Magazine article USA TODAY

Students "Poisoned" by Whole Language

Magazine article USA TODAY

Students "Poisoned" by Whole Language

Article excerpt

"Balancing phonics and whole language reading instruction is like balancing food and poison," declares Onkar Ghate, a senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, Irvine, Calif. In a recent episode that is becoming commonplace across the nation, an elementary school in Rockford, III., was ordered to discard direct instruction in phonics--despite the method's overwhelming success, maintains Ghate.

Thanks to phonics, ordinary third-graders at Lewis Lemon Elementary School scored near the top in statewide reading tests, their results bested only by students at a school for the gifted. However, the incoming school superintendent ordered that phonics instruction be replaced by "balanced literacy'--which mixes phonics with "whole-language" instruction.

In issuing his order, the superintendent is following the still-dominant voices in schools of education, Ghate suggests. Because "reading is such a complex and multifaceted activity," says Catherine Snow, professor of education at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., "no single method is the answer. …

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