The Capital Chronicle determined that Oregon has spent more than $250 million in the past 25 years to try and improve reading instruction in schools. But that money has failed to help more than a generation of students. Over the last 25 years, nearly two in five Oregon fourth graders and one in five eighth graders have scored “below basic” on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as the nation’s report card. That means they struggle to read and understand simple words.
The nearly 10,000 elementary school teachers in Oregon learned different methods for teaching reading depending on where they went to college. Some were taught methods now known to be detrimental to helping kids read in the long run, and many did not receive the intensive instruction needed to teach kids the rules of written language. Today, Oregon’s 550,000 students have been left to contend with these instructional differences.
Universities are facing mounting pressure from alumni, parents, politicians and school districts in the last few years to ensure they graduate teachers knowledgeable in methods of reading instruction proven to work for all kids. At a number of schools around the state, change is underway among faculty. But others have doubled down on flawed methods. According to a recent analysis of reading instruction at public teacher colleges by the National Council on Teacher Quality, nearly all in Oregon are failing.
Oregon’s strong tradition of “local control” means teachers, administrators and locally elected school board members decide what curricula to use and students are stuck with their choices.
The Oregon Department of Education provides districts a list of 15 approved curricula, but doesn’t ban schools from choosing teaching materials not on the list. Because the education department doesn’t track what curricula schools use, and doesn’t intervene if reading proficiency declines or doesn’t improve, it’s up to individual districts and their school boards to change.
Oregon Capital Chronicle
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