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|May 2001||Volume 1, Number 5|
Charles Arthur, M.S.Ed. /
President and Executive Director / Mastery Learning Institute / Portland, OR Virginia P. Baxt, Ed.D. /
President / Education Agenda, Inc. Wayne Bishop, Ph.D. /
Professor of Mathematics / Department of Mathematics / California State University-Los Angeles William L. Brown, Ph.D. /
Director of Institutional Assessment / Lansing Community College Guy Bruce, Ed.D. /
President, APEX Consulting / Assistant Professor, St. Cloud State University Louis Chandler, Ph.D. /
Professor & Chairman / Department of Psychology in Education / University of Pittsburgh Andrea Clements,Ph.D. /
Professor / College of Education / East Tennessee State University Donald Crawford, Ph.D. /
Education Specialist / Otter Creek Institute Nathan Crow, B.A. /
School Administration Consultant / Education Consumers Consultants Network George K. Cunningham, Ph.D. /
Professor / School of Education / University of Louisville Mary Damer, M.Ed. /
Instructor & Student Teaching Supervisor / Northern Illinois University Jerome Dancis, Ph.D. /
Associate Professor / Department of Mathematics / University of Maryland-College Park Edwin J. Delattre, Ph.D. /
Professor / College of Arts & Sciences / Professor & Dean Emeritus / School of Education / Boston University Benjamin F. Eller, Ed.D. /
School of Education / Western Carolina University Lucien Ellington, Ed. D. /
Professor & Co-director, Asia Program / College of Education and Applied Prof. Services / University of Tennessee at Chattanooga John Eshleman, Ed.D. /
Apex Consulting David R. Feeney, Ed.D. /
Director of Digital Education / Fox School of Business & Management / Temple University Carol C. Gambill, M.Ed. /
Director-Special Projects / Curriculum & Instruction / Tennessee Department of Education Patrick Groff, Ed.D. /
Professor of Education Emeritus / San Diego State University Bonnie Grossen, Ph.D. /
Professor, College of Education / University of Oregon Richard Gruetzemacher, Ed.D. /
Director / Planning, Evaluation, and Institutional Research / University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mark Y. Herring, Ed. D. /
Professor & Dean of Libraries / Winthrop University
Instruction and the Teaching of Early Reading, Wisconsin's Teacher-Led
Everyone knows reading is the foundation of learning. Students know it. Parents know it. Teachers know it. So why isn'tit taught using only the most carefully tested methods?
Direct Instruction (DI) is arguably the most extensively tested method for teaching reading. It is not the only effective method, but it is one that has been shown to work with both advantaged and disadvantaged students alike. Newly trained teachers in Wisconsin (the focus of the featured report) know little about it, however, because it is not taught in most schools of education. DI is not consistent with the pedagogical theories favored by education professors.
Despite clear evidence of DI's effectiveness, some professors claim that it is only for the disadvantaged, others that it is dated and might be damaging, and one group even suggests that DI might induce criminal behaviour. Clearly, such arguments stem from something other than evidence and logic.
Contrary to its depiction by teacher-educators, DI is not only effective, but students enjoy it. They enjoy seeing themselves make progress in decoding skills and comprehension. Competition among classmates thrives, and classroom behavior problems decline as children's efforts focus on learning.
More importantly, reading well early enables students to gain far more from their subsequent schooling.
The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute's Report, Direct Instruction and the Teaching of Early Reading, Wisconsin's Teacher-Led Insurgency, examines the spread of DI reading instruction among Wisconsin's teachers and the positive outcomes it has produced. It examines what DI is, why it is an efficient teaching tool, and why it continually encounters obstacles.
DI is a highly structured, systematic teaching method (which is what education professors don't like about it). It is teacher-directed and based on the concept that careful, stepwise instruction minimizes error and accelerates learning. DI is used to teach a variety of academic subjects but it is especially effective with early reading skills.
Experimental studies and field trials conducted over the past 25 years have repeatedly demonstrated DI's superiority. Research concluded in 1999 by the American Institute for Research found that DI and two other approaches were the only ones of 24 school-wide reform models that showed positive effect on student achievement. And the federally funded Project Follow Through, the largest experiment in teaching methods ever undertaken, showed DI to be far superior to eight other approaches for teaching disadvantaged children.
Despite solid evidence of effectiveness, teacher-training programs all but ignore DI. The survey of first year teachers in Wisconsin undertaken by Schug, et al showed that only 12 percent had received training that empahsized DI. New teachers who learned about DI mostly got their knowledge from classroom teachers during student teaching practice.
One reason DI isn't popular with professors may be that it is not easy to learn. Many teachers say DI is "slow, repetitive, and boring;" and, in fact, it is for the novice user. Proficiency requires considerable practice. The good news, however, is that DI leaves children smiling with satisfaction. They see themselves making progress and they experience a feeling of accomplishment--an outcome that ultimately rewards the teacher as well.
DI has other advantages. As the WPRI report observes, costs of remedial instruction have become prohibitive. In Michigan, for instance, over a third of high school graduates have not attained basic literacy and math skills. And nationwide, the cost of remedial instruction is estimated at $16.6 billion per year. The authors believe better instruction would alleviate both these costs and the necessity of special education for many students who simply have not learned to read.
Remedial reading instruction due to ineffective teaching in the early grades is, by itself, a substantial expense. In Wisconsin alone, a 75 percent reduction in students who are learning disabled because of their poor reading skills would save the state over $100 million annually.
The WPRI report recommends that the Wisconsin legislature, the Department of Public Instruction, and Wisconsin's parents support the teacher-led efforts to use DI. Also, it urges Wisconsin's colleges of education to concern themselves less with theory and more with teaching teachers proven methods of instruction.
The Education Consumers Consultants Network is an alliance of experienced and credentialed educators dedicated to serving the needs of parents, policymakers, and taxpayers for independent and consumer-friendly consulting. For more information, contact J. E. Stone, Ed.D., at (423) 282-6832, or write: firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Hursh, Ph.D. /
Professor of Educational Psychology / College of Human Resources & Education / West Virginia University Carol Jago, M.A. /
English Teacher, Santa Monica High School / Director, California Reading & Literature Project / UCLA Jerry Jesness, M.A. /
ESL Teacher & Author / Los Fresnos (TX) Schools Daniel Konieczko, M.Ed. /
Science Teacher, Brunswick High School / Brunswick, ME Martin Kozloff, Ph.D. /
Watson Distinguished Professor / School of Education / University of North Carolina at Wilmington Rob Kremer, M.B.A. /
President / Oregon Education Coalition Elaine K. McEwan-Adkins, Ed.D. /
Author & Consultant / McEwan-Adkins Group Richard P. Phelps, Ph.D. /
Economist & Author Michael Podgursky, Ph.D. /
Professor and Chairman / Department of Economics / University of Missouri J. Martin Rochester, Ph.D. /
Curator's Distinguished Teaching Professor / Department of Political Science / University of Missouri-St. Louis Linda Ross, Ph.D. /
Director & Instructional Design Specialist / Archimedia eLearning Solutions Valerie Copeland Rutledge, Ed.D. /
Associate Professor / College of Education / University of Tennessee at Chattanooga / Member, Tenessee Board of Education Douglas Sears, Ph.D. /
Professor & Dean / School of Education / Boston University Mark C. Schug, Ph.D. /
Professor & Director / Center for Economic Education / University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Lewis Solmon, Ph.D. /
Dean Emeritus / UCLA Graduate School of Education / Executive Vice President, Education / Director, Teacher Advancement Program / Milken Family Foundation Robert Spangler, Ed.D. /
President / Spangler & Associates, LLC J. E. Stone, Ed.D. /
Professor / College of Education / East Tennessee State University Sara Tarver, Ph.D /
Professor / School of Education / University of Wisconsin-Madison John Towner, Ph.D. /
Professor Emeritus / Woodring College of Education / Western Washington University Herbert Walberg, Ph.D. /
Research Professor of Education & Psychology / Emeritus / College of Education / University of Illinois-Chicago John T. Wenders, Ph.D. /
Professor of Economics, Emeritus / University of Idaho Richard Western, Ph.D. /
Professor (retired) / School of Education / University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee