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No Offense: But it is Alarming That So Many Children Are Not Learning to Read

by Pam Wright

It appears I’ve offended some teachers by the post and comments on “Fifth grader is reading at 2.7 grade level. Should he be tested for Special Ed?”

Before clarifying the purpose of that article, I have a question for you: If your child was in 5th grade and reading on the 2.7 grade level, wouldn’t you be alarmed? Wouldn’t you want a research based reading program that has a proven record of success before your child falls even further behind?

To clarify, the article is a critique of teacher education programs, not an attack on teachers. When writing articles, we use research by respected organizations, including the American Federation of Teachers and The National Council on Teacher Quality. We recommend publications from these organizations to those who are interested in reading instruction and teacher preparation. Here are some excellent publications and reports on teacher preparation and reading:

Teaching Reading IS Rocket Science, What Expert Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do by Louisa Moats, published by the American Federation of Teachers.

Teacher Education: Coming up Empty – Describes a study in which leading teacher educators admit that there’s little evidence to prove the effectiveness of teacher ed programs.

What Education Schools Aren’t Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren’t Learning

The National Council on Teacher Quality examined what aspiring teachers learn about reading instruction in college. NCTQ analyzed a representative sample of reading courses to assess the degree to which students are taught the five essential components of effective reading instruction ( phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Among their findings:

  • Most Education Schools Do Not Teach the Science of Reading.
  • Courses That Claim to Provide a “Balanced” Approach Ignore the Science of Reading.
  • Most Reading Instruction is Incompatible with the Science of Reading.
  • Teacher Educators Portray Science of Reading Instruction as One Approach that is No More Valid than Others (“Anything Goes”).
  • Reading Courses Reflect Low Expectations for Students, with Little Evidence of College-Level Work.
  • Quality of Most Reading Textbooks is Poor, Inaccurate and Misleading.

Given the strength of the scientific research in reading instruction, there is genuine cause for concern … we will not be surprised to find that it took several decades for the science of reading to be absorbed into thinking and practice … [that means ] yet another generation of children have been deprived of the benefits of the science.

State Teacher Policy Yearbook 2007 – Progress on Teacher Quality: How the States are Faring

This Yearbook describes teacher quality and preparation by state. Area 6 is Preparation of Special Education Teachers by state. Primary findings are here.
Scroll down to #7 for findings about the preparation of special education teachers.

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64 Comments on "No Offense: But it is Alarming That So Many Children Are Not Learning to Read"


I have been a special education teacher for over 20 years and not once have I ever had explicit instruction on how to teach children to read. Everything I know has been learned through trial and error.

Sharon L.

Joan – This is exactly what happened to my son. We were able to prove that the school was not providing FAPE by having an evaluation done at the beginning of the year & again at the end of the year. Year after year he had not been progressing in reading. The test results were clear & the school new they had to do something. Like you, for years they provided my son with less than adequate reading instruction. I went to the IDA webside (International Dyslexia Association) & found a tutor that was a certified reading specialist. She was “certified” in Wilson (not just taking courses) & in Alphabetical Phonics. My son went to this outside tutor at the school’s expense with transportation. At 15 he was reading 1st grade. At 20 he was reading 10th grade.


I had a similar situation last year when my child was younger. However, I received guidance from the Department of Education in my state..
I hired an advocate for about 7 months. We had an IEE which was implemented immediately. During that time, the school did work with us. I was angry as they did not monitor his progress and I was not aware of my child’s rights. However, the goal is to and always will be to remain collaborative. It has been year since that IEE and my child has made phenomenal progress–as the IEE found her dyslexic. My child compensated and is fully included but the IEE gave the school much needed guidance to implement a successful program for a dyslexic student. More, they provided summer tutoring (ESY) to ensure that regression would not occur. It can work–stay strong and get guidance


Oh, where do I start? My son is an 8th grader who is reading at an ending 1st grade level. I have had a private eval with a neuropsych who recommended 1:1 multi sensory intervention as he is the most profoundly dyslexic child he has ever tested. That was a year ago and the school finally gave him a teacher who went to a 2 day training for Wilson this year.He is not making adequate progress according to our last eval by the neuropsych in October. (obviously if he is reading at a 1-2 grade level)I have found through private tutoring that OrtonGillingham works. We have used a tutor the past two summers and he shows a spike from May to September and then levels off. I cannot get the school to provide it. I cannot afford it. My heart is broken for him.


In 2006 a man wrote a book criticizing the reading system in Fairfax County. I would like to find his name (sounded like Terkel)_