fee options to ensure an independent education is available to as many Queensland families as possible.”

Good Education Group’s Sam Sapuppo said parents may be unaware of hidden costs that could increase quickly. “These hidden costs could be the increasing costs of OH&S,” he said.

“Some educational costs shouldn’t be considered ‘additional costs’ but rather should be considered part of a holistic learning experience, what schools these days are calling ‘learning beyond the classroom’ such as excursions, camps, extra curricular activities, technology programs.”


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