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05 July 2014 @ 09:39 am
Balancing Act  
Phillipe Petit was one of the speakers at last week's ALA conference in Las Vegas. If you do not recognize the name, read THE MAN WHO WALKED BETWEEN THE TOWERS, a Caldecott winning book. I cannot comprehend someone walking a wire high above the pavement (or even close to the pavement for that matter). What is incomprehensible would be if Petit remained on the wire for years, decades. How long can one maintain "balance" over time?

That is the question that popped into my mind as I read a spate of pieces in the New York Times about "balanced literacy." Here is the link. You need to click to read all 7 pieces that contribute to the "debate." http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/07/02/the-right-approach-to-reading-instruction

Does anyone else recall this same "debate" when the phonics folks declared that whole language approach was a crock and that the only credible research strategies involved the "five pillars" of reading? You should recall this as CCSS is in part founded on this same flawed philosophy. And the NCTQ evaluations of ed prep programs looked for evidence of the same five pillars in the materials they "researched" for their analysis recently published in US News and World Report. Here is a link to the pillars: http://www.readinghorizons.com/research/five-pillars-of-reading-instruction-strategies.

But back to the NYT article. Here are some of the same old stale arguments from the same old "researchers" (ED Hirsch) about phonics being THE approach. Hirsch even includes research that has been roundly criticized. This seems about par for the course. While other voices here call for reason, it is the voice of Ebony Elizabeth Thomas that should be the clarion call: "Meaning is made by readers. No two readers decode and comprehend a text in the same way. With so many students, teachers and families in urban communities in crisis, not only does context matter, so do children’s lives."

Why are we still engaging in the reading wars? Why is the mounting research about choice and community and engagement being ignored STILL? Remember that the National Reading Panel made a conscious decision NOT to include some research including the research on the effectiveness of reading aloud. CCSS states it is based on research but that research is not easily accessed. Here is the result when I search for that research at the CCSS site:

"What evidence and criteria were used to develop the standards?
The standards made careful use of a large and growing body of evidence, including:
Scholarly research
Surveys on the skills required of students entering college and workforce training programs
Assessment data identifying college- and career-ready performance
Comparisons to standards from high-performing states and nations
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) frameworks in reading and writing for English language arts
Findings from Trends in International Mathematics and Science (TIMSS) and other studies, which conclude that the traditional U.S. mathematics curriculum must become substantially more coherent and focused in order to improve student achievement
The following criteria guided the development of the standards:
Alignment with expectations for college and career success
Consistency across all states
Inclusion of content and the application of knowledge through high-order skills
Improvement upon current state standards and standards of top-performing nations
Reality-based for effective use in the classroom
Evidence- and research-based

No links to the research. NOT. ONE. LINK.

So, again, I will ask: why are we debating? I have the research that underpins reading aloud, choice, community, engagement, and the rest. SHOW ME THE RESEARCH that suggests we should still need to debate.
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