A SPECIAL SECTION ON READING RESEARCH - Motivation and Commitment in the Interest of Science and Children

Article excerpt

As editors of The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research, Ms. McCardle and Ms. Chhabra explain their reasons for putting the book together and answer the criticisms of Elaine Garan and Stephen Krashen.

WHEN WE decided to edit a book and to invite authors to contribute to it, we wanted it to be a book for teachers. As stated in the first chapter, our motivation was to empower teachers to judge research worthiness for themselves.1 We feel that it is important for teachers to know why particular research questions require different types of research methods. Teachers are in the forefront of education, teaching students daily and continuously being asked to make instructional decisions. The entire second section of The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research is dedicated to presenting information on research methods used to provide evidence, with chapters addressing the importance of 1) scientific evidence, 2) research questions and the designs and methods most appropriate for addressing them, 3) longitudinal research, 4) meta- analysis and criteria for judging the trustworthiness of the analysis, and 5) the appropriateness of the clinical trials model in educational research. The authors, some of whom are researchers funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and some of whom are not, put significant effort into sharing information about how and why they do their research in the way they do. Their goal was to provide information to teachers, educational administrators, and other nonresearchers so that they might better understand how to judge the validity of research findings and how best to implement converging research evidence in the development of early identification and intervention programs and classroom instruction.

In her brief history of the National Reading Panel (NRP), Elaine Garan posits a motivation for The Voice of Evidence -- that we felt pressured to compile the book by growing resistance to the No Child Left Behind Act. As we note above, that was never our motivation. We simply wanted to answer many of the questions teachers have asked us and to provide information in a coordinated way that could reduce their dependence on the views of others and enable them to make decisions based on fact rather than opinion.

In what are represented as critiques of The Voice of Evidence, Garan and Stephen Krashen address only two of the book's 19 chapters: those by the late Steven Stahl on reading fluency and by Timothy Shanahan on criticisms of the NRP report.2 Disappointingly, much of the book is not even acknowledged. For example, in Section IV, "Reading Research Evidence in the Classroom," lead authors Louisa Moats, Barbara Foorman, John Guthrie, and Joseph Torgesen, with their multiple co-authors, address professional development, teacher time allocation in the classroom, motivating students, and findings from intervention studies.3 This section should be highly interesting to teachers and administrators. Section V, "Neuroimaging and Brain Research," was included because teachers are interested in and excited about the fact that the instruction they provide can have a real, observable impact on both reading development and brain function. Finally, Section VI includes information on how policy gets made. We thought teachers, administrators, and others would want to know these details, since policy is ultimately reflected in the classroom. We also highlight in our last chapter some new and ongoing research programs designed to provide scientific evidence in the areas of English-language learning, early literacy and school readiness, and adolescent and adult literacy.

The vast majority of the criticisms leveled by Garan and by Krashen focus on the original NRP report.4 It is important to note that The Voice of Evidence is not a report by the NRP. In fact, only three of the book's 19 chapters are directly based on the NRP report.5 We felt that it was important to include these chapters because the NRP findings represent solid research analysis that has set a precedent for future research efforts (as indicated in the last chapter of the book) and has informed the workings of a number of national panels. …