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Myth #3 -- Reading programs are"successful"

It is extremely commonfor schools to "buy" a reading program to address their reading instructionneeds, and trust that the program will solve their school's literacy issues. Typically these programs require a great deal of commitment from the school,both in terms of time and money.

However, while reading programscan be "useful," no reading program has ever been shown to be truly "successful." There have been a few programs that have been shown to improve overallreading scores significantly, but that improvement is still a long wayfrom what anybody would describe as "success."  If 60% of the studentsin a school are performing unacceptably on the benchmark reading assessments,moving that number to 40% is an improvement, but it is still unsatisfactory.

People often ask if there are readingprograms that research has shown to be effective, and the answer is thatthere is no reading program that, by itself, will even come close to ensuringreading success for all children.  There are a few programs that,properly implemented, could help a school to move in the right direction(Jolly-phonics, Earobics, and Lindamood come immediately to mind, and othersno doubt exist), but nothing could ever take the place of a knowledgeableand talented teacher.

We have known since Bond and Dykstra(1967) that the single most important variable in any reading program isthe knowledge and skill of the teacher implementing the program, so whydo we persist in trying to develop "teacher-proof" programs?  Somewould argue that it is our over-dependence on such reading programs thatis preventing us from cultivating more knowledgeable and effective teachers. After all, if you want somebody to become a chef, don't just hand thema cookbook and tell them to follow a recipe.

The right answer is the hard answer-- there are no quick fixes.  To achieve success for all children,teachers need to become extremely sophisticated and diagnostic in theirapproach to reading instruction.  Every child is different, and eachchild must be treated differently.  A program can not be sensitiveto the varied and rapidly evolving learning needs of individual children,but a diagnostic, knowledgeable teacher certainly can.


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Last Updated 8-7-03