Letter to the Editor

Missing info about reading

To the editor: In a recent opinion piece (News-Miner, Dec. 4), Bob Griffin states that if Alaska were to adopt the “Florida Reading Model,” we too would see the excellent results claimed by Mississippi. There are many points with which I agree with the writer, including the capability of Alaska’s students, the need for robust professional development for educators and the dedication of our families.

As a 30-year educator, I am fully aware there is no “one size fits all” solution to the challenge of addressing literacy and certainly not in a state as complex as ours. Education means adapting to student needs. Effective teachers are assessing, analyzing and reflecting on students’ progress to guide learning during reading and writing experiences.

There was a key and troubling piece missing in the column. Despite well-documented long-term damage of automatic retention, the states reporting these gains have mandatory retention policies. Mississippi automatically increased retention of third grade students based on new criteria; therefore, National Assessment of Educational Progress results no longer include lower performing fourth graders. In Alaska, less than 1% of third graders are retained. What would comparisons look like if Mississippi or Florida tested the same fourth graders as Alaska does? Unfortunately, we don’t know.

Misinformation abounds on the teaching of reading. Across the nation, groups are using social media to tell untruths about a balanced approach to literacy instruction. An excellent opportunity for learning and conversation was held in Fairbanks last week. Attendees viewed a panel from the 2019 International Literacy Association, “What Research Really Says About Teaching Reading.” I highly recommend watching it at bit.ly/34ADB1n

Many of Alaska’s students meet and exceed expectations. After graduation they continue to thrive in colleges, careers and communities. There are too many others who achieve far below expected goals. Our dropout rate is too high. Visit education.alaska.gov/akedchallenge to learn how we can all invest in Alaska’s Educational Challenge. Examining high-performing schools in our own state and building on these innovative and successful programs makes more sense than uniform adoption of a questionable model.


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