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April 11, 2006


I have some questions -

1. Have you ever taught poverty stricken children or children with disabilities (like autism)? If so, did you track the progress of each and every child? I'll bet that if you did, the children didn't make great progress or were at grade level.

2. No, you are not smart enough to create curriculum. It actually takes time and the use of children as guinea pigs. So if you are spending your time creating curriculum instead of teaching, providing feedback, and error correction procedures - you are wasting your time on re-inventing the wheel - and being ineffective at the same time.

3. So you're saying testing is bad but at the same time your rely on the scores. Hmmm.

I would like to share my experience with you. A couple years ago, my son's classmate was held back from recess and told by the teacher "you need to learn to read, it is important." Boy is this kid sharp. Now in 3rd grade, I had him over for a playdate. I asked him to read a second grade book by After the title and first sentence. I had him stop. He really couldn't read. He told me, however, that he was testing at 2.9 grade level - that he was very close to grade level reading.

Our whole language school did him well, didn't it?

My son, on the other hand, is receiving direct instruction scripted reading, math, writing, and spelling. He tested at the 49th percentile in math. Pretty amazing since he just started doing his DI math about 2 years ago (he is in 3rd grade).

He also learned to ask "who" and "how" about 5 years ago after we explicitly taught him.

He has autism. The other child still struggling to read, from a caring and intelligent family, does not have autism.

I'll respond (generally) to all three of your comments here, Dickey.

I have indeed taught kids with severe disabilities, including autistic children.

Smart or not, I have indeed "created" curriculum over a period of years to meet the needs of the students in my classrooms. I didn't start from scratch and I didn't arbitrarily exclude certain approaches, like phonetics, on ideological grounds. In fact, any good reading teacher teaches kids letter sounds. "Phonics" and "whole language" are not mutually exclusive.

I do not oppose the use of standardized tests as long as they are used correctly for diagnosis and for teacher feedback. (I was testing coordinator at my last school.) However, I do emphatically oppose the use of test scores to determine the "performance" of a school, or the "performance" of teachers.

I DO dislike "scripted" curricula for the reasons I stated. Direct Instruction may be useful for some kids as part of an overall reading program, but to impose such an instructional approach on all students, regardless of ability or learning style, is pedagogically mistaken.

I do appreciate your comments. It sounds like you're doing well with your son, and I wish you all the best.


I was impressed by the enthusiasm of some of the PPS kindergarten teachers using the workbooks and curriculum in question. If they and kids' parents are seeing gains, I believe them. If there are more PPS kindergarten teachers who do not share those views, I hope we hope they write letters to the Tribune.

I believe ages 4-10 are critical years for brain development and learning and there is a long way to go to get the average American learning at full potential.

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