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RE: [xmca] Obama's Learn Act

Hi David,
Probably other people can fill in, but there are some early reading people in my department so I can offer you this from presentations and discussions.  Early literacy it seems to me is an umbrella term, and it can involve everything from the amount of reading material around the home to the amount of words a child knows.  Some early literacy stuff I think is good (when its explorative) and some not so great but I can understand.  The trouble with the approach to early literacy being discussed in the bill I think is its combination with testing.  If you are testing you are going to have teachers who are trying to achieve the highest possible scores of their students on their tests rather than really trying to make the students life long learners (a very improtant critique of programs like teach for America).  Early literacy testing is very much geared towards issues dealing with phonetics (recognition of words, size of vocabulary, ability to sound out word in reading).  This means that the early testing will push teachers towards both phonetics and direct instruction of vocabulary no matter what the circumstance of their classroom.  Because students from lower SES often times have fewer (middle class) oriented words in their vocabulary this will push teachers in those schools even harder towards phonetics and direct language instruction to the detriment of other very important aspects of early curriculum such as play (as a matter of fact in the early grades play has started to disappear in many schools).  This has already happened in the early grades where teachers are being judged more and more on how students are doing in comprehensive tests.  Now from what I can tell teaching phonetics does work at this level (say grades k-4), but as the curriculum switches from phonetics to comprehension it does not help and may even be a hindrance.  In the meantime important capabilities such as imagination and exploration have been sacrificed.  And school becomes a place of drudgery for the students, which I believe (no proof for this I think) will lead to higher drop out rates.
They now want to assess younger children, babies through preschool.  They claim they only want to do it to determine intervention.  If this just meant children who scored lower will be placed in much richer environments with lower teacher student ratios and an emphasis on nutritioin this might be okay.  But there is nothing in the history of our society or the current field to suggest this.  Instead I believe these children will be labeled as behind from their earliest years and thrown into pre school classrooms that focus on teaching these basic abilities through phonetics and direct instruction.  Again, the teachers will be trained specifically in raising these abilities (as a matter of fact somebody I know just got a grant for this type of teacher training), and the teachers will also be judged on how these children improve on these assessments.  So not only with these children be labeled based on their inabilities to perform to middle class standards, but they will lose important and critical components of their early education.  And early longitudinal research suggests that this is all for nothing. 
Okay, probably went on too long.


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of David Preiss
Sent: Mon 12/14/2009 1:20 PM
To: lchcmike@gmail.com; eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Obama's Learn Act

Hi all,
For those of us who are not American, could somebody explain what is 
the main issue that is at stake concerning reading instruction? I need 
more information to understand the debate, and I am particularly 
interested in learning more about pros and cons of early reading 
instruction. Is there anything new in that debate? The concerns about 
measurement are clear to me, but those related to instruction are less 
Information will be appreciated.
David Preiss

On Dec 14, 2009, at 2:07 PM, mike cole wrote:

> Gordon--
> What does your current understanding of that work lead you to 
> conclude vis a
> vis the push to start reading instruction so early that appears part 
> of the
> package of propositions being criticized?
> mike
> On Mon, Dec 14, 2009 at 9:03 AM, Gordon Wells <gwells@ucsc.edu> wrote:
>> I am somewhat afraid that this post may be seen as "purveying
>> academic drivel for self advancement", as Mike puts it." But here 
>> goes.
>> The second edition of *The Meaning Makers - t*he study of children
>> learning to talk and talking to learn at home and school, based on 
>> the
>> Bristol Study that I carried out a quarter of a century ago, has 
>> recently
>> been published. As well as the original text, updated where 
>> appropriate, it
>> contains three additional chapters that survey and comment on what 
>> has
>> happened since the original publication. I do believe the evidence 
>> of that
>> study is relevant to the ongoing discussion of the Learn Act.
>> For those who are interested, here are the publication details:
>>   [image: Jacket Image For]  *The Meaning Makers*<http://www.multilingual-matters.com/display.asp?K=9781847691989&search_text_01=Gordon+Wells&search_field_01=author&search_field_02=editor&search_field_03=ctitle&search_field_04=identifier&search_field_06=keyword&sort=sort_title&m=1&dc=2 
>> >
>> * Series:*  New Perspectives on Language and Education
>> *Author: * Gordon Wells<http://www.multilingual-matters.com/results.asp?aub=Gordon+Wells&TAG=&CID= 
>> >
>> *Binding: *Paperback
>> *ISBN: * 1847691986
>> *ISBN-13: * 9781847691989
>> *Pub Date: *01 Aug 2009
>> *List price: *£19.95  *Discount:* 20%  *Our Price:* £15.96
>> *US List price: *$29.95  *Discount:* 20%  *US Price:* $23.96
>> ------------------------------
>> Gordon Wells <gwells@ucsc.edu> http://people.ucsc.edu/~gwells/<http://people.ucsc.edu/%7Egwells/ 
>> >
>> Department of Education
>> University of California, Santa Cruz.
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David Preiss
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