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Education Reform

Myrna T. McCulloch

Monographs & Position Papers:

(you may republish any of these papers with proper credits given)

Those concerned with educational reform frequently wonder why more has not been accomplished; why the best intentions, more frequently than not, seemingly come to nothing. National attention was focused on the specific need for improvement with the 1983 federal report, A Nation at Risk. That document mentioned the word "reading" just once in the assessment of the overall problems we faced, but not at all in their recommendations for reform. We drew the obvious conclusion that this appraisal of the situation did not focus on the importance of language skill acquisition as a major part of the overall problem. Probably, then, it isn't much wonder that we do not see, in print, the various points we make in the following position papers.

"Phonetics - Spelling - Whole Language: How We Put Them Together for the Best of Both Worlds"

A practical solution to the current problems with whole language programs which are just not working well for large percentages of American students; we don't really have to redo everything. Let's take what's there and simply add what isn't there. Even the publishers shouldn't be all that upset if someone else makes them look good! (Print this monograph without the graphics which are printed elsewhere in this online publication. Referrals on the hard copy are yellow-lined and these need to be edited to reflect where to find them in this on-line publication).

"Phonics is Phonics is Phonics - Or Is It?"

The subject of "the great debate" remains undefined after some 40 years; we're still talking apples and oranges, folks; and you can throw in a few grapes and bananas, too. This one is a tongue-in-cheek spoof on how ridiculous it all is and why. Not for those who aren't ready to confront an "unvarnished" expose. For those who get "tweaked" a little, well . . . . what can I say? These things need to be said, finally, as does the next subject, whether or not they prove to be politically correct. Let's hope the "great information highway" turns out to be just that.

"The Four Sacred Cows"

This one is about the monopoly in curriculum, training, certification and on K-3 instructional time requirements. It's for those who hold "the purse strings" to change -- board members, legislators, foundation trustees, etc. If anti-trust statutes at the federal level were enacted to protect the consumer from monopolies in the market place, have you ever thought to wonder why we allow 22, no 21 (Georgia threw theirs out a few weeks ago) state boards in this country to preside over the monopolized selection of curriculum and methods of instruction which have never been proven to be safe, much less effective? Since a major reading program from one of the multi-million dollar publishing houses costs about $25 million to produce, whatever programs pass muster in California and Texas decide how the balance of American children will be taught to read. And where is Ralph Nader when we truly need him?

Why Bill Honig & the California State Department Can't Claim Ignorance About Textbook Adoptions and/or Whole Language:

Reprint of Professor Richard Anderson's 1988 testimony to the California State Board of Education on the subject of textbook adoption, whole language, phonics, etc. Note: Dr. Anderson was Director of The Center for the Study of Reading at the University of Illinois and chair of the distinguished group of reading professors who compiled some 40 years of reading research which had been published in Becoming a Nation of Readers (BNR) in 1985. A year later, the "Zorinsky Amendment" (by unanimous vote by the U.S. Congress in September of 1986) demanded that Secretary Bennett produce "a consumer information report" by holding public hearings on the subject, by examining every existing reading program to see whether (and how) they individually complied with this known research, how much each cost per pupil, etc. Though the federal Department of Education now claims this legislation has been fulfilled, the study described in the legislation has never been accomplished to date which is, in our opinion, the primary reason textbook selection committees at any level do not have the necessary information to make informed, research-validated decisions in their selection

Workbooks vs. Direct Instruction:

Basic skills can be taught in two ways - on worksheets or through direct instruction where teachers stand, present, illustrate, engage children in Socratic questions and answers, etc. There isn't time for both in today's busy classrooms. This essay examines which fits best with whole language or other literature and composition-based programs. Time management is essential to a school's efficiency. Read this for some new insights on the phonics vs. whole language war.

Helping Children Learn Phonemic AND Graphemic Awareness:

One of the current "buzzwords" in educational reform is that we have failed to teach "phonemic" awareness -- the ability to be very cognizant of what we are saying and hearing. Most would agree that this, indeed, is the first step to correct spelling and accurate, fluent reading. It is, however, not the interim or last step with which we should be equally concerned. This treatise advances the idea that phonemic awareness must be accompanied by graphemic awareness lest we forever make invented spellers and not-so-fluent readers. Consider that the sound "oo" as in the word "food," can be heard in, and will rhyme with, many other words such as:

do, dew, due, fruit, through, you, and shoe.

Just because you can hear that "oo" sound doesn't mean you can read, write or spell. Click on the title above to find out how we quickly teach both.