Friday, September 23, 2011

"Scientifically Based Reading Research" -- Some Thoughts

Recently, as I was reading through a summary of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), I came across the peculiar phrase "scientifically based reading research" and had the following thoughts:

I get concerned when I see phrases like "scientifically based reading research".  Pretty much anything these days can be "scientifically based," as any corporation with the money can fund a "research" study and get results that -- shockingly! -- scientifically validate that the program they have for sale does indeed 'get results'.

In terms of the idea of "reading research," why do we constantly seem to need some new and innovative program to teach students how to read?  Did no one in the history of humanity ever learn to read until these programs were developed, beginning in the 20th century? (Yes, that's a smart-aleck question.)  Whatever happened to the 'old-fashioned' ways of learning to read just by working directly with kids and helping them to do it and to learn to read on their own?  Of course, that kind of old-fashioned method cannot be patented, copyrighted, or sold for a significant profit.  And it also tends to work better in smaller class-size situations where one-on-one instruction is more feasible, but this of course would mean that money must be spent on actually hiring more teachers and not on the latest fad-of-the-month/year program.

"Scientifically based reading research" -- Savior or Snake Oil?

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