Friday, September 11, 2015

Challenging institutionalized assumptions about reading failure

I think it is time to challenge our institutionalized assumptions about reading failure. Our assumption that many students will be poor readers can and should be changed. As Dr. G Reid Lyon said, these kids are “instructional casualties”.

Since they are “instructional casualties” what should teachers do to prevent it?

I ask myself as to why scientists, educators, and PhD’s are still groping in the dark when Dr.G Reid Lyon had said in ‘Children of the Code’ that most of the disengaged kids are “Instructional Casualties”?
Is he the only one to say that? No.  Many others have said the same thing and they had said it even much earlier than Dr. G Reid Lyon did. Recently Jo-Anne Gross, from Linkedin, a group I belong to, was daring enough to say (in Linkedin) that reading failure is a case of ‘Dystechia!’ I hope more people will be bold enough to speak their mind like Jo-Anne. 

The following is an extract from an online news paper in Malaysia.
October 2011
But it turns out that illiteracy among youngsters is a real problem. Just last month, it was revealed that out of a batch of 11,000 students chosen to undergo National Service training, 1,000 were illiterate.
“In the case of the 1,000 NS trainees who were found to be illiterate, maybe some of them are dropouts,” she was quoted as saying.
But then the question of whether they were dropouts or illiterate became irrelevant when, after a mere 30 credit hours of learning, the 1,000 became able to read and write.
Looking at the case of the NS trainees, isn’t it fair to say that the Education Ministry has failed to fulfill its responsibility of making sure that students master the 3Rs at the primary school level?
Still, despite the programmes mentioned by Mohd Ali, the education system has been unable to arrest the problem of illiteracy among schoolchildren. Why?
If all it took were 30 credit hours to help the illiterate NS trainees, what happened during their years in school? How did their poor performance in examinations like the Primary School Assessment Test escape the attention of their schools?

We cannot use the same approach that has yielded about 20% reading failure for decades.

Dr.G.Reid Lyon in ‘Children of the code’ said the following:
“Ninety-five percent of those kids are instructional casualties. About five to six percent of those kids have what we call dyslexia or learning disabilities in reading. Ninety-five percent of the kids hitting the wall in learning to read are what we call NBT: Never Been Taught. They’ve probably been with teachers where the heart was in the right place, they’ve been with teachers who wanted the best for the kids, but they have been with teachers who cannot answer the questions: 1)  What goes into reading, what does it take? 2) Why do some kids have difficulty? 3) How can we identify kids early and prevent it? 4) How can we remediate it?” 

I have been patient but the time has arrived to start a revolution, a revolution which will change the outcomes for disengaged students and to see more such students not becoming disengaged.

I taught grade 7 kids Civics and mathematics for one whole year in 1971 after my Higher School Certificate while I was waiting to be accepted into an auditing firm. As a Tamil saying goes, one grain of rice is enough a test to see if a pot of rice is cooked. That one year is good enough for me to understand what a teacher undergoes while teaching kids - especially unruly kids. I do understand what teachers undergo and I am not ‘teacher bashing’.

Allow me to quote from a book written by Dr.David Kilpatrick. It is on the first page of his book entitled “Equipped for Learning Success”. Don’t be surprised to see my name on the acknowledgements page.

“In education, our assumption that many students will be poor readers has become ‘institutionalized’. There is enough scientific information about the nature of reading development to make such a challenge. For example, in a large study conducted by scientists from the State University of New York at Albany, researchers were able to reduce the number of children who require ongoing remediation from the National average of 30% down to about 2%! Another example is the Assured Readiness for Learning (ARL) program, which incorporates numerous research-based teaching practices. A third example is a study by researchers at Florida State University. They showed how the most severely reading disabled students could reach grade level- and stay there- using a surprisingly brief intervention program.”
I concur with what is written above as I have successfully taught disengaged students for the past 11 years. I have had discussions with teachers from many parts of the world who have also taught disengaged students successfully. I KNOW why kids disengage and I KNOW how to prevent it.

Feel free to debate and challenge my thinking on all the articles I have posted and will be posting here and in my blog. This is the only way we can move forward.

NOTE: A Linkedin friend emailed me and asked what I mean by disengaged students. Disengaged students are students who refuse to listen to teachers when they believe that what the teacher is teaching is inconsistent with what they have learnt. These are the kids who shut down when they are confused. These are the kids portrayed in “Children of the Code”. In children of the code the children state clearly the avoidance tactics they use to avoid being called up to read. However, none of them were apparently questioned as to why they behaved such. I will post this video sometime in the near future. Disengaged students are students written in chapter 3 of Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

1 comment:

Aliesen Senado said...
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