Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Editor's Page - No Quick and Dirty Fixes

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Editor's Page - No Quick and Dirty Fixes

Article excerpt

THERE ARE a couple of strange notions abroad in the land. The first is that there is one best way to teach children. And the second is that quick, cheap fixes will solve the problems of education. Every good teacher recognizes both notions as badly mistaken, but politicians and businesspeople persist in touting them to an unwary press and public.HHHHH

The April 1999 report of the National Reading Panel (NRP) is a case in point. Kappan readers know a lot about that report, and none of the knowledge builds confidence in the report's findings. In the March 2001 Kappan, Elaine Garan detailed the flaws in the NRP report on phonics. Stephen Krashen followed up in the October 2001 issue with his critical analysis of the NRP report on fluency. Last month, reading researcher Gerald Coles added his voice to the chorus. By now, the NRP report ought to be a dead issue. Unfortunately, the report still has cachet where it counts.

The NRP report was spawned by Congress, which in 1997 asked the director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to appoint a panel to conduct a comprehensive investigation of research on reading. Writing in the U.S. Department of Education's April 2001 Community Update, G. Reid Lyon, chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch at NICHD, praised the report as a resource that can help teachers "discriminate between research that can be trusted and research that cannot be." Lyon went on to recount his own experiences as a third-grade teacher in the mid-1970s, dealing with many students who were not yet competent readers.

"The university courses that I had taken to become certified as an elementary school teacher led me to believe these youngsters would learn to read when they were ready," he wrote. "Likewise, my school's reading curriculum was based on the assumption that learning to read was a natural process, similar to learning to listen and speak. …

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