Structured Literacy: The Teaching Approach to Reading that Science Recommends

 A new spotlight from Education Week is now available and it is about the Science of Reading.

A registration form is required to access the above spotlight.

It has been several decades yet schools are still not tuned to what science suggests regarding how we should teach reading to young children. Schools often exert effort on encouraging children to read books that they find interesting. Parents are asked to read to their children. Unfortunately, there is no focus on the method science tells us is most effective. Even here in Fairfax county, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) recently wrote to the school superintendent of the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS):

"Literacy is a human right. Without it, we are condemned to a life of greater struggle and fewer opportunities. We have waited long enough, and we refuse to wait even one more day."

The NAACP provided a litany that shows how FCPS has neglected black children for the past 14 years:

In 2006, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 20%. 

In 2007, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 19%. 

In 2008, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 16%. 

In 2009, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 14%. 

In 2010, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 12%. 

In 2011, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 11%. 

In 2012, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 10%. 

In 2013, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 22%. 

In 2014, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 21%. 

In 2015, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 18%. 

In 2016, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 19%. 

In 2017, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 19% 

In 2018, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 19%.

In 2019, the achievement gap in reading between Black and White students in FCPS was 18%. 

The above clearly shows that the district has failed to close the gap. The reason is simple according to the NAACP: FCPS has ignored the science of reading. This is what science says about teaching children how to read: "Structured Literacy is explicit, systematic teaching that focuses on phonological awareness, word recognition, phonics and decoding, spelling, and syntax at the sentence and paragraph levels."

The NAACP of Fairfax County makes their position clear:

Fairfax County NAACP Position 

In a recent Consortium on Reading Excellence (CORE) webinar presented by Kareem Weaver of the Oakland NAACP, the importance of structured literacy in teaching Black children, and mitigating factors that contribute to underperformance was emphasized: 

Black students have historically received inaccurate attributions of racial inheritance to explain their academic success and failure. Structured literacy, taught explicitly and systematically by skilled educators, provides the widest pool of students with the opportunity to develop strong foundational reading skills. It also helps lessen the impact of racial attribution by replacing biases and assumptions with objective guidance. This leaves less room for expectancy effects, helps educators identify challenges, and allows them to intervene in a timely manner. 

The Fairfax County Branch of the NAACP is committed to equity in education and to ensuring that all children are given an opportunity to excel academically. We stand ready to support division efforts to institute the foundational components of reading, spelling, and writing instruction for all students, in the K-3 classrooms. Doing so will drastically reduce the money FCPS will inevitably spend on special education and other interventions, discipline, and litigation. As universities update their teacher prep programs and divisions across the country begin to teach literacy with methods grounded in science, FCPS has the chance to stand at the forefront of this charge. Again, literacy is a basic human right, without which there is no freedom, and there is no justice. We ask you to do what is right, and to do it now. 

FCPS must address this now especially with one year of virtual classes. Teachers across the country admit how much more challenging it is to teach young children to read in a virtual environment:


A year without good instruction on reading will certainly disadvantage children from low-income homes. And we need to address this as soon as possible.


 

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