A troubling feature of the Science of Reading (SoR) is the connection between those who believe in the power of phonemes (and more) and those who want to privatize public schools. The old NCLB crowd has been rejuvenated and seems onboard with digital instruction replacing public schools and teachers.
Understanding this connection is critical for how this country moves forward. There are implications, not only for the way children are taught reading, but how schooling works. Will it be public anymore? Will poor children wind up in cyber charter schools facing computers, where personal data is collected about them despite privacy concerns. And will university prepared teachers be a thing of the past?
For example, former gov Jeb Bush has been crusading for the Science of Reading, praising Emily Hanford for her advocacy for the SoR, implying teachers haven’t understood how to teach reading.
But the former governor also:
- promotes digital learning,
- loves charter schools and school choice,
- despises the teacher’s union,
- wants to reimagine teaching, with advice from a Teach for America alum,
- was one of the only Republicans who supported Common Core State Standards, until he didn’t,
- has implemented a third-grade retention rule promoted around the country, despite research showing its harm,
- emphasizes A-F school grading which ignores a variety of variables, and shutters schools.
- and has fought against lowering class size in Florida even for grades K-3 when children learn to read.
Recently Bush’s ExcelinEd held a National Summit on Education. Scroll on the link to see the sponsors, then see below about them.
Emily Hanford, who never questions online reading programs that I can see, spoke there, and Robert Pondiscio, journalist turned urban teacher turned fellow for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who loves school choice, penned The Noose Tightens Around Failed Reading Programs in Schools for the American Enterprise Institute. There he cheered for the ExcelinEd Summit.
Therein lies a huge problem with the Science of Reading. Phonics (and more) is important, but what is this movement really being used for?
Why do virtual reading programs, charter schools, and private schools get a free pass when it comes to being evaluated for how they address reading, especially in the data they accrue about children?
Will teachers be needed in the future if reading is only online? Will public schools cease to exist?
Phonics is a useful tool and, plays an important role. Like many tools, however, it’s appealing because it’s “mechanical.” It’s easily transferred from Direct Instruction (read from a manual by anyone) to online instruction.
All of this is reflected in the sponsors who hosted Bush’s Summit. It was interesting to review them. I’ve provided the link and synopsis about each. This is the marketplace in action where there’s no apparent conflict of interest noted in advertising while funding a so-called education meeting.
I welcome comments. Feel free to disagree but please be civil.
Education Summit Sponsors
Daniels Fund, gives money to charters, school choice, and nonprofits.
Walton Family Foundation, the Waltons are not pro public schools. Here they talk about community and funding entrepreneurs and innovators.
WGU, a private online college.
Bezo’s Family Foundation, it’s unclear how they’re helping public schools or reading.
College Board, calls itself a not for profit though in 2021 they had $242,428,000 in investment gains alone.
Donors Choose, requests can be creative, but some teachers beg for staples.
Stand Together Trust, seem to be about school choice, with funding going to families not public schools.
American Federation of Children, former ed. sec. Betsy DeVos’s organization for school choice.
Amira assesses children’s reading abilities online including a dyslexia screener and tutoring, doing what the teacher has no time to do.
Amplify in August they announced $215M in fresh growth spending, an online program for reading, math, and science starting out poorly, revitalized by Laurene Jobs’s Emerson Collective. Those involved with the Science of Reading do podcasts, but research seems slim.
Charter Schools USA has a not-for-profit corporate Governing Board not a public-elected run school board.
Cognia hired by school districts focuses on school performance standards highlighting Robert Marzano’s work surrounding proficiency-based systems (highly tech oriented).
Curriculum Associates (Creator of iReady and Brigance), online programs that collect data on children.
Edmentum K-12 digital curriculum, assessments, claiming to be in 43,000 schools in the U.S. and over 100 countries worldwide.
Lexia, All for Literacy, a variety of online blended learning programs.
McGraw Hill, a part of the school reform movement for years and now include online learning.
NWEA, described as a research-based, not-for-profit organization, highlighted during the pandemic, often telling how students had fallen behind (crisis talk), but sell online assessment like MAP which collects data on students.
Pearson, huge multinational book and online publishing company and all about standardized testing and school reform for years.
Saga Consult, school districts can pay for high dosage tutoring programs.
Triad Foundation, has Philanthropy Roundtable logo, and interesting story about Roy Hampton Park, founder of Duncan Hines, but not sure how this affects reading.
Cambridge Assessment International Education, online assessment and instructional program available around the world by Cambridge. They develop their own standards.
Class Wallet, online shopping platform allowing certified school staff to use instructional funds to purchase classroom materials and supplies without a credit card or paper purchase.
CODE, online programs to teach children computer science.
The Council, National Work Readiness Counsel, national nonprofit focused on workforce development, training, and advocacy. They call themselves a pioneering sponsor of the only nationally recognized career readiness credential validating mastery of the foundational employability and soft skills most in-demand by employers today, by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Flexpoint Education Cloud, international, full-service online Kindergarten-12th grade digital courses for schools and districts worldwide. FlexPoint™ is a trademark of Florida Virtual School.
iTeach, an online alternative teacher certification program, courses and all.
Kyra Solutions, provide technology solutions and partner with local governments.
Lincoln Studios, create videos to move people.
MGT, have management and technology solutions to transform school systems, and the CEO and Chairman of the Board is a Florida legislator and owner of a K-8 charter school.
NAF Be Ready, name a future or be future ready for the workforce and even open an academy.
Power School, cloud-based K-12 software that claims to simplify schooling and which helps to make sense of data.
Responsive Ed., say they support public schools, but seems they’re referring to charter schools: Founders of Classical Academy Schools, Ignite Community Schools, iSchool Virtual Academies, Premier High School, and Quest Collegiate Academy.
Thinking Nation, Yes, provides a shifting the Paradigm of History Education, online.
Every Kid, provide grants for all kids to play sports, but not sure how this affects public schools.
Zearn, online math instruction.
Stride, same online program as K12, Inc. that has drawn public school funding for years with lackluster results.
Avela, provides online information for choice.
edChoice, talks about education freedom and school choice.
Merit, claims to connect people, information, and technology in an inclusive and engaged environment.
Odessy, supports Education Savings Accounts (“ESAs”) and microgrant programs for school choice.
Pathful, K-12 online career exploration.
Optima Ed., non-profit corporation meant to connect schools with donors to provide private, philanthropic support which public schools will have to rely.
Sibme, quote about online program, “The system that we’ve built in Sibme has taken us from checking the activities of the teachers to measuring and capturing the impact on students in classrooms.”
Student First Technologies, claim to be powering the choice movement, by giving parents frictionless technology.
Strategos Group. provide data-driven targeting approach for the pipeline development process.