Dr. Dale WebsterRecently, there have been many responses to Lucy Calkins’ essay ”No One Gets to Own the Term, Science of Reading.” Many have responded with strong disagreement to her point of view. Two of the responses are very informative and can be found here and here. More disputes to her essay can be found here. Interestingly, none of the responses that I have seen to date address Calkins’ inaccurate attack on the Reading First initiative, which was the academic cornerstone of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). While there are criticisms of the NCLB Act, in fact, many educators and those directly involved with Reading First have argued that the Reading First Initiative was one of the strongest components of NCLB.

Calkins makes the following statements about Reading First.

Instead, the experiment involved tens of millions of kids. It was called Reading First, the reading instructional program for K-3 mandated in schools funded by No Child Left Behind….involved a set of top-down mandates for intensive phonics instruction that resembled what the science of reading people today are supporting. The mandates included not only intensive systematic phonics based on “the science of reading” but also an unbalanced reliance on highly decodable texts, to the exclusion of trade books…The results of Reading First were not good…the problem with Reading First was not that it taught phonics, but that phonics was largely all it taught.

Calkins makes several factual errors in her statements above which are largely based on anecdotal musings from many who didn’t like Reading First.


Dr. Steve DykstraBy Dr Steven Dykstra, reprinted with permission

Don Meichenbaum, one of the world’s leading experts on trauma and violence, and one of the most influential mental health professionals of the last century, said one thing is more important to traumatized children than anything else. More important than therapy, more important than social programs, more important than anything else. The research shows that the single most powerful predictor of their ability to overcome the trauma and survive their circumstances is the ability to read. If they can read, they have a chance to find success in school and overcome all those terrible things in their lives. If they can’t, school will only be another source of pain and failure added to all the other sources of pain and failure.  If they can read, they can benefit from therapy and everything else we may try to do for them. If they can’t read, all of that is a waste of time.


by Claude Goldenberg, Nomellini & Olivier Professor of Education, emeritus, Stanford University

Dr. Claude GoldenbergI left graduate school fully convinced that this was axiomatic: The road to reading is paved on a foundation of meaning. Fortunately, I spent the first years after my degree as a first grade teacher in a bilingual school, teaching, or at least trying to teach, reading in English and in Spanish. I learned from the children and colleagues at my school that this is not axiomatic; it is just wrong.

But my learning was not without a struggle. Axiomatic convictions don’t go away without a fight. And I fought mightily. But in the end, the evidence won out. And by evidence I don’t just mean what researchers and others publish in their articles and professors say or don’t say to their students and anyone who will listen. I also mean what I was seeing before my very eyes. As both a teacher and a beginning researcher, my convictions were put to the test, and some didn’t pan out.


by Linda Diamond, President, CORE and author of Teaching Reading Sourcebook and Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures

Linda DiamondIn 1976, when news Anchor Howard Beale in the film Network yelled this famous line on air and urged everyone to open their windows and yell too, it resonated with me. It resonates even more now as once again the reading science deniers disparage those of us in the reading research community who accept the settled science on teaching reading by implying all we care about is phonics. That is a cheap shot that cannot be further from the truth. However, it is a slick strategy by the advocates of other teaching methods to belittle the rest of us and stir up anger and more sales of products that ultimately only work for a few children. This same line of resistance has been used to smear any curriculum that didn’t fit a “balanced literacy” or guided reading approach and was successfully used against a fantastic ELA curriculum, Open Court, as being only about phonics. Again, a big lie. Explicit systematic instruction, the science of reading, Structured Literacy, whatever the term, has NEVER, I repeat NEVER been all about phonics. It is about a systematic and explicit approach to developing ALL the critical literacy skills, including phonemic awareness, sound-spelling relationships, syllable patterns and morphemes, fluency, sentence and paragraph structure, vocabulary, text structure and comprehension.


by Dr. Dale Webster, Chief Academic Officer, CORE

Nowadays the ability to answer text-dependent questions is essential to do well on standardized tests of all types.  Students often have a difficult time using information from the text to answer comprehension questions, particularly inferential questions which require them to cross reference text and dig out answers that are not plainly stated.  Question-Answer Relationships (QAR) is an instructional technique designed to teach students to use metacognitive thinking to determine what they need to do in order to answer questions commonly found on high-stakes, summative assessments.


Kareem WeaverBy Kareem Weaver, Member of Education Committee, NAACP, Oakland Branch

It turns out that we know exactly why Johnny can’t read. However, instead of using the brain science and overwhelming research consensus, we’re still using strategies that reflect our own biases and theories. Johnny is left to fend for himself, and the only time he may receive the support he needs is when he reaches the point of crisis.

In 2000, the federal government responded to the country’s reading confusion by producing the seminal work in the field. The National Reading Panel’s conclusions were clear: students need direct, explicit instruction that teaches phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Depending on your cultural flavor, one can call this Structured Literacy or the Marva Collins way, but it’s simply evidence-based practices which leverage research.


By Linda Diamond, President, CORE & Dale Webster, Chief Academic Officer, CORE

As many of our readers know, CORE has never wavered from its stance that teachers should be knowledgeable about ELA and/or math pedagogy and equally important, teachers deserve support to implement an evidence-based, standards-aligned curriculum for ELA and math. A renewed focus among educators on implementing a curriculum is a shift from the past several years where many school districts provided teachers with internally-created and loosely-designed units of study. This shift from units of study to adopting standards-aligned materials has been occurring more and more in school districts across the country and is supported by organizations such as the Gates Foundation.


Our most vulnerable students also require structured materials designed specifically to fill learning gaps

by Linda Diamond, President, CORE and author of the Teaching Reading Sourcebook and Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures

Back in September 2018 I wrote about the importance of selecting and fully implementing a great curriculum with excellent support and ongoing professional learning. This is a huge and important step in accelerating achievement for all students. But is that enough? The answer, unfortunately is “no.” A standards-aligned, high-quality curricula, while significantly improving outcomes for many students, will not be sufficient for those most at risk. Core curriculum is targeted at grade-level standards and will ensure all students have access to robust content, but it will not meet the needs of students who are significantly behind in their skills. Such students will still require a targeted or intensive intervention curricula that is well beyond what a standards-aligned core program can provide.


By Linda Diamond, President of CORE

A shining light of education left us on February 15, 2019. Siegfried Engelmann, known as Zig to those of us who knew and adored him, was a genius. His expertise was figuring out and “engineering” instruction so that children learned to read and do math successfully and at advanced levels starting in kindergarten. Despite its critics, Zig and Direct Instruction (DI) did more for at-risk students than any other method of instruction.


All teachers want their students’ achievement levels to increase. Small group instruction and cooperative learning have a significant impact on student achievement (Hattie, 2009) and are widely used in elementary classrooms. Many middle and high school teachers are increasingly using these structures in other content areas. However, prior to implementing small group instruction teachers often have questions to be answered.