Lucien Ellington writes for the Martin Centeer about problems within teacher education that have devastating impacts for students.

Most American children are trapped in public elementary and secondary schools that are either mediocre or dysfunctional.

Readers who wonder if this statement is polemical should know that for almost two decades, the federal government’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation’s highly respected school assessment tool, has documented that on average, less than 40 percent of rising 4th graders score “proficient” or higher in reading. In the latest 2019 NAEP assessments, 35 percent of children entering 4th grade attained a proficient reading score or higher. In no state did even 50 percent of rising 4th graders score proficient or higher.

This abject failure is worse than it appears because there is virtually no reading improvement in later grades. In 2019, only 37 percent of high school seniors nationally scored proficient or higher in reading, and NAEP tests for high school seniors don’t account for high school dropouts who, if they remained in school, would have lowered the average.

Now, a COVID-19 year of online learning in many public schools promises to make early literacy failures a long-term educational disaster. …

… In 1997 the U.S. Congress, concerned about the controversies of the “Reading Wars,” authorized the creation of a national reading panel of school administrators, practicing teachers, and cognitive scientists specializing in reading research. After reviewing over 100,000 reading studies, the National Reading Panel released its report in 2000, recommending effective literacy strategies including teaching phonics, systematically building vocabulary, and requirements that readers summarize material to demonstrate understanding.

Unfortunately, that report had little impact.

Too many education faculty members are unaware of it. Others believe that demonstrably effective literacy instruction stifles children’s creativity, imagination, and potential love of reading. They continue to promulgate theories like Balanced Literacy that sound good but don’t work in most classrooms.