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Misreading reading: The bad science that hurts children

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Lisa Aristizabal

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Transcript of Misreading reading: The bad science that hurts children

Misreading Reading: THE BAD SCIENCE THAT HURTS CHILDREN
EDU-629
Meet the author...
Gerald Coles is an Ithaca, N.Y.-based educational psychologist who has written extensively on literacy and learning disabilities. His books include Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy, Legislation and Lies (Heinemann); Misreading Reading (Heinemann); and Reading Lessons: The Debate Over Literacy (Hill & Wang).
Chapter 1: Erecting the "Strong Consensus" and Chapter 2: Creating "the Culprit"
The author opens up the discussion in the introduction about placing too much confidence in initial research findings. Research claims to have found causal connections between early reading skills and reading itself, but in reality they are only correlations. Additionally, the studies ignored other factors that could have caused the identified “causes”. Allegedly, children who learned skills that were said to be “ pre-requisites to reading successfully, were not learning any better those who were not explicitly trained in those skills. So enters Scientific Based Reading Research (SBRR) as a means to dispute older models such as the Whole Language approach, without having examined the Whole Language Approach at all. The new SBRR calls for step-by –step, tightly controlled, direct, explicit, and systematic teaching in a predetermined sequence, a method superior to Whole Language. Just for the record Whole Language teachers believe that children lean best when the curriculum is meaningful and relevant to their lives. The Whole Language premise is that when children’s motivation for learning written language is that of oral language in that they desire to make meaning in order to communicate within a community of language learners. With this so called SBRR arsenal, legislation was introduced in 26 states encouraging direct, systematic phonics instruction and in California only approved providers could gain funds for the professional development programs, which coincidentally did not include whole language proponents. These approved providers were tied to state monies.

Chapter 3: The Foorman Study
In this chapter, The Foorman Study was discussed. This study was headed by psychologist Barbara Foorman, and it compared three different beginning reading teaching approaches to see which was most effective in advancing the reading achievement of Title I students. The main central focus was between Open Court, a district chosen reading program and whole language. However, there were three total different approaches compared. All teachers who were being compared, all received training in the summer prior to the research year and were also given supervision during the year. Students in all classes were tutored for thirty minutes each day, either one to one or in small groups. Open Court was named “direct code,” in the study. This group emphasized phonemic awareness and phonics and used decodable texts. The second group was called “Embedded Code” and while it also taught phonemic awareness, these skills were embedded in part of the reading and writing materials and activities. The third group was the control group and used the whole language approach and called “implicit code.” In this group, teachers served as facilitators rather than directors of learning. During reading the instructor taught specific skills that were part of the implicit reading materials, the skills were taught as part of reading and separately or directly.
At the end of the year, the study reported that direct code students did better statistically than students in the other groups in a measure of decoding using letter-word identification and word attack skills. These students also did better in tests of phonological processing and word reading. However, in spelling and reading comprehension, there were no huge differences among the three groups. When assessed using the FRI (Formal Reading Inventory,) the author expresses much concern that the reading miscue portion of the FRI was not used. It is believed that this could have skewed the data.

Reference:
Thank you!
Chapter 4: "Research-Based" Training Programs
This chapter discusses Barbara Foorman’s role in implementing and field-testing a curriculum known as the Lundberg program. Foorman also wrote a book with another author and colleague that had involvement with her program Open Court and Lundberg activities that deal with phonemic awareness. The main purpose of this chapter seems to be questioning Foorman’s validity as well as the validity of the program. While Foorman and Adams were evaluating the effectiveness, it can be questioned to whether they may be a little biased.
Chapter 6: "Brain Glitch"
Chapter 6 begins with stating that reading disabilities can be represented through a “disruption in the brain”. The author compares this to doctors identifying if an arm is broken through the viewing of an X-ray. Like this the brain can show where exactly the brain does not comprehend a reading technique. According to the author reading problems are associated with “atypical cortical activation” and this is usually in the language systems of the brain.

The chapter continues with giving information on the exact research done to verify the information above. The study was done on 29 dyslexic men and women. The study was dismissed because of the lack of information on each person studied. They did have some findings among the dyslexic subjects. Some of them showed similar areas of need. Sound structure was the area that correlated among most of the dyslexic subjects.

Overall the research demonstrated that there is an increase in brain activity in the language areas. For good readers the left part of the brain is activated and for dyslexic the right was activated. Finally; although this MRI research seems to be very valuable it is counted as worthless.

Chapter 8: The "Simple" Theory
This chapter discusses different approaches to teaching reading and phonological awareness skills. The different approaches range from drills, whole language approach and early literacy development. This chapter discusses how social class experience actually has an impact of the child’s ability to reading and write. Approaches to teaching literacy to low social class students needs to be rich with written language experiences and provide extensive literacy opportunities (Coles, 2000).

Application to the classroom and professional development- This chapter discusses a variety of different teaching methods and theories of teaching phonological awareness and early literacy skills. It is important to teach early literacy skills with a whole language approach that contains rich text and literacy opportunities for students. Not only do the students need to be taught with research based practices, it needs to be consistent throughout their years of learning. Teachers should be aware of their students’ economic backgrounds to ensure they are meeting the students’ learning needs.

As of 1998, the Senate passed the Reading Excellence Act (H.R. 2514), and the author states the act is commendable in its aim to provide grants to states for teacher in-service trainings, and after school tutoring for poor children, and family literacy programs. But further analysis from the author concludes that these buzzwords scientific and science are simply codes to encourage policies and legislation that align with the efforts of direct, systematic phonics instruction. The author’s point of view regarding these SBRR studies is that there are correlative and not founded in explaining the reasons why children are having difficulties with learning to read. The author says, “ If the research were simply clustered within professional journals and conferences- if it were solely “Pure” research seeking to determine causal influence on learning to read- it could be considered work poorly done but without injurious consequences”. The two claims in chapters 1 & 2 are related to phonemic awareness as a cause for lack of early reading achievement, and lack of understanding of the alphabetic principal (association of sounds to alphabet letters) is the primary reason for poor reading. The author meticulously pokes holes in many of the so-called SBRR done by Keith Stanovich, and others. Study after study the author points out the flaws in the studies which include: using participants from affluent social class and having higher test scores as compared to less affluent social class participants (Coles p. 19), using students who were retained, but with no explanation provided (Coles p. 21), associating ones inability to read single unknown words out of context, is a sign of a reading disability (Coles P. 22) and several other studies referenced in the text. All had serious flaws according to the author. These two chapters are about evaluating and analyzing studies that have correlations to identify why students are not able to read, but no real solid evidence to support the causes. The one thing the author points out is there are plenty of SBRR to support direct and systematic phonics instruction as a good way to help with acquiring the ability to read, but the lack of studies to dispute the whole language approach is not founded in science.

Chapter 5: "Coming Soon! Coming Soon!"
Chapter 5 begins with a summary of an Open Court Reading program in California. The author is explaining this program based on an article being read; the author uses quite a subjective tone to describe this study. The author makes statements referring to the Kindergarten subject as “Hawthorne effect”. Later in the intro the author questions the writer of the article and refers to the research that took place as a “single study”.
Later in the chapter the author continues to give the history of the Open Court Program of 1989. He also goes on with explaining how effective and ineffective the program had been. He continues on validating the research behind the Open Court Program. He states that a principal that adopted the program thought this program had a great combination of phonics and literature. There is; however, another program the principal didn’t research or mention why “Whole Language” wasn’t an option.
As a conclusion to chapter five the author summarizes the importance of having a Whole language approach rather than just a Open Court approach.

Chapter 7: A "Broad Heritability"
This chapter discusses research conducted to determine if reading problems are hereditary. NICHD conducted a study to determine if chromosome 6 had a reading disability among twins and among children who have parents with reading deficiencies. However, during these studies, “some gene markers were found among the families, but the researchers could not identify any way in which these might be inherited” (Coles, 2000, p. 80). This chapter concludes with the determination that there is no gene that determines phonological awareness and word recognition skills (Coles, 2000).

Application to the classroom and professional development- This chapter discusses the importance of relying solely on “bad science” and research that is not supported by data. From a professional development aspect when looking at this chapter it is important for teachers to look at all research based instruction to determine what is appropriate for their students learning. To apply this to the classroom, in order to help struggling readers, teachers should instruct students a variety of research based practices.

Chapter 9: Magic Markers
Chapter 10: Science and Children's Learning
This chapter focuses on what the author calls “the bad science” of teaching children to read. The author points out that “the researchers never ask what else is going on in schools, classrooms, children’s lives, the children’s minds, and social policy that produced the reading problems in the first place” (Coles, 2000, p. 103). The main concern was that politics plays a heavy role in the development and implementation of reading programs and interventions, with little regard to actual “science”. The author points out a specific reading initiative by Governor George W. Bush in Texas. The initiative focused on knowledge-based curriculum and “back to basics” phonics-driven instruction. The argument that the author has is that this initiative was focused on uplifting the poor but not focusing on the students as a whole and why they are not succeeding. The goals of these reading programs are narrow, and reinforce narrow instruction. The claim is that there needs to be wider goals for the masses. The chapter also goes into discussing the importance of the scientific method in research and how this reading initiative, and many others like it, are lacking the appropriate, in-depth, questions that need to be addressed prior to the development of reading programs.

The chapter suggests that teachers should limit direct-instruction in the classroom and to evaluate what types of children do certain types of reading instructional methods work and for how long. Teachers should consider many aspects of a student’s life in order to develop differentiated instruction. Some questions that a teacher should ask in order to effectively teach that are sometimes omitted from methodology of uniformity include:
What kinds of interactions occur between the children and teachers that could impair or promote learning?
How do children’s interests contribute to the learning process?
How does creative writing contribute to learning the alphabetic principle?
How does work in the basal readers used in the studies contribute to or impair literacy learning for individual children?

Ultimately, the chapter suggests that we should not depend on a reading program/initiative that is developed with politics in mind. We have to keep our focus on the whole child in our classroom.


Coles, G. (2000).
Misreading reading: The bad science that hurts children
. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Created By & Responsibilities:
S. Edeis S. Raburn D. Vera
Ch. 1 & 2 Ch. 3 & 4 Ch. 5 & 6

J. Noll L. Aristizabal
Ch. 7 & 8 Ch. 9 & 10
Chapter 1 & 2 Continued
In this chapter, the topic of social statuses amongst young learners is addressed. The chapter defends the idea that a student’s socioeconomic status is a precursor to their reading achievement. The author goes on to defend this by stating that students raised in a middle-class home have more access to literacy-rich activities at home and have parents who spend more time helping develop these activities. On the contrary, lower-class homes tend to have parents that are devoting more time to making ends meet than concentrating on reading to their children or role playing a reader’s theater with them. These homes also do not have the means to purchase books, computers, activities, etc. for students because their money is needed elsewhere. The chapter refers to students of middle-class status as having a “magic” ability to have phonemic awareness prior to entering school because of their exposure to vocabulary development and print and literacy concepts. Whereas, students who do not receive that early exposure at home tend to enter school struggling with phonemic awareness. Not only does the author state that action needs to be made to help students that come from lower-class environments, but school districts to help find ways to provide assistance to these families to help build their literacy at home.

Since the chapter addresses issues that take place outside the classroom that teachers cannot control, a suggestion is made that teachers should be aware of their students’ socioeconomic status. The reason teachers should be aware of the social class of students is so they can give extra assistance to them to build their phonemic awareness. Teachers must also keep in mind that these parents cannot always participate in extra help at home. If these parents of lower-class statues can find the time, teachers should send home extra books, alphabet cards, ABC books, sound games, etc.

These two chapters are about evaluating and analyzing studies that have correlations to identify why students are not able to read, but no real solid evidence to support the causes. The one thing the author points out is there are plenty of SBRR to support direct and systematic phonics instruction as a good way to help with acquiring the ability to read, but the lack of studies to dispute the whole language approach is not founded in science.
Point of View
Group's Perspective on the Point of View...
Point of View
Group's Perspective on Point of View...
“The commercial and professional connections of the authors of this phonemic-awareness program raise legitimate questions about these authors’ objectivity when researching this and other instructional materials” (p. 42).
Point of View
Group's Perspective on Point of View...
Point of View
Group's Perspective on Point of View...
Point of View
Group's Perspective on Point of View...
Point of View
Group's Perspective on Point of View...
Point of View
Group's Perspective on Point of View...
Point of View
Group's Perspective on Point of View...
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“The research excludes consideration of numerous facets of children’s lives that vitally influence their literacy achievement” (Coles, 2000, p. 100).
Lisa: All stakeholders in education need to be aware of the whole child (socioeconomic status, race, disabilities, abilities, etc.) in order to help them reach their highest potential.

Jaime: Like previously stated in Chapter 9, having an understanding of the whole child is important to provide instruction for a specific child.

Dulce: I couldn’t agree more. This is the section of the text that sums up our education.

Sylvia: My point of view is I support this statement 100%.

Shelly: If there are vital pieces of research excluded, then in my opinion the data is not valid.
Lisa: Educators cannot blame student achievement on socioeconomic status' but find ways to help them succeed regardless.

Jaime: Teachers need to have an understanding of where children come from and their background but they should not hold that as an excuse. They should use to drive their instruction.

Dulce: I feel that SES does play a major role in student reading achievement; yet, teachers should be prepared with teaching strategies for these students.

Sylvia: My point of view is that individuals with higher SES are able to provide more resources as compared to individuals of lower SES.

Shelly: We all know that resources available to children outside of school will affect their learning. This also lends itself to background knowledge, which is a huge piece in comprehension.
“…social class experiences influence how and the extent to which children learn reading skills” (Coles, 2000, p. 92).
Lisa: The whole language approach helps facilitate literacy when used along side other approaches that cater to that student.

Jaime: It is important to teach early literacy skills with a whole language approach that contains rich text and literacy opportunities for students.

Dulce: In my opinion, social class has a major role with reading development; although there are cases of students that prosper regardless of social class.

Sylvia: My point of view is I agree that the WL approach is a good way to meet the needs of learners, and I also support an element of phonics too.

Shelly: Children most definitely need a rich, high quality written language as an extension to their learning. If a student can successfully give a written explanation of their work
Students should be taught using the whole language approach that is rich written language and high quality.
Lisa: There are many factors that effect a child's phonological awareness or word recognition.

Jaime: Teachers must not rely on the bad science, they must be aware of what the actual research shows.

Dulce: I agree with Sylvia below; I also wonder what the outcome would have been if this study was done on language acquisition.

Sylvia: My Point of view is this is true as neuroscience studies suggest that human brains are not hardwired to read, as they are hardwired to learn language.

Shelly:Language is only partially genetic. There are many skills that have to be taught that children are not born with
“No gene determines phonological awareness or word recognition because there is not that kind of specificity for the details of language” (Coles, 2000, p. 81).
Lisa: Realizing that each child's brain activity, approaches to learning, and development act in different ways, is crucial in helping students achieve

Jaime: Having the understanding that each child’s brain acts differently is important to know when teaching to the students individual needs.

Dulce: In my opinion these research findings should be further researched. It is evident that the correlation in brain activity and reading discrepancy could help teachers and students with reading development.

Sylvia: My point of view is that certain areas of the brain do show signs of increased activity on PET Scans, but the fact still remains, human brains were not designed to read.

Shelly:Language encompasses so many areas. A good curriculum must increase brain activity in not only the language areas, but all areas.
Overall the research demonstrated that there is an increase in brain activity in the language areas.
Lisa: Just as teachers can use phonics along with sight word knowledge, both approaches can lend itself merit.

Jaime: Whole language approach to teaching reading is important to look at.

Dulce: In my opinion the author is leaning toward a whole language approach. I feel that she is correct; the research provided in the text shows a lack of support to the open approach as a single type of curriculum.

Sylvia: My point of view is I think the Whole Language approach has merit and has simply been forced to the side.

Shelly: Open Court was just one particular Reading program that incorporated different approaches. In my opinion, there were integral pieces of instruction missing from Open Court.

As a conclusion to chapter five the author summarizes the importance of having a Whole language approach rather than just an Open Court approach.
Lisa: There are many aspects that effect a student's ability to read, that are not always based off of science.

Jaime: A child’s ability to read is determined by many different factors in life.

Dulce: I agree with the authors view on the whole language approach; Students do learn best when the curriculum scaffolds from background knowledge.

Sylvia: My point of view is there is a possible connection between the two approaches, where literature is whole language based embedded with phonics instruction.

Shelly: The whole language approach has been debated a lot in the last seven years that I have been teaching. I always enjoy reading the research behind different programs, but this book made me really question who are completing evaluations of these programs.
Lisa: We have to consciously be aware that researcher's are driven by some entity in their work and sometimes they can be biased.

Jaime: Not all research is accurate and scientifically based, teachers must be aware of this when looking for strategies to use for teaching practices and methods.

Dulce: Although this research has the correct motive it seems to have been put together in a biased manner.

Sylvia: My point of view is that researchers are quick to unleash their so-called findings without evaluating their research more objectively.

Shelly: It definitely raises an eyebrow as to whether or not the author’s were a little biased since they wrote the program. I would have a problem with the validity as a classroom teacher.
Lisa: All stakeholders in education should not rely heavily on everything they read to be "research-based".

Jaime: Again like previously stated in Chapter 3, teachers must be aware of the research they are using to drive their instruction.

Dulce: I question the research done here, I do agree that the research should be evaluating for validity.

Sylvia: My point of view is the researcher created methods within her research to manufacture a desired outcome to further validates her program that she created.

Shelly: I do not understand how someone can effectively evaluate their own program and not have personal opinions as part of the evaluation.
The author Coles, questions Foorman’s program and also the validity of her claims as she was a creator of the program.
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