Hooked on phonics

‘Explicit and structured’ is the best kind!

Betsy DeVos, vin-di-CAT-ed!

If the Madison Metro School District ever does something right the white lab coats at Blaska Policy Werkes will call them on it. Con-grat-u-LA-tions, then, that the district is getting hooked on phonics.

It’s how my generation at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary parochial school learned to read these many years ago.

“We want explicit, structured phonics,” says an assistant superintendent at MMSD. “Our teachers are saying they want that.”  About time, since the percentages of students scoring proficient or advanced on the Forward Exam dropped from the 2017-18 school year, with language arts going from 36.6% that year to 34.9% in the 2018-19 school year. In other words, just one-third of MMSD students can read at grade.

The value of phonics, says a “cognitive neuroscientist and reading expert” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “is about as close to conclusive as research on complex human behavior can get.”


Tried and true

Phonics replaces what some call the “balanced literacy” theory that schools of education have been teaching for a generation. I knew it as the “look-say” method. As the New York Times explains, “that theory holds that students can learn to read through exposure to a wide range of books that appeal to them, without too much emphasis on technically complex texts or sounding out words.”

Eye-tracking studies and brain scans now show that that the opposite is true, according to many scientists. Learning to read, they say, is the work of deliberately practicing how to quickly connect the letters on the page to the sounds we hear each day.

In January, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos castigated colleges of education for teaching what she described as “junk science” about reading.

Washington D.C. is one of only two jurisdictions, along with Mississippi, to increase average reading scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress tests between 2017 and 2019. Both did so despite high-poverty student populations, and both are requiring more phonics.

Arm-a-geddon outta here

BTW: Parents aren’t the only ones fleeing Madison’s public schools. So are teachers. 8.3% of teachers left the district after the 2018-19 school year. That’s up from the 6.7% that left in 2017-18, 6.9% in 2016-17, 6.1% in 2015-16 and 5.5% in 2014-15.

Blaska’s Bottom Line: Administrators profess to be perplexed as to why. Doesn’t the school district conduct exit interviews?

What do you think?

About David Blaska

Madison WI
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9 Responses to Hooked on phonics

  1. Cornelius Gotchberg says:

    ”Administrators profess to be perplexed as to why.”

    A certain despicably hyper-partisan moron @neighborsnextdoor has the answer: Former Governor Walker-n-President Trump!

    The Gotch


    • Batman says:

      A certain demographic articulate two words perfectly and seem to possess boundless enthusiasm to practice daily. Just ask virtually any battle weary teacher employed by MMSD.
      F*CK YOU!!


  2. Bob Dorn says:

    No Walker to blame? It can’t be something called discipline where the kids disrespect you all day instead of doing their readin’, writin’, arithmetic.


  3. Gary L.. Kriewald says:

    Talk about a faith-based educational theory (“balanced literacy”) trumping one that’s demonstrated empirical results (phonics). And this from the liberal elites who are quick to condemn anyone raising a peep of skepticism about the “science” of climate change. As for the teachers fleeing MMSD–in today’s State Journal a spokesman for the district dismissed it as an “uptick.” Part of the official program of denial (of abject failure) embraced by Madison’s educational establishment.


  4. George's Son says:

    Reading is the key to life -education, jobs and experiencing the world that surrounds us. Also, reading is truly entertaining once learned, a positive refuge from the mundane (or, often violent) current events.

    It’s always been a part of school life -Not the BEP, Not the Identity Politics so popular these days, and definitely does NOT deny anyone of any race of its benefits. Our goals for decades, (if not centuries) was the three “R’s”.

    When and why did it all change?


  5. jedigolfer11 says:

    I’ve always wondered why phonics isn’t spelled with an “f”…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Batman says:

      “I’ve always wondered why phonics isn’t spelled with an “f”…”

      The existing spelling sounds better.


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